We have just witnessed a game for the ages. Alabama moves on to the BCS Title Game, while Georgia drops to the New Year's Day tier of CotBack-Fil-A bowls, against an overly-matched underdog from one of those conferences whose name evokes failures in either proportion, math or geography. But did we overlook something?
The 2012 SEC Championship game outdid its 20 predecessors by quite a margin. Just as a 60 minute self-contained exercise, you can't miss the obvious:
- Special teams drama (fake punts and a blocked field goal TD)
- Bama's juggernaut running game
- Murray's downfield dissection
- Some questionable calls (and some no-calls)
- Several lead changes
- Questionable clock management for each coach
- First half ends in a score, second half almost does as well.
Add to that the stakes of the winner going up and the loser getting virtual relegation to the B-List, and people will remember this one. Yes, even those who thought an entertaining game was beyond the capabilities of the people who brought you 9-6 Games of the Century of the Week. Conventional wisdom says Florida goes to New Orleans, and Georgia doesn't.
Not So Fast
But does anyone believe that the two best teams in the conference didn't just play in Atlanta? Florida advances, keepers of the unquestionable resume when margin of victory is discarded, and questionable victories that were closer than great teams typically allow. The assumption is that the SEC runner up was going to tumble, and Florida would float to #3 in the BCS. The computers love Florida, with it's four Top-15 scalps. And Number Three gets you an automatic at-large. But does Georgia HAVE to drop?
With all the give and take in the Georgia Dome, does anyone believe that the next 30 minutes of that game would have provided any more clarity? The Tide and the Dawgs were separated by four points, but only three yards. Three yards with five seconds to play, that's all. Alabama beat Georgia by the narrowest of margins. Based on the post game venting by some Georgia fans, it might be even less than that, the square feet of cloth in a yellow handkerchief.
Old Habits Die Hard
The polls still carry two thirds of the BCS formula, which is how Georgia came in a slot ahead of the Gators. How many would have to drop Georgia a slot or two to make up the difference? And given the way the SEC Championship played out, can you make the case for Georgia to not fall down? How many coaches and Harris Poll voters will take any of this into consideration? Does it hurt even more that virtually no one seriously considered this scenario?
What about you? Was the result close enough to justify keeping Georgia at #3?
Yeah, I don't have an answer either. I don't know that you punish a team for playing in the championship game, especially in one that razor close. In the end, you have one third of the formula being cast by coaches who don't necessarily watch all the games, and as such vote on autopilot (if not by Sports Information Intern.) Many of those coaches were not working today, and may have seen this game -- but I fear they are still too reflexive and not reflective. Georgia does end up dropping beneath the Gators, and quite simply there is not enough time for Coach Richt or anyone else to sound that bell.
There's a great case to be made, but in the end it will likely fall three yards, four points and five seconds short.