It was a heck of a ballgame.
For 60 minutes, the top two teams in the Southeastern Conference went toe-to-toe for the chance to play for the national championship. The game could've easily gone either way, but, in the end, No. 2 Alabama held on to defeat the determined No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs 32-28.
In what could only be described as a slugfest, the Tide and Dawgs exchanged leads several times throughout the game. As Mark Schlabach of ESPN wrote, "Thirty-seven days from now, No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama will play in the Discover BCS National Championship Game in Miami. We can only hope the contest between two of college football's most storied programs will be half as exciting as Saturday's SEC championship game at the Georgia Dome."
Exciting it was. Perhaps a little too exciting.
With just over minute left in the game, the Dawgs got the ball back at the Georgia 15. With clockwork precision, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray completed four passes, one of which was almost intercepted but overturned upon review, to move the Bulldogs to the Alabama 8-yard line with 15 seconds to play. In a decision which Georgia fans may very well question for the next few decades, Murray did not spike the ball and instead tried to throw the ball to Malcolm Mitchell. The ball was tipped and ended up in the hands of Georgia receiver Chris Conley who went to the ground near the Alabama 5 with four seconds left on the clock. Before Conley could even get up off the ground, the clock expired and the game was over.
For the night, the Tide outgained the Bulldogs 512 to 394 yards. On the ground, Bama racked up an impressive 350 yards with running backs Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon accounting for 181 and 153 yards respectively.
Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron passed for 162 yards, which paled in comparison to Aaron Murray's 265-yard night.
"Alabama nearly forgot its run-first roots Saturday. The Tide tried to hold off the Georgia pass rush and let A.J. McCarron throw. That didn’t work as well," wrote Mark Edwards of the Montgomery Advertiser.
However, when Alabama did run the ball, it worked and then some, Edwards added.
"In one 24-play stretch in the second half, the Tide ran 20 times and passed only four. That stretch produced three touchdowns," he wrote.
It is the Tide's running game that will likely be the deciding factor in Miami on Jan. 7 against Notre Dame.
"While Georgia is good, the Irish actually match up better defensively than the Bulldogs did. When the Bulldogs look at why they aren't in the championship game, it came down to run defense. In general, if you give up over 300 yards on the ground, you're getting blown out," wrote Alex Ballentine for the Bleacher Report.
"It would be shocking if Notre Dame suffers a similar fate against the Tide's rushing attack—stopping the run is Notre Dame's forte," Ballentine added. "Manti Te'o and Co. are holding opponents to 92 yards per game and have only surrendered two touchdowns on the ground all season."
Still, as the national championship hype begins, Alabama opens as a roughly 8-point favorite over the Fighting Irish.
What did you think of the SEC championship game? Who do you think will win the national championship? Let us know in the comments.