Regardless of where you stand on the question of whether Alabama's dynasty is over, there's no question that Alabama is still one of the best teams in college football. And kicking off the game at Georgia as underdogs for the first time in six years, the Crimson Tide decided to prove it by doing more than simply overcoming the doubts of the betting public. Instead, they annihilated the Bulldogs in a game that was essentially over by the half.
And perhaps more significantly, Alabama won in a way that was reminiscent of many of the great Tide wins in Nick Saban's tenure -- with a punishing running game, a sparing but brutally efficient aerial attack and a defensive shutdown that held the Bulldogs to 299 yards on 69 snaps. And even the yardage that Georgia gained was distorted by a few big plays, some of them after the game was essentially in hand.
None of those were bigger or more deceptive than Nick Chubb's 83-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, which allowed the star running back to tie Herschel Walker's record for the most consecutive 100-yard games in Georgia history. But Chubb's 19 other running attempts covered just 63 yards, an average of 3.3 yards a carry. Quarterbacks Greyson Lambert and Brice Ramsey combined to go 10-of-30 passing for 106 yards, no touchdowns and three interceptions. And, again, two of those passes account for 62 of those yards.
Alabama's offensive yardage numbers didn't overwhelm, largely because Nick Saban offenses don't tend to do more than they have to to make the point. But Derrick Henry churned out 148 yards rushing and a touchdown on 26 carries. Jake Coker finally seemed to be growing into the starting role, completing 11 of 16 passing attempts for 190 yards and a touchdown. Coker hit five passes of more than 15 yards, including connecting with Calvin Ridley for 50 yards and 45 yards. The only things you could ding Alabama's offense for was going 1-for-12 on third down and turning the ball over twice, though Georgia coughed it up four times in the sloppy conditions. On special teams, Minkah Fitzpatrick returned a blocked punt for a touchdown.
In one sense, the result changes little for either of these teams in their respective division races. Alabama still needs at least one and probably two losses by Ole Miss to have a chance at the SEC West title. (As of this writing, the Rebels are doing their part by trailing Florida.) By contrast, Georgia still controls its own destiny in the topsy-turvy SEC East; a single interdivision loss by itself can't kill anyone's chances of getting to Atlanta.
But on the big-picture question -- who can make it to the SEC Championship Game and win, and make a run at the College Football Playoff -- Alabama proved itself to be a contender that is still capable of playing with the best teams in the country. The Bulldogs might have an easier path to the Georgia Dome, but they showed on Saturday that they have a lot of work to do if they want to win there.