ATLANTA – If Georgia never sees Alabama in the SEC Championship Game again it will probably be just fine with Kirby Smart.
Yet he's also desperately hoping for another shot at the Crimson Tide during next month's National Championship Game.
Sound logic. Strange season.
Saturday afternoon, the No. 3 Crimson Tide manhandled the Bulldogs, and made the nation’s top-ranked defense look pedestrian in a 41-24 win in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
With the win Alabama (12-1) likely secured a spot in the College Football Playoff, its seventh playoff appearance in eight years.
"I think it gave us an opportunity to have a two-game season," Alabama head coach Nick Saban said. "We have a two-game season now, I hope. That's what we're going to work for. That's what we want to do.
"Last week at Auburn to come back and win the game, to come into this game that nobody thought we had a chance to win and really go out there and perform well in the game against a really good team
It’s the 10th SEC Championship Game win for the Crimson Tide and the eighth in the Nick Saban era. It’s also the third win against Georgia (12-1) in the title game.
Entering Saturday’s matchup Alabama was a six-point underdog and with good reason. Georgia’s defense was easily the best in the nation.
A few numbers from the UGA defense before the game:
- Touchdowns allowed: 7
- Average passing yards allowed: 152
- Total yards allowed: 230
- Points allowed per game: 6.9
Bryce Young and the Alabama offense shredded those numbers.
- Touchdowns scored: 4
- Pass yards: 421
- Total yards: 537
It might have been a Heisman Trophy audition for Young as well. He came out looking like the hands-down winner.
Young was a one-man highlight reel, finding open receivers after dancing around in the pocket, and zig-zagging his way for big runs.
Young's three touchdowns ties the Crimson Tide single-season mark (Tua Tagovailoa, 2018).
Young set an SEC Championship Game record with 421 passing yards, which topped last year's record of 418 by the Crimson Tide's Mac Jones. Young's 461 total yards is also an SEC title game record.
Young also wasn't sacked. He was taken down seven times the previous week against Auburn.
"That was everything," Young said of the line. "Obviously, that's a great front, a great defense, and we knew that coming in. I think they just kept hearing it and hearing it. Like Coach (Saban) said, they accepted the challenge, and they really stepped up to the plate in the biggest moment in the season."
The clincher didn’t come from the offense, though. Alabama’s defense delivered the knockout blow early in the fourth quarter after Jordan Battle intercepted a Stetson Bennett pass and went 42 yards for the touchdown to put Alabama up 38-17.
There were other heroes Saturday. Jameson Williams was nearly unstoppable, catching seven passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns, both of which went for 50-plus yards.
It’s also important to note how crucial the timing was on Williams’ targeting call last week against Auburn. The foul happened in the first half and Williams missed the rest of the game. Had the foul occurred in the second half, Williams would have missed the first half of Saturday’s SEC title game.
DeMarcco Hellams played a big part with an interception inside the red zone to thwart a Georgia scoring chance. He also had a nice pass breakup in the end zone in the fourth quarter to prevent the Bulldogs from closing in on the Crimson Tide's lead
Georgia just physically whipped Alabama up front in the first quarter. Alabama had no answer for Bennett or the run game as the Bulldogs totaled 159 yards to Alabama’s 38.
Bennett was an efficient 8 of 10 passing for 126 yards in the quarter.
The switch flipped in the second quarter after Alabama fell behind 10-0. Young found a streaking Jameson Williams in the middle of the field and the Crimson Tide receiver did the rest for a 67-yard touchdown reception.
The play was the longest Georgia had allowed all season.
"Well, there was a lot of big plays in the game, which was something that we wanted to -- I think that the Jameson Williams long touchdown in the beginning of the game, they came down and played two trap," Saban said "The safety was supposed to trap him. We got through him. I think that changed the momentum of the game a little bit for us, so that was really important."
The defense then forced a three-and-out on the Bulldogs’ next drive.
Young and Alabama went to work again, marching 80 yards on six plays and ending with a Young touchdown pass to Metchie for a 14-10 Alabama lead. It was just the sixth time Georgia trailed this season.
On the drive, Young had passes of 40, 23 yards and made a nifty pitch to Brian Robinson on a busted play for a first down in the Georgia red zone.
Alabama’s defense forced another three-and-out and Alabama marched down the field again. Alabama went up by a touchdown, 17-10, on a 35-yard field goal by Will Reichard.
Georgia answered with the help of three Crimson Tide penalties. Ladd McConkey tied the game with a 32-yard touchdown on a screen pass with 2:06 to play.
That was plenty of time for Young to lead a scoring drive before the half. The sophomore was 4 of 7 for 50 yards and scored on an 11-yard run to make it a 24-10 lead.
It was a costly possession. Metchie was injured on the drive and was out for the rest of the game. He had eight catches for 97 yards and a touchdown.
In the second quarter Alabama outgained Georgia 319 to 61 and scored 24 points. The most points Georgia had allowed in a game was 13.
"I think we all stepped up, and we all answered the bell," Young said "We all understood what was at stake. We all understood that we needed to step up. So I'm blessed to have the teammates I do, that when our back's kind of against the wall, we understand we need to have the type of situation, and we kind of got our spark and started moving. I'm happy we started getting going when we did."