No. 8 Alabama beats No. 1 Georgia for SEC title to snap Bulldogs' 29-game win streak and create playoff chaos

Georgia's last loss came to Alabama in the 2021 SEC title game

College Football Playoff chaos is here.

No. 8 Alabama beat No. 1 Georgia 27-24 in the SEC championship game on Saturday to break Georgia’s 29-game win streak and put Georgia’s chances of winning a third straight title in serious peril.

The Crimson Tide’s win means that three teams with one loss or fewer will miss the College Football Playoff. Four teams entered conference championship weekend undefeated while another four had one loss. Georgia (12-1) was the only unbeaten team to lose over the weekend with the other three all taking care of business in their league title games.

Alabama (12-1) took a two-score lead with 5:47 to go on a one-yard run by Roydell Williams. He capped off a 75-yard drive that included four passes for 57 yards from Jalen Milroe to Isaiah Bond. Their clutch play came a week after Milroe found Bond for a 31-yard fourth-down TD in the waning seconds to beat Auburn and keep Alabama’s College Football Playoff hopes alive.

Milroe found Bond on a key third down earlier in the drive as he got away from pressure before a catch-and-run by Bond set Alabama up a yard away from the goal line.

Georgia responded with a TD drive of its own that included two fourth-down conversions. But that drive also took nearly three minutes off the clock and forced the Bulldogs to use a timeout. By the time Kendall Milton got into the end zone, there was just 2:52 remaining.

That meant Alabama just needed a couple of first downs to end it. The Crimson Tide got one right away on a big run by Milroe and he converted another first down with his legs two plays later to effectively end the game.

The playoff scenarios

Georgia’s loss is the first since the Bulldogs lost to Alabama in the SEC title game in 2021. Later that season, the two teams met again in the College Football Playoff and Georgia got its revenge.

This loss means the Bulldogs, Crimson Tide and Texas Longhorns each sit at 12-1. Texas beat Alabama in Week 2. And both the Longhorns and Crimson Tide have conference titles after Texas easily took care of business against Oklahoma State in the Big 12 championship game.

Texas has been ahead of Alabama in each of the selection committee’s sets of rankings this season thanks to that head-to-head win. If the committee stays with that precedent, then Texas is in line to get into the playoff ahead of both Alabama and Georgia.

But this is also an Alabama team that has gotten better as the season has gone on. How will that factor into the committee’s decision-making? If Texas has been ahead of Alabama all season because of its win over the Tide, the Tide has to be ahead of Georgia in the final rankings, right?

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 02: Trezmen Marshall #17 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates with teammates after recovering a fumble during the third quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs in the SEC Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 02, 2023 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
No. 8 Alabama ended No. 1 Georgia's 29-game losing streak on Saturday. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

After Michigan won the Big Ten title game Saturday night, we can safely assume two undefeated teams will make the playoff in the Wolverines and Washington. The No. 3 Huskies beat No. 5 Oregon on Friday night for the final Pac-12 title.

The wild card is undefeated Florida State. The Seminoles are without star QB Jordan Travis after he suffered a season-ending leg injury in Week 12. They did more than enough to beat Florida in Week 13 and held on to beat No. 15 Louisville with third-stringer Brock Glenn at quarterback.

Since Florida State had to work to beat the Cardinals 16-6, can the committee leave out an undefeated Power Five conference champion?

An undefeated Power Five team has never missed the playoff in the previous nine seasons. And the first nine iterations of the playoff have always featured the SEC champion. There’s a very good chance that one of those streaks will end on Sunday when the playoff field is revealed.

Both offenses struggled

Saturday’s game was not the finest exhibition of offensive performance you’ll ever see. Georgia had just 321 yards to Alabama’s 306 and the teams combined to go 7-of-25 on third downs.

Georgia got off to a fantastic start with an 83-yard TD drive after Alabama was forced to punt on its opening possession. But the Bulldogs weren’t very good for much of the game after that before the fourth quarter. A long punt return set up a short field for a TD that cut Alabama’s lead to 20-17 with 10:16 to go before Georgia’s offense had its second-longest drive of the game on its final TD drive.

It’s fair to say that Georgia wasn’t playing at full strength, however. Both WR Ladd McConkey and TE Brock Bowers were clearly not at 100% because of injuries and combined for eight catches for 91 yards. The other Georgia players had 13 catches for 152 yards — and 51 of those yards came on one catch by Arian Smith.

Alabama ground out 114 rushing yards on 41 carries as Georgia’s defense wanted to prevent Milroe from winning the game with his legs. The Bulldogs even spied the Alabama QB with two players at times.

Milroe finished the game 13-of-23 passing for 192 yards and two TDs. Bond had five catches for 79 yards.

But it was Milroe’s legs that ultimately did beat Georgia. Alabama had an empty backfield on its first play after Georgia’s TD with 2:52 to go and Milroe ran for 30 yards before falling down in bounds. He then clinched the game by sprinting up the middle for nine yards and another first down.

Alabama’s ninth SEC title under Nick Saban

Alabama’s win extends its SEC title game dominance in the Nick Saban era. The Crimson Tide are an astonishing 9-1 in SEC title games during Saban’s tenure and that lone loss came in Saban’s first SEC title game appearance as Alabama coach in 2008.

Georgia, meanwhile, has lost to Alabama four times in that span.

The game is also the final time that Alabama and Georgia will meet as division champions. The SEC is ditching its East-West format in 2024 when Texas and Oklahoma join the conference. If Texas was in the SEC this season with just one loss, the conference would be a virtual lock to have a playoff team. Instead, the final four-team playoff could be the first without a member of the SEC.