NEW ORLEANS — Georgia held up its end of the bargain Monday night.
So did Alabama.
The Bulldogs had to score far more points than the Crimson Tide to reach the national title game, but we’re going to get the expected SEC title game to determine a national champion.
Kirby Smart vs. Nick Saban.
Mercedes-Benz Stadium in the heart of SEC country — Atlanta.
Listen. Hear the chant?
"S-E-C! S-E-C! S-E-C!"
Looks like the playoff selection committee, with some lobbying from Nick Saban and SEC commissioner Greg Sankey, made the right call in putting the Tide in that fourth and final playoff spot over Big Ten champion Ohio State.
I see the Big Ten finishing 7-1 in bowl games. That's impressive, but the loss came against a solid, but not stellar SEC team.
South Carolina came back from a 19-3 deficit to beat Michigan in the Outback Bowl. The Big Ten can have the near-perfect record.
The SEC went 2-0 on the biggest stage to make history, again.
Two teams from the same conference had never made the playoffs before the selection committee put Georgia and Alabama in it.
Now this will be the first all-SEC showdown for a national championship.
Call the SEC top-heavy, but any other conference would take the same results over a 7-1 bowl record. Think the Buckeyes could’ve beaten Georgia or Alabama in a playoff?
Not the way the Tide’s defense looked in its 24-6 in over defending national champion Clemson and not the way Georgia withstood Baker Mayfield and second seed Oklahoma in its 54-48 double-overtime victory in Pasadena.
Healthier and deeper, Alabama was all over Kelly Bryant, proving just how great Deshaun Watson really was. Watson had his way with the Tide defense — two times.
Bryant didn’t come close to making enough plays to beat Alabama.
Clemson had minus-7 yards after one quarter. Down 10-3 at the half, the Tigers couldn’t take advantage of a turnover inside the red zone to start the second half.
Three plays, minus-5 yards. The Tigers settled for a field goal and never threatened again.
Alabama got the pass rush Monday night without sending Minkah Fitzpatrick. Anfernee Jennings took care of that in forcing a bad throw that defensive tackle Da’Ron Payne intercepted and returned 21 yards.
Tack on a horse-collar penalty and Alabama converted the turnover to points by going to, who else, Payne. Big fella showed the nibble feet on the sidelines on a touchdown catch from a yard out.
So Payne outscored the Clemson offense, 6-0.
Next series, Lyndell "Mack" Wilson, a man who played with a broken foot until it gave way against LSU, looked like the gifted athlete that made him a five-star recruit with a Pick 6.
Tide 24, Tigers 6. Still had a quarter left to play, but the game was practically over.
Oh yeah, Hunter Renfrow, the 2017 playoff title game hero, was a near no-show this time. One catch for eight yards on four targets when the game was an actual game.
He looked like a normal student out there Monday night.
As for Georgia, its offense went into overdrive to outlast the Sooners, but Smart, like he did so many times as a defensive coordinator at Alabama, made halftime adjustments.
Now he’s about to face his former boss in his biggest game of this career.
Don’t try to compare these playoff scores when looking at how Alabama and Georgia match up.
Alabama’s offense must play better to beat Georgia, but Georgia’s defense must play better to beat Alabama. Just think about when two elite SEC teams met over the years.
Georgia vs. Alabama in 2012 and Auburn vs. Alabama in 2013 just to name two. Both came down to the wire. Expect the same Jan. 8 in Atlanta.
Still hear the chant.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser Sports Columnist Duane Rankin at email@example.com. Twitter: @DuaneRankin.