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CFN Analysis: Alabama's Classic Win

CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Dec 1, 2012


CFN Analysis: Alabama won the SEC title, and maybe more, against Georgia.

E-mail Pete Fiutak
Follow us ... @ColFootballNews 

Alabama just won the 2012 national championship, and if it didn’t, then this Notre Dame team deserves to be considered among the greatest teams of all-time.

It’s easy to get too wrapped up in the immediacy of the moment after a brilliant game like Alabama’s 32-28 win over Georgia in the SEC championship, but if you want to call this one of the greatest games you’ve ever seen, go right ahead.

At the very least, go ahead and call it the greatest SEC championship game.

Where did this classic come from? After all, as thrilling as Alabama’s win over LSU turned out to be, the game itself wasn’t any good. The loss to Texas A&M wasn’t exactly played at a high level, and Georgia’s loss to South Carolina and win over Florida were painful exhibitions of bad football. And then we get this.

Over the next five-plus weeks we’re all going to hear about how Notre Dame has a chance. We’re going to read things about how Alabama is vulnerable and how this is probably going to be the year the SEC hex on the college football world is going to be broken, but the conference has won six straight national titles for a reason.

It’s not just that Nick Saban and his staff will get 37 days to prepare for a second straight BCS championship and a third in four years; it’s that this team has every bit the heart and the mental toughness as Notre Dame, and it has the talent.

The last two minutes of the LSU win will be etched in SEC lore, and even in the loss to Texas A&M, the Tide roared back after Johnny Heisman and the Aggies seemingly had the defending national champs after getting up 20-0 in the first quarter. Against Georgia, Alabama looked like it had an even bigger hill to climb.

It already seems like it happened weeks ago, but Georgia landed the ultimate haymaker with the blocked field goal for a touchdown and a 21-10 lead late in the third. Mark Richt and the Georgia sideline were going bananas, and for a moment it seemed like something special was happening – wow, the Dawgs really are going to be the SEC’s big team this season.

Four plays, 77 yards, 2:12 later, and T.J. Yeldon took it in for a touchdown and the Tide was right back in it.

Alabama kept control of the game by pounding away with the ground attack thanks to a brilliant day from the offensive line. There was nothing fancy, nothing special, just pound, pound, pound, pound … 45 yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper.

Even on Georgia’s brilliant final drive, when everything was going wrong, it was Alabama that came up with the right play at the right time with C.J. Mosley’s tipped pass that forced Aaron Murray’s pass to be caught short of the goal line.

So now it’s up to the Irish to show that the D line can hold up against the power. Brian Kelly and his staff have lots to work with, especially considering Alabama looked so vulnerable in its three huge SEC games this year.

After an SEC title game like this, and considering who the opponent is, it’s going to be a fun month of hype.

Richard Cirminiello

To those who felt that the SEC champ didn’t deserve a spot in the BCS National Championship Game: Sorry, but you have no idea what you’re talking about. Notre Dame vs. Alabama is exactly what we should be getting at the conclusion of this season. Anything less would have done a disservice to the fans of the game.

The proverbial title bout, this SEC Championship Game was as good as advertised. Better, in fact. Still, it was hard not to be a little alarmed by the number of missed tackles and blown coverages from these two teams. Notre Dame had to be sitting at home thinking that it could defeat either Alabama or Georgia on Jan. 7.

Kudos to the ‘Bama offensive line, which dominated at the point of attack in the second half. Rushing for more than 300 yards on that Georgia defense is completely unheard of, especially since there were no 90-yarders to beef up the total numbers.

Eddie Lacy, by the way, made himself a lot of money this evening, showing tremendous giddy-up, outside quickness and drive to go along with his great size. Oh, and if he hasn’t proven it already, T.J. Yeldon is the next big thing in an Alabama running back.

Yeah, Aaron Murray should have spiked the ball on the final drive, but don’t kill the quarterback. Save the venom and hate mail for the coaching staff. Murray played a terrific game, and did a terrific job just to get the Bulldogs in that position late in the fourth.

That Alabama’s game-winning play came on a pass from AJ McCarron was nothing short of ironic considering how the Tide dominated the game on the ground.

As if he needs it these days, Johnny Manziel’s Heisman campaign got a big bump from the Alabama win. Tide’s only loss came against Manziel-led Texas A&M.

There’s something to be said for being the defending champ. Alabama performed like it after falling behind 21-10 in the middle of the third quarter. Georgia, on the other hand, operated like the team that entered the Georgia Dome as an underdog.

Just a hunch, but Alec Ogletree is the fastest linebacker in America. At 6-3 and 232 pounds, he looked like an All-American punt returner on the scoop-and-score off the Dawgs’ blocked field goal attempt in the third quarter.

Where was Jarvis Jones in the second half of the game? After starting fast, No. 29 was far too quiet down the stretch when Georgia needed a momentum-changing play from its defense.

