There’s a reason that college football is religion in the South, and Saturday night’s SEC Championship Game was proof of just that.
Alabama 32, Georgia 28.
The SEC has conducted 21 of these championship games and Saturday’s was easily the best of the bunch, and by a large margin.
Name another that comes close, and with as much on the line as was at stake in the Georgia Dome. There might be some naysayers among the masses, but surely Alabama and Georgia converted some of the non-believers with the way events unfolded.
Alabama rallied three times to win. Georgia rallied twice and was five yards away from the end zone and a victory on the game’s final play.
Alabama’s Eddie Lacy steamrolled his way to 181 yards and two touchdowns. Freshman TJ Yeldon mimicked his junior teammate, rushing for 153 yards and a score. He was Robin to Lacy’s Batman.
Georgia freshman Todd Gurley wasn’t far behind with 122 yards and two TDs.
Georgia converted a fake punt and returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown. Aaron Murray, maligned for not being able to win a big game, found enough space in Alabama’s secondary to finish with 265 yards. He drove the Bulldogs 80 yards in one minute, eight seconds. Fortunately for Alabama, the talented junior quarterback needed to drive them 85 yards.
Big plays, violent collisions, thrilling finish. That’s what SEC football is about. And it was prominently on display between the Nos. 2-3 teams in the country.
The winner earned a berth in the national championship game. The loser, Georgia, appears headed for a lesser bowl, something along the lines of the Capital One Bowl.
Even Nick Saban called that ridiculous.
“When you have six teams in the top 10, my sister did the math on that. That’s 60 percent,” Saban said, joking. “She also said, ‘Why does only 20 percent get to go to the BCS?’ I’m going to tell you, it’s a crying shame if Georgia doesn’t get to go to a BCS bowl game. They played a tremendous game out there today. … And they could have won out there just as soon as us, and it came down to the last play. So, I think it’s ridiculous.”
Saban was adamant that a one-loss team in the SEC and the loser of the league’s championship game should go to a BCS game.
“It’s not a financial decision,” he said. “It’s a player decision and reinforcing the players in a positive way for the great season they had.”
The best thing going for the upcoming BCS Championship Game is that it has Alabama and its 14 national championships and Notre Dame, with its eight Associated Press national titles. They are two college football programs that need no introduction to even the non-believers.
Without those two teams playing for the national championship, how could the next six weeks of hype push aside Saturday’s instant classic in the Georgia Dome? It wouldn’t.
In the postgame mayhem at the Georgia Dome, with changes of Roll Tide still echoing through the dome, Saban wasn’t ready to even think about the Fighting Irish or the implications the game will have.
“I don’t even know what the date of the game is,” he said.
Saban will get to work on that today. Alabama will take some time off before going to work on the Fighting Irish. After Saturday, they need the time to decompress.
Can you blame them?
Gregg Dewalt can be reached at 256-740-5748 or Gregg.firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @greggdewalt on Twitter.