Nick SabanPhoto: Getty Images
While Saturday’s game between Georgia and Tennessee was the biggest competition in the history of this duel and the de facto headliner for Week 10, it was the SEC rivalry that has defined the conference for most of this century that once again took the spotlight conquered. In his first tenure as LSU coach against Alabama, coach Brian Kelly got his revenge in his third try against Nick Saban.
In his first two encounters against The Tide, Kelly’s team was outplayed 73-28 and the Fighting Irish never had a chance to steal a win. One could argue that although the meetings were held in a neutral venue, the playing field was never level.
That wasn’t the case at Tiger Stadium on Saturday when Jayden Daniels, Kayshon Boutte and company – with the help of an overcooked home crowd – looked like they belonged on every field with every team.
However, we know that if you want to end Bama’s quest for another college football playoff and another national title, you’ll have to KO them. And that’s exactly the momentum Kelly took at the end of the first and last overtime.
Tired of watching Bryce Young weave his way out of the grip of the oncoming Tigers and into the red zone, Kelly decided to keep his offense on the field after Daniels responded to a Tide TD-on the first offensive game of his team in OT.
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In real time, it felt like the LSU coach was outsmarting himself with a game worthy of Les Miles, a desperate man rolling the dice against a superior opponent. I thought whatever piece he called it was going to fall hilariously flat, and well, then this happened.
Of course, the fans rushed onto the field because they were in euphoria and probably passed out. But also because they experienced it for the first time a victory over Bama in Death Valley since 2010.
The Bayou Bengals are always a recruiting season away from having the kind of players that can hang on to any school in college football. The problem was always the coach. Kelly deserved every shit he got for dropping Notre Dame, filming TikToks with teenage recruits, and faking a Southern accent.
He’s also pretty damn smart, recognizing the restrictions in South Bend and going to one of the top three programs in college football when the opportunity for a pickup bed full of money presented itself. LSU is now an Arkansas and Texas A&M win outside of the conference title game. No team with two losses has ever earned a playoff spot, but no SEC champion has ever been disqualified either.
While I’m not sure how smart it is to actively court Georgia’s attention, LSU has it — and the chance to further wreak havoc on the CFP selection process.
Vols lose but get a few breaks
Nothing about Tennessee’s visit to Georgia went well. Hendon Hooker never found his rhythm, the defense’s aggressive approach backfired, and even the Dawgs’ special teams outplayed their opponent.
On Friday I wrote that the loser of this game will need a lot of help to get into the playoffs. I’m guessing “write and you’ll receive” because not only has the SEC’s most significant threat for a second bid lost, so has Clemson.
Dabo Swinney’s Tigers went to South Bend and were dismantled. The 35-14 win saved Marcus Freeman’s first season in charge of Notre Dame and also exposed a team that many pundits were unconvinced about.
The loser of the game Ohio State-Michigan will be in a similar position to Tennessee and they need to keep the competition tight as neither the Buckeyes nor the Wolverines have a resume that compares to UT.
We’ll see how the leaderboards shake after three of the top six lose, but pundits like to point out that many of these leaderboards will sort themselves out in the coming weeks. The Volunteers’ magic season flirted with turning into a large, rotting, orange pumpkin, and yet within hours he was still alive, searching for a glass slipper to fit.