Alabama football is back in the College Football Playoff, and it made an emphatic statement with its return.
The Crimson Tide is the No. 1 seed in the playoff after capturing a dominant win in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game over Georgia.
Despite being a 6.5-point underdog, Nick Saban and Alabama earned a 41-24 victory at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. National media, oddsmakers, and the college football world were stunned by the 17-point drubbing of the Bulldogs in Atlanta. It faces Cincinnati in the Cotton Bowl for a CFP semifinal matchup.
We look at the five biggest takeaways from Alabama’s win over Georgia.
1. Bryce Young is the best QB in college football
Alabama is a year removed from having the most explosive offense in college football.
After the 2020 season, it graduated Mac Jones, Najee Harris, DeVonta Smith, Jaylen Waddle, Alex Leatherwood, Landon Dickerson, and Deonte Brown to the National Football League.
The Crimson Tide also loss offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian to the Texas Longhorns as a head coach. Bryce Young, a sophomore, is a first-year starter with a new play-caller (Bill O’Brien), a new starting running back (Brian Robinson), and new guys on the offensive line, but he is the best quarterback in the sport. Young has been dynamic all season, and his final audition for the Heisman Memorial Trophy was a success. He dominated the nation’s best defense in the SEC Championship Game.
Georgia entered the matchup allowing 6.9 points and 230.8 yards per game. Young guided the Crimson Tide’s offense to 34 points and 536 yards. He set an SEC Championship record for passing yards (421) and had four touchdowns.
The 6-foot, 194-pounder delivered big plays when Alabama needed it.
Georgia held a 10-0 lead in the second quarter, but Young got the Tide rolling with a 67-yard touchdown pass to Jameson Williams. He led the offense to an explosion of 24 points in the quarter: the most in an SEC title matchup. As the Most Valuable Player, Young totaled his ninth 300-yard passing outing and 350+ yard game of the year. He ranks in the top five nationally for passing yards (4,322, No. 4), touchdowns (43, No. 2), passer rating (175.5, No. 4), and quarterback rating (88.9, No. 2).
Young is second in school history for single-season passing yards and tied for first in touchdowns. He has held Alabama’s offense as one of the best in the sport, despite the loss of talent to the NFL. His output against the Bulldogs should be more than enough for the Heisman.
2. Alabama’s OL came together at the right time
Coach Saban challenged Alabama’s offensive line before playing Georgia.
People felt the Tide could not hold its own versus Jordan Davis, Nakobe Dean, Nolan Smith, Channing Tindall, and the Bulldogs.
Saban and Doug Marrone pushed the unit throughout practice. Alabama heard a lot of negatives, but Saturday’s game was different. Seth McLaughlin, a sophomore, started at center and handled Davis. The Tide did not give up a sack to Bryce Young, and he attacked Georgia’s secondary. Alabama’s offensive unit paced an attack that averaged 7.7 yards per play, converted seven of 14 third downs, and scored three times in the red zone.
Marrone’s bunch came together and played its best at the right time.
3. Jameson Williams is UA’s blessing from the transfer portal
No Tide fan wants to know what Alabama’s offense would be like without Jameson Williams.
Saban hit home runs with Jacob Coker, Richard Mullaney, and Landon Dickerson as transfers.
Alabama pulled in a big-play receiver from Ohio State, and Williams has been a blessing to Bryce Young. He brings explosiveness to the passing game, and Georgia’s defensive backfield could not contain him. The 6-foot-2, 189-pounder got the Crimson Tide on the scoreboard with a 67-yard catch for a touchdown in the second quarter.
He had a 55-yard score in the third quarter, pushing Alabama’s lead to 31-17. Williams recorded a game-high 184 yards receiving on seven catches. He’s averaged 20+ yards per reception in eight games.
Williams has seven 100-yard performances and four games with 150+ receiving yards. He is fifth in the nation for yards (1,445), fifth in yards per reception (21.3), and second in touchdowns (15). Williams leads Alabama in all three categories. Williams is tied for eighth in Alabama history for catches (68), third for yards, and third for touchdowns in a single season.
He is a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award and might become the fourth Crimson Tide standout to win the honor. His eyes are focused on a national title.
4. Alabama’s defense made a huge statement
Georgia’s defense got all the hype, but Alabama’s defense is an SEC Champion.
Pete Golding coached his group to an excellent showing against the Bulldogs. Stetson Bennett and Georgia scored seven points in the second half. The Tide sacked Bennett three times, hurried him four times, and intercepted him twice. Jordan Battle, a junior safety, turned in a 42-yard pick-six in the fourth quarter. It had more total plays and first downs, but the Bulldogs could not sustain enough drives.
Alabama held Georgia to converting five of 16 attempts on third and fourth down.
5. Never bet against Coach Nick Saban
Nick Saban is still undefeated in Atlanta since 2009 as Alabama’s coach.
Las Vegas lost money on the Bulldogs, and those who gambled against the Tide fell. Saban is now 4-0 against Kirby Smart, including three wins in championship games. After falling to Georgia in 2007, Saban has won seven straight games over the Bulldogs. Saban also poked fun at the media in his postgame presser, as he thanked reporters for counting his team out.
“You guys gave us a lot of positive rat poison,” Saban said. “The rat poison you usually give us is fatal, but the rat poison you put out this week was yummy.”
Saban is back in the CFP. He’s won three national titles in this era.
People will think twice about going against a legend in the playoff.
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