Orange Bowl 2021: Can Georgia put another humiliating loss to Alabama in rearview?

Jordan Davis knows what he’s supposed to say now — that the SEC championship game was weeks ago, that Georgia ‘s loss was a setback but hardly the end of the journey, that the Bulldogs’ date with Michigan in the College Football Playoff ( Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN/ESPN App ) has nothing at all to do with how Davis and the UGA defense was mauled by Alabama .

In fact, Davis may actually believe all that. Still, those negative thoughts creep into his head often enough that it’d be impossible to suggest Alabama’s 41-24 win over the seemingly invincible Bulldogs was completely behind him.

"Any game I lost, even in high school, it still hits me every once in a while," Davis said. "But you can’t dwell on the past. Nothing you can do about it."

That’s not exactly true, of course. Georgia’s defense — lauded through the first 12 games of the season as an immovable force, a unit that allowed just eight touchdowns all year before Alabama hung 41 points on it — could make changes, tweak the scheme, dive deep into the film of Bryce Young scorching the secondary and find ways to adjust.

Or, as linebacker Quay Walker put it: "You can only do three things: Focus on us, Michigan, and what we can do to get better."

In other words, there may be lessons in that Alabama loss, but attempting to reinvent the wheel in the wake of that game is as likely to disrupt a still-dominant defense as it is to help. Georgia’s goal in prepping for the Capital One Orange Bowl wasn’t about beating Alabama — though a possible rematch is on the horizon — but rather: How can the Bulldogs’ D be the best version of itself?

"The challenge is there, and we have really worked hard on ourselves, fundamentally and to self-scout," head coach Kirby Smart said. "What are we giving up? What are people seeing on us? What changes can we make that would be beneficial for us? That has all been our focus — how do we get better fundamentally, not about the last game."

Still, that’s tough when the last game and the next game are separated by nearly a month. It’s also a different animal when the pundits spent an entire season raving about a unit as being among the best in recent memory, only to see that unit go down in flames in its biggest game. Georgia wasn’t just the No. 1 team in the country entering that game against Alabama. It was seemingly without a challenger. Then, in a flash, the narrative turned. College Playoff Pick ‘Em

Play for FREE and you could win up to $15,000! Make Your Picks Can Georgia really erase the lingering effects of such a demoralizing performance so quickly?

In some ways, it might be best to let the loss eat away at the Bulldogs. As Smart noted, while so many outsiders looked at Georgia’s defense as something just shy of miraculous throughout the first 12 […]

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