What happened to you on Saturday: Week 14

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What happened to you on Saturday? This is the must read for every SEC football fan on Monday morning right here at Saturday Down South. Pulling no punches as we recap a weekend of SEC football action…

Alabama Defeats Georgia in Classic SEC Championship Game

I went way too deep into this game already, but after all the emotions settled, we are left with Alabama as the #2 team in the country playing #1 Notre Dame for the BCS National Championship. Nick Saban and the Tide have a chance to be the first back-to-back National Champions since Nebraska in 1994 and 1995.

It was an entertaining game, but it wasn’t great football. Both defenses were getting gashed for most of the second half. It was reminiscent of nearly every Big-12 or Pac-12 game that SEC fans have been mocking for the last few years.

Both coaches made key mistakes that cost their team valuable points. Saban failed to use timeouts before halftime and Mark Richt, well, we all saw Richt’s mistake.

There were great performances and great moments, though.  Eddie Lacy was a warrior going for 181 yards and two touchdowns on 20 carries.  Freshman T.J. Yeldon had 153 yards and a touchdown. Georgia’s Baby Back Todd Gurley had 122 yards and two touchdowns. Amari Cooper had 8 catches for 128 yards and a massive touchdown. Alec Olgetree returned a blocked field goal for a touchdown and stuffed a charging Eddie Lacy on the goal line in the same game. Nick Saban bounced back from his questionable decision making before the half by correctly deciding to keep running the ball right up the middle on Georgia’s gassed defense for the two point conversion. It proved to be a critical decision.

The quarterback’s nights were fascinating. Aaron Murray was great all game and looked like an NFL quarterback. His final drive was a masterpiece until it wasn’t. Murray was the one running down the field asking if he should spike the ball, and he was told not to. The way this game ended wasn’t his fault.

A.J. McCarron on the other hand struggled for most of the night and often looked overwhelmed. His interception in the end zone is a mistake that veteran quarterbacks can’t make. But when he needed to make the biggest throw of the game, he made the biggest throw of the game. His 45-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper was perfect. It put Alabama in the lead, and they never gave it back.

But in five years the one thing everyone will remember about this game is the spike that never happened.

Career defining moment for Mark Richt

In the days leading up to the SEC Championship, the game was being described as a career defining moment for Mark Richt. Some will say he comes up short on the biggest stage against the biggest opponents (at least one person literally said that, to Richt, later in the night). The game was a career defining game for Mark Richt.

He choked in the biggest moment of his career. His quarterback is running down the field asking to spike the ball, and he made the decision to take one shot to win the game instead of two, maybe three. He’s the guy who is paid to be rational in irrational moments. His job is to get that call right.

In the moment that his players needed him to make the smart call, Mark Richt choked.

Notre Dame could win                                                         

There is not a great team in college football this season, but there are several good teams. One is playing in the Fiesta Bowl, one is in the Rose Bowl, and one is in the Sugar Bowl etc… Two of them are meeting for the BCS National Championship in Miami.

Notre Dame can win this game. They probably won’t, but they could.

Notre Dame has a very good defense. They held Stanford to 13. They held Oklahoma to 13. They held USC (with a backup QB) to 13.

They have a strong running game, and if you saw the Georgia game, you’ll know teams can run on Alabama. The Irish also have an athletic quarterback, and if you saw the Texas A&M game you’ll know that Alabama struggles with athletic quarterbacks.

Notre Dame’s defense isn’t as good as Florida or LSU’s, but it’s better than Texas A&M’s.

Again, I don’t believe it will happen. Alabama has a nice balance on offense, a decent defense, better athletes overall and veteran experience both on the field and on the sidelines. The moment won’t be too big for Alabama. But Notre Dame is a very good team. In games against very good teams this year, Alabama barely got by LSU and Georgia and lost to Texas A&M. It could happen.

Florida to the Sugar Bowl, Georgia to the Capital One Bowl

When Chris Conley caught that ball on the 5-yard line, it meant Georgia would not be playing for the BCS National Championship. It also meant they would not be playing in any BCS Bowl.

The first spot goes to Alabama, the second to Florida.

It’s the right call.  Florida has the better resume, and it’s not close. Florida has quality wins over Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State. Georgia has a quality win over Florida and that’s it. Florida has one loss on the season, and Georgia has two.

Sure, Georgia beat Florida, but South Carolina crushed Georgia. Should the Gamecocks be playing in a BCS bowl?  They have two losses, too. Texas A&M has two losses and they beat Alabama, should they be in a BCS Bowl?

The point is there are a lot of good teams not playing in the BCS Bowls this year. When only two SEC teams can play in the BCS it comes down to who had the better season, not who had the better Saturday in October. Florida’s resume is the best of the rest.

