Sunday, December 2, 2012
What we learned in the SEC: Week 14
By Edward Aschoff
The SEC is done beating up on itself and is set to compete for its seventh straight national title. Alabama is king of the league (again), and here's what we learned from Saturday:
Barrett Jones and his teammates on the Alabama offensive line proved key in the Crimson Tide's SEC title game win.
1. Alabama's offensive line is indeed the best: Any reservations about Alabama's offensive line were eliminated after such a dominating performance Saturday. When it came to stopping the run and wearing down Georgia's front, Alabama's line, which is the nation's most NFL-ready line out there, did its job. The Tide rushed for an SEC championship-record 350 yards, and watched as running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon both eclipsed the 150-yard rushing mark against the Bulldogs. Together, Lacy and Yeldon averaged 7.4 yards per carry. Quarterback AJ McCarron was sacked three times but was routinely given enough time to make some big throws against the Dawgs. This line seemed to gain energy as the game went on, and hats off to center Barrett Jones, who basically played on one leg for the entire second half with his foot injury.
2. History won't be kind to this Georgia team: Despite Georgia winning 11 games and being literally a play away from playing in the national championship game, history won't be on this team's side. With the 32-28 loss to Alabama inside the Georgia Dome, the Bulldogs fell to 1-2 against ranked opponents, have lost 10 of 13 games to ranked opponents and have lost back-to-back SEC championship games. With all that NFL talent on defense, the Dawgs were gashed for 350 rushing yards and surrendered 512 total yards of offense to the Tide. Quarterback Aaron Murray and coach Mark Richt will no doubt receive even more criticism when it comes to winning the big game. This team went back and forth with one of the nation's best teams, and was a tipped pass away from being praised as one of Georgia's best of all time. Murray will take heat for the loss, but he was very good for most of the night and didn't make the same mistakes that had plagued him on the big stage. And Richt made some gutsy calls, including that fake punt, to try to win the game. People will harp on his decision not to spike at the end, but this season has been a true success, and the Dawgs deserve consideration for the SEC's other BCS spot.
3. We are set for a historical matchup: The Discover BCS National Championship will feature a matchup that has historical significance when Alabama and Notre Dame face each other in Miami, as two of the most storied programs in college football will play for it all. Alabama is going for its second straight national title and its third in four years. These two had some pretty memorable games in the 1970s and '80s, but Notre Dame holds a 5-1 edge in the series. This game also pits two of the nation's top defenses against each other, with both ranking within the top six in total defense. However, Alabama's defense needs some obvious work. In recent weeks, including Saturday, offenses have had real success throwing on Alabama. While Notre Dame doesn't own one of the flashiest passing games, 40-plus days to prepare to try to exploit those holes should help the Irish. However, 40-plus days to clean things up in Alabama's defense will help the Tide. Nick Saban and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart should have things looking much prettier down on South Beach.