Amari Cooper looks as if he’s capable of becoming the next Julio Jones in T-town. My goodness, he does not look as if he was playing against high school competition a year ago.

By Russ Mitchell
Follow me @russmitchellcfb

Congratulations to Alabama for clinching its second SEC championship in the last four years, and for likely being the odds-on Vegas favorite to win a third BCS title during that same span.

However, you are hardly alone if you question whether Alabama is indeed the best team in the SEC.

Yes, Alabama rolled over Georgia’s defense Saturday, handing the Dawgs D its worst statistical loss of the season (in terms of total yards allowed (512), rushing yards allowed (350), etc.). More even than UGA's triple overtime loss to Michigan State in last year's Outback Bowl.

However, the 2012 Bulldogs have only played three teams in the top 25, and have now lost two of those. Meanwhile, yet another freshman ran all over Alabama like Sherman through Atlanta, this one Georgia's Todd Gurley (5 ypc on 23, 2 TDs), after TAMU's Johnny Manziel (5 ypc on 18) and LSU's Jeremy Hill (4 ypc on 29, 1 TD).

In its only top-shelf games this season, Alabama is 2-1, and was truly outplayed by LSU in one of those W's. Moreover, in these games, Bama surrendered a stunning 1,247 yards, 830 of them passing. Compare that to allowing just 557 total and 353 passing yards vs. their three best opponents of 2011 (Arkansas, LSU & LSU). It's pretty similar for 2009.

Yet here Alabama stands...Champions of the Southeastern football Conference for the year 2012. And a good portion of that can be credited to favorable scheduling.

Scheduling has always been right next to rosters and coaching in relation to winning. But with 14 SEC teams now to fit into 8 games, these inequities are beginning to stand out even more sharply.

Most importantly, this problem will only deepen in the coming years. As we have been arguing for nearly a decade, 16 team conferences are a financial inevitability. When that happens, even at nine conference games, these inequities are going to get uglier and negatively impact the sport.

The bottom line is that favorable scheduling and prior year comparisons notwithstanding, Bama finished the season 11-1 - an “SEC” 11-1 - and will represent the conference against Notre Dame in the BCS title game. Likely bringing home a seventh consecutive BCS crown for the SEC.

Care to guess what Alabama's 2013 schedule looks like?

READ MORE Mitchell: Congrats to Bama, but... How conference realignment is creating greater scheduling inequities and potentially hurting college football

By Matt Zemek
E-mail Matt Zemek

You know that classic football game SEC fans and the college football community were hoping for? It was not the 9-6 LSU-Alabama game last year. It wasn't even the really good 21-17 Alabama win at LSU this season. It was the 2012 SEC Championship Game between Alabama and Georgia, an instant classic that naturally fit the label because you really didn't have to wonder about the matter or make a narrow, qualified argument to support such a claim. The quality of this game was so evident that you didn't have to get tangled in a thorny debate with SEC fans. You just had to sit back and marvel at the combination of spectacle, drama, and clutch playmaking from two slightly flawed teams who managed to rise above their weaknesses on many occasions.

A.J. McCarron – as was the case against LSU – shrugged off a number of mistakes to throw a ballsy, brassy game-winning touchdown pass in the cauldron of crunch time.

Aaron Murray – whose underthrows on deep balls hurt Georgia at multiple points in the first three quarters – also led his team on one go-ahead fourth-quarter drive and very nearly won this game at the end. He covered himself in glory, even though he feels stomach-punched and anything but radiant in the present moment. Murray should be proud of the way he played after an up-and-down season that included pedestrian performances against Kentucky and Georgia Southern.

Alabama's offensive line had been solid for much of the 2012 season, but the Tide's hosses played at another level in the second half of this contest. They made Georgia's defensive line look like tissue paper on most occasions.

Yet, that same Georgia front – tossed around like a rag doll after halftime – found a way to make a few late stops and give Murray one last chance to win.

This was, all in all, the embodiment of a classic football game, a full-bodied masterpiece that was so marvelous precisely because all three phases of the game produced excellence. Georgia's special teams produced huge plays. Offenses and defenses traded blows. Many players on both sides made their presence felt. Georgia, a long-doubted team whose coach was THIS CLOSE to being fired in September of 2011, contested the SEC title with a resilience that has not always emerged in Athens over the past five years. Alabama, not as strong as last year's team and in danger of losing the plot at numerous points on Saturday in the Georgia Dome, always regrouped in its multiple hours of need. Nick Saban teaches his players to acquire a proper competitive mindset, and this game against Georgia typified the way Alabama athletes compete in the crucible of withering national-championship-or-bust pressure.

