MOULTON — Georgia-born Wayne Mathis knows where he’ll be Monday night when Georgia and Alabama play in the College Football Playoff championship game.
“Alone with all these Alabama fans,” he chuckled. “I’ve been here before.”
Mathis, a devoted Bulldogs fan, will be greatly outnumbered as he watches the game at his Moulton home because his Alabama-born wife, Donna, is a Crimson Tide supporter and will invite a mass of the couple’s shared friends.
“That’s OK,” he said. “It’s all good fun.”
For the second time in the eight-year history of the CFP, Alabama and Georgia will play in the national championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, with kickoff at 7 p.m. CST. ESPN is televising the game.
The first meeting came in 2018 when freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa tossed a 41-yard touchdown to Devonta Smith in overtime as the Crimson Tide defeated the Bulldogs 26-23.
This was one of two games the Mathis family didn’t watch together since they met in 1987, because Wayne was at work. But he got updates from his wife — “a lot of them” — especially in the second half as Alabama climbed out of a 13-0 hole.
After Smith scored the game-winning touchdown, Wayne said, he got one final call.
“I told her we could talk about hanging curtains or anything else, but I didn’t want to hear anything about the game,” he said.
Donna, 50, said she continued to talk about the game, but wasn’t serious.
“I hung up on her,” Wayne laughed.
“He sure did,” Donna chuckled.
The lines of team loyalty have been drawn in the Mathis household since the couple met on a blind date on July 4, 1987, at a fireworks show in Georgia.
Donna’s first college-football choice was to pick between Alabama and Auburn because she grew up in a divided family. Wayne, who was born about 45 minutes from the Georgia campus in Covington, said he was “Bulldog from birth.” He said a family member was a Georgia graduate and he attended games at Sanford Stadium while in high school.
After meeting his wife-to-be, he said they were not that serious about football because Alabama and Georgia didn’t play annually “and there wasn’t a lot of games on television.”
Wayne said he even wore an Alabama cap his wife gave him.
The Mathis family divide, however, got serious following the 2012 SEC championship game when the final seconds ticked off the clock as Georgia had the ball on Alabama’s 8-yard line. The Crimson Tide won the game 32-28 and went on to defeat Notre Dame in the national championship game in Miami.
Wayne, 52, said this is when he lost a lot of respect for Crimson Tide football because some of his coworkers at Nucor Steel were “talking too much trash” before the game and “showing Georgia no respect. I was very Alabama friendly before this.”
Donna said she doesn’t talk a lot of trash and sometimes finds herself sympathizing with her husband because he’s generally the only Georgia fan at their home when friends come over to watch games.
“I got his back,” said Richard, the couple’s 12-year-old son.
“He’s daddy’s boy,” Donna said.
Neither parent pushed Richard to pick between Alabama and Georgia, but by the time he was 3, he was “all Georgia,” his mother said.
Donna said she bought him an Alabama shirt and he refused to wear it.
“I liked that,” Wayne said.
“I was Georgia because of my dad,” Richard said.
The Mathis family lived three years in Georgia before moving to Alabama in 1993. Georgia and Alabama have played 14 times since the couple married 31 years ago and the Crimson Tide holds a 10-4 advantage in those games.
Donna said everybody at her home in 2018 behaved as if walking on eggshells as Georgia led much of the game. Wayne said he and some of his coworkers thought the game was over.
“I’m very opinionated, but I don’t talk a lot of trash or tease my friends,” he said.
Donna is not as opinionated, but “I’ll talk a little smack.”
As for Monday’s game, neither is talking much or wanted to make a prediction.
“I’m not inviting anybody over for the game, but I’m sure they’ll be here,” Wayne said. "I’ll say this much, it’s all fun. When it’s over, it will be over for me.”
Donna said the friends that show up know not to say anything to Wayne. Donna said she teases Wayne and tells him Georgia is built by Alabama because Bulldogs head coach Kirby Smart is the Crimson Tide's former defensive coordinator.
“He’s a pretty good sport, but I’m gonna be quiet until after the game,” she said.