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Tide rips Bulldogs in Athens

ATHENS - Forget the blackout. This was an early knockout.

Backed by a dominant defense and John Parker Wilson's accurate passing, No. 8 Alabama raced to a stunning 31-point lead by halftime against self-destructing Georgia and held on to beat the third-ranked Bulldogs 41-30 Saturday night, establishing Nick Saban's team as a national championship contender in his second season.

Georgia (4-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) became the third team in the top four to fall on a devastating week for ranked teams, joining No. 1 USC and No. 4 Florida in the loss column.

Alabama (5-0, 2-0) is poised to move up at least three or four spots when the new poll comes out today, and the Tide certainly looked as impressive as anyone all year in winning decisively on the road against a team that started the season at the top of the heap.

Wilson went 13 of 16 passing for 205 yards and a touchdown, while Glenn Coffee ran for two scores in a game that wasn't nearly as close as the final score. Georgia scored two touchdowns in the waning minutes.

Not even the most optimistic Alabama fan could have expected Saban, who won a national championship at LSU, to turn the Tide so quickly. This again looks like a program more in keeping with the tradition of Bear Bryant, not Saban predecessor Mike Shula.

Looking for a motivational edge, Georgia came out wearing black jerseys, and most of its fans at 92,000-seat Sanford Stadium also took part in the 'blackout.' But the biggest cheers came from the white-clad Alabamians sprinkled throughout the massive stands.

Georgia showed some disturbing tendencies even while winning its first four games, and those sure came back to bite the Bulldogs. They were flagged twice in the opening half for roughing the passer, crucial but familiar mistakes for a team that already was the most penalized in the SEC. Also, an offensive line featuring two freshman and two sophomores was no match for Alabama's massive front led by 365-pound Terrence Cody.

Knowshon Moreno got only nine carries for 34 yards, and quarterback Matthew Stafford spent much of the game running for his life as Georgia's 11-game winning streak ended.

The Bulldogs actually made Alabama a little nervous in the opening minute of the fourth quarter, closing to 31-17 on Prince Miller's 92-yard punt return. But the Tide calmly wrapped it up on the next possession, driving 51 yards in eight plays for Leigh Tiffin's second field goal.