This we know: Georgia’s win streak has ended. Still at issue: Whether its run of national championships will be allowed to continue. That’s now out of the Bulldogs’ hands.

Losses to Alabama – Georgia has known more than a few – always hurt. We won’t know until midday Sunday how long the pain from this loss will linger. Maybe only 15 hours. Maybe for as long as UGA plays football.

The great debate: Whether one narrow loss to a team that has won three College Football Playoff titles will drop Georgia from No. 1 in the committee’s rankings to No. 5. That sounds harsh, but this is an unusual season.

With Michigan’s expected win over Iowa and Florida State’s gutty defeat of Louisville, there are three undefeated conference champs. There are two one-loss conference champs – Alabama and Texas. Georgia is a one-loss non-champ.

Georgia’s coach wasted no time to make his pitch. Said Kirby Smart: “Like (CFP executive director) Bill Hancock said, it’s not the ‘most deserving.’ It’s ‘the best four teams.’ If somebody sitting in that committee room doesn’t believe this is one of the best four teams, they’re in the wrong profession.”

The counterpoint: Over time, the CFP has treated conference champs kindly.

Smart again: “Our (SEC) teams in the playoff, look what they’ve done.”

The counterpoint: The CFP goes on this year’s play, not years past.

Smart yet again: “One hundred percent – we’re one of the four best teams.”

The counterpoint: Georgia just lost to the team the committee ranked No. 8.

For long moments Saturday, Georgia seemed the better team inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium. It scored first. It scored last. It gained more yards. It didn’t make a slew of mistakes – one turnover – but it made enough to lose for the first time since Dec. 4, 2021.

On that day, No. 1 Georgia lost to – who else? – Alabama. On the day after, that year’s committee dropped UGA only to No. 3. There weren’t three unbeaten conference champs in 2021, though. There was only one – Cincinnati, then of the American Athletic Conference.

Back to the here and now. Bama’s first touchdown came when tailback Jam Miller was left scandalously uncovered in the left flat. Said Smart: “Busted coverage by a freshman.” A field-goal try from 45 yards was pushed back to 50 by lineman Jared Wilson’s false start. Smart’s description of why the game was left untied: “A field goal that hits the dang upright.”

Then came the play that will leave Bulldog Nation howling from here to eternity. Late in the first half, Bama faced fourth-and-4 from Georgia’s 37. Eschewing a 55-yard kick, Bama had Milroe throw. His pass to Isaiah Bond appeared to be caught. Key word: “appeared.”

The officials deemed it a clean catch, though Alabama’s response suggested it wasn’t. The Tide rushed to the line and ran the ball for no gain, but the snap itself was the half’s biggest moment. Nobody stopped the game to check to see if Bond had indeed, as the NFL folks say, completed the catch. (Georgia should have challenged, but Smart was down to his final timeout.)

Famous transfer Jermaine Burton, whose touchdown catches gave Georgia a lasting lead in not one but two national championship games, popped open in another end zone. This catch put his former team 10 points in arrears. What goes around, comes around – especially in the wonderful world of NIL.

Of the unreviewed Bond reception, Smart said: “An extremely important play in the game.”

The single turnover – a muffed exchange between Carson Beck and receiver Dillon Bell – enabled Alabama to push its lead back to 10 points late in the third quarter. Georgia cut it to three. Bama nudged it back to 10 with 5:47 remaining.

The Bulldogs answered with another touchdown, but the drive twice saw second-and-1 become fourth-and-1, which took the clock down to 2:52 and left Smart with only two timeouts. Milroe popped a keeper for 30 yards on the possession’s first snap. Another Milroe run led to the first down that killed the game.

Two Alabama kneel-downs took it down to 35 seconds. The Bulldogs had no way to stop the clock, no way on this night to keep from doing what they hadn’t done in almost two calendar years, what they’ve done only twice over 47 games – lose.

Both losses were to Alabama for the SEC title. The first one became a footnote to Georgia’s first national title – at Bama’s expense – since 1980. Whether the 2023 can yield another is, as we speak, unknowable.

The belief here is that it will be hard – probably too hard – for Georgia to slip into the playoff. The belief is also that, should Georgia somehow make it, it’ll be the national champ yet again.

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