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Georgia football: The top 5 National Championship Game storylines

The top 5 National Championship Game storylines

Alright, folks. The time for reminiscing on the Rose Bowl has passed (for now). It’s time to focus squarely on what’s next: the National Championship Game against the Alabama Crimson Tide. It seems like we should have more than a week to prepare ourselves for such a monumental matchup, but we get what we get. So let’s waste no more time and get right into it. Here are the top 5 Georgia storylines heading into Atlanta.

>> Read more trending news 

The Teacher vs. The Pupil— Ever since Kirby Smart was hired by Georgia, college football fans have been anticipating the day he met his mentor and former boss, Alabama coach Nick Saban, on the field. But most folks expected that first meeting to come in an SEC Championship Game, not the National Championship Game. And this first — of possibly many — between Smart and Saban also brings with it the opportunity for Smart to achieve something no former Saban assistant has done before: Beat the man they used to call boss.

A potential changing of the guard … or at least a step in that direction — Even if Georgia is able to claim the national title, it will still be the second-best program in the SEC. The four national titles and five SEC titles Saban has won in Tuscaloosa has given the Tide a nice cushion at the top. But considering this is only Smart’s second season at the helm in Athens, the fact it took Saban three seasons to win his first at Bama and the way Smart is recruiting, it’s safe to say the Dawgs have their sights set on becoming the top program in college football.

A chance for Georgia’s seniors to go out on top — One of the most important moments of the 2017 season happened eight months before kickoff against Appalachian State. This season wouldn’t have been possible if Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter and Davin Bellamy bolted for the NFL after their junior season. Between their production on the field and leadership off it, they’re the four most important players on this team. They came back to win something big, so it would be fitting if they left Athens after winning the biggest game there is.

>> Related: Trump plans on attending Georgia-Alabama championship football game

Revenge is a dish best served cold (and dry) — The last time Georgia and Alabama met on the field was on a rainy day at Sanford Stadium in 2015, and the Tide destroyed the Dawgs 38-10. I’m sure there are plenty of members of this Georgia team who haven’t forgotten the misery brought on by both the rain and soul-crushing loss. I sure haven’t. It may be two seasons later, but the National Championship Game will be a chance to serve up some revenge on the biggest possible stage. At the very least it should be dry this time.

Home away from home — The only way to improve the setting of the National Championship Game, from a Georgia perspective, would be to play it in Sanford Stadium. But making the 60-mile trip to Atlanta is a close second. Although it ain’t nearly as close as Athens, Tuscaloosa ain’t too far either, and Alabama will be well-represented. Inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium, it’ll probably be a 50-50 split. But outside it’ll be all Dawg. Every Bulldogs fan in the metro area, and many out of it, are gonna show up to the Benz in hopes of maybe scoring a ticket, or at least being in the vicinity when and if the Dawgs make history.

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Recoup and recover

Between the physicality of the Rose Bowl, the length of the game, the emotion toll of a hard-fought victory and the cross-country flight from California to Georgia, I’ve been a bit worried about how drained Georgia’s players will be by the time Monday rolls around. Count Kirby Smart in that camp as well. From Chip Towers of DawgNation:

“I talked with the players immediately afterward about not burning any more emotion or energy on that game and keep moving on,” Smart said on a College Football Playoff championship teleconference call Tuesday afternoon. “Alabama had a little more sound victory, so they probably didn’t burn quite as much emotion, although I know it was emotional to beat a team that beat them last year. The focus going forward will be on preparing for Alabama and a great program that Coach Saban has got.” …

>> Related: The National Championship game: What time, what channel, odds, livestream for Alabama vs. Georgia

“You emphasize rest, recovery. You emphasize what we talk about all the time, which is getting your sleep, getting your dark hours, getting off your phone,” Smart said. “… We’re starting school this week, too, so that’s another deal on top of our kids that they get to deal with. When you start dealing with a lot of outside influences on your kids’ time, you’ve got to be smart as a coach and understand you’ve got to get the most out of them, but we’ve got to be smart with our practice time and our recovery time.”

A special season

As amazing as Sony Michel and Nick Chubb played as lights out as the defense was in the second half of the Rose Bowl, neither was the ultimate difference in defeating Oklahoma. That would be special teams. Three special teams plays completely changed Georgia’s chances: Tae Crowder’s quick move on the squib kick, Rodrigo Blankenship’s 55-yarder and, of course, Lorenzo Carter’s blocked field goal.

>> Related: Alabama’s Nick Saban admits beating Georgia will be very difficult

But the Dawgs’ special teams prowess wasn’t limited to just the Rose Bowl. Their improvement in that facet of the game over last year is one of the major reasons they find themselves on the cusp of a national championship. From Seth Emerson of DawgNation:

Read more here.

Trump plans on attending Georgia-Alabama championship football game

President Donald Trump is planning to attend the national college football championship game between Georgia and Alabama on Monday in Atlanta, according to three people with direct knowledge of his plans.

