ATLANTA — In sports activities, there may be atypical, there may be actually atypical after which there may be simply undeniable eerie, like top-ranked Alabama’s 35-28 victory over fourth-ranked Georgia on Saturday, which showed the Crimson Tide’s spot in the College Football Playoff, whose four-team bracket will probably be launched Sunday.
The Southeastern Conference identify recreation used to be just about a reflect symbol of the nationwide identify recreation 11 months in the past, additionally between those two groups, additionally in Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
In closing January’s recreation, Alabama Coach Nick Saban benched his two-year beginning quarterback, Jalen Hurts, who struggled mightily in the primary part in opposition to Georgia, for the freshman backup Tua Tagovailoa, who led the Crimson Tide to a victory in extra time. Tagovailoa has put in combination a Heisman Trophy-worthy season this 12 months.
But on Saturday, it used to be Tagovailoa’s flip to battle, and Hurts’s flip to bail Alabama out.
In the fourth quarter, with Alabama trailing through seven however being outplayed worse than that, Tagovailoa exited with an damage. (Saban later mentioned Tagovailoa had performed with a sprained ankle because the first part and had his foot stepped on in the fourth quarter.)
Hurts, a junior, had spent the high moments of Alabama’s best possible season sitting at the bench. But he got here in and promptly led the Tide down the sphere, finishing a 69-yard pressure with a third-down scramble to the best that permit him to find receiver Jerry Jeudy streaking in the again of the tip zone to tie the sport, 28-28, with beneath six mins left.
“It shows the type of character,” the Alabama offensive coordinator, Michael Locksley, mentioned in a while. “Jalen had to always prepare himself so that when this opportunity came, he showed up and made the plays we needed.”
Added Saban, winner of six nationwide titles: “I’ve probably never been more proud of a player than Jalen.”
The Atlanta crowd, which till that point had gave the impression to desire the house state’s group, roared for Alabama when Hurts’s cross tied the rating.
On a later pressure, Alabama stalled the Bulldogs offense, which have been so potent, at midfield. It were given the ball there after a Georgia fake-punt play on fourth-and-11 failed.
Following that, Hurts hit tight finish Irv Smith Jr. for 19 yards on a third-and-seven, after which receiver Jaylen Waddle for 16 to position Alabama on the 15-yard line. On the following play, Hurts — arguably a run-first quarterback, in distinction to the pass-first Tagovailoa — tucked the ball and ran it for a landing.
It used to be Alabama’s first lead of the sport, and, it grew to become out, the one one that might subject. Georgia’s ultimate pressure were given so far as Alabama’s 39-yard line, from which a desperation cross fell incomplete as time ran out.
Alabama progressed to 13-Zero and iced a place in the playoff, in whose scores it have been No. 1.
The loss dropped Georgia to 11-2. The variety committee will essentially fit its résumé in opposition to Oklahoma’s. The Sooners (12-1) entered Saturday ranked 5th to Georgia’s fourth, and in the Big 12 identify recreation defeated Texas — 14th, in keeping with the playoff committee, and the group Oklahoma misplaced to in October. If Ohio State holds directly to defeat Northwestern in the Big Ten identify recreation Saturday night time, it too can be 12-1 and used to be ranked 6th in the most recent scores.
Georgia’s losses got here at Louisiana State (Nine-Three), 10th in the most recent playoff scores, in October, and naturally Saturday to the top-ranked Tide.
After the sport, a minimum of Saban made the case for Georgia’s inclusion in the general four-team bracket: “Based on the teams that we’ve played this year, I think this team deserves to be in the playoff, as well. I sure as hell don’t want to play them again, but that’s the best compliment I can give you or give them.”
Hurts completed the sport 7-for-Nine with 82 yards passing, one throwing landing and one speeding landing. Locksley mentioned Alabama’s offense incorporates each quarterbacks throughout apply.
“Jalen gets 50 percent of the reps when he’s healthy,” Locksley mentioned. “We can run that whole offense — the same things we do with Tua, we do with Jalen.”
Georgia led for many of the recreation, and it felt adore it. This in itself used to be outstanding: Alabama entered the sport roughly a two-touchdown favourite. Its moderate scoring margin prior to Saturday used to be above 5 touchdowns; its closest victory have been through 22 issues.
“Everyone wanted to know how we would respond when we got tested,” Locksley mentioned, “and these guys stuck together.”
Tagovailoa entered this recreation a Heisman front-runner, finishing 70 % of his passes for just about 12 yards in keeping with strive, with a surprising 36 touchdowns in opposition to two interceptions.
But he used to be rattled on Alabama’s first pressure — after a sack and an interception, he in short entered Alabama’s sideline damage tent — and used to be some distance from himself for the remainder of the sport. Hurts took a few snaps in the primary part as Alabama threw issues on the wall to look what would stick.
Georgia’s modest 21-14 halftime lead didn’t totally point out how un-brilliant the outlook used to be for the Crimson Tide. For something, the deficit may had been extra dire: Late in the second one quarter, Alabama operating again Josh Jacobs coughed up the ball at Georgia’s target line, a seeming touchback for Georgia, till the replay published Jacobs had ever so in short recovered his personal fumble in the tip zone for a landing.
Midway in the course of the 1/3 quarter, despite the fact that, one thing gave the impression to click on for Alabama. It held Georgia’s offense to a three-and-out. On the fourth play of the following pressure, Tagovailoa hit Waddle, who took the ball 51 yards for a landing. Tagovailoa completed 10-for-25 for 164 yards.
Georgia controlled only one first down at the following pressure, Alabama’s cross rushers after all harassing the sophomore quarterback Jake Fromm, who typically performed beautifully, completing 25-for-39 with 301 yards and 3 touchdowns.
Georgia’s closing rating got here no longer 3 mins into the second one part, despite the fact that a overlooked 30-yard field-goal strive halfway in the course of the 1/3 quarter didn’t lend a hand.
Still, Alabama seemed to be stalling once more when Tagovailoa’s damage introduced in Hurts complete time. The relaxation used to be, in reality, historical past.