Tied with Georgia, 28-28, with under two minutes remaining in the SEC Championship, Alabama faced 3rd-and-7 from midfield.
Jalen Hurts connected with Irv Smith Jr. for a 19-yard gain to move the chains (8:17 below). Two plays later, Hurts ran for a 15-yard touchdown.
Without the conversion, Georgia gets the ball back with at least 90 seconds on the clock. While there's no guarantee the Bulldogs — who hadn't scored since early in the third quarter and had 84 total yards on their previous four drives — would've scored in regulation or won in overtime, the Hurts-Smith connection all but ended the game and was the most important play of Alabama's season.
What was the most important play of the season for each of the other teams in the College Football Playoff?
vs. Syracuse – Sept. 29
No argument if you pick Clemson's thwarted two-point conversion attempt vs. Texas A&M (or the fumble-touchback). However, a home loss to Syracuse (likely) would've looked worse, albeit only slightly, and given the Tigers zero margin for error in their playoff push.
Trailing the Orange, 23-20, with under three minutes remaining, third-string quarterback Chase Brice and the Tigers faced 4th-and-6 from their own 48. Brice found Tee Higgins for a 26-yard gain. They scored five plays later and held Syracuse on the ensuing drive.
vs. Pittsburgh – Oct. 13
The 3rd-and-11 fourth-quarter stop vs. Ball State was enormous, as was the 4th-and-4 fourth-quarter stop vs. Vanderbilt and onside kick recovery vs. USC — along with a few other plays in each game and other games — but the biggest play came in a 19-14 win over Pittsburgh.
Notre Dame fell behind, 7-0, in the first quarter and trailed until late in the fourth quarter when Ian Book found Miles Boykin for a 35-yard touchdown. One play before the touchdown, Book and Boykin extended the drive with a 12-yard connection on 3rd-and-5 from the Pittsburgh 47.
vs. West Virginia – Nov. 23
Throw 10 plays — at least one from each of Oklahoma's wins over Army, Texas Tech, Oklahoma State, West Virginia and Texas — into a hat and pick one. The overtime interception vs. Army, returned two-point conversion attempt vs. Texas Tech, forced fourth-quarter fumble vs. Oklahoma State or safety vs. Texas are all fine choices.
I opted for Curtis Bolton's fumble return vs. West Virginia.
Up 52-49 with about 10 minutes remaining — two minutes after Kyler Murray and Grant Calcaterra connected on a go-ahead two-yard touchdown — Kenneth Mann forced a Will Grier fumble, which Bolton returned 48 yards for a touchdown.