ATLANTA – Underdog is an unusual role for Alabama.
Turns out it fits the Crimson Tide perfectly.
Now Nick Saban’s side are in a much more familiar position: preparing to play for another national title.
Bryce Young has carved out the best defense in the country, throw for three touchdowns and run for another as the fourth-ranked Crimson Tide beat No. 1 Georgia 41-24 in the Southeastern Conference Championship game on Saturday.
The mind-blowing result will likely send both powerful programs to the four-team college football playoffs.
For Alabama, it would be the seventh appearance in the format’s eight-year history in the playoffs, but it could be the most unlikely of all given how difficult Tide is at the end of the regular season.
Saban has made sure his players hear all the skeptics.
“You gave us a lot of positive rat poison,” the coach joked to reporters. âThe rat poison you usually give us is fatal. But the rat poison you put there this week was delicious.
No one has done it more than Young, who set SEC championship records with 421 passing yards and 461 total attacking yards.
âHe played really well tonight,â said Saban. “He’s played really well for us all year.”
After a surprisingly tough four-overtime win over Auburn and already struggling with a loss, the Tide knew they needed a win to secure a return to the playoffs.
The reigning national champions gave Saban a chance to add to his record seven titles – including six since arriving in Tuscaloosa in 2007 to lead a historically rich program that has perhaps become the greatest dynasty in history. college football.
âThe resilience they’ve shown all year makes it so special,â Saban said. âWinning the game like we did last week, playing a game today at a level that most people probably weren’t expecting, I’m really proud of this group. They have shown a tremendous ability to overcome adversity throughout the year.
Georgia (12-1, No. 1 CFP) have sailed throughout the regular season, barely challenged and a unanimous choice as the nation’s No. 1 team for the past two months. The Bulldogs boasted a formidable defensive unit that had allowed just 6.9 points per game.
Young made this much-vaunted defense look like a Boy Scout team, earning the game’s MVP honors, boosting his chances of winning the Heisman Trophy and moving up to an even bigger game on the final day of 2021.
âHe’s so good at avoiding rush,â Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. âHe saves time with his mobility and plays downstream. Give it credit. He did a wonderful job. “
The qualifying peloton will be announced on Sunday, with the semi-finals set for the orange and cotton balls on December 31.
Alabama (12-1, No.3 CFP) scored six offensive goals – five covering at least 75 yards, the other 62 – and finished with 536 yards against a team that was giving up just under 231 yards per game. .
Tide’s defense wasn’t too shabby either, essentially sealing the victory with Jordan Battle 42-yard interception return to the end zone with about 12 minutes remaining.
Stetson Bennett from Georgia pitched for 340 yards and three touchdowns, but he also had two crucial picks. Freshman Brock Bowers made 10 catches for 139 yards.
He will be remembered for Alabama’s dismantling of the Georgian defense, which had allowed no more than 17 points in a game during the perfect regular season.
âWe didn’t play our best game,â said linebacker Nakobe Dean. âWe have a lot of work to do. “
After falling into a 10-0 hole in the opening play of the second quarter, Alabama outscored the Bulldogs 41-14 the rest of the course. Not even a knee injury that knocked out top receiver John Metchie just before halftime – and likely ended his season – could turn Tide away.
Jameson Williams more than took over for his injured teammate, finishing with 184 yards on seven receptions and two touchdowns. Metchie had six catches for 97 yards and a touchdown before his injury.
Young set the tone in a dominant second quarter, guiding four straight strikes – including three for touchdowns – to give Tide a 24-17 lead at the break.
The quarterback set an SEC Championship game record for first-half passing yards with 286, triggered by a 67-yard touchdown pass to Williams – the longest play the Bulldogs have given up this season .
Young was just starting to warm up.
He zipped one in Metchie for a 13-yard score, led the Tide into position for Will Reichard’s 33-yard field goal and capped his brilliant quarterback in run 13 yards for a TD with just 26 seconds to go in half-time.
In just one football quarterback, Alabama has scored more points against Georgia than any team all year, also becoming the first to score more than two TDs in a game against the Bulldogs.
During the regular season, Georgia allowed just 29 points – in all 12 games combined – in the first half.
Alabama kicked off the second half and quickly increased their lead. Williams caught another long pass from Young, this one covering 55 yards.
âHe’s the elite to hand the ball over to his playmakers,â said Smart.
MENTOR VERSUS MENTOR
Smart, a former defensive coordinator in Alabama, continues to be blocked by his former boss.
Smart fell 0-4 to Saban, with three of those losses in huge games at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
In the 2017 season, Alabama beat the Bulldogs in overtime in the National Championship game. The following year, the Tide prevailed in another classic to win the SEC Championship.
And now, yet another setback for Smart with the conference title on the line.
Take it away
Georgia: It could be a devastating blow to the psyche of a team that had looked unbeatable most of the season. Smart will need to do the best coaching job of his career over the next few weeks to restore the Bulldogs’ confidence.
Alabama: Not many gave Tide much luck after their poor performance in the Iron Bowl, but the offensive line looked like an entirely different unit against the massive Georgia front. Young had plenty of time to pitch, and he took advantage of it. âAll of the success we’ve had this year starts from the start,â Young said. âThey did an incredible job. They have really stepped up to the plate. “
According to the playoff standings, the SEC behemoths could be heading for a semi-final rematch. This would be the second time the league has placed two teams in the playoffs, the other coming in 2017 when Alabama beat Georgia in this overtime thriller.
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