Hope is not lost. That’s the reality for the Georgia Bulldogs. But that was tainted by lot of disappointment and a pretty good dose of doubt for the Bulldogs in the wake of yet another loss to Alabama.

Coach Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide, Georgia’s personal tormentor the past decade, or so it seems, broke the Bulldogs’ hearts yet again. Alabama beat Georgia for the seventh time in a row and third consecutive time in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. With the 41-24 victory, the No. 3-ranked Crimson Tide (12-1) punched their ticket into the College Football Playoff for the sixth time in the past eight years.

Conversely, the Bulldogs (12-1) will have to rely on their regular-season body of work for a playoff berth. As the nation’s consensus No. 1-ranked team for eight weeks running, the thought is that will be enough.

The final CFP rankings will be announced at noon Sunday. Georgia is expected to remain among the top four teams, especially after No. 5 Oklahoma State lost to No. 9 Baylor in the Big 12 Championship game Saturday.

But wherever the Bulldogs end up -- No. 3 or 4, likely -- Alabama very well could be back in their path if there is a national championship game in their future.

“That’s not for us to determine that, you know what I mean?” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said. “Certainly, I feel like we are (in), but it’s not our job to determine that. It’s the committee’s.”

For now, all Georgia knows is there won’t be an SEC championship in its grasp. For the 29th time in history, the trophy ended up in the hands of Alabama, and for the third time after playing the Bulldogs in the title game. Georgia’s 13 SEC titles is the second most in the conference.

“It’s not over yet,” Georgia wide receiver Ladd McConkey said. “No matter what the committee decides, we know we have more games to play. It sucks to fall short here, but we’ve just got to bounce back.”

The Bulldogs came in as a touchdown favorite in the game. Between the betting line and all the national media picking No. 1 Georgia to win, Saban said he received all the motivational gun powder he needed.

“The rat poison that you usually give us is usually fatal,” said Saban, using the term he applies to rich praise. “But the rat poison that you put out there this week was yummy.”

The loss drops Smart to 0-4 against the coach for whom he worked for 13 seasons, 11 of them at Alabama. Saban, after losing to Texas A&M and coach Jimbo Fisher 41-38 earlier this season, is now 25-1 against his former assistants.

“I’m disappointed how we played,” Smart said. “Give Alabama a lot of credit. Give their defense and Bryce Young and their offensive skill players a lot of credit. They played really well, very accurate, explosive, and (Young’s) hard to get down on the ground, which caused us a lot of problems defensively. But we can’t turn the ball over and give up 60 and 70-yard passes and expect to be successful.”

Georgia’s vaunted defense, allowing the fewest points per game (6.9) since the 1986 Oklahoma team, was thoroughly exploited by Alabama’s dynamic young quarterback Bryce Young and the Tide’s latest set of big-play wide receivers. Young, a sophomore, likely wrapped up the Heisman Trophy by setting SEC Championship game records for passing (421 yards) and total offense (461).

Wide receiver Jameson Williams caught seven passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns. John Metchie added nine receptions for 97 yards and a score before leaving the game with an injury in the final seconds before halftime.

Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett played the entire game for the Bulldogs and finished with 340 yards passing and three touchdowns. But he also threw two interceptions as Georgia fought to make a comeback in the third quarter. He was 29-of-47 passing.

Tight end Brock Bowers was the Bulldogs’ bright spot. The 6-foot-4, 230-pound freshman, set an SEC Championship game receiving record for a tight end with 10 catches for 139 yards and touchdown. The Bulldogs finished with 449 total yards.

After scoring more points in the first half (24) than Georgia’s defense had allowed in a game all season Alabama picked up where it left off with 55-yard TD pass to Jameson Williams, 1:50 into the second half. That was the Tide’s fifth score in its past five possessions and gave them a 35-17 lead.

The Bulldogs did what they had to do on the ensuing possession, driving deep into Alabama territory. But Bennett, steady most of the game, tried to force a second-down pass to a tightly covered Bowers. The pass was intercepted by safety DeMarcco Hellams at the Alabama 12.

Georgia would threaten again in the third quarter. But a Georgia incompletion on fourth-and-9 at the Alabama 19 ended the scoring opportunity. The Bulldogs came away empty on two of five red-zone chances.

“Yeah, we just didn’t play our best game today. They did,” Bennett said. “Can’t turn the ball over. Just little mental lapses. That can’t happen. We’re going to work on starting tomorrow. Hopefully get ready for whoever we play next.”

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