Crimson Tide end ‘Dogs’ dominance

Alabama place-kicker Will Reichard (16) kicks a field goal during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia in Atlanta, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)
Alabama place-kicker Will Reichard (16) kicks a field goal during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia in Atlanta, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)

ATLANTA -- Alabama is again the top dog in the SEC -- and perhaps headed to the College Football Playoff -- after ending Georgia's 29-game winning streak with a 27-24 victory over the No. 1 Bulldogs in the SEC Championship Game Saturday.

Now, the big question: Is Georgia's bid for a third consecutive national title over?

Iron Bowl hero Jalen Milroe threw a pair of touchdown passes and No. 8 Alabama's defense dominated much of the way 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.

"A lot of people doubted this team," said Milroe, who was benched early in the season but has bounced back to become one of college football's most dynamic players. "I never gave up on this team. That's the biggest thing."

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," said Alabama Coach Nick Saban, who may get a chance to add to his record seven national titles. "I've never been prouder of a group of guys."

Georgia (12-1) will have to hope its dominance over the last two seasons persuades the selection committee to provide a do-over in the playoffs. That's just what happened two years ago, when Alabama romped to a 41-24 victory over the top-ranked Bulldogs in the SEC title game and both teams were invited to play on.

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 consecutive titles are now in the hands of others.

"I have no question we're one of the best four teams," Coach Kirby Smart said, already lobbying. "There's two classes of our kids that haven't lost a game. They're resilient, they're fighters. In life, sometimes you can't get better until you lose."

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.

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

Georgia didn't go quietly. The Bulldogs hustled down the field for another TD, 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. Milroe was chosen as the game's MVP.

"Georgia's got a really good team," Saban said. "But our guys overcame. They proved today they can win against anybody."

The Bulldogs marched right down the field on their first possession, grabbing a 7-0 lead on the first of two touchdowns from Milton on 17-yard run.

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

Groza Award finalist Will Reichard booted a 43-yard field goal to reach 533 career points and become the leading scorer in NCAA history, 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 TD 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 out 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 -- who may have gotten away with the ball touching the turf -- and Burton hauled in the TD 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 Georgia had trailed at the half since the start of its winning streak.

This time, the Bulldogs couldn't come back.

  photo  Georgia quarterback Carson Beck (15) celebrates a touchdown during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Alabama in Atlanta, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)
 
 
  photo  Georgia quarterback Carson Beck (15) scores a touchdown during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Alabama in Atlanta, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)
 
 
  photo  Alabama linebacker Trezmen Marshall (17) celebrates after a fumble recovery against Georgia offensive lineman Dylan Fairchild (53) during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game in Atlanta, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)
 
 
  photo  Alabama defensive back Trey Amos (9) breaks up a pass intended for Georgia tight end Pearce Spurlin III (88) during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game in Atlanta, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
 
 
  photo  Alabama celebrates after a win against Georgia after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game in Atlanta, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
 
 
  photo  Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe (4) center and the team holds up the championship trophy after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia in Atlanta, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
 
 
  photo  Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe (4) holds up the MVP trophy after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game against Georgia in Atlanta, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
 
 
  photo  Georgia head coach Kirby Smart, and Alabama head coach Nick Saban meet after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game in Atlanta, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
 
 
  photo  Alabama wide receiver Jermaine Burton (3) celebrates after a win against Georgia after the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game in Atlanta, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023. (AP Photo/Mike Stewart)
 
 

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