Alabama upsets Georgia, wins SEC, awaits CFP

Alabama upsets Georgia, wins SEC, awaits CFP

ATLANTA — Alabama is again the top dog in the Southeastern Conference — and perhaps headed to the College Football Playoff — after ending No. 1 Georgia‘s 29-game winning streak with a 27-24 victory in the 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 touchdowns and No. 8 Alabama’s defense dominated 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.

“This is a team. These guys here are what you call a team,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “This is a great team. They play together as a team. They overcame adversity. They showed today and proved that they can win against anybody.”

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

“You’re going to tell me, someone is sitting in that committee room and doesn’t think that Georgia team is one of the best four teams, I don’t know if they’re in the right profession,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said, when asked about his team’s case for a playoff berth. “It’s a really good football team.”

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 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 last Saturday.

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

Georgia didn’t go quietly. The Bulldogs hustled down the field for another touchdown, 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 down the field on its first possession, grabbing a 7-0 lead on Milton’s 17-yard touchdown run.

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

Groza Award finalist Will Reichard booted a 43-yard field goal to become the NCAA’s leading career scorer 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 touchdown 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 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 a touchdown 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.