Props to Georgia. I don't think many of us gave UGA much of a chance to cover the 7 point Vegas line, much less take the Crimson Tide down to the wire. But UGA had a shot to win on the last play of the game, despite allowing Bama to gash them for 350 rushing yards, not to mention coming up short against the Tide on critical stats like time of possession (37:35 : 27:35), first downs (26 to 18) and total offense (512 to 394). So how did the Silver Britches do it?
For starters, you have to give credit to the Georgia "D". Although Todd Grantham's unit could not find any answer to T.J. Yeldon or Eddie Lacy, not to mention what should have been a back-breaking 45 yard TD reception from A.J. McCarron to Amari Cooper on 3rd and 5 with 7:14 to go in the fourth), the Red and Black made two stops for the ages - the first, a goal line stand late in the 2nd quarter that resulted in Sanders Comings hauling in a rare A.J. McCarron INT; second, stuffing Yeldon on three straight runs with time waning in the 4th to give their offense one more shot. Fail on the first, and Bama likely wins by double-digits, and the final UGA drive would have been trash-time rather than a chance for last second heroics. Fail on the second, and Bama easily runs out the clock.
Next, you have to tip your cap to Georgia's special teams. There were no guady kick or punt returns (in fact, Bama only punted once, and all kick-offs sailed for easy touchbacks). But the fake punt in the second, and the blocked FG in the third, resulted in half the Bulldogs' total points - which not only kept UGA in the game and denied any breathing room for Big Al, but allowed the Classic City Canines a chance to win it outright. The Georgians also safely corralled the Rammer Jammer return men - and nearly came up with a fumble in the 4th which might have been a game winner had the pigksin bounced a bit differently. Nicely done.
The final tip of your cap has to go the Georgia O line - who sprang Todd Gurley for 122 yards (literally push/dragging him for one of his TDs) and giving Aaron Murray enough time to throw for 265 yards. Some of the credit of course has to go to Gurley of course - he's a special talent, and Aaron Murray was his usual sometimes-brilliant, sometimes-bumbling self, but the OL gets a gameball for giving him time to find receivers on deep routes, particularly on the last drive.
One Honorable Mention: When it looked like the Georgians were totally gassed by the fourth quarter, they were able to rally and stand tall when push-came-to-shove. With the possible exception of Clemson's Joey Batson, no strength and conditioning coach in big time Southern CFB has caught more flack than UGA's Joe Tereshinksi. Yet, the Dawgs - who've basically been playing the equivalent of a NFL 53 man roster - had enough juice left to deny Bama an easy 4th quarter win. Not to mention that Georgia managed to avoid any major injuries all season. Some of that is good luck - but then luck is best defined as what results when opportunity meets preparation, so you have give praise to the UGA coaches. And old Joe T., too.
Strange Brew from the Officiating Crew. I thought the zebras under referee Tom Ritter called a pretty good game yesterday (as opposed to the Clemson-Carolina crew), but two plays really stand out. First - after correctly flagging Alec Ogletree for a helmet-to-helmet hit on McCarron in the second, they missed a Bama player laying a equally egregious helmet-to-helmet slobberknocker on Aaron Murray not five minutes later during an INT return. Yes, Aaron has to keep his head on swivel, but It was not only a cheap shot but illegal since the Tide defender's helmet clearly contacted Murray's. It should have been flagged - as an official was literally five yards away. Had it been called, it might have denied Bama a FG a few moments later (after Nicky bumbled away precious seconds by not calling a TO); teasing it out further, had Bama not gotten those three points at the end of the half - all other things being equal - then Georgia could have possibly kicked for the win in a 29-28 game on their last drive at the end of the 4th, and not been forced to go for the TD.
The other strange officiating thing was the phantom tipped-ball called a tip-ball call in the third quarter which totally negated an interference call against UGA which would have kept alive a Tide drive, and given them a first down in Georgia territory. The replay showed zero evidence that McCarron's pass had been tipped (though he did throw a poor spiral that apparently mimicked a tip). Bama had to try a long FG - which was blocked spectacularly by Cornelius Washington. CBS's Gary Danielson reported that the played had been reviewed and the replay officials believed video evidence wasn't conclusive enough to overcome the the call on the field. That call almost cost the game for the Tide by setting up the key Georgia field goal block a play later. Wow.