>> Read more trending news 

Nick Ayers, a Georgia native who is Vice President Mike Pence’s chief of staff, and his wife Jamie Ayers will host the Trumps. First Lady Melania Trump is also expected to attend the game, which will be held at Mercedes-Benz Stadium under stepped-up security.

It’s not immediately certain whether two other top Trump allies in Georgia – Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Sen. David Perdue – will join them.

Trump and his aides have focused their attention on the college football playoffs even as he continues a war of words with the NFL over players who protest social injustice during the national anthem.

>> Related: Who is Mary Beth Smart, Georgia football coach Kirby Smart’s wife?

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders opened her press briefing Tuesday by congratulating the SEC schools “from two great states, both in the heart of Trump country” for bowl victories that propelled them to the championship.

Trump carried both states in 2016 – Alabama by nearly 30 points and Georgia by about five. But Alabama voters dealt Trump a blow in December by electing Democrat Doug Jones to the U.S. Senate over Republican Roy Moore, who Trump endorsed.

When pressed on Moore’s defeat, Sanders said she was simply trying to congratulate “two great football teams in the greatest conference in the country.”

>> Related: Nick Saban on wife Terry: ‘I don’t know why she puts up with me, but I’m very fortunate’

As the room erupted into laughter, she added: “Which I’m sure that most of you will all agree, even those that don’t live in one of those lucky states.”

Nick Saban on wife Terry: ‘I don’t know why she puts up with me, but I’m very fortunate’

As soon as he finished his postgame news conference after a Mississippi State game last year, Alabama coach Nick Saban made a beeline to the most important person in his life.

>> Read more trending news 

It was brief, but Saban and his wife, Terry, shared a kiss and a couple of words before the coach darted from the room to rejoin the team.

Terry attends Saban’s news conferences on the road. If you’re close enough, you can hear her quietly cheering when Nick makes a point she agrees with.

Saban said he appreciates the support she’s given him through the years.

“Well, I think that’s the thing you have to have appreciation for,” Saban said. “Sometimes when — you probably don’t even know what an old, rusted-out Volkswagen is, like 19-whatever that would have been — 60s — and go through the struggles you go through, personally and professionally. And to have a partner that has been supportive and an asset to the organization in every way is something that is really appreciated.

>> Related: Saban has a remarkable record against former assistants

“She’s been a great partner. I don’t know why she puts up with me, but I’m very fortunate.”

>> Related: Who is Mary Beth Smart, Georgia football coach Kirby Smart’s wife?

The Alabama Crimson Tide take on the Georgia Bull Dogs in the NCAA Championship Monday night at Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Who is Mary Beth Smart, Georgia football coach Kirby Smart’s wife?

The first lady of Georgia football is a Bulldog star herself.

>> Read more trending news 

Mary Beth Smart, wife of head coach Kirby Smart, was a star player on the Lady Bulldogs in the early 2000s. Her name still resides on the annals of Georgia women’s basketball. 

A full profile of the former Mary Beth Lycett appeared in DawgNation. Here are some highlights:

• Mary Beth Lycett was an exceptional basketball player. She was named Miss Georgia Basketball her senior year at Morrow High and played for Andy Landers’ Lady Bulldogs from 1999-2003.

>> Related: Saban has a remarkable record against former assistants AJC Sports

• She started 41 of 51 games over her final two seasons in Athens. She remains listed among Georgia’s all-time leaders in 3-point shooting percentage, free throw percentage and minutes played.

• Mary Beth and Kirby did not attend UGA at the same time. She is is 5 1/2 years younger than him. They met when he returned to Georgia to work for Mark Richt as running backs coach in 2005. Mary Beth was working in the athletic association’s business office at the time and he had to call her to arrange his travel to Athens for the interview.

• Mary Beth and Kirby started dating in 2005 and were married in Athens in summer 2006 at St. James United Methodist Church.

• She is an avid tennis player. She ran the Chicago Marathon in 2014.

• Kirby and Mary Beth Smart have three children, twins Julia and Weston (born in 2007) and their youngest son, Andrew. 

>> Related: Georgia football: The top 5 National Championship Game storylines

• Following Kirby’s hire as Georgia football coach in 2015, the Smarts moved into a 1920s cottage on a three-acre lot a few miles from Athens.

Suite deal? Someone’s selling a national title game ticket for $94K

A thrilling, historic double-overtime victory against Oklahoma has the University of Georgia headed to meet Alabama for the national title Monday at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

>> Read more trending news

Someone’s betting that a diehard fan is willing to pay $94,000 to be there.

Stubhub, the site where people can resell event tickets, has many tickets for sale – but the “cheap seats” start just under $2,100

One eye-popping offering, though, is approaching six figures. A little research finds we’re actually talking about a suite (although it’s officially listed as “one ticket”), but still. That’s a pricey night out. 

Bargain hunters, on the other hand, can try Vivid Seats, where tickets start at a mere $1,854.

