Scott Cochran is more than just a strength and conditioning coach.
He represented the heartbeat of the Nick Saban dynasty before he was hired away from Alabama by Georgia coach Kirby Smart on Monday. He served as Alabama’s strength coach for the last 13 years, and he famously proclaimed before the Georgia game in 2008 that the Bulldogs were wearing black because they were going to a funeral.
The Crimson Tide led that game 31-0 at halftime en route to a 41-30 victory. A psychological ploy by the Bulldogs backfired – and when it comes to these two SEC powerhouses – that blow has reverberated ever since. Remember, Georgia was ranked No. 3 and Alabama was No. 8 in that game. The Bulldogs have lost the last five meetings.
That is the significance of Smart – who tried to hire Cochran in 2015 – getting the longtime strength coach now. Cochran will serve as the special teams coordinator for the Bulldogs, but it’s more about taking something valuable away from the Crimson Tide.
Other SEC schools have tried to pull Cochran away. Lane Kiffin, now at Ole Miss, attempted to do it after being hired this cycle. Saban, however, was always able to hold on to one of most-trusted coaches despite endless staff turnover in Tuscaloosa. Cochran was a symbol of some level of stability for the program. He helped maintain order.
No, losing Cochran isn’t a death blow for the Alabama dynasty. The Crimson Tide will be ranked in the top five across most publications next season, and Saban, who turns 69 on Halloween, by no means has lost his touch.
Still, every Alabama fans knows about allowing 40-plus points in losses to Clemson, LSU and Auburn the last two seasons. The Crimson Tide have not won the national championship since Tua Tagovailoa fired a second-and-26 pass to DeVonta Smith for a 26-23 victory in the College Football Playoff championship game on Jan. 8, 2018. That was against Georgia, of course. It preceded a 35-28 victory in the SEC championship the following season, one in which Jalen Hurts led a pair of fourth-quarter TD drives. It furthered the pain felt by Bulldogs fans in recent decades.
Alabama has two-year national championship drought. By comparison, Georgia’s stretches all the way back to Herschel Walker’s freshman year in 1980. Of the true blue-blood programs, the Bulldogs have the longest national championship drought. It is absolutely a psychological drought as well. Georgia has finished in the top 10 a total of 15 times since 1980, including each of the last three seasons. There are big questions for 2020, too.
Jake Fromm is gone, there was a large exodus to the NFL Draft and new offensive coordinator Todd Monken and incoming transfer quarterback Jamie Newman are tasked with essentially “doing what LSU did” in 2020. Florida might be the preseason favorite to win the SEC East.
That’s why the Cochran hire comes at the perfect time. Smart landed the nation’s top recruiting class in two of the last three cycles. Georgia’s national championship window remains wide open, while some are wondering if there are cracks forming in Alabama’s dynasty under Saban. Hey, Cochran finally left.
What other conclusion would you draw?
That’s why we can’t wait for Sept. 19. That’s when Georgia will come to Alabama, and Cochran will be firing up the Bulldogs. It will be another chance for Georgia to reverse the curse of that ill-fated night when they walked into their own funeral.
Do not expect the Bulldogs to be wearing black for the occasion. With Cochran, the program’s heartbeat is stronger than ever.
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