• Sat. Mar 2nd, 2024

Alabama upsets top ranked Georgia in SEC Championship as playoff berth hangs in balance

Alabama upsets top ranked Georgia in SEC Championship as playoff berth hangs in balance


The two-time defending national champion and the reigning SEC champion Georgia Bulldogs entered Saturday’s SEC title game in Atlanta with a perfect regular season record.

The Bulldogs were the favorites to win this year’s SEC championship, but the No. 8 Alabama Crimson Tide had other plans. 

Alabama defeated Georgia 27-24, creating potential chaos for the College Football Playoff committee. 

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Georgia Bulldogs play against the Alabama Crimson Tide

The Georgia Bulldogs line up against the Alabama Crimson Tide defense during the third quarter in the SEC championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Dec. 2, 2023, in Atlanta. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe threw two touchdown passes and added 64 rushing yards to end Georgia’s 29-game winning streak.

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Saturday’s game marked the fourth matchup between Georgia and Alabama in the SEC title game. At some point in each of the previous three games, the Bulldogs held a double-digit lead over the Tide. But Alabama managed to rally and win all three games.

This time, Georgia did not take a double-digit lead at any point. However, the Bulldogs did score the first touchdown of the game to take a seven-point lead in the first quarter.

Alabama Crimson Tide player makes a catch

Isaiah Bond (17) of the Alabama Crimson Tide makes a catch against Tykee Smith (23) of the Georgia Bulldogs during the fourth quarter in the SEC championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Dec. 2, 2023, in Atlanta, Ga.  (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

In a pivotal play of the second half, Georgia quarterback Carson Beck’s handoff to Daijun Edwards was botched, and the ball fell to the turf and was recovered by Alabama.

The turnover led to an Alabama field goal.

Beck finished Saturday’s game with 243 passing yards. Senior running back Kendall Milton scored two touchdowns on 42 rushing yards.

In the fourth quarter, Georgia closed the gap to 20-17 when Beck used a quarterback sneak to get into the end zone. Beck’s 1-yard run was set up by Anthony Evans III’s 28-yard punt return.

But Alabama responded quickly. Milroe connected with Isaiah Bond on four passes as the Tide moved the ball down field. Running back Roydell Williams capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run to give Alabama a 10-point lead with just under six minutes remaining in the game.

“This is a team,” longtime Alabama coach Nick Saban said after the game. “I’ve never been prouder of a group of guys.”

Alabama Crimson quarterback rushes with the football

Jalen Milroe (4) of the Alabama Crimson Tide rushes out of the pocket against Jalon Walker (11) of the Georgia Bulldogs during the first quarter in the SEC championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Dec. 2, 2023, in Atlanta. (Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Saban has previously said overcoming deficits and finishing games has been this team’s calling card all year.

“It should be a lesson for everybody in life: Overcome adversity, man. If you have the ability to do that, you have a great chance to be successful,” Saban said after Alabama’s thrilling comeback over Auburn in last week’s Iron Bowl.

Saban benched Milroe earlier this season after he got off to a rocky start, but he bounced back to become one of the nation’s better quarterbacks. Milroe said the upset win should dispel any doubts about this year’s Crimson Tide team.

“A lot of people doubted this team,” Milroe said. “I never gave up on this team. That’s the biggest thing.”

Only three teams have advanced to the College Football Playoff following a conference championship game loss. Georgia lost to Alabama in the 2021 SEC championship game but still advanced to the playoff, going on to defeat the Tide in the national championship game.

Nick Saban and Kirby Smart

Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide shakes hands with head coach Kirby Smart of the Georgia Bulldogs after defeating Georgia 27-24 in the SEC championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium Dec. 2, 2023, in Atlanta. (Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Georgia and Alabama now await their playoff fate. The final rankings will be announced Sunday.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart said the committee should select the “four best teams.”

“Bill Hancock (CFP chairman) said it’s not the four most deserving. It’s the four best. If you’re in that committee room, and you’re telling me that that’s not one of the four best teams, then you’re in the wrong profession.”

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On Friday, the Washington Huskies held off the Oregon Ducks to win the Pac-12 championship. Earlier on Saturday, No. 7 Texas dominated Oklahoma State to win the Big 12 championship. Although the Longhorns lost by four to Oklahoma in the Red River Rivalry during the regular season, Texas is making its case to be included in the playoff.

Big 12 Commissioner Brett Yormark was drowned out by boos and “S-E-C” chants from fans inside AT&T stadium. Despite Texas’ pending departure for the SEC, Yormark still went to bat for the Longhorns saying, “Texas certainly deserves to be in the CFP.”



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