At the end, you could have made an argument that Georgia should have spiked the ball with 13 seconds left. You also could have made an argument that Georgia's players were unfocused and should have been ready to initiate a play when the clock restarted at the 14-second mark of regulation. Had Georgia initiated a play with 14 seconds left, it would have increased its odds of getting three chances to score. Yet, the fact of the matter is that whether or not Georgia spiked the ball, that last play – a tipped pass that was caught by a receiver whose first instinct is to catch any ball in his direction – sabotaged the Bulldogs' plans.

As Notre Dame could tell you, a bit of luck is needed to make the national title game in college football. Luck is not the escape hatch of a weak team, but a necessary ingredient for almost every national champion this sport has produced (1995 Nebraska being an exception, not the rule). Alabama was good enough and gritty enough to put itself in position to benefit from a break. Had Murray not underthrown a receiver on an open deep ball, or had Richt not punted on fourth and inches from his own 18 late in the fourth quarter, perhaps Georgia would have been in position to benefit from luck in the final seconds.

No matter – this was a great game, and when the dust had settled, Alabama had won the SEC title for the first time since 2009. Now, for the next five weeks, we'll get to see replays of the 1973 Sugar Bowl, one of the greatest games in college football history.

Just like this one.

By Terry Johnson
Follow me @TPJCollFootball

This afternoon's game demonstrates exactly why Alabama will play Notre Dame for the National Championship. In the face of adversity, the Crimson Tide never faltered.

That's right, there were times when it looked like Alabama was about to lose control of this game. There was the bungled fake punt. Then, there was Georgia fourth down conversion on a fake kick, which allowed the Dawgs to grab the early lead. While the Tide did an excellent job of recovering to take the lead prior to intermission, UGA actually led 21-10 midway through the third quarter, thanks to a blocked FG that Alec Ogletree returned for a TD.

Usually, an 11-point deficit against a team that ranks 16th nationally in scoring defense spells defeat. However, instead of folding, Nick Saban's team came through with the resolve of a champion. Rather than get discouraged by falling behind, Alabama stuck to what it does best, and simply pounded the Bulldogs into submission. The Crimson Tide offensive line dominated a UGA defense loaded with NFL talent to the tune of 6.9 yards per carry.

Also coming through under fire for Alabama was QB AJ McCarron, who's performance was enough to make everyone forget about what happened against Texas A&M. Things didn't exactly start well for him today, as his second quarter pick thwarted the Tide's first serious scoring drive today. But when it mattered most, McCarron got the job done, hitting Amari Cooper in full stride for the deciding score, giving the Alabama a shot to earn another crystal football.

It's a shame that Georgia won't get an opportunity to play in a BCS bowl game. The Dawgs played Alabama dead even in what figures to be the game of the year. Instead of representing the SEC in New Orleans, it will go to a lesser bowl behind a Florida team that it defeated earlier this year.

Let's see how the new playoff system addresses this issue.

By Bart Doan
Follow me @Bart_cfn

Rarely do such hyped games meet their entertainment value climax, but give Alabama and Georgia credit as the Tide go back home with a second straight appearance in the BCS title game and a chance to repeat as the format’s champion.

You can point to a lot of moments in this game, but it was one that probably won’t be combed over that, in my opinion, changed the arc of the game. In the mid third quarter near the 50 after a five yard run made it Bama second and five down 21-10, DJ Fluker got randomly animated and barked something that probably wasn’t dinner plans to his team in the huddle. A few plays of absolutely thrashing, abusive running later, Bama had eight points and all the momentum in the world suddenly on their side.

Though Georgia would take the lead back at one point, the Tide running game turned the screws and got back in it then and there.


Georgia had what they probably would have taken coming in, Aaron Murray twice with a drive to win with just under four to go. Georgia finally got a little help from a refereeing staff that likely won;t be taken out to supper in Athens anytime soon, and the bronx cheer was a bit evident when Murray’s would be tipped interception was called back with under 50 seconds left.

It wasn’t a work of art by either team, but you can say both staffs went against their personal grain and tossed it out on the field. Fake punts (one that didn’t work, one that did) Saban being right even when he may have been wrong (going for two) and Mark Richt inexplicably not having Aaron Murray clock clocking the ball inside the 10 yard line with under 10 seconds left.

And it was that call that would have been dissected either way had it not gone through, but in the end, it was that conversion that may have won Bama the game. Inside the 10 down four is a lot different than inside the 10 down three.

The narrative will be that Saban once again kingpins the SEC while Richt and saw a coaching blunder perhaps that will be talk radio fodder in Athens for at least a day or two. Or two hundred.

But Richt and Mike Bobo called a solid game, constantly testing Alabama deep even when it wasn’t working, even when it turned the ball over.

And in a game hallmarked by offense in what is often trumped as a defensive league, it came down to 60 points and a tipped CJ Mosley pass to give Alabama the rare right to defend against the golden children of college football, Notre Dame. Who’d have thought this one up four months ago?