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Georgia Football

For the Georgia Bulldogs, The Ships Are Officially Burned

January 8, 2022

INDIANAPOLIS—When Hernán Cortés made landfall in Mexico in the 16th Century, he made a perplexing decision.

With only 600 men at his command and a goal of taking down the entire Aztec empire, Cortés burned his ships and gave him and his army two options: win or lose. Retreat was no longer in the fold, and surrender was never an option.

As the story goes, Cortés and the conquistadores fought even harder knowing that escape wasn’t a part of the equation, giving them a mental edge in what would become an upset victory for the Spanish empire.

When the Dawgs met Alabama in Atlanta more than a month ago, they docked their ships and left them at bay. Of course, their goal was to walk out SEC Champions, but if they lost, they knew that they’d live to fight another day. 

Alabama had a more narrow path. The Tide’s National Championship aspirations were facing life or death against Georgia—a loss knocked them completely out of contention, a win secured them a spot in the College Football Playoff. 

Even if it’s subliminal, the mental element of having a backup plan holds you back. You’re quick to throw in the towel, call it a day and get ready for the next fight.

Going up against someone who is fighting for their life is always a more difficult battle than against someone who has a way out. They’ll scratch, kick and swing until their last breath—they have no other choice. That’s where Alabama was at.

With the intensity and focus that Kirby Smart brings to this program, it’s hard to imagine that the Bulldogs ever discussed what would happen if they lost in the SEC Championship. But everyone and their mothers knew what the outcome would be if they did, including the players. 

Now is that the reason Georgia lost? No, and it probably isn’t in the top 10 reasons, either. Having that subconscious knowledge changes your mindset, though, even if it’s marginal. 

The circumstances are different now in Indianapolis. There are no more backup options for Smart and the Dawgs. Just like Alabama was a few weeks ago, Georgia is now fighting for its life.

“You're the hero or the zero,” Stetson Bennett said. “You just keep your head down and keep working. Trust your teammates to make plays, and you just go play football, the same game you've been playing since you were in little league.”

Georgia’s preparation is probably nearly identical to what it was gearing up for the SEC Championship. The mentality, however, is on a different level. With their back against the wall, the Dawgs have had to laser in on their focus.

“The mental approach makes a big difference,” Nakobe Dean said. “I mean it's the National Championship. You should be prepared mentally… You should expect your opponent to also be prepared to give their best on the field. So the mental and physical preparation for it I feel like should be second to none.”

Smart and his men have officially docked at Lucas Oil Stadium and set their ships ablaze. There are no ifs, ands or maybes anymore. The Dawgs are fighting for their lives in Indianapolis with only one way out.


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