Paschall: Is college football’s transition of power complete?

Staff photo by Matt Hamilton / Georgia quarterback Stetson Bennett celebrates a touchdown during Saturday’s 27-13 win over Tennessee inside Sanford Stadium.

Georgia's 33-18 downing of Alabama in January's championship game of the College Football Playoff never felt like any changing of the guard to me.

The Bulldogs had cycled up a lot of veteran players and banished their national title drought that had covered more than four decades. It felt more like an avenging of the loss to the Crimson Tide several weeks earlier at the Southeastern Conference championship game, and Georgia's 20-0 closing run in Indianapolis came against an Alabama offense that was without its 1-2 receiving punch of Jameson Williams and John Metchie.

Saturday, however, felt like quite the shift in power.

In a span of roughly seven hours, Georgia and its latest wave of talent smothered Tennessee — college football's most exciting flavor this season — in a convincing 27-13 win to remain undefeated at 9-0, while Alabama fell 32-31 in overtime at LSU and sustained its earliest removal from the CFP picture since its implementation in 2014. Alabama began this season ranked No. 1 nationally and having competed in every playoff except 2019, when a 48-45 loss at Auburn after Thanksgiving eliminated Nick Saban's Tide.

"I think everybody needs to kind of check their whole card and what we need to do to individually improve your stock to finish the season the right way as well as having a goal of trying to win 10 games, which just about every team we've had has been able to do," Saban said in a news conference late Saturday night. "I like this team, and I think this team is very capable. I think we can play with a little more consistency, and sometimes we beat ourselves too much, which makes it hard to overcome."

Let's face it, there has been something off about Alabama this year since its 20-19 escape at Texas on Sept. 10. A last-play victory at home against a Texas A&M team that is now 3-6? Since when did that become Alabama football?

Saban recently turned 71 years old, and it would be really eerie if he decided this was his final year given that Paul "Bear" Bryant was also 7-2 at this stage of his 1982 swan song with losses to Tennessee and LSU.

Georgia, meanwhile, lost a record 15 players to the NFL draft this past spring yet had no need to delve into the transfer portal. Kirby Smart's Bulldogs have matched Alabama's prowess on the recruiting trail and have surpassed the Tide when it comes to assistant coaches, both in developing talent and Saturday play-calling.

There is no doubt Saban is the best who has ever done it.

There is also no doubt Smart is the best doing it now.


Saturday's result inside Sanford Stadium didn't lessen the admiration Tennessee fans have for second-year coach Josh Heupel, and LSU's Brian Kelly may be a close second on that front for Volunteers faithful.

Kelly admitted that some play-calling decisions early last month in Baton Rouge enabled the Vols to run away with a 40-13 victory, and that outcome may carry more weight moving forward than the 52-49 topping of Alabama in terms of Tennessee's playoff qualifications. There is also the rather obvious fact Kelly's Tigers removed the Tide from the CFP landscape Saturday night.


Barry Odom went 25-25 in four seasons at Missouri before getting fired in 2019.

Eli Drinkwitz is 15-17 in his third year with the Tigers, which includes a 10-14 mark in SEC play, and on Saturday morning he received a contract extension through 2027 and an undisclosed bump from his $4 million annual salary.

"Coach Drinkwitz and his staff have created great momentum in our football program," Mizzou chancellor Mun Choi said in a statement released hours before a 21-17 home loss to Kentucky.

Got it. No, wait. I don't get it.


Mike Elko is one of the more underappreciated stories in college football this year, guiding Duke to a 6-3 record in his first season.

Elko spent the past four seasons as Texas A&M's defensive coordinator, and the Aggies have gone from allowing 134.8 rushing yards per game a season ago to 215.3 this year. In Saturday's 41-24 home loss to Florida, the Aggies of new defensive coordinator DJ Durkin surrendered 291 yards on 50 carries, or 5.8 yards a pop.

"We still have some of the same schemes there," Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said, "and we've got some young guys playing in situations. We've got to fit some things better.

"Schematically, it's good stuff, so we'll look at it and see."


Every SEC team still has a chance at bowl eligibility, but that is about to change.

Vanderbilt will take a 3-6 record to Kentucky on Saturday and could be the first league member eliminated given the noon kickoff. Saturday night is certain to knock one team out with Auburn hosting Texas A&M in a matchup of unexpected 3-6 programs.


While Mississippi State was struggling during the middle portion of its eventual 39-33 overtime win over Auburn, Bulldogs coach Mike Leach walked over to the seats used by his receivers on the sideline and folded them up before tossing them on the ground.

"We sure seemed a lot more interested in sitting in that chair than being on the football field or rooting for a teammate," Leach explained Saturday night. "It was my opinion that we ought to be rooting for our teammates or can't waiting to get back on the field rather than kind of lounge it.

"We pretty much had everything but playing cards over there, so I thought it was time to move on from that."


Tennessee's noon game against Missouri this weekend in Neyland Stadium will be televised by CBS, with the LSU-Arkansas game in Fayetteville kicking off at noon on ESPN. ... Kentucky is bowl eligible for a seventh consecutive season. ... Alabama committed nine penalties for 92 yards at LSU and continues to rank last in the league (8.7 for 74.6 per game) in both categories.

Contact David Paschall at