Asked about No. 2 Alabama’s win over No. 3 Georgia on Saturday night, Nick Saban described the game as a “street fight.”
A decade ago that would have meant a line of scrimmage bloodbath and bodies banging for seven yards. In 2020 it meant Mac Jones throwing for 417 yards and the Tide receivers making play after play against a defense that entered the week with all-time hype.
That passing onslaught led to a 41-24 Alabama victory. It also helps explain why Georgia, a team with equal if not better talent, could not keep up. Quite simply, the Bulldogs lacked the quarterback to challenge the Tide.
Stetson Bennett IV is an incredible story. Incredible. He’s good enough for Georgia to beat most teams. Not Alabama. Not Clemson. Not Ohio State. His line — 18-for-40, 269 yards, two TDs and trio of interceptions — is a testament to that. Bennett’s average per attempt was 6.7.
These two evenly matched teams were locked in a 27-24 battle late the third quarter. Georgia pushed the ball to Alabama’s 25-yard-line, poised to go ahead or at least tie. Instead, Bennett’s third-down pass over the middle was too high, and too far out to the right. It led to a tipped pass and a Bama INT. The Tide scored five plays later. The next drive, Bennett missed a would-be touchdown to Jermaine Burton, overthrowing a receiver with 4.43 40 speed by two yards. Two plays later, Bennett attempted to extend a play after avoiding a sack and tossed another INT that wasn’t within 10 yards of a Georgia receiver.
It was really that simple. Mac Jones went 24-for-32 and looked like a deep ball savant, helped by two of the best receivers in the country (Jaylen Waddle, Devonta Smith). Bennett struggled to consistently deliver an accurate ball and a deep and talented Georgia wide receiver group couldn’t always bail him out.
Games of this nature in 2020 aren’t won with defense. Great defenses help, yes. But there’s a reason five of the six national champions in the playoff era scored at least 35 points in their title-winning effort. This is not to say you don’t need great line play or a strong run game. You do. But when it comes to the elite of the elite, the best QBs and playmakers on the outside tend to win out.
Alabama had one of those quarterbacks Saturday. Georgia did not. Thus, Saban’s streak against his former assistants moves to 22-0.