UGA football: 2020 Alabama game will be measuring stick for Kirby Smart

UGA football fans have been tortured by Nick Saban and Alabama in recent years, and the 2020 regular season matchup will be a huge measuring stick.

Want to see a UGA football fan cringe, facepalm, curse, and slam a beverage down on the table all at once? Just say “Roll Tide” or “Nick Saban has Alabama in position to win again” out loud.

These two may not meet every year during the regular season, but that doesn’t mean the rivalry isn’t at one of its highest points ever in the history of the series.

So when Georgia and Alabama hook up in Tuscaloosa this season (September 19, if you hadn’t heard) a budding rivalry will take place outside Georgia’s borders for the first time since 2007.

How long ago was that? Julio Jones hadn’t even enrolled at Alabama, and Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno were Bulldogs’ biggest stars.

What other footnote does that 2007 game in Tuscaloosa carry? It was the last time the Bulldogs beat Alabama.

Since that night in T-Town, it’s been five consecutive losses to Nick Saban and the Tide, including two SEC Championship Games, and one national championship game.

The sidebars for this game will be many – the five straight losses, the heartbreak of giving up two fourth-quarter leads in the last two meetings, the fact that Saban has never — never — lost to a former assistant.

That’s why the September 19 game will be not only important for the Bulldogs’ 2020 season, but also as a measure of how far Kirby Smart has brought this program. Georgia held its own and nearly beat Alabama twice under smart in a neutral stadium. Pulling off the upset in Bryant-Denny Stadium? That’s something entirely different.

This game will be a true measure of Kirby Smart’s coaching acumen. He’ll need to not only come up with a successful gameplan with his coaching staff, but he’ll have to figure out how to implement it in one of the most hostile environments in all of college football.

Smart and the Bulldogs faced a similar challenge in 2018 when they traveled on the road to Baton Rouge and Tiger Stadium, always a tough venue in which to play. They were manhandled by LSU in a 36-16 loss, and that wasn’t even the mega-Joe Burrow Tigers.

There needs to be some growth shown over the past two seasons in how Kirby Smart and his team handle playing in an intimidating away stadium. Even if the Dawgs lose, it needs to be a highly-contested game or Georgia fans will begin with the same knock on Kirby that was handed to Mark Richt during the better years of his career.

Can’t win the important, tough games.

That’s something neither Kirby Smart nor the UGA football fanbase wants to go through again.

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