LSU is the SEC West champion and Ole Miss’ chances at the College Football Playoff have been extinguished.
No. 9 Alabama took the lead for the first time all day in the fourth quarter in a 30-24 win over the No. 11 Rebels on Saturday. After trailing for most of the game, Alabama got two field goals from Will Reichard in the final period and held Ole Miss scoreless over the last 15 minutes.
Ole Miss got the ball back with 2:23 to go after Reichard’s second field goal of the quarter and got within striking distance of the end zone thanks to the excellence of running back Quinshon Judkins. But Ole Miss went away from Judkins on the final four plays of its last drive and Jaxson Dart’s fourth-down pass to the end zone fell incomplete with less than 45 seconds left.
Alabama coach Nick Saban couldn’t hide the smile on his face after the game. The Crimson Tide were effectively knocked out of playoff contention themselves a week ago when they lost 32-31 to the Tigers in overtime.
“I’m so proud of these players for what they did tonight, that was great," Saban told CBS after the game.
Judkins scored two TDs off direct snaps in the first half as Ole Miss had a 17-7 lead early in the game. But Ole Miss’ chances of putting Alabama away disappeared late in the first half when Zach Evans fumbled the ball deep in Ole Miss territory.
Terrion Arnold walked into the end zone with the ball but Alabama didn’t get the TD because officials had initially ruled Evans was down. Alabama then scored with eight seconds to go before halftime to cut Ole Miss’ lead to three and never trailed by more than a score the rest of the way.
Alabama QB Bryce Young was 21-of-33 passing for 209 yards and three touchdowns while the Alabama defensive line took over in the second half. The Tide started consistently getting pressure on Dart in the second half as Ole Miss went the final 22 minutes and change without scoring a single point.
LSU beat Arkansas
The Tigers entered Saturday with a simple scenario to represent the West in the SEC title game. They just needed to beat Arkansas and Alabama needed to beat Ole Miss. That scenario proved tough to execute; LSU needed a monster game from freshman defensive end Harold Perkins to beat Arkansas and its backup quarterbacks 13-10.
But now the Tigers can focus on a likely matchup with Georgia in Atlanta in three weeks as the No. 1 Bulldogs just need one more win to clinch the division.
LSU is also now the West’s only hope for a College Football Playoff berth, though its chances are slim at best. No two-loss team has ever made the playoff and Ole Miss, Alabama and LSU can all do no better than 10-2 in the regular season.
If the Tigers beat Georgia in the SEC title game, then there’s a chance they break the streak of two-loss playoff teams. But Alabama and Ole Miss are out of luck. Their best hopes are now for a New Year’s Six bowl.