No. 2 Alabama overpowers No. 3 Georgia late, lays early claim to College Football Playoff slot

it was a matchup of college football elite programs that lived up to the hype for most of the game. No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia were tight for three quarters before the Crimson Tide took charge and walked away with a 41-24 victory.

The game changed quickly with the Bulldogs ahead on the road. Jaylen Waddle broke free on a 90-yard touchdown reception for the go-ahead score. Two interceptions by Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett on the next two possessions led to two more touchdowns and the game was effectively over with 10 minutes left.

Three observations from Alabama's victory that could have it threatening Clemson at the top of the Amway Coaches Poll this week:

Alabama offense finds its stride

Something had to give when the No. 1 scoring offense met the No. 1 defense in yards allowed. Alabama entered averaging 51 points per game. Georgia was allowing just 236.7 yards.

The Bulldogs struck the first blow with an interception of Mac Jones on the first play from scrimmage. From there, Alabama moved the ball consistently and found most of its success through the air.

Jones finished 24-of-32 for 417 yards and four touchdowns with one interception. Two long pass plays helped those numbers as John Metchie III and Waddle got behind the defense for long scores. 

Georgia did make life difficult. Its pass rush hit Jones several times and he looked banged up in the third quarter. It mostly slowed down running back Najee Harris until late in the game.

But Jones was solid and patient.  It wasn't as pretty as the Tide normally look but it was pretty enough to put up a big victory.

Georgia has its moments on offense

Grading the Georgia offense under first-year offensive coordinator Todd Monken is all about how it performs against the championship contenders. Yes, the Bulldogs can look good against Tennessee or Auburn, but those are games where they can be methodical and wear down opponents. Against Alabama, they have to be able to match touchdowns with touchdowns.

It worked for the first half as Bennett looked poised, and some good play calling got the Crimson Tide off-balance. Going into the locker room with a 24-20 lead, everything looked to be going as planned.

Bennett, however, finally started to show signs of being in his first major college football game. A couple of forced throws in the third quarter changed the momentum. The first came deep in Alabama territory as the Bulldogs were threatening to take the lead. The second was on an ill-advised pass across his body that led to the knockout punch by Alabama.

It's a credit to Bennett, who finished 18-of-40 for 269 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions, that Georgia played so well in the first half. He was expected to be no better than third-string before Jamie Newman opted out and JT Daniels was not medically cleared before the season. With more experience, some of the key mistakes can be corrected.

It's a learning experience to understand you have to play well for 60 minutes and cannot go scoreless in the second half to win against the very best.

Just the first chapter of the story

The loss hurts for the Bulldogs, who haven't beaten Alabama since 2007 — the year of Nick Saban's first season in Tuscaloosa — but they can take solace in knowing there will be another opportunity at the SEC championship game in December if they get past Florida next month.

They can also take solace in their performance, even though it was the third time in four seasons they led into the second half and still fell to the Crimson Tide. The second chance will come on neutral ground in Atlanta. A win there would certainly send a one-loss Georgia to the College Football Playoff. 

There could also be a third chapter between the teams under this scenario if Alabama were to finish with one loss and got into the field as an at-large team. Clemson, Ohio State and others might have something to say about that, but it's clear from Saturday night that both these teams are talented enough to win a national championship. 

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