Plays That Mattered

A.J. McCarron makes a perfect throw to Amari Cooper for a 45-yard touchdown.  Cooper stops his route for a second and still has enough speed to pull away from the Georgia defender.

Alec Ogletree had an outstanding game, including this touchdown off a blocked field goal.

What They Meant to Say

“Hey, Richt, thanks for not spiking the ball.  What is the name of that French place in New Orleans that makes those fritters with the powdered sugar?  That’s right Café Du Monde.  So good! I love that place.  I’ll pick you up a shirt.” – Will Muschamp, Head Coach, Florida

“Yeah, I’m saying that.  Everyone in this room is saying that.  Maybe not the stuff about Murray – he was great, but definitely about you.”  – Reporter who asked Mark Richt question after the Game

“Back to Back, Baby!  You know it, I know it.  What time does Joe’s close in Miami? I’ll have time after the game, right?” – Nick Saban, Head Coach, Alabama

Photo Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

REFERENCES

COMMENTS

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  • I don’t think you can blame Richt on the call. They were moving the ball well and I don’t know that it would have mattered. If they spiked it and the ball got tipped and caught like that its still game over. Its similar to lies miles earlier in the year. Where everyone agreed had it of worked it would’ve been amazing but since it didn’t he’s an “idiot”

    Great article as always though lol.

  • If Aaron Murray threw the fade and they scored a game-winning TD, people would be applauding Richt for not spiking the ball and running the play while Alabama was on their heels. I don’t think it’s fair criticism. The reason it went wrong is that the ball got tipped and the Georgia player caught it in bounds. If that didn’t happen, they woulda had 2 plays regardless of a spike.

  • It almost looked to me like Georgia had time to run two plays had the ball not been tipped. Tough decision for Richt, but I would have spiked the ball and made sure my offense understood what was going on so Conley won’t catch that ball.

  • That comment about Richt chocking may be the dumbest thing I’ve ever read. As already stated above, had it not been for an amazing play by Alabama, and an unfortunate catch by Conley, Georgia would have had another shot if Mitchell, for whom the pass was intended, had not caught the ball. Alabama made the play. Richt did not choke. Give credit where it belongs(to BAMA), and stop with the ridiculous statements about Richt.

    • Conley caught that ball because the chaos of there moment. The tip was great, the catch was a result of emotions, if Murray spikes the ball the game slows back down. If the next pass is tipped maybe Conley spikes it into the ground like a volleyball and they get another play. Spike the ball. Settle down and let Murray remind everyone of the plan. Get in the end zone if you can but most of all do not get tackled in the middle of the field with time in the clock.

      It’s indefensible.

  • At the time…Richt made the right call. Georgia was moving the ball down field with amazing efficiency. If you spike it then you let the best defense (and more important red zone defense) have an opportunity to get set and recuperate. If you don’t spike it then you might catch them off guard and still get two plays. But the ball was tipped and instead of a game winner to Malcolm Mitchell it was a heartbreaker to Chris Conley who caught it not knowing what to do. Alabama just made a great play on the ball. End of story.

    • The gane didn’t end because the pass was tipped, it ended because the pass was caught. People are acting like the catch was unavoidable but it could have been prevented. There is a reason the phrase “Cooler Heads Prevailed” exists. Spiking the ball allows the offense to calm down and have a plan. Part of the plan is to not catch the ball in play witj nowhere to go and time on the clock.

    • What is the stat for times a coach has a time out during a last ditch attempt to win the game and doesn’t take it? There aren’t any because that would be stupid. That is essentially what you are saying would have been the smart move for Richt. Maybe it would have made a difference, maybe not but if I’m going against the best, I want to be my best not hope you will catch them off guard. Looks like the only person he managed to catch off guard was his own receiver.

  • Let me start by saying I dont agree with every call made on the field Saturday. I didnt think the Dawgs could make Bama go 3 and out on their last series, especially the way they ran it right down the throught of the Georgia D. I would have went for it on 4th and 18. To say that CMR made a bad call on the last play of the game is rediculous. The play was already called in should Georgia get themselves into position. Everyone knew the drill. It was a knee jerk reaction by Conley to catch the ball. If you put yourself in his shoes, it has been his job all year to catch the ball… and now dont. It was a mistake, live and learn.

    Les Miles once said it is a head coaches job, not to win national championships, but to ready their team to be competitive enough to reach those championship games. CMR has done that for several years now. While I don’t always agree with his calls, he is the coach and has done a great job for the last 12 years. I will continue to support him and the nonsense about choking on the big stages is ridiculous. I may have missed it, but I didn’t see him wearing any shoulderpads or a helmet on the field, and the fact that you had to watch the game untill the last tick of the clock to see who won only supports that statement.

