Alabama is headed back to the BCS National Championship in back-to-back seasons with a 32-28 victory over the Bulldogs – a mere five yards stood between Georgia and a thrilling victory.
For Georgia fans it hurts, but for the SEC it was an epic game that will be remembered by all, including the rest of the country.
Sheldon Richardson called it old man football. We’ll call it big boy football, power football. It was like two Big Horn sheep fighting and butting heads to get a chance to play Notre Dame in Miami, and neither team would budge.
What it means: With the victory, Alabama will move on to play the Irish for all the marbles, reaching the national championship for the third time in the last four years, while Georgia likely falls to the Capital One Bowl, Cotton Bowl, or the Outback Bowl. Bama will stay at #2 in the BCS rankings tomorrow when they come out, and it sets up to be a great national championship game against two teams that are very similar and built around defense.
What I liked: This was power football at its best. Both defenses knew what was coming, and both were vulnerable to the running game because of the physical play of all the running backs. Todd Gurley, Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon were fabulous, and this game was all about why the SEC is such a powerful conference: physical, power running games.
The game itself probably topped the Alabama-LSU game earlier this season as the best game in the SEC for 2012. No doubt, this will be remembered for a long, long time. Usually the SEC Championship turns into a two touchdown or more victory, but not this one.
You have to hand it to both teams, because neither panicked in times of trouble or adversity. Down 21-10 in the third quarter and with all the momentum on the Bulldogs’ sideline, no one on the Bama sideline panicked. The Tide answered the bell with back-to-back touchdowns to go ahead 25-21. Then Georgia answered with a touchdown to jump back up 28-25. Then, Bama threw the haymaker with Amari Cooper’s 45-yard touchdown reception that ended up being the difference.
Both teams played their hearts out, and neither deserved to walk off the field a loser. Georgia could have had better clock management with time winding down, though.
Who’s the man: How about who are the men? Alabama running backs Eddie Lacy and TJ Yeldon combined for 334 yards and three touchdowns. The Tide’s running game amassed 350 yards on the ground. Alabama was 48-0 entering today’s game when rushing for over 150 yards. They hit that mark in the second quarter. And while some will criticize Aaron Murray or Mark Richt for their inability to win the big game and make plays on offense, it was all about Georgia’s run defense, or lack thereof, that eventually took a toll on the team in the second half.
Key play: Alabama’s running game was cranking, but AJ McCarron’s 45-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter with a little over three minutes left was a massive play. McCarron finished 13 of 21 for 162 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Cooper, bothered by an ankle, was the Tide’s only deep threat entering the game, and he came up huge in the fourth quarter. This play-action pass was possible because the Tide were running the ball at will.
What’s next: Notre Dame gets Alabama, and Georgia will go bowling likely at the Outback, Cotton or Capital One, with Florida sliding into the other BCS at-large for the SEC. Notre Dame probably matches up better with Alabama than Georgia, but I wonder what they are thinking in Irish land tonight?
Can we just get Alabama and Georgia to play a rematch in January?
Photo Credit: Daniel Shirey-USA TODAY Sports