Alabama vs. Georgia score, takeaways: Tide blast Dawgs to win SEC championship as both clinch playoff bids

ATLANTA -- After a month of uninspiring play that cast its national championship aspirations into serious doubt, No. 3 Alabama came alive with its season on the line Saturday as the Crimson Tide trounced No. 1 Georgia 41-24 in the 2021 SEC Championship Game. The victory gives Alabama its seventh SEC title in the last 10 years and hands Georgia its first loss of the season. It also elevates both teams into the College Football Playoff, according to CBS Sports bowls expert Jerry Palm.

Alabama may have had a case for inclusion in the playoff even with a loss, but the Crimson Tide (12-1) erased all doubt of their merit by handling a Bulldogs team (12-1) that was dominant all season. The CFP Selection Committee will announce the four-team field on Sunday afternoon.

If Alabama and Georgia end up rematching in the playoff, the Dawgs will need to have an answer for the Tide's passing game. No Georgia opponent had scored more than 17 points against it entering Saturday, but Bama posted 24 points in the second quarter alone and 41 in total against the vaunted Georgia defense.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Bryce Young led the attack for the Tide, and Jameson Williams was his favorite target. The Ohio State transfer put his elite speed on display with a 67-yard touchdown catch early in the second quarter, and Alabama was off to the races from there. Williams finished with 10 catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Fellow star John Metchie III caught six passes for 97 yards and a touchdown before leaving the game with an injury late in the first half.

Young finished by completing 26 of 44 passes for 421 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions while earning the game's MVP award. He surpassed the SEC Championship Game record for passing yards in a game that former teammate Mac Jones set last season.

Alabama's offense thrived, but it was the Tide defense that helped it put the game away. Georgia failed to score on consecutive trips to the red zone in the third quarter. On Georgia's next possession, safety Jordan Battle intercepted a Stetson Bennett IV pass and ran it back 40 yards for a touchdown to make it 38-17 in Alabama's favor.

If both teams are included in the CFP, as expected, it would be the second time in five seasons that two SEC teams have made the playoff. Alabama and Georgia both did it in the 2017 season, and the Tide went on to beat the Bulldogs in the CFP National Championship.

No other conference has ever put multiple teams in the four-team field during the eight-year existence of the CFP, and Saturday showed that the SEC has not one but two contenders to win it all this season.

Bryce Young had his Heisman moment

No clear frontrunner had emerged in the Heisman Trophy race this season, at least not until Saturday. Young's record-setting performance at a pivotal moment for his team should catapult him to the front of the pack. If you want to knock him for having a lesser quarterback rating than Jones, who finished third in last season's voting, consider a few things first.

Young does not have receiver DeVonta Smith, who won the Heisman last year. He has excellent top targets in Williams and Metchie, but neither has the all-around skill set of Smith. He also didn't have running back Najee Harris, who finished fifth in last season's voting. Brian Robinson Jr. has been a quality primary back, but he's not Harris, and he was banged up on Saturday, which put even more pressure on Young.

Alabama's offensive line has arguably taken a step back this season as well. But in just his second year in the program, Young has regularly answered the call in clutch moments. His playmaking in season-defining victories over Auburn and Georgia showed he deserves the award. Without another clear-cut competitor, the conversation should be over. Young should be the Heisman winner.

Georgia's defense was exposed

The Bulldogs entered ranked No. 1 nationally in scoring defense, allowing an average of just 6.9 points per game. By comparison, the next-closest team in that category was Clemson, which is allowing 15 points per game this season.

Georgia also ranked No. 1 nationally in yards allowed per game at 230.9. The Bulldogs weren't just the best defensive team in the nation, they were the best by a wide margin. But reality came crashing down on the Dawgs when the Tide took them on Saturday.

Alabama racked up 319 yards in the second quarter alone and exposed every facet of Georgia's defense. The inability of a fierce defensive front to pressure Young allowed him to exploit some previously undetected weaknesses in UGA's secondary. The Dawgs did not finish with a single sack, despite entering with 41 on the season. Just look at how much time Young had to throw on this touchdown play in the second quarter.

Kirby's hex continues

In a year when Alabama coach Nick Saban finally lost to one of his former assistants for the first time by falling against Texas A&M and Jimbo Fisher, it seemed like perhaps this was the moment for Kirby Smart's breakthrough. The sixth-year Georgia coach entered 0-3 against Saban, who was Smart's former boss at Alabama. But the Saban hex will continue for Smart, at least for another few weeks.