Alabama fan attends game after RV catches fire. Her reaction? 'Roll, Tide'

Alabama football fans are passionate about their team. One Crimson Tide fan had to make a choice before Monday’s national semifinal game when her recreational vehicle caught fire near the Superdome: Stay with the vehicle, or attend the game?

>> Read more trending news

You know the answer: She attended the game and was not disappointed as Alabama defeated top-ranked Clemson 24-6 in the Sugar Bowl to earn a spot in Monday’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game in Atlanta.

Police said the RV caught fire around 11 a.m., WVUE reported. The blaze temporarily closed traffic in the area, but the New Orleans Fire Department quickly extinguished it, WVUE reported. No one was injured, police said.

The fan did not want to be identified, but did comment about the incident, WVUE reported.

“Roll, Tide,” she said.

Photos: Alabama beats Clemson to win Sugar Bowl

It was a real slug fest on the way to a 24-6 win for Alabama.

Alabama beats Clemson in Sugar Bowl, will face Georgia in national championship

The much anticipated Alabama-Clemson rematch didn’t quite give us everything we hoped for as the offense was not nearly as exciting as the last two matchups. It was a real slug fest on the way to a 24-6 win for Alabama.

>> UGA wins Rose Bowl, heading to National Championship game

Both teams went three-and-out on their first offensive possessions, but Alabama put up three points on the board on their second possession. Clemson failed to get anything done on yet another possession after that field goal and the Tide ended up going down the field and scoring on a pretty much broken play:

>> PHOTOS: Alabama beats Clemson to win Sugar Bowl

Clemson got its initial first down of the game about a minute into the second quarter and seemed to get a little more comfortable on that drive. It ended with a field goal, though, to make it 10-3 with about 10 minutes left in the half. However, they lost star freshman running back Travis Etienne early in the game to concussion-like symptoms.

 >> PHOTOS: UGA wins Rose Bowl

Fortunately for Clemson, a missed field goal by Alabama kept the deficit to only seven points. Neither team got a foothold on offense, but the Crimson Tide just seemed to dominate and even held Clemson to 73 total yards in the first half. Alabama also more than doubled thatwith 182 of their own in the half.

Despite a fumble by Alabama to start the second half, Clemson was only able to get three points out of it to make it a 10-6 game as the offense still couldn’t get anything going. On the next possession, they seemed to be getting momentum as Kelly Bryant had gotten a few passes to go and was converting third downs, but had a costly turnover due to bad protection.

That led directly to a touchdown from Alabama and ironically enough, the receiver who caught it was the same guy who got the interception to get the Crimson Tide the ball in the first place. 

And when Clemson got the ball back, things really unraveled as Bryant threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown by linebacker Mack Wilson.

That 24-6 score would hold to the fourth quarter as the total yards advantage went up to 225-99 in favor of Alabama after three quarters of play. This game was easily the worst offensive output of the season, if not the last few seasons, for Clemson and will surely send them back to the drawing board next season.

>> Read more trending news 

Clemson finished with 188 total yards while Alabama had 259 and the Tigers’ two turnovers were just too much to overcome as they both resulted in touchdowns for the other team. Crimson Tide running back Damien Harris had 18 carries for 75 yards while quarterback Jalen Hurts threw for 120 yards and two touchdowns on the game.

Georgia and Alabama will meet for an all-SEC National Championship Game after the Bulldogs beat Oklahoma in overtime in the Rose Bowl. The game will be played Jan. 8 with a kickoff set for 8 p.m.

Wisconsin football players catch 450-pound shark days before Orange Bowl win

You can’t do this at every bowl destination. Wisconsin’s football team landed in Miami for the Orange Bowl earlier in the week, and between practices and team outings, a few teammates had the chance to schedule some deep-sea fishing.

>> Read more Floridoh! stories

Members of Wisconsin’s football team went fishing somewhere near Miami this week and caught a 450-pound hammerhead shark. The Badgers’ Twitter account posted a photo of the impressive catch Wednesday.

>> See the photo here

The Badgers’ Orange Bowl gift bag included a PlayStation 4, wireless headphones, a 39-inch television and more, but none of the gadgets compare to a huge hammerhead. 

>> Read more trending news 

Wisconsin went on to defeat Miami 34-24 on Saturday night.

Titans, Vols players offer support to bullying victim who made heartbreaking viral video

When a boy from the Knoxville, Tennessee, area was revealed to be a victim of bullying, players for the Tennessee Titans and Vols football teams decided to step up.

>> Read more trending news

A video went viral Friday afternoon of a Knoxville boy detailing the bullying he had endured at school.

>> Watch the heartbreaking clip here

>> Need something to lift your spirits? Read more uplifting news

University of Tennessee sophomore receiver Tyler Byrd and freshman quarterback Jarrett Guarantano both pledged to visit the boy and offer support.

Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker responded with his own video and invited the boy and his family to an upcoming game.

>> Click here to watch

– The Cox Media Group National Content Desk contributed to this report.

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