After hitting a 12-0 record and found themselves atop the college football playoff selection committee standings since early November, the Bulldogs suddenly looked like the second-best team in their league after a 41-24 loss. against the Crimson Tide in the SEC on Saturday. championship match.
It was Georgia’s seventh straight loss to Alabama, including four at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the SEC Championship game or the CFP National Championship. Georgia coach Kirby Smart fell 0-4 to former mentor Nick Saban of Alabama.
It was an all too familiar result for Georgia fans against the Crimson Tide.
“It didn’t do any damage,” said Smart. “What it did was invigorate our energy. It refocuses you, doesn’t it? Their biggest thing is when [the Tide] lost their game to Texas A&M, they got some focus and attention. For me, this is the occasion for a revival, if necessary. “
Despite the humiliating loss, the Bulldogs are still expected to be among the four teams chosen for Sunday’s playoffs (noon ET, ESPN and ESPN App).
“It’s not for us to determine, you know what I mean?” said smart. “Sure, I feel like we are, but it’s not our job to determine that. It’s the committee’s. “
After giving up just 6.9 points per game in the first 12 games, the Bulldogs’ much-vaunted defense was shattered for points in five straight possessions by the Tide. Alabama had 536 yards of total offense; Georgia had surrendered 231 yards per game before Saturday. The Bulldogs had given up no more than 17 points to an opponent before playing the Tide.
Georgia had 449 attacking yards, but quarterback Stetson Bennett threw two interceptions, including a six-pick in the second period. The Bulldogs only went 3-for-12 on the third downs.
” I’m disappointed [with] how we played, ”said Smart. “Give Alabama a lot of credit. Give their defense, Bryce Young and their attacking players a lot of credit. They played really well, very precise, explosive and [Young] is difficult to take down, which caused us a lot of problems defensively. But we can’t turn the ball around and give up 60-yard and 70-yard passes and expect to be successful. For the most part this year we have performed well. We didn’t perform well tonight, and that has a lot to do with them. “
Alabama’s offensive success against Georgia was surprising as Tide struggled to move the ball in their last game, a 24-22 four-overtime win at Auburn in the Iron Bowl.
“The narrative there was, well, they just went to Auburn and they really had a hard time,” Smart said. “Some of the sacks they gave up, their attackers didn’t even get out of position. Crowd noise had a major impact there. Auburn played [man-to-man coverage] almost every game, and they won a lot of battles that we didn’t win tonight. “
Georgia struggled to put pressure on Young, who threw for 421 yards with three touchdowns on 26 passes in 44. It was the highest passing total in SEC championship history. Tidal receiver Jameson Williams had seven catches for 184 yards with two scores.
“He’s a great player,” Bulldogs linebacker Nakobe Dean said of Young. “We knew that when we arrived. He is very elusive. He directs the attack well. He did a good job keeping his eyes down and avoiding our pass rush. I feel like the passing rush and the recovery have to work hand in hand. Him being able to keep his eyes down and make sure certain throws really help them. “
Georgia can only hope that history will repeat itself from 2017, the last time it reached the CFP. This season, the Bulldogs were crushed 40-17 at Auburn in their only loss of the regular season. They returned to defeat the Tigers 28-7 in the SEC Championship game.
Depending on what Sunday’s playoff bracket looks like, Georgia could get another hit in Alabama.
“We just didn’t play our best game today,” said Bennett. ” They did it. I cannot return the ball. Just little mental mistakes. It can’t happen. We will start to work [Sunday]. With any luck get ready for the next one we play against. ”