ATLANTA — Nick Saban, Tua Tagovailoa and the Alabama Crimson Tide completed a comeback for the ages on Monday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the result was a 26-23 overtime victory over the Georgia Bulldogs. Kirby Smart, Jake Fromm and company held a 20-7 lead midway through the third quarter and, for all the world, it appeared as if the team would claim its first national championship since Herschel Walker ran wild in Athens back in 1980. Within a matter of moments, however, the lead was gone, overtime arrived and, well, Tagovailoa delivered an all-time throw to send the Bulldogs up the road to campus with a soul-crushing loss.
At first glance, this may appear to be “just another” Atlanta sports collapse. After all, the Atlanta Falcons imploded in legendary fashion less than 12 months ago on football’s grandest stage and, for years, the Atlanta Braves operated as a regular season juggernaut that routinely came up empty in postseason situations. Still, a further look indicates that simply attributing the failings of the Southeast’s largest city to Georgia would be unwise and, in some ways, inaccurate.
For starters, the University of Georgia isn’t in Atlanta. That seems like an obvious caveat and, while the university’s campus is within a 75-mile trek of Mercedes-Benz Stadium, there are two FBS programs (Georgia Tech and Georgia State) that actually operate within the city limits. Of course, it has to be noted that Kirby Smart and company are backed by a gigantic fanbase that dwarfs that of any other collegiate program within Atlanta’s perimeter and that translates into many Atlanta sports fans crossing over into support of a university they either attended or followed closely for most of their lives.