Until the College Football Playoff is expanded (pray to the football gods that will come soon), near-perfection is needed to be one of the final four teams standing in December. In most circumstances, that means winning down the stretch of the season as well as winning your conference championship, but for some teams that is not the case.
Momentum is one of the most impactful intangible parts of sports. When you’re on a roll, it feels like nothing can stop you. Since the ending of the Penn State game, Michigan has had all the momentum on their side, beating Maryland soundly, followed by the iconic Ohio State win and Big Ten Championship rout.
Georgia had the same type of momentum all season long, dominating every opponent that came in its path. After beating Clemson 10-3 in the season opener, the Bulldogs won the rest of their regular season games by an astonishing 36 points per game. Nobody even sniffed a victory, and Georgia looked virtually unbeatable. That is, until December 4 in Atlanta when all that momentum came to a screeching halt.
In the second quarter of the SEC Championship game, Alabama scored on three straight possessions, putting up 17 straight points and leaving Georgia looking like it didn’t know what hit it. All of a sudden, that momentum that the Dawgs had been feeding off of all season long was out the window. Alabama went on to put up 41 points and beat Georgia to win its seventh SEC title in 10 years.
Following that loss, Georgia will seek vengeance as the Bulldogs became just the third team in College Football Playoff history to be selected for the final four after losing their previous game. In 2017, Alabama was selected after losing its final regular season game in the Iron Bowl to Auburn. The Crimson Tide went on to avenge that loss by beating Clemson in the semifinal and winning an overtime thriller in the National Championship over Georgia. Just last season, Notre Dame was selected after its loss to No. 2 Clemson in the ACC Championship game. The Fighting Irish were not able to regain any momentum and went on to lose to Alabama in the semifinal at the Rose Bowl.
On New Year’s Eve, the Bulldogs will take one of two routes: put a chip on their shoulder like the 2017 Alabama team and go out and play angry or let the previous loss get to them like 2020 Notre Dame and come out flat. Surely, there has been plenty of time to forget about that game in Atlanta back on Dec. 4, but with the possible chance to see Alabama again in the National Championship, no doubt it is in the back of their minds.
Georgia is currently a 7.5-point favorite per DraftKings Sportsbook even after the collapse last time out. Michigan, on the other hand, will seek to keep the momentum rolling when the Wolverines make the trip to Miami.
The question left to be answered: What intangible will prevail? Momentum or vengeance.