A Great SECCG would have made a great regular season game too. Before the SEC voted to admit Mizzou and Texas A&M, the Bulldogs were slated to play the Tide at Bryant-Denny sometime in 2012. Of course, that all went in the rubbish heap of history at the scheduling meetings last December, when UGA received the additional boon of getting to play Ole Miss while division rivals South Carolina and Florida had to play LSU. Since the SECCG is a neutral field game (albeit played within the Peach State) - and since both teams played their hearts out - you have to assume Bama would have been victorious at home earlier in the season, especially if they had caught the Dawgs not long after their shellacking at the hands of our Chickens. (Think the guys who rolled Aaron Murray's and Christian Robinson's house feel like jerks?). Georgia would have likely been saddled with two SEC losses had they played Alabama, and it would have been UF in the SECCG - not UGA. Sic transit scheduling.
Missed Opportunity for another USC first! One of my best Clemson buddies told me I should be rooting for the Dawgs in the SECCG. Why is that? i asked warily - my buddy is a great b.s.-er. Because it would have been a Steve Spurrier first for Carolina, he answered. OK, I said. I'll bite. How? My CU buddy grinned a lopsided HBC grin and said "Georgia would be the first team to have played for the national championship after losing to Carolina." Hah! My buddy managed to turn the old transitive property fallacy into a back-handed compliment against both UGA and USC. Only from a Tiger High guy, huh?
(PS - I rooted for Bama because (a) I think they're best-suited to win the BCSCG against the Domers and (b) because while Rammer Jammer Yellowhammer is already insufferable - think about how Legend will sound calling into Paul Finebaum tomorrow, ugh - I couldn't have borne hearing it from the Peanut State pups if they managed to play for the NC. Insufferable City!)
(PPS - I also think Georgia would have beaten Notre Dame too. But I'm convinced Bama will, however).
Florida Should get the Sugar. The Sabanator of all people has been talking up Georgia for the league's second BCS berth. Why? I have no idea. It's really no skin off his back either way. And although UGA played Bama tight, Florida is still the more deserving team for the Sugar Bowl. First off, the Gators are a one-loss SEC team. Georgia now joins the Aggies, Cock and, Bayou Bengals as 2 loss SEC teams. Second, the Gators' resume is more impressive than UGA's now. True, Georgia edged the Gators in the WLOCP, but it was an ugly game on both sides, and the Gators can point to wins over top 10 teams Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina and Florida State (two of them on the road); Georgia can only point to the Florida game. Some say that UF played the hardest 2012 schedule, while we all know about UGA's schedule - no need to flog that dead horse anymore.
In any event, it's how the cookie crumbles. Or should crumble. UGA and UF finished with equal records, but the tiebreaker for the SECCG went to the Dawgs. Fair enough. UGA had a chance not just to play for the league title, but the national championship game. They came close, but you know all about close and horsehoes and hand grenades. Georgia likely flies to DFW for a likely date with the Longhorns at the Cotton Bowl (or, more precisely, the bowl game that is called the Cotton Bowl, but played at Cowboys Stadium rather than the real Cotton Bowl). Either way, it's an extremely respectable bowl for a two-loss team, Hunker down and enjoy Big D, Hairy Dawgs, because the Orange and Blue deserve a trip to the Big Easy. In any event, we'll be in Ybor - even though we pasted Georgia 35-7 a mere eight weeks ago. Sic transit .. . oh whatever.
