This story was originally published by CBS Sports.com.
No. 2 Alabama solidified its spot in the College Football Playoff with a dominant 29-15 victory over No. 18 Florida in the Georgia Dome on Saturday in the SEC Championship Game. The Crimson Tide became the first team to win back-to-back SEC titles since Tennessee did so in 1997-98, and the Tide did so in emphatic fashion.
The first 12 points of the game came by way of special teams scores. Alabama took a 2-0 lead on a blocked punt in the first quarter and then blocked a Florida field goal attempt to maintain that lead into the second quarter.
Florida got on the board early in the second quarter by way of an Antonio Callaway punt return touchdown, which gave the Gators a 7-2 lead. Alabama kicked a field goal and then broke through for the first offensive points of the game with a 2-yard touchdown run by Derrick Henry, set up by a great Calvin Ridley catch.
Defense was the story of the game for Alabama, especially early as the offense sputtered.
Florida’s offense had 83 total yards in the first quarter of the game and then gained just 1 yard in the second quarter and 2 yards in the third.
Florida had minus-5 yards for the first eight minutes of the fourth quarter before a late touchdown drive by the Gators with 5:02 left in the fourth gave them an offensive touchdown for the first time since overtime against FAU two weeks ago — 114:58 of game time, 139:24 of regulation time.
Quarterback Treon Harris completed 9 of 22 passes for 165 yards with a touchdown and an interception; he was harassed all game by the Alabama front seven, which tallied five sacks and 11 quarterback hurries.
Alabama’s star running back Henry was held in check for the first half, but Jake Coker (18 of 26, 204 yards, two touchdowns) began to open things up in the passing game. Coker hit two big pass plays, one to Ridley and another on a touchdown pass to ArDarius Stewart, who made a terrific catch on an underthrown ball in double coverage.
Alabama’s offense dominated the time of possession and as the Florida defense wore down, Henry began to do his thing. Florida’s defense did what it could, for as long as it could, but without any help from the offense they were forced to be on the field for 43 minutes.
Henry finished with 44 carries for 189 yards and a touchdown, breaking Herschel Walker’s record of most yards in a single season in SEC history. Henry, considered the Heisman favorite coming in, did not have many explosive plays, but his numbers certainly didn’t disappoint and he should be headed to New York next Saturday to possibly pick up some hardware.
The win for Alabama all but assures them a spot in the College Football Playoff, and now the only real suspense for the Tide is what seed they will be given and which opponent they will face.