We've been here before. Mercedes-Benz
Stadium has held its share of glory and heartaches for the Georgia Bulldogs,
especially when Alabama is on the field. We all know about the fourth
quarter double digit lead that UGA lost in the final minutes to the Crimson
But, this season seemed different. It wasn't with another double digit
lead squandered by UGA. The only thing not the same was that in those
previous losses, the lead lasted until late in the game. This time, Georgia
jumped out early 10-0 but saw the Crimson Tide quickly come back to make it
10-7. Halfway through a 24 point second quarter, Alabama had the lead. The
Bulldogs managed to tie it at 17 late in the first half only to see the Tide
come right back with another score to take a 24-17 lead into the half.
Less than two minutes into the third quarter, they were on the
board again to extend the lead to 14.
Stetson Bennett was driving his team down the field but had
a pass picked off by DeMarcco Hellams at the 12, costing his team at
least a three point field goal attempt and a potential seven. Early in the
fourth quarter, Bama got a crucial pick six as Jordan Battle snagged
a Bennett pass and took it 42 yards to the house. That pretty much was the
nail in the coffin with the lead at 38-17. Georgia would add on another
score but could never get closer than the 14 point hole.
Bama kept UGA at arms length never letting them get closer than a
two score deficit.
In the end, there were two key reasons for their victory. Turnovers
was the first. Georgia had two Bennett passes intercepted. One was the
crucial pick six, the other preventing at least a field goal. That was a 10
point difference in a game that was settled by 14 points. The larger lead
forced Kirby Smart to go for it four times on fourth down plays, only
making two of them. They were also only three of twelve on third downs to
Alabama's seven of fourteen.
But the big difference was quarterback play. Alabama clearly shined there
with Bryce Young named Player of the Game on his way to a probable
Heisman Trophy with his performance. Young wound up with 421 yards passing
to Bennett’s 340. The
rushing by Young and his 461 total yards were both SEC Championship records.
I guess you could say a third reason
for the victory was Nick Sabin, who clearly has Smart's number
winning seven in a row against UGA. This time, he stopped UGA's 16 game
winning streak. But he's not alone in his dominance of the Dawgs. Sabin now
has won 34 in a row over SEC East teams going back eleven years. He is 44-3
himself including his time at LSU.
After the game, Sabin talked about how the media predictions of a
Georgia win were used as motivation. "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."
The Tide will move up to
either #1 or #2 depending on whether Michigan's impressive win in the Big
Ten Championship Game puts them on top. Georgia's fate will be in the hands
of the committee, who will probably keep them in the final four playoff
picture. The big difference in the loss is that where they play was theirs
to choose. It no longer is. Either way, it will be in a semifinal game
either in Dallas or Miami. The announcement comes at noon on Sunday.