Alabama made a quick change at quarterback to start the second half, and after Tua Tagovailoa got his feet wet on his first series, he provided the much-needed offensive spark for Alabama on his second drive. Unfortunately for Alabama, Jake Fromm continued to thrive on third and long with a big answer.
Tagovailoa came up with a crazy run to pick up a first down that was soon followed by Alabama’s first score of the night.
The pass into the end zone was to Henry Ruggs III, his third catch of the night. Suddenly, Alabama had some life.
Feeding off the energy of Alabama’s first points of the game, the Crimson Tide were flying on Georgia’s ensuing possession and forced Georgia into a 3rd and 11. Fromm took a deep shot to a streaking Mecole Hardman, and Hardman did not disappoint on an 80-yard bomb for a touchdown to regain a 13-point advantage. The play was reviewed to make sure Hardman did not step out of bounds. Like Sony Michel’s big run in the first half, the review upheld the call on the field, and Georgia celebrated a 20-7 lead.
Tagovailoa was picked off on Alabama’s next possession, setting Georgia up to put a stranglehold on the Tide midway through the third quarter, but Fromm was just picked off on a tipped ball, giving the ball back to Tagovailoa and the Tide. Buckle up. Things are getting fun.
The conventional wisdom suggests the SEC champion will go on to play in the College Football Playoff, with the expectation of the SEC champion being either an undefeated Alabama or one-loss SEC champ. Following a season-ending 38-7 victory on Saturday against Georgia Tech (5-6, 4-4 ACC), No. 7 Georgia (11-1, 7-1 SEC) did their part to make sure they remain in playoff contention with those qualifications in play.
The rushing combo of Sony Michel and Nick Chubb may not have had a blockbuster day on the ground, but it was more than effective with a combined 138 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Michel’s touchdown run was especially smooth in the third quarter to put Georgia up 24-7.
Jake Fromm had a role in the blowout too, of course. Fromm completed 12 of his 16 pass attempts for 224 yards and two touchdowns, and he even picked up some rushing yards for good measure. Georgia doubled the offensive production of Georgia Tech in the game and prevented Georgia Tech from taking away time on the clock with long scoring drives.
Georgia will now take on either Alabama or Auburn in the SEC Championship Game next week in Atlanta. The opponent from the SEC West will be determined today in The Iron Bowl with Auburn hosting the No. 1 Crimson Tide. Auburn thrashed Georgia just a few weeks ago, but Georgia and Alabama have not played each other this season. Regardless of the opponent, the stakes will be high as it is universally accepted the SEC champion will be one of the four teams selected to play in the College Football Playoff. The only team that can potentially suffer a loss in the title game and still stand a decent shot of being included in the playoff without a mass chaos scenario in play appears to be Alabama, and even that is not a guarantee depending on the variables in play.
Georgia has not won the SEC championship since 2005, when the Bulldogs topped No. 3 LSU by a score of 34-14. Georgia is 0-2 in the conference title game since then, with back-to-back losses to No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama in 2011 and 2012, respectively. Win or lose, Georgia is guaranteed to be going bowling. Georgia Tech will now have to wait and see if any bowl vacancies still need to be filled. At 5-6, Georgia Tech is not eligible for the postseason (Georgia Tech only played 11 games after having a game against UCF scrapped due to a hurricane early in the season. The Yellow Jackets could ask for a waiver but otherwise would have to be standing in line to fill any leftover bowl spots that may be available. And those vacancies may not be there this season.
Still with a chance to make the College Football Playoff, Georgia still has a little business to attend to today against Georgia Tech. So far, good enough for Georgia with the Bulldogs up 17-7 on their in-state rivals at halftime.
Georgia Tech appeared to start the game in horrible fashion with a kickoff return by Jerry Howard initially appearing to reach just outside of Georgia Tech’s own end zone, but an official ruling determined the kickoff should have been blown down for a touchback. But Georgia Tech could not do much of anything with the football on the game’s opening possession and had to punt away to the Bulldogs. Georgia then went on a 12-play touchdown drive covering 61 yards and capped by a Nick Chubb touchdown run on the goal line for a 7-0 lead.
Georgia Tech’s best scoring opportunity came on their first drive at the start of the second quarter but ended in futility with a turnover on downs after not being able to convert on fourth and four from the Georgia 34-yard line. Georgia took advantage and extended its lead to 14-0 five plays later. Jake Fromm connected on a touchdown pass to Javon Wims from 21 yards.
Georgia Tech managed to get points on the scoreboard before the end of the first half. After grinding their way to the Georgia 10-yard line, Ricky Jeune hauled in a pass from TaQuon Marshall after finding empty space amid a defensive breakdown in the endzone.
A win for Georgia would send them to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game still on the College Football Playoff radar. A second loss may not necessarily eliminate Georgia from playoff contention, but it would be more difficult to recover.
After being removed from a season-opening game win against Appalachian State on Saturday, Georgia quarterback Jacob Eason will sit out of the Bulldog’s Week 2 matchup at Notre Dame. Freshman Jake Fromm will continue to fill in for Eason and will get his first collegiate start this weekend in South Bend.
Eason has been diagnosed with a sprained ligament in his left knee, but will not need to have surgery, according to head coach Kirby Smart.
Eason was hit out of bounds by an Appalachian State defender in the first quarter of Saturday’s season opener in Athens. The play resulted in a late hit out of bounds penalty on the Mountaineers, but the penalty seemed to really be against the Bulldogs with their star quarterback trying to stay in the game only to fall to the ground and require medical attention before being taken out of the game for good.
Fromm performed well in his emergency relief for Georgia, completing 10-of-15 passes for 143 yards and a touchdown on a day that saw Georgia’s running game lead the way to a 31-10 victory. Now, From will be the starter for the Georgia Bulldogs and his first start will come inside Notre Dame Stadium. Georgia’s running game should continue to be the focus of the offense anyway, but how Fromm handles playing in this environment will be something to watch as Georgia looks to go 2-0.
It is unknown how long Eason will be unavailable, and for how long Fromm will remain the starter. Fromm may be in a position to keep the job even if Eason is later medically cleared to play for the Bulldogs, but if Georgia struggles in Eason’s absence, then Fromm may turn the job back over to a healthy Eason if and when that time comes.