    “The first spot goes to Alabama, the second to Florida.”
    You have a right to your opinion and I have a right to tell you how stupid it is. Get out of the Swamp every once in a while. UF beat the all mighty War Eagles by a resounding 2 (count ‘em 1, 2) points. Stroked the Aggies for a jaw dropping 3 in the Aggies season opener. Those huge quality wins over Mizzu and LSU… combined total of 15. Not exactly those powerhouse statements that warrent the #2 spot. Penalizing UGA for making the post season and falling in the final seconds to the best team in the country, and saying UF has the better record… silly, to put it nicely.
    “a warrior poet willing to go where many are not. “… says you, faceless coward behind a computer screen says I.
    Oh, one last question before I never visit this site again… since you are Gods gift to college football, where do you coach and what is you record? Say there Monday morning QB?

    • Mike, saying that Florida should go to a BCS bowl game over Georgia is hardly controversial. Florida is #3 in the BCS Georgia is #7. Florida is #4 in the AP Georgia is #6. Florida is #4 in the Coaches Poll Georgia is #5. Everyone has Florida over Georgia.

      • That isn’t his question. The question is should they be. Besides that. Ranking doesn’t matter. You can be ranked 7th and go above a team ranked 5th. But the rules declare that because Florida is ranked 3rd they must be guaranteed a spot in the BCS. Really a dumb that we have Kansas State to thank for. This should have been changed after UGA was able to make it to a BCS bowl, after not playing in the conference championship in 2007, and then against changed last season, but sadly the BCS thinks being able to sit back and watch as you know you are guaranteed a spot in the BCS is deserving of a bid. If Alabama had lost we would have seen the rule changed and implemented next year that no team that doesn’t at least finish in second place of their conference or reach the championship game cannot go to a BCS bowl. But to little to late.

    • Here’s the deal. Isolated head-to-head wins in BCS rankings are irrelevant. Otherwise, SC would say they should be ahead of Georgia. You could go on-and-on with the circular wins. Every team beats up on each other. That’s why the BCS looks at the total picture. The total resume. Unless you get an automatic bid by winning the conference. Georgia didn’t get an automatic bid, so they get reviewed based on total picture – winning the east doesn’t factor in – and beating Florida only factors in with regards to how it helps their total picture. Florida has the better total picture and is ranked ahead of Georgia. That’s how it works. Didn’t Georgia get into the BCS in 2007 even though Tennessee won the East that year?

  • #1. Alabama struggled for one quarter with Manziel, a week after playing a heck of a game vs LSU. Where Mettenburger decided to play the game of his life.
    #2 Notre Dame has a great defense? but Alabama’s is just good? Alabama pitched 4 shutouts this season and if it were not for their 3rd string would have about 6. The idea that Alabama’s defense is “Average” is laughable.. they are not as good as last year, but they are better than Notre Dame, and did more against stronger opponents.
    #3 Alabama played close games against teams in the top 15… Notre Dame played close against cupcakes.. They held Stanford to 13? Well they allowed 17 to PURDUE.. 26 to PITT, and 14 to BYU.. come on man, good defense.. but you’ve got to be sucking up the hype machine to think they are better than Alabama’s defense even this year as down as it is a year for us.. and the only reason we are at 10.7 ppg . vs ND 10.5 points per game on defense is that we played another top 5 team and 1 more game than ND had to play.
    #4 offensively? Not even a comparison.. Alabama 38.5 PPG (#15), ND 26.8 (#75)
    #5 Beating USC is NOT some accomplishment.. First off because they have Lane Kiffin, and secondly they didn’t even have their starting QB in, it was against a 1st time ever playing QB at the college level. its not even as much of an accomplishment as beating Michigan.. which Alabama did in a resounding fashion (41-14) and Notre Dame did in a 13-6 blowout? lol.. Notre Dame COULD beat Alabama.. even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and then, but Notre Dame hasn’t proven anything with 12-0 vs 12-1. The BEST team they beat was Stanford, the best team we beat was either LSU or Georgia
    #6 We know people can rush on Alabama? Is that why they have the #1 rush defense in the NCAA? Is that why on 70 MORE attempts rushing against this year Alabama has allowed 70 LESS yards rushing than Notre Dame? They are allowing 79.77 yards a game.
    #7 Comparing Everett Golson to Johnny Manziel? You have got to be kidding me.. lolThe guy that accounts for 1181 rushing yards and 3419 passing yards (4600 yards on the season) and 383.3 yards per game to the guy that has 305 Rush yards and 2135 yards passing (2440 total yards) and 221.8 yards per game? Manziel has almost DOUBLED Golson’s numbers against some REAL defenses this year.. That should account for enough to say.. are you kidding me? lol