How it would have played out under the HBC's modest proposal. The whole Peach State media apparatus and allied outlets went into orbit this Spring when Steve Spurrier suggested that only division-wins should count to winning the division crown. Even though LSU's Les Miles and a couple of independent-thinking pundits agreed there was merit to the idea, the Athenians were apoplectic, since their 2012 out-of-division schedule had set up so nicely for them (and maybe Miles should re-embrace the idea, since the SEC schedule-makers have forced the Bayou Bengals to play @UF and USC in '12, and @Georgia and UF in '13, while the Crimson Tide *somehow* manage to avoid the SEC' East's top teams in each of those years- until the SECCG, of course. Think that's just a coincidence? Still believe in coincidences in SEC scheduling? (I thought so. Neither do I).
So what would have happened. If only division wins counted, then there would have simply been a three-way tie rather than a two way tie - with Georgia, Florida and South Carolina holding one division loss, and none of them having an outright head to head advantage? Who would have represented the east in the Georgia Dome last night? Due to Florida's aforementioned resume, you could be forgiven for thinking it would be the Gators, no? But you'd be wrong. It would have still gone to the Dawgs - since under SEC rules, the tiebreaker goes the team with the highest BCS ranking - which would have been BCS # 3 Georgia. So who has more egg on their face? Spurrier - for suggesting even a small change in the SEC's mos maiorum? Or the Dawgs and Richt for spurning Spurrier's proposal out-of-hand even though it wouldn't have hurt them? Maybe the answer is "c" - all of the above.
OK with the Outback. It's been pretty clear since over the last couple of weeks that the Cocks are likely headed back to Tampa Bay for the Outback. There's no shame in playing on New Years Day at Raymond James Stadium (though the early kick-off is a bit of a chafe) - and it was the site of two of our greatest bowl wins - the 24-7 and 31-28 victories over Ohio State at the 2001 and 2002 Outback Bowls [the first resulted in the firing of OSU's John Cooper]. Plus, we can do what we can to avenge UGA's loss to Michigan State down there last year! (not to mention our '08 shellacking by Iowa). How do we match-up with Northwestern - our likely Outback foe? We can come back to that when the match is set in stone, but I honestly like our chances against any B1G team with the possible exception of Urban's undefeated Buckeyes.
I will say that we're probably a little over-ranked for the Outback, while Northwestern is probably right in the groove in terms of being the Big Ten representative. A Wildcat friend of mine is bummed that they've likely drawn a team like ours. Here's to hoping his insecurity is well-placed. Of course, some pundits think the B1G could send Michigan. Personally, I would love the exposure of playing Brady Hoke's over-hyped Wolverines. I stand by an earlier comment I made on these pages that Denard Robinson would not start at QB for the top six SEC teams - including ours. Plus I still think it's more likely for us to face Northwestern - but I could be wrong!
What about the Gator? I wouldn't be bummed to play in Jacksonville, since its no more than four or four-and-a-half hours from most of South Carolina, and we might get a larger crowd to JAX's EverBank Field (since a lot of USC fans could do it in a day trip). True, the Gator Bowl isn't quite what it used to be in the '70s and '80s, or even the '90s, but perhaps that's a bit of a misconception since it used to feature two ranked teams even into the first part of the 2000s. While people might think it's still third tier, I wouldn't be surprised if it worked it's way back into the ranks of the second tier (e.g., CapOne, Cotton, Outback, Peach).
And in other news ...
Bye bye Sheldon Richardson. The big-talking DE from Mizzou has opted to leave early for the NFL (maybe the better way to say it is that he has been "shown the door" by Coach Pinkel). And did he think Georgia played "old man" football in the SECCG? Who knows? And who cares. (Confidential to T.J. Moe - yes, the toilet paper is thicker).
And from our old buddy Taylor Martinez. The # 12 Nebraska Cornhuskers lost 70-31 at the BIG Championship Game at neutral-site Lucas Oil Field in Indianaopolis. Think Taylor still thinks NU is the better team like when he ran his mouth against USC even after we ran him out the door at last year's Cap One Bowl? I'd look it up - but kinda-sorta like with Sheldon, I just don't care. (Bonus question - think Bo Pelini is coming back to a SEC school in the near future? Eh - no time soon, I imagine, but if Auburn does interview him, he's a step up from Gene Chizik!)