By: Ryan Mace
Alabama Coach Nick Saban has his team in contention for its third national championship appearance in the last four seasons, as No. 2 Alabama will face the No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs this Saturday in the SEC Championship Game at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.
The Tide (11-1, 7-1) needs a win over Georgia to seal their spot in the BCS National Championship against No. 1 Notre Dame. Georgia is sitting in the same position. With a win over Bama, Coach Mark Richt would have his first SEC Title since ’05, and would be in his first ever BCS National Championship Game. However, the losing team in this match-up would likely be shut out of the BCS picture with No. 5 Florida in position to jump the loser.
”For either one of these teams, it’s not really a great scenario,” Saban said Sunday. ”You play your way into the championship game, which means you’re the best team in your division. They’re the best team in their division. They played their way into the game by a total body of work for the whole season. It doesn’t seem quite right, but it is what it is.
”I don’t really know what me commenting about it is going to do to change it, but I don’t feel good about it for our football team or their football team.”
Saban’s remarks have drawn some criticism, since the Tide reached the BCS National Championship in the same fashion last year, after a regular season loss to LSU, Alabama watched the SEC Championship Game at home and ended up winning it all in New Orleans.
Georgia (11-1, 7-1) has rebounded after their midseason loss to Steve Spurrier and South Carolina back in week six, 35-7, in Columbia. Despite not being able to tame the Gamecocks for the third consecutive year, the Bulldogs have won the Eastern Division in back-to-back seasons.
Although the stakes are high in this game, Richt says he doesn’t want his team to get caught up in the hype and magnitude of this game.
”All you can do is get your staff and your team as prepared as possible to go play a game,” Richt said. ”That’s what we’re going to do. If you think about what the game means, this that and the other, it doesn’t really help you win the game. The only thing that helps you win the game is preparation and getting your mind ready to go to battle. That’s what you’ve got to do.
”Physically, mentally, be ready to handle your business when the ball kicks off. That’s my only focus. I don’t worry about all that stuff.”
If Georgia is able to upset Saban and Alabama in Atlanta, the Bulldogs will face Notre Dame, who the ‘Dawgs defeated in 1980 for their only national championship in school history.
Richt isn’t putting much stock in history, however.
”That’s the first time anybody’s brought that up to me,” he said. ”I can’t worry about all that stuff. We’re just working like mad trying to get a game plan ready to go this week. That’s all I can say.”
The two most efficient passers in the nation will be featured in this game – AJ McCarron for Alabama and Aaron Murray for Georgia. Alabama comes in leading the country in scoring and total defense.
Both teams are coming off of dominating wins over in-state rivals as well.
Georgia throttled ACC Coastal Division Champion Georgia Tech 42-10, while Alabama shutout archrival Auburn 49-0. Both teams will be looking to carry that momentum into Saturday’s showdown.
Alabama is playing in its eighth SEC Title Game, but this will be the first one that isn’t against the Florida Gators. Despite Saban’s recent National Championships, he sounds like a coach that is going for his first.
”Regardless of what you’ve accomplished in the past, this is the most important game we’re going to play this entire year for our team,” he said.
”I’m always looking forward to the next challenge. When I can’t do that, I probably shouldn’t do this anymore.”
Alabama 31 Georgia 20