• Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Behind monster performances from Najee Harris and DeVonta Smith, Alabama outlasts Florida to win SEC title

Sam Cooper
·4 min read
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

No. 7 Florida has some of college football’s best offensive talent. But it doesn’t have Najee Harris or DeVonta Smith.

Those two play for No. 1 Alabama, and they made all the difference in Saturday night’s SEC title game.

In a 52-46 victory for the Crimson Tide, Harris and Smith were the best players on the field. Harris, the Tide’s star running back, was an absolute beast. He rushed for 178 yards, caught five passes for 67 yards and scored a whopping five touchdowns. Four of those scores came in the first half, including three as a pass catcher out of the backfield.

But his best work came in the second half. Every time Florida cut into the lead, Alabama churned out yards in huge chunks with Harris, who scored his fifth touchdown on a run from a yard out to put the Tide up 42-31 with 11:29 to play.

Smith was just as good. The Heisman contender put on a show, catching 15 passes for 184 yards and two scores.

Smith’s last catch of the evening was the final nail in the coffin for the Gators. UF cut Alabama’s lead to 45-38 with 6:33 to play. Three Harris runs spanning 46 yards quickly moved the Tide into Florida territory. Smith finished it off by running a beautiful route and catching a perfect throw from Mac Jones for the decisive 15-yard touchdown.

Jones, himself a Heisman contender, finished the night with 418 yards and five touchdown throws. Saturday night’s performance was the fourth 400-yard effort of the season for Jones.

In all, the Alabama offense put up a whopping 605 yards. And it looked easy, too.

With the win, Alabama won its seventh SEC championship during the Nick Saban era. The Tide had a rare two-loss season in 2019, and have come back with a vengeance. Now 11-0, the Crimson Tide are a lock to enter the College Football Playoff as the No. 1 seed.

Next on the agenda is a national championship. It has been a few seasons since Alabama won one of those, and this group has been determined to ascend back to the college football mountaintop from the day this topsy-turvy season began.

Now, with the SEC title in its back pocket, Alabama will have that chance.

Alabama running back Najee Harris (22) runs against Florida during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Alabama running back Najee Harris (22) runs against Florida during the second half of the Southeastern Conference championship NCAA college football game, Saturday, Dec. 19, 2020, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Florida’s loss to LSU looms large in CFP picture

Alabama took a 35-17 lead into halftime thanks to a Harris touchdown catch with just six seconds remaining in the half.

Florida, to its credit, came out firing in the second half. Kyle Trask opened the third quarter by connecting with Trevon Grimes on a 50-yard touchdown.

The UF defense then forced a turnover on downs and a punt, opening the door for the offense to cut the deficit even further. The Gators did just that when Nay’Quan Wright reached the end zone on a short run just before the end of the third quarter.

Alabama felt like it was in complete control, but the Tide’s lead was just 35-31 entering the fourth quarter.

But that was as close as Florida would get. Todd Grantham’s defense just could not get the stop it needed, nor could the Gators recover an onside kick in the final minutes.

Still, it was a tremendously gutty effort from Florida — an effort that makes last week’s loss to LSU even more gutting.

Had the Gators not blown that game and entered Saturday night’s contest with just one loss, UF would have a legitimate argument for the No. 4 spot in the College Football Playoff rankings. That is especially true when you consider the way Notre Dame played against Clemson earlier Saturday.

Instead, Florida is a three-loss team that appears destined for the Cotton Bowl.

More from Yahoo Sports: