The College Football Playoff starts on January 1st, but it usually feels like there are early games throughout the year. Last Saturday, the season’s highly anticipated game between the #3 Georgia Bulldogs and the #2 Alabama Crimson Tide was bound to test the players and coaches to their limits. Despite being favored to win, there were questions of Nick Saban’s health all week if the Mac Jones to lead a Heisman Trophy season, and whether the defense could get better. After an up-and-down first half, the Crimson Tide came out of halftime down 24-20 and worked their way to a 21-0 outing in the second half. Alabama soundly defeated Georgia with a 41-24 score on primetime with all the pressure of the playoffs on them.
Takeaways from Alabama’s Win Over Georgia
Mac Jones and the offense can win on the biggest stages
This game was the biggest test for the top-ranked scoring offense (51 points per game) of the Crimson Tide. Alabama had to be able to find a rhythm against the fifth-ranked scoring defense (12.3) of Georgia. In the first play from scrimmage, Jones got hit as he threw to Bulldogs safety Richard LeCounte. The next drive, Jones responded with a 40-yard touchdown to wide receiver John Metchie III. Jones and the Tide encountered some difficulty trying to find a rhythm to continue long drives. There were times where Jones was likely frustrated in himself, but he trusted the dynamic system of offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian. The Tide accounted for 298 total yards on offense in the first half but they were starting to make adjustments right before halftime.
After their first drive in the second half failed, wide receiver Jaylen Waddle burst into action with a 90-yard vertical touchdown from Jones. The following drive, Malachi Moore’s interception put the Tide into a great position. They drove the ball down the field for a two-yard touchdown run from Najee Harris. These three drives gave Alabama a new life as they showed their urgency and capabilities to score under pressure. This Tide team is the first SEC team in over 20 years that had a 400-yard passing quarterback in Jones, two 150-yard wide receivers in Waddle and DeVonta Smith, and a 150-yard rusher in Harris in a single game. Alabama has shown they have the capability to score at any time and consistently against any high-power defense.
The defense pushed themselves out of the corner
Last week against Ole Miss, the defense for the Crimson Tide gave up the most yards ever in school history. There was a lot of pressure on the Tide’s defense as they had to hold Georgia’s power game. The defensive line was more alert at the line of scrimmage and did not allow big runs to slip by them and were more dominant as they batted down five passes from Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett. Defensive end Christian Barmore intercepted one of those passes. Nose guard D.J. Dale had a huge game as he accounted for six tackles and two pass breakups. Cornerbacks Patrick Surtain II and Josh Jobe played highly efficient games by taking the impactful deep passing game. The defense for Alabama accounted for two sacks, four tackles for loss, four quarterback hits, and 10 pass breakups.
The players for the Crimson Tide were noticeably better. They canceled out most mental lapses, terrible pursuit angles, and bad executions. Senior middle linebacker Dylan Moses was one of those players. He finished with 10 total tackles, one sack, and one tackle for loss. Although, there were times where there was still questionable play-calling from defensive coordinator Pete Golding. A couple of plays, in particular, was when Golding had the middle linebackers Moses or Christian Harris positioned at the slot cornerback. This easy mismatch allowed a wheel route touchdown on Harris and a big play on Moses. Overall, the defense for the Crimson Tide played much more efficiently than against Ole Miss. They held the Bulldogs to 414 total yards with 145 of them coming from the rushing game. They also allowed a third-down conversion of 7-of-16.
Clemson still #1 but #2 Alabama can compete
The Crimson Tide had a huge win over one of the top-ranked opponents in the nation. While they have shown themselves to still be an elite team, it is not enough to overpass the #1 Clemson Tigers. The Tigers dominated the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets with a 73-7 score in Atlanta. Clemson scored 52 of those points in the first half. Heisman Trophy front-runner Trevor Lawrence threw for 404 yards, five touchdowns, one interception, and had a QBR of 97. Alabama is coming up close on the Tigers in terms of production with Jones leading the way. The Tide will be able to compete with the Tigers throughout the season and through the Heisman Trophy race.