NCAA FB

Alabama takes down top-ranked Georgia for SEC title, shaking up CFP

Dec 2, 2023, 5:40 PM

Alabama Crimson Tide...

Trezmen Marshall #17 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates with teammates after recovering a fumble during the third quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 02, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

(Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

ATLANTA (AP) — Alabama is again the top dog in the Southeastern Conference — and possibly headed to the College Football Playoff — after ending Georgia’s 29-game winning streak with a 27-24 victory over the No. 1 Bulldogs in the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday.

Now, the big question: Is Georgia’s bid for a third straight national title over?

Iron Bowl hero Jalen Milroe threw a pair of touchdown passes and No. 8 Alabama’s defense dominated much of the way after giving up a score on Georgia’s opening possession — a compelling playoff statement for a Crimson Tide team that lost at home to Texas early in the season.

Alabama (12-1) sorted out its quarterback situation and hasn’t lost since. The victory over Georgia was the Tide’s 11th in a row and may be good enough to push them from No. 8 in the CFP rankings to a prized berth in the final four.

Georgia (12-1) will have to hope its dominance over the last two seasons persuades the selection committee to give them a do-over in the playoffs. That’s just what happened two years ago, when Alabama romped to a 41-24 victory over the top-ranked Bulldogs in the SEC title game and both teams were invited to play on.

Georgia avenged its SEC defeat that time with a 33-18 victory over Alabama in the national championship game, and the Bulldogs made it two titles in a row with a 15-0 season in 2022. Their hopes of becoming the first team in the poll era to win three straight titles is now in the hands of others.

Georgia closed the gap to 20-17 after a 28-yard punt return by little-used Anthony Evans III set up Carson Beck’s sneak into the end zone for Georgia’s first touchdown since the opening minutes.

But, with a drive for the ages, Milroe hooked up with Isaiah Bond on four completions for 56 yards — rekindling memories of a week earlier when the two connected on a fourth-and-31 touchdown pass that miraculously pulled out an Iron Bowl victory over Auburn.

Roydell Williams scored on a 1-yard run that restored Alabama’s lead to 27-17 with 5:47 remaining.

Georgia didn’t go quietly. The Bulldogs hustled down the field for another TD, scoring on Kendall Milton’s fourth-and-goal run from the 1 with 2:52 left to again get within a field goal.

But Milroe broke off a 30-yard run — and wisely went down inbounds to keep the clock running — and Alabama ran out the clock.

Georgia marched right down the field on its first possession, grabbing a 7-0 lead on Kendall Milton’s 17-yard touchdown run.

But the rest of the half belonged to the Crimson Tide, who outgained the Bulldogs 193-55 in total yards after Georgia’s opening salvo.

Groza Award finalist Will Reichard booted a 43-yard field goal to become the leading career scorer in NCAA history with 533 points, breaking a tie with former Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds.

Alabama was just getting warmed up.

After missing on his first four passes, Milroe found his range. He completed six of eight for 110 yards, including touchdown passes of 28 yards to running back Jam Miller on a busted coverage and a 15-yarder to former Georgia receiver Jermaine Burton with 48 seconds left in the half.

Miller’s TD capped a 10-play, 92-yard drive, giving a huge boost of confidence to the Alabama offense. After Georgia’s Peyton Woodring missed a potential tying field goal from 50 yards out that deflected off the right upright, Milroe got the Tide rolling again.

Malaki Starks was flagged for pass interference, Milroe converted on fourth-and-4 with a 22-yard pass to Bond, and Burton hauled in the TD pass in the back of the end zone to send Alabama to the locker room with a 17-7 lead.

It was only the fifth time that Georgia had trailed at the half since the start of its winning streak.

This time, the Bulldogs couldn’t come back.

As was the case two years ago, the second quarter was the Bulldogs’ downfall. In the 2021 loss, they surrendered 24 points to Bryce Young and the Crimson Tide. This time, Alabama took control by outscoring Georgia 14-0 in the period.

Who gets into the playoff?

That’s in the hands of the CFP selection committee. They will announce the four playoff teams Sunday, as well as the rest of the New Year’s Six bowl assignments.

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