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Notebook: Nick Saban, Alabama Football Thrived off of "Yummy" Rat Poison

Not usually one to listen to the 'rat poison' put forth by the media, Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said that the criticism of his team over the past week served as a motivating factor.

ATLANTA — Heading into Saturday's SEC Championship Game between No. 1 Georgia and No. 3 Alabama, the general consensus between the talking heads of the media was that the undefeated and top-ranked Bulldogs had a significant lead before the game even started.

The Crimson Tide under Nick Saban aren't used to being underdogs. In fact, it was Alabama's 2015 game against Georgia that marked the last time that the Crimson Tide wasn't the betting favorite heading into the game. While that betting margin was +1 in favor of the Bulldogs, Saturday's game was +6.5 in Georgia's favor.

After Alabama upset Georgia 41-24 to take home the SEC Championship and earn itself a spot in the College Football Playoff, Saban said that it was the 'rat poison' spewed forth by the media that helped motivate his team this past week heading into the game.

"I think what these guys really wanted to gain was more respect," Saban said. "Not just the fact that they were underdogs because I think we had a tremendous amount of respect for Georgia, their team, and what they accomplished.

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"You guys gave us a lot of really positive rat poison. The rat poison that you usually give us is usually fatal, but the rat poison that you put out there this week was ... yummy."

Final Game Notes

(Courtesy of the Southeastern Conference)

  • Tonight’s attendance of 78,030 is the most in Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the second-highest in the championship game, trailing the 83,091 set in the inaugural championship game in 1992 between Alabama and Florida.
  • Alabama wins its 29th SEC Championship (second straight) and 10th SEC Championship game title (10-4 overall record). It is the eighth consecutive championship game victory for the Crimson Tide (last loss 2008 to Florida, 31-20). Alabama improves to 3-0 vs. Georgia in the championship game. It is 9-0 when leading at the half in the championship game.
  • Alabama head coach Nick Saban improves to 10-1 in the championship game, including 8-1 with the Crimson Tide.
  • Bryce Young was named the SEC Championship MVP. He is the third Alabama quarterback (Greg McElroy 2009, Blake Sims 2014) to take home the honor and the 16th quarterback in championship game history.
  • Bryce Young finished with 421 yards is the most in the championship game, bettering the 418 set by Alabama’s Mac Jones in 2020. This is the fourth time a QB has thrown for 400+ yards.
  • Young’s 461 yards of total offense (421 pass, 40 rush) is a championship game record, bettering Auburn’s Jason Campbell’s 431 yards in 2004.
  • Jameson Williams’ 184 yards receiving ties the second-most in the championship game with Alabama’s DeVonta Parker (184 in 2020). Auburn’s Darvin Adams owns the record with 217 in 2010.
  • Jordan Battle’s 42-yard interception return for a touchdown is the first since Alabama’s Minkah Fitzpatrick’s return in 2016. It is the 12th in the championship game.
  • This is the fifth time a team trailed by 10+ points in the championship game and came back to win. Alabama trailed 10-0. The Crimson Tide have done it three times: 2021 (10-0), 2018 (28-14) and 2012 (21-10), all versus Georgia. Tennessee trailed Auburn, 20-7, in 1997 and LSU trailed Tennessee, 17-7, in 2001.
  • The last six SEC championship game winners all played in the college football playoff championship game. Alabama 2015 & 2016, Georgia 2017, Alabama 2018, LSU 2019 and Alabama 2020.
  • Alabama’s 536 yards of total offense is the fifth most in the championship game. Record is 677 by Auburn in 2013.
  • Georgia’s Jake Camarda’s 68-yard punt is a championship game record, bettering the 67-yarder by LSU’s Brad Wing in 2011.
  • Georgia’s Brock Bowers (10-139) set the championship record for receptions and yards for a tight end. He is the fifth player to record 10+ catches in the championship game.
  • Stetson Bennett and Bryce Young each has consecutive completion streaks of nine. That ties for the second most in the championship game, trailing Alabama’s Blake Sims’ mark of 10 in 2014.
  • Georgia set the championship game record with 11 players catching a pass. Auburn had the mark of 10 in 2000 against Florida.
  • In the BCS/CFP era, the defending national champions are 4-1 in the SEC championship game. Florida won the national title in 2008 and lost in 2009 is the only defending champion to lose. Alabama won national title in 2011, 2015, 2017, 2020 and won SEC title in 2012, 2016, 2018, 2021.
  • It is the third time the No. 1 team in the BCS/CFP era that the No. 1 team has lost in the SEC championship. Alabama lost in 2008 to Florida, Florida lost to Alabama in 2009 and Georgia lost to Alabama in 2021.

Postgame Notes

(Courtesy of Alabama Athletics)

  • Saturday’s win gave the Crimson Tide the most wins all-time over the Associated Press’ No. 1-ranked team with 10, breaking the tie it was previously in with Miami.
  • Alabama’s 365 yards of total offense in the first half is more than all but one of Georgia’s opponents recorded in an entire game this season (11 of 12 opponents). The Tide finished with 536 yards of offense.
  • After punting on its first two drives in the game, the Crimson Tide scored on its next five straight (three touchdowns receiving, one touchdown rushing, one field goal).
  • Alabama bettered its season record for passing touchdowns, notching three in the SEC Championship Game.
  • In the first half, Bryce Young had 286 passing yards (17-of-27), scoring a pair of touchdowns.
    • That is more passing yards than all but one of Georgia’s opponents recorded in an entire game this season (11 of 12 opponents).
    • His 286 passing yards set the Southeastern Conference Championship Game record for most passing yards in the first half. Cam Newton of Auburn previously held the record on 281 first half passing yards in 2010.
  • Jameson Williams hauled in a 67-yard touchdown pass in the first half and a 55-yard touchdown pass in the second half of the SEC Championship Game.
    • Williams has caught 11 passes of 50 yards or more this season, with 10 of those resulting in a touchdown, while he has caught eight passes of 65 yards or more this season, with seven of those resulting in a touchdown.
      • Williams has caught seven passes of 67 yards or more this season, with all seven of those resulting in a touchdown.
    • Williams’ 67-yard touchdown catch in the first half is the longest in SEC Championship Game history.
  • Jameson Williams had 112 yards receiving in the first half.
    • It marked the sixth time a player recorded 100-plus receiving yards at the half.
    • It marked the third consecutive championship game Alabama has had a 100-yard receiver (DeVonta Smith 184 in 2020, Jaylen Waddle 113 in 2018).
  • DeMarcco Hellams recorded his third interception this season, tying a team high, taking over the ball on Alabama’s 12-yard line on Georgia’s first drive in the third quarter.
    • It marked the Crimson Tide’s 14th interception this season.
  • Jordan Battle recorded a 42-yard interception return for a touchdown in the third quarter, his second interception return for a touchdown this season.
    • It marked the 12th interception return for a touchdown in the SEC Championship Game, with the last instance happening by Alabama against Florida in 2016.
  • The game captains against Georgia were linebacker Will Anderson Jr., defensive lineman Phidarian Mathis and quarterback Bryce Young.