By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent
SEC Championship Recap
The script for last Saturday’s SEC championship game between Alaba-ma and Georgia was actually written 11 months ago in the same stadium in Atlanta, Ga.
In the national title game from last season, Georgia led Alabama 13-0 at halftime when Tua Tagovailoa replaced Jalen Hurts at quarterback and led the Crimson Tide to a thrilling 26-23 overtime victory in Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
This year, Tagovailoa started the game and played poorly as the Bulldogs built a 28-14 lead, and he was injured in the second half. Hurts entered the game with his team trailing 28-21 and led a fourth-quarter comeback that Alabama fans will be talking about for decades.
Alabama won the game, 35-28, and advanced to the playoffs for the fifth cons-ecutive season. It was a remarkable comeback and a sensational redemption story for Hurts, who opted to remain in Tuscaloosa this fall despite losing the starting job to Tagovailoa. Hurts entered the game and completed 7 of 9 passes for 82 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 28 yards and a score.
Tagovailoa was only 10 for 25 for 164 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He left the game with an ankle injury in the second half. Josh Jacobs rushed eight times for 83 yards and two touchdowns, while Jaylen Waddle caught four passes for 113 yards and a score. Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm completed 25 of 39 passes for 301 yards and three touchdowns.
Alabama improved to 13-0 on the season and will take on Oklahoma in the Orange Bowl on Saturday, Dec. 29.
SEC football rankings
1. Alabama (13-0, 9-0)
2. Georgia (11-2, 7-2)
3. LSU (9-3, 5-3)
4. Florida (9-3, 5-3)
5. Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4)
6. Texas A&M (8-4, 5-3)
7. Auburn (7-5, 3-5)
8. Kentucky (9-3, 5-3)
9. Missouri (8-4, 4-4)
10. South Carolina (6-5, 4-4)
11. Vanderbilt (6-6, 3-5)
12. Tennessee (5-7, 2-6)
13. Ole Miss (5-7, 1-7)
14. Arkansas (2-10, 0-8)
SEC Bowls Preview
Week 14 record: 9-0 Season: 93-19
Eleven different SEC teams qualified for a bowl game, and four of those teams made a New Year’s Six game. Alabama qualified for the College Football Playoff yet again and will face Oklahoma in the semifinals. Georgia will play in the Sugar Bowl against Texas, while Florida meets Michigan in a heavyweight battle in the Peach Bowl. For the second year in a row, the University of Central Florida will take on an SEC team as the Knights play LSU in the Fiesta Bowl.
Vanderbilt is back in a bowl for the second time in the last three years under Derek Mason and takes on Baylor in the Texas Bowl. Auburn is headed to Nashville to face Purdue in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 28, while South Carolina is playing Virginia in the Belk Bowl.
Barry Odom guided Missouri back to another bowl game and the Tigers face Oklahoma State in the Liberty Bowl. Jimbo Fisher will look to finish his first season at Texas A&M with a bowl win as his Aggies play North Carolina State in the Gator Bowl. Joe Moorhead, another first-year head coach in the SEC, will search for win No. 9 of the season in Tampa as Mississippi State plays Iowa. Kentucky is having one of its best seasons in recent school history, and the Wildcats are looking for their 10th victory of the year against Penn State in the Citrus Bowl.
Coaching carousel and other SEC news
While there have not been any head coaching changes in the SEC so far this offseason, there have been plenty of assistant coaches on the move that will impact teams.
Alabama offensive coordinator Mike Locksley was hired as the head coach at Maryland. It is the fourth consecutive season the Crimson Tide will play in the playoffs while one of their coordinators is preparing to take a head coaching job.
Kirby Smart, Lane Kiffin and Jeremy Pruitt all took head coaching jobs in the last three years, so Nick Saban isn’t necessarily in unfamiliar territory. Locksley won the Broyles Award this year, which is awarded to the top coordinator in the country.
Auburn offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey left The Plains to take the same position at Kansas. The Jayhawks just hired former LSU head coach Les Miles, who is making an effort to open up the Kansas offense with Lindsey at the helm. Former Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze is expected to be a candidate for the offen-sive coordinator openings at Auburn and Tennessee.
Auburn quarterback Jarrett Stidham announced his decision to turn pro after the Tigers’ season concludes against Purdue. Stidham technically has one year of eligibility remaining, but he has already graduated.
Former Clemson quarterback Kelly Bryant, who led the Tigers to the playoffs a season ago, recently announced his decision to transfer to Missouri. Bryant, who has one year of eligibility remaining, was also considering transferring to Auburn and Arkansas.