SEC Football: The SEC Championship Game and the BCS picture
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I have been to a lot of Southeastern Conference Championship Games. My first one was in 2000 when Auburn lost 28-6 to Florida – a trip that came about on a whim from my dad getting tickets the Tuesday before the game.
My next trip to Atlanta for the game occurred in 2003 when LSU got enough help from Kansas State to ensure that the Tigers would grab a spot in the Bowl Championship Series title match over Pac-10 Champion USC. Nick Saban’s team completely disheartened and dismantled Mark Richt’s upperclassmen-laden Georgia team that night in Atlanta 34-13. It was one of my favorite memories as a college student because of all the behind-the-scenes stuff I got privy to by working for the conference office.
In 2007, I was there in the press conference when Les Miles shot down rumors from that morning’s ESPN GameDay session that he had agreed to accept the Michigan head coaching position. As he wished us all to “Have a great day,” I was standing there with my buddies Chris Purser and Barrett Sallee trying to hold back laughter due to the look on The Mad Hatter’s face.
Once again, the football gods smiled upon LSU and, despite the two losses the Tigers had suffered to Kentucky and Arkansas, the Bayou Bengals received enough outside help to enter the BCS Championship Game again.
I’ve been in the Georgia Dome when Florida got UCLA’s win over USC to re-enter the championship picture with a win over Arkansas. I was there when USC narrowly escaped Pasadena with a triumph to keep Auburn out in 2004. I had never been to a louder SEC Championship Game than 2008 when Alabama and Florida met with a trip to Miami on the line.
Big players make big plays in this game. Emotions run high, and when the crowd is close to a 50/50 split, it’s an incredible atmosphere. The only bowl game that has ever come close to matching it was a BCS Championship Game I was fortunate enough to attend a couple of years back.
Alabama and Georgia get to settle the score and provide CBS with plenty of ratings Saturday afternoon in the Georgia Dome. I’m sure the stands will be close to half red and black and half crimson and white. The barking lunatics from the Athens, Ga.-based school will try to drown out the rammer jammer-yelling crew from the Yellow Hammer State.
A lot of pundits want you to believe Georgia has a shot in this one. The defense has been lights out since the Kentucky near-debacle in mid-October, and Aaron Murray has an arm and receivers that are good enough to carve up any secondary. We don’t even have to mention how good Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have been in picking up the slack left behind by 2011 freshman sensation Isaiah Crowell.
Despite all that, I don’t expect this to be a good game or even an enjoyable game to watch Saturday. Alabama is much better in every phase: offense, defense, special teams and coaching. Championships are won when those stars align.
So, thanks to the next-to-last weekend in the regular season for the second year in a row, the Crimson Tide will wrap up another berth to the national championship game despite falling in a close, hard-fought home loss in late October to Texas A&M.
We’ll hear for 45 or so days about the traditions and the glamour of Notre Dame-Alabama for all the marbles, and that game could be a little fun to watch for a quarter or so.
All Alabama had to do for No. 15 is to get to Miami. What once was lost for Saban and Co. can be found in 120 more minutes of game time.
AJ McCarron or Amari Cooper will be the SEC Championship Game Most Valuable Player by the time the clock reads all 0’s in the fourth quarter Saturday. TJ Yeldon and Eddie Lacey will get their yards and their scores. And we’ll hear Rammer Jammer ringing throughout the offseason for a second year in a row and third time in four years when it’s all said and done.
Kickoff for the first meeting between these two schools in the SEC Championship Game is set for 3 p.m. CT on CBS.
Call it now: Alabama 38, Georgia 17
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