ATHENS, Ga. -- Thanks to huge plays from Jarvis Jones, Tavarres King and Alec Ogletree, among others, Georgia stood on the verge of unseating defending BCS champion Alabama and playing for a national title.
The sixth-ranked Bulldogs (11-2) will instead play No. 16 Nebraska (10-3) in the Capital One Bowl with far less at stake, although they can still become just the third Georgia team ever to win 12 games in a season -- a win that could send off a valuable senior class in the right way after they helped re-establish Georgia as one of the SEC’s top programs.
Let’s review our Georgia Power Rankings entering bowl season (last week’s rank in parentheses):
1. Jarvis Jones (1): Jones fought off the flu to provide steady pressure on Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron. He sacked McCarron in the first quarter and forced a fumble -- his nation-leading seventh of the season -- and recorded two sacks and three tackles for a loss to move into first nationally in TFLs and third in sacks.
2. Alec Ogletree (3): When his defense was struggling to defend Alabama’s tough rushing attack, Ogletree was often the only player able to consistently take down a Crimson Tide back. He had a game-high 11 tackles, marking the fifth-straight game in which he made double-digit stops. Ogletree pushed his team-leading tackles total to 98 in nine games. Oh yeah, and he also raced 55 yards for a touchdown off Cornelius Washington’s blocked field goal in the third quarter, giving Georgia a 21-10 lead.
3. Aaron Murray (2): While he said himself afterward that he was not satisfied with his performance against Alabama, Murray might have silenced the criticism that he doesn’t show up in big games. The junior quarterback went 18-for-33 for 265 yards -- 169 of which came in the second half -- with a touchdown and an interception and guided the Bulldogs to Alabama’s 5-yard line in the closing seconds before the drive stalled with Georgia out of timeouts.
4. Todd Gurley (4): Of all the big games Gurley has had this season, his tough running against Alabama and Florida might have been his most impressive performances. Gurley ran 23 times for 122 yards against the Tide -- a season high for an Alabama opponent -- and scored two touchdowns. He leads all SEC players with 1,260 rushing yards and has also had 16 touchdowns.
5. Tavarres King (9): Because Alabama’s secondary seemed incapable of covering King, Georgia’s senior receiver provided many of SEC championship game’s biggest plays. He made third-down catches of 33 and 31 yards in the first three quarters that extended Georgia touchdown drives, made a 45-yard grab in the fourth quarter on a drive that helped the Bulldogs take a 28-25 lead and made a 23-yard catch and took a big hit on Georgia’s final drive to give the Bulldogs possession at the Alabama 34. King finished with 142 yards on five catches, pushing his season total to 846 yards on 39 catches.
6. Malcolm Mitchell (5): Murray was throwing to Mitchell in the end zone on the fateful tipped pass at the Alabama goal line. Obviously King is not the only receiver he views as a go-to target. Mitchell finished with four catches for 40 yards against the Tide, giving him 40 grabs for 572 yards this season.
7. Bacarri Rambo (6): Saturday was a night of highs and lows for Rambo. The senior safety made a brilliant pass breakup with a huge hit on Christion Jones in the first quarter. But he also came up short on a jump ball to Amari Cooper, which the Alabama receiver pulled away from him for a key 44-yard catch in the second quarter.
8. John Jenkins (7): Jenkins finished with a respectable stat line -- six tackles, one sack for a 9-yard loss -- but he and the rest of the players on Georgia’s defensive front no doubt came away from the Alabama game regretting the way they allowed the Tide to run for a whopping 350 yards.
9. Shawn Williams (8): As with many of his fellow Georgia defenders, Williams made nine tackles against Alabama, but he will probably lament the tackles he didn’t make in the Bulldogs’ narrow loss. Williams is second on the team in tackles behind Ogletree with 87.
10. Sanders Commings (NR): Commings has mostly had a quiet-but-steady season, but the senior cornerback made some of the biggest plays for Georgia in Saturday’s game. He caught a momentum-building 16-yard pass from Arthur Lynch for a first down off a fake punt, setting up a Jay Rome touchdown catch. And he also derailed an Alabama red-zone trip later in the second quarter by intercepting a McCarron pass in the end zone for a touchback.