No. 8 Alabama tackles No. 1 Georgia in SEC Championship

Field Level Media

November 29, 2023 at 5:59 pm.

Alabama quarterback Jalen Milroe has gone from outcast to indispensable hero in less than three months.

Now fresh off executing the ‘Milroe Miracle,’ he’ll be asked to perform another huge accomplishment when the No. 8 Crimson Tide face top-ranked Georgia in the SEC Championship Game on Saturday at Atlanta.

Milroe’s dart of a touchdown throw on fourth-and-goal from the Auburn 31-yard line to Isaiah Bond to win last Saturday’s Iron Bowl will be talked about for decades.

So would an upset of Georgia.

Particularly if the Crimson Tide (11-1) beat the undefeated Bulldogs (12-0) to jump into the four-team College Football Playoff. Alabama would need to record its 11th consecutive victory and perhaps get some help.

The Bulldogs have won an SEC record 29 consecutive games and are two-time defending national champions.

“Definitely, we have to embrace the challenge that’s ahead of us,” Milroe said Tuesday. “They’re coming off of a (29)-game winning streak, so it’s definitely a challenge for the guys in the locker room.”

Milroe was benched after the Week 2 loss to then-No. 11 Texas and didn’t take the field the following week when the Crimson Tide needed a last-minute touchdown to finish off South Florida 17-3.

The following day, Alabama coach Nick Saban informed Milroe that he would be the starting quarterback moving forward. Milroe eventually found his stride and has passed for 15 touchdowns and rushed for eight more over the last seven games.

Milroe passed for 259 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 107 yards in the 27-24 road win over Auburn. For the season, he has passed for 2,526 yards and 21 touchdowns against six interceptions, while adding 439 yards and 12 scores on the ground.

“He’s seeing the game differently now, how you play the position and execute the plan, and I think that has helped him play more decisively,” Saban said.

Georgia (12-0) just completed its third consecutive undefeated regular season and has won 45 of its last 46 games.

The Bulldogs are known for their defense but also rank eighth in scoring offense at 39.6 points per game and sixth in total offense at 496.4 yards per game.

The gaudy numbers are more impressive when you consider star tight end Brock Bowers injured an ankle against Vanderbilt on Oct. 14 and underwent surgery. He has since played just twice and sat out last Saturday’s 31-23 road victory over Georgia Tech due to ankle soreness.

“He’s got to be able to go compete at a high level and be able to feel good about what he’s doing,” Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said. “We didn’t feel that he had that (Saturday) night.”

Bowers is Georgia’s leading receiver with 51 catches for 661 yards and six touchdowns.

Quarterback Carson Beck is completing 72.4 percent of his attempts — which would easily break the school mark — for 3,495 yards, 22 touchdowns and six interceptions. His yardage total is fourth most in Bulldogs’ history.

Georgia ranks sixth nationally in scoring defense (15.8) and ninth in total defense (294.3) behind safety Tykee Smith, who leads the unit in tackles (63), stops for losses (7.5) and interceptions (four).

No matter how many standouts dot his roster, Smart is quick to point out beating the Crimson Tide is not an easy task.

“There’s no areas that you look at and go, ‘Oh, that’s a weakness,’ or ‘Oh, they’re not very good at,'” Smart said. “They got really good football players. They’re well coached. Their special teams units, you see it. It pops out on the screen. They got starters all over it. So when you go to offense and you see Milroe and the leaders they have there, they’re really talented.”

Alabama leads the all-time series 42-26-4. Georgia beat the Crimson Tide in the last meeting, 33-18 in the 2021 season national title game to halt a seven-game skid against Alabama.