While the two could rematch in the College Football Playoff, Saturday was a reminder that Smart's program has not surpassed Saban's Bama squad. One obvious difference in the two teams on Saturday was quarterback play. If Smart had defeated Alabama with Bennett at quarterback, it would have been the ultimate sign of arrival for Georgia.

Bennett is a slightly more mobile version of the homegrown quarterbacks the Tide used early in Saban's tenure before Saban modernized the program's offense and started landing elite signal-callers. Beating Alabama with Bennett would have shown the Bulldogs have simply recruited and developed their way to mastering Saban's original championship formula.

Instead, there will be endless chatter in the weeks ahead over whether or not Georgia should go to backup JT Daniels for a spark as the CFP -- and a potential rematch with Alabama -- approaches.

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BAMA 6, O/U 49

Season Leaders

passing
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S. Bennett2859 YD, 29 TDS, 7 INTS
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S. Bennett2859 YD, 29 TDS, 7 INTS
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B. Young4872 YD, 47 TDS, 7 INTS
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B. Young4872 YD, 47 TDS, 7 INTS
rushing
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Z. White160 ATT, 856 YD, 11 TDS
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Z. White160 ATT, 856 YD, 11 TDS
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B. Robinson Jr.270 ATT, 1337 YD, 14 TDS
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B. Robinson Jr.270 ATT, 1337 YD, 14 TDS
receiving
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B. Bowers56 REC, 882 YD, 13 TDS
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B. Bowers56 REC, 882 YD, 13 TDS
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J. Williams79 REC, 1572 YD, 15 TDS
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J. Williams79 REC, 1572 YD, 15 TDS
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December 5, 2021, 12:59 AM
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What a show

Final: No. 3 Alabama 41, No. 1 Georgia 24

In a spot where few gave it a chance, Alabama not only wins but wins authoritatively against the only team in college football that had looked dominant all season long. It's clear now that the SEC has not one, but two, national title contenders. The health of John Metchie looms large, but if the Crimson Tide can do THAT against a vaunted Georgia defense, look out. Incredible offensive performance to give the program its seventh SEC championship in the last 10 years and establish it as a threat to win back-to-back national championships.

December 5, 2021, 12:47 AM
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December 5, 2021, 12:40 AM
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December 5, 2021, 12:38 AM
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More records for Bryce Young

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young has set the SEC Championship Game record for total offense (461 yards) and passing yards (421) in today's game vs. Georgia. He entered Mercedes-Benz Stadium as the front-runner for the Heisman Trophy, and they better start etching his name on the front plate. It'd be a massive upset if this performance doesn't lock it up for the redshirt freshman.

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Putting it away

Alabama is putting it away with a couple of first downs on this drive, the latest coming via penalty. Seeing some UGA fans heading toward the exits. Can't help but wonder if there'll be a rematch and how this outcome will fuel the Bulldogs if that comes to fruition.

December 5, 2021, 12:32 AM
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Alabama, can you get a first down?

The Crimson Tide haven't run more than five plays on any of their last three drives, all of which have resulted in punts. A first down or two here would go a long way toward bleeding the remaining clock. Hard not to blame 'em for going conservative. But the inability to move the chains has let Georgia stay in this thing.

December 5, 2021, 12:24 AM
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Brock Bowers sets record

Brock Bowers has set the SEC Championship Game record for receptions and yards by a tight end. He has nine catches and 130 yards, with one of those catches going for a touchdown. He has been targeted 14 times by quarterback Stetson Bennett IV on the afternoon.

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Georgia's defense holds

The Bulldogs got the benefit of a VERY generous spot on third down on what looked like a first down from Slade Bolden. It wasn't reviewed (for some reason), and Georgia has the ball at its own 21-yard line down two touchdowns. Stetson Bennett IV is going to have to start taking some big risks here, because the Bulldogs rushing game has been pretty brutal.

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Can Alabama run?

This is where Alabama's ability to run the football against Georgia's defensive front will be huge. They've run it well in spurts, but only as a function of their throw game opening up the field. Now, you would imagine Bama will try and bleed some clock? Will Georgia load the box and force the Tide to keep airing it out?

December 5, 2021, 12:13 AM
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Alabama's defense finally relents

The Crimson Tide defense has been on the field a ton in the second half, and they finally ceded a touchdown. Big answer for Georgia, which clings to some hope now with 9:42 remaining after Bennett finds Bowers for an 18-yard score on a little TE screen.

December 5, 2021, 12:11 AM
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