Alabama tries to buck history in CFP title game vs. Georgia

Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports

A mere 37 days after they last played, Alabama faces Georgia again with a national championship on the line.

History shows how tough it is to win again in the rematch.

Nick Saban knows that first-hand – from the losing side.

During the 2011 season, Saban’s Crimson Tide were edged by LSU 9-6 in overtime during the regular season.

When the powerhouses met about two months later in the BCS championship game at New Orleans, Alabama smothered the unbeaten Tigers 21-0.

Now, it’s the Tide (13-1) on the other side, looking to beat Georgia (13-1) for the second time in a little over a month after a 41-24 cakewalk in the Southeastern Conference championship game on Dec. 4.

They meet again Monday night at Indianapolis in the College Football Playoff title game, their last meeting separated only by a pair of easy victories in the semifinal bowl games.

Saban tried to shrug off any comparisons to 2011, for obvious reasons. This time, he’s the one who’ll have to beat an SEC rival for the second time to finish No. 1.

“Those two games were extremely hard-fought, close games in both circumstances, and I would expect the same in this game,” Saban said. “I don’t know that there’s anything that I can really take from that (2011) experience that’s going to have any effect or impact on this one.”

Georgia is hoping to replicate a similar scenario from the 2017 season.

The Bulldogs were blown out by Auburn 40-17 during the regular season, but got another crack at the Tigers three weeks later in the SEC championship game.

Again, it was no contest, only the rematch had Georgia romping to a 28-7 victory that sent the Bulldogs to the College Football Playoff.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart conceded that some key things have changed compared to what was on film leading up to this season’s SEC championship game.

The Bulldogs can now study what they did wrong in their only loss of the season, as well as an impressive bounce-back victory over Michigan in the Orange Bowl semifinal on New Year’s Eve.

“You’ve got to be careful,” Smart said. “What tendencies changed, what matchups we’re looking for, who is in, who is out. There’s a lot of things that go into it.”

There are a couple of reasons why a second meeting during the same season can be so much different than the first.

For one, the team that lost usually has plenty of obvious things it can work on in practice to try to reverse the outcome. Not so for the winning team, which has a natural tendency to stick with what worked so well.

More important, perhaps, is the mental side.

A team that lost usually finds it a lot easier to get motivated heading into the rematch.

Rest assured, the Bulldogs – a unanimous No. 1 much of the season – have a huge chip on their shoulders after the way they were manhandled by the Crimson Tide last month.

“You can only judge a man by what he does next and how hard he gets hit and gets back up,” Georgia linebacker Nolan Smith said. “We got hit pretty hard.”

Rematches are rare in college football, but it’s common in the NFL where division foes meet twice a year.

Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken has plenty of experience at that from his time in the pros.

He doesn’t expect major chances from either team, but knows there will be some opportunities to break out a new wrinkle here, a tweak there.

“If you’re constantly changing what you do and your identity, I don’t think you’re going to be very good at anything,” Monken said. “Obviously there’s calls that we had … or other opportunities that we didn’t get called. So we’re looking forward to the opportunity and the shot at it. And they’re going to get our best, I can promise you that.”

This will be the first rematch in the CFP’s eight-year history, but pre-playoff matchups provide some hopeful signs for the Bulldogs.

During the 1996 season, for instance, Florida lost its regular-season finale to Florida State 24-21 – a game that left Gators coach Steve Spurrier seething over what he perceived as cheap shots by the Seminoles that went unpenalized.

Florida earned another crack at its Sunshine State rival by beating Alabama in the SEC championship game.

In the Sugar Bowl, the fired-up Gators blew out Florida State 52-20 to claim what would be Spurrier’s only national championship.

“You see why I didn’t want to play them again, don’t you?” Florida State coach Bobby Bowden said afterward. “Too good.”

Saban hopes he’s not saying the same thing about Georgia late Monday night.

Missouri linebacker Chad Bailey suspended after arrest

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COLUMBIA, Mo. — Missouri linebacker Chad Bailey was suspended from the team after he was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated, the team said.

The 23-year-old, who was a team captain last season, was booked at about 2:45 a.m. and released after posting $500 bond, according to online records from the Boone County Sheriff’s Office.

“We are aware of the situation involving Chad Bailey,” Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz said in a statement to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He’s been suspended according to Department of Athletics policy. We have high expectations for all of our student-athletes, on and off the field, and we will follow all departmental and campus policies.”

Bailey was Mizzou’s third-leading tackler with 57 stops last season. He started all 11 games he played, missing two with an injury. He’ll be a sixth-year senior this fall after opting to return for his final year of eligibility, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The Missouri student-athlete handbook says any athlete who is arrested must serve a minimum one-week suspension.

Bailey was pulled over at about 1 a.m. not far from the Columbia campus for an expired license plate and lane violation, a police statement said. Bailey told the officer he had consumed alcohol and then performed poorly on a field sobriety test, the Post-Dispatch reported.

Nebraska’s leading rusher Anthony Grant suspended indefinitely

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LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska opened spring practice with running back Anthony Grant suspended indefinitely to work on academics and other issues, first-year coach Matt Rhule announced.

Grant led the team in rushing with 915 yards and six touchdowns last season. He also caught 18 passes for 104 yards.

“Working on academics and general things. Nothing bad other than just our standards as a program,” Rhule said. “That will be day by day. Good kid. Just have to get him going in the right direction.”

Rhule said kick returner and reserve receiver Tommi Hill also is suspended. He did not specify a reason.

Backup tight ends Chris Hickman and James Carnie and reserve cornerback Tyreke Johnson left the team.