Sweet Home Georgia Dome
ATLANTA — It’s where the University of Alabama football team vanquished Florida and survived a nail-biter against Georgia.
Yes, the Georgia Dome has been good to the Crimson Tide, especially during the Nick Saban era. Missouri may be playing in its second straight SEC Championship Game here (4 p.m. ET, CBS), but dating back to the start of the 2009 season Alabama has won its last five games played in Atlanta.
“We’re pretty comfortable there,” senior fullback Jalston Fowler said. “We’ve been there so many times in the course of playing throughout the year, it’s becoming like a second home to us.”
Specifically, since Saban arrived in 2007 the Crimson Tide has played four times in the season-opening Chick-fil-A Classic and won them all, and is 2-1 in the SEC title game.
Alabama is also 8-3 in domed stadiums during that stretch, and 7-1 since 2009. But the Georgia Dome is a little different if for no other reason than it’s just a three-hour drive from Tuscaloosa, and 17 players on the Crimson Tide roster hail from the Peach State.
Some, like Blake Sims, played for high school championships here, and fittingly the senior made his first start at quarterback for the Crimson Tide in Atlanta, the 33-22 victory against West Virginia on Sept. 30.
That’s also when Lane Kiffin made his debut as Alabama’s play-caller and the dynamic trio of Amari Cooper, Derrick Henry or T.J. Yeldon all had 100-yard performances. Sims completed 24 of 33 passes for 250 yards while setting program records for attempts and completions by a quarterback making his first career start.
“Just knew that I had a lot of guys that’s behind me, that were willing to play for me,” Sims said. “They love me, and my confidence has got even better from the West Virginia game. Now I just need to go out there and play my game and get the ball to the playmakers and let them make plays and trust the line, that they’re going to control the line of scrimmage, and communication’s going to be very big for us.”
The opener’s also when Alabama fans first saw a different kind of Crimson Tide offense – or least one with its own kind of identity. When things stalled in the second quarter and coaches had Jacob Coker warming up, Saban told Kiffin to speed things up and go no-huddle.
The result was an 88-yard touchdown drive en route to 538 total yards, and the quarterback competition was essentially over.
“It basically started out this season because of the personnel that we have,” Saban said. “The quarterback functioned better that way. He’s functioned better that way all year. Because of that our whole personality on offense has gotten to where we function better as a group when we play with some tempo and some pace. That doesn’t mean that we’re always going to do that, but it certainly has been something that has been beneficial to us.
“Our fastball plays that we do run have been effective. I think it’s been a benefit to us and something that we’ll continue to do.”
Overall, the No. 1 Crimson Tide is making its ninth appearance in the SEC Championship Game, having split both its first two appearances at Legion Field in Birmingham (1992-93) and the six games in Atlanta (3-3).
However, Saban is 4-1 in SEC title games (2009, 2012, and 2001 and 2003 LSU).
Alabama at the Georgia Dome
2014 West Virginia, W 33-23
2013 Virginia Tech, W 35-10
2012 Georgia, W 38-28*
2009 Virginia Tech, W 34-24; Florida, W 32-13*
2008 Clemson, W 34-10; Florida, L 31-20*
*SEC Championship Game