ATLANTA — Alabama coach Nick Saban served noticed that he remains the king of college football until otherwise noted, trumping a historically talented and accomplished Georgia football team on Saturday night.
The Crimson Tide beat the previously unbeaten and No. 1-ranked Bulldogs 41-24, even after spotting them a 10-0 lead.
RELATED: ‘Wake-up’ call applies to conservative Kirby Smart
Saban’s team entered the game as an underdog ( 6.5 points) for the first time in 92 contests dating back to a 38-10 win over Georgia in Athens in 2015.
Alabama won Saturday afternoon in Mercedes-Benz Stadium despite:
• Giving up 36 sacks this season, including 7 last week in a 24-22 quadruple OT win at Auburn
• Having a think RB room led by senior Brian Robinson, who appeared less than 100 percent after suffering a pulled muscle last week
• Losing six first-round picks in the 2021 NFL Draft and approximately two-thirds of its offensive production from 2020
• Starting a first-year quarterback
Much to Saban’s delight, gamblers, fans and media analysts let everyone know all week long why it was time for the Crimson Tide to lose and for Georgia coach Kirby Smart to assume the throne.
“You guys gave us a lot of really positive rat poison,” Saban said after the game. “The rat poison that you usually give us is usually fatal, but the rat poison that you put out there this week was yummy.”
Saban’s coaching staff certainly gobbled up Georgia’s conservative game plan on offense and defense.
Alabama forced the Bulldogs to rely on freshman tight end Brock Bowers in the passing game, while preventing a celebrated UGA defensive front from recording a sack despite Young winding up for 44 pass attempts.
“It started up front — the (Georgia) front has been so dominant in terms of pressuring people, kind of taking them out of their game,” Saban said. “You could never, ever really get the ball out very successfully on a very consistent basis, which is a tribute to them, their scheme, their players are very good.”
But with Alabama’s offensive line holding off the Georgia defense, and picking up the pressures when Smart did allow Dan Lanning to bring heat, the Bulldogs’ secondary was exposed.
Georgia defensive backs had said all year long there were mistakes being made, but that people didn’t notice because the front seven was taking care of business.
For the first time, it appeared the Bulldogs’ missed their sacks leader, Adam Anderson, who is suspended indefinitely while facing charges of rape.
The Georgia offense, meanwhile, was not nearly as effective with its run game held in check. Unable to get the play-action going to its max, offensive coordinator Todd Monken had to put Stetson Bennett in obvious pass situations.
The results were not always good, as three second-half red zone trips netted just one touchdown, and Bennett threw a decisive Pick-6.
Alabama safety Jordan Battle indicated the different looks confused Bennett, who threw two second-half interceptions, including a Pick-6 that took Georgia out of contention.
“I think the main thing in this game was our disguises; we put in a lot of disguises this week,” Battle said. “That was the big thing. Just have his eyes wandering around before the play.
“I think we did a good job on the back end and linebackers stemming and disguising. So I think that was a big part of the game.”
Saban elaborated more.
“I think that you try to change the picture as much as you can, and make the quarterback try to make decisions after he gets the ball in his hand,” Saban said.
“Pass rush always helps you. If you get a good pass rush. We affected him in the pocket. He scrambled some, which is -- you hate, but you’re also affecting a guy when you do that because you’re not throwing the ball on time.”
Alabama and Georgia will learn their College Football Playoff fate at noon on Sunday when ESPN hosts the CFP Selection Show.
The Cotton Bowl and Orange Bowl take place on Dec. 31 in Arlington, Texas, and Miami Gardens, Fla., respectively.