From Atlanta, the thoughts, notes and rumors from in and around the College Football Playoff National Championship – the Sunday version.
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Thoughts and notes from Atlanta: Sunday
– Contact/Follow @PeteFiutak
I’ve been in Atlanta for 24 hours. It’s cold.
– Not like real cold, like it is throughout major portions of the country, but cold enough to get everyone whining.
It stinks, because there’s a whole lot of cool stuff going on and lots of things to do, but it was a ghost town on Saturday in parts of the city that should be rocking.
Part of that is because of the local aspect. While Georgia being in this is good in a way, it appears to be killing the vibe. Too many people are driving in for the day of the game instead of making it a whole weekend thing.
– If I can sum up the collective mood of the national media about this game and this matchup in two words: “whatever, dude.”
I don’t necessarily share that same sentiment, but I get it. There isn’t an easy hook when it’s SEC in SEC action in SEC country.
– The No. 1 thing said by every media type around here? Besides a crack about the cold – “I wish Baker Mayfield was here.” There’s just nothing obvious to write about, talk about, or analyze.
This is probably going to be a low-scoring game, the national interest is all on the NFL playoffs at the moment, and to be brutally blunt, both teams are boring.
– Actually, boring is the wrong way to put it. There’s a fear that Alabama is going to roll this game up in a neat defensive ball and put it away in the first ten minutes.
Oklahoma would’ve brought something quirky, but there’s a sense that Georgia’s offense was amazing because it was playing the OU D.
Mayfield would’ve provided the easy storyline sizzle. If he was here, then the all-time great quarterback topic would be a breeze. There would be the comparisons to what Deshaun Watson did, the Heisman winner vs. the all-timer coach, and on and on and on, but …
– Personal belief: Alabama would’ve killed the Sooners. Georgia is going to make this a better game, if not win it.
– Nothing political here; this is all about convenience. I can’t find one person on either side of the aisle, or in the middle, who’s happy that Donald Trump is coming. No one’s going to see him, and it’s going to make the lines longer, security tougher, and traffic even more impossible to deal with.
– It’s going to be all Georgia fans at this thing. At least, the stadium will be full of around 70% Bulldogs lovers.
The Alabama people are saying the same thing – the fan base is broke.
It’s not like the Crimson Tide die-hards don’t have money, but they’ve had to shell out a TON of coin over the last several years on football games.
And now, with the secondary market kicking in at round $2,000 to get into the building, crazed Georgia types are eating this up. On the other side, there’s a “been there, done that, we’ll do it next year, too” thing for the Tide followers.
– Atlanta just doesn’t seem like a city built for this. The side streets to get to stadium are just too small and too packed. It obviously works just fine, but it’s hard enough to get within screaming distance of the place when there’s no traffic.
– This stadium is absolutely beautiful in so many ways. However, having walked through all the parts, and on the field, and after seeing all the bells and whistles, this is the proverbial better pot to pee in. The field is still the same size it is at your local high school.
– I thought it would be a whole lot more immense – it seats around 71,000. Again, it’s amazing. The ceiling, and the one end zone view of the city are gorgeous, but in terms of the “holy crap” factor when you first walk in, Jerry World is still the “my button is bigger” stadium.
– Alabama is Alabama. The players are all cordial, and most will talk, but they’ll never, ever give anything thrilling. They’re not going to say anything silly, and they’re certainly not going to provide any bulletin board material.
Tide players and coaches will talk about their craft – to a point. They’ll be happy to get into Xs and Os, but they can only say, “… because we’re awesome,” without saying, “… because we’re awesome” so many times and in so many ways.
– By the way, Alabama started practicing deep ball drills as the media was being ushered out of the viewing session. That’s supposedly the norm for the team, but the timing was an interesting coincidence.
– Georgia players just don’t have a lot to say, and the team isn’t exactly playing it up in the personality department. This is from every media member I talked to about them – I didn’t go to the UGA media session.
Supposedly, Nick Chubb doesn’t talk, doesn’t want to have anything to do with this, doesn’t want to play along with any line of conversation.
Jake Fromm is sort of okay at the media game – again, this is second hand – but overall, there’s not a lot for the national media to grab onto.
They’re football players who want to go play football – that’s it. If there’s something deeper happening with this team as a whole, no one’s talking about it.
However, a lot of this is on the questioning, too.
“So, how does it feel to be playing in Atlanta?”
“Describe what it means for Georgia to be playing in a national championship?”
Ask a boring question …
– However, and this seems to be the prevailing feeling, those who dealt with Georgia at the Rose Bowl and those who see this team now detect a tightness. It’s not like they were the ’85 Bears when it came to personality in Pasadena, but there definitely appears to be a slightly different attitude compared to Alabama.
– Talk to anyone who deals with or covers Alabama, and they’ll say the Crimson Tide have this. The team is used to this, and more than anything else, it’s really, really salty.
I talked to two separate guys close to this team, and they said almost the exact same thing. The entire team has a chip on its shoulder.
There’s a combination of being relaxed from being in this position for the last two seasons, and a feistiness that was missing from those teams. Even though Alabama is favored, this team is feeding off the negativity.
– So you have Alabama fatigue? Cool – you’re fueling this Tide squad.
You don’t want to watch? You think Ohio State should be here? You think this team is boring? Great. Now throw on top of that just how mad this team is – from the coaching staff on down – over losing last year’s national championship, and that could be a deadly cocktail.
– Interesting storyline for the offseason. Alabama could win the national championship and Jalen Hurts could be the MVP – and Tua Tagovailoa could be the Tide’s starting quarterback next year.
The Bama insiders here all like Hurts for what he can do, but Tagovailoa is special. It’s not just a case of the backup quarterback always being the most popular guy; the reviews on his maturity, smarts, and talent are gushing.
– I’m sort of surprised that the Minkah Fitzpatrick hospitalization thing isn’t being seen as any big deal. Apparently, the bigger problem is the flu bug that’s been hammering Tuscaloosa. Want scary? Alabama had a slew of sick players going against Clemson, and it was sill that good.
– The Buckhead Diner award-winning banana cream pie is just whatever. That’s what we were told we HAD to go make a special trip to get, but meh. However, the steaming coffee cake with caramel and cinnamon ice cream is what happiness tastes like, and the key lime thing made me realize that yes, there is a supreme being.
– Yeah, yeah, yeah, this is all goofy spider sense talk here, but there’s usually a vibe or a thing to pick up around these games one way or another.
That thing at the first CFP National Championship was all about Oregon – and I did everything within my power to try convincing everyone Ohio State was going to win in a walk.
And then it was all about Alabama at the second one. I, along with 75% of the media types, way underestimated Clemson, and last year was about Deshaun and whether or not he could do that again.
I have yet to talk to anyone who thinks Georgia will win. I feel like I’m missing something obvious.
Maybe Alabama really is that hurt. Maybe the offense really is that flat and is about to get stuffed. Maybe Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will take over the game. Maybe Georgia is able to take on the “no one believes in us” thing.
But I can’t find anyone who’ll help me with that. I’ll keep looking.
– As always, I’m totally and completely geeked out. College Football Playoff settings are the happiest places on Earth. Even if a whole lot of grouchy people don’t quite share my sentiments.
One thing everyone does agree on – the people here are over-the-top friendly. It takes a certain someone to deal with media people, and every worker here has been way too nice.
– I’ll also give Atlanta this – and I’m not the only one to note it – the music everywhere has been phenomenal. Maybe it’s just where we’ve been hanging out, but the restaurants, the Ubers, the background noise – no country, no Western, all jams, all grooves, all really, really good stuff.
– And I’m nine pounds heavier after just one day.