By: Eric SanInocencio
SEC Digital Network
Atlanta, Ga. –After three months of football in the Southeastern Conference, the title matchup is all set.
Georgia versus Alabama.
The SEC Championship Game is here.
Next Saturday the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs will square off in the Georgia Dome, serving as not only the SEC’s Championship Game, but as a de facto National Championship semifinal. The two division winners, who also rank second (ALA) and fourth (UGA) in the Bowl Championship Series standings, face off for the first time ever in the SEC’s grand showcase.
Much like the matchups before it, this year’s SEC Championship game is about more than conference hardware.
Next Saturday a trip to Miami is on the line, as the SEC’s winner will likely advance to the BCS National Championship Game (per current projections). With that title contender spot comes the burden of history, as whoever heads to the Orange Bowl will hope to continue the SEC’s current six-year championship run.
Whether you are a fan of either team, or of the conference as a whole, you will be watching. So will the rest of the country, as we all get a sneak peek at one half of January’s title extravaganza.
For 60 minutes of game action, all eyes will be on Atlanta…again.
If that sounds familiar, it should, because it has become the norm for this storied event.
Since the inception of the SEC Championship Game in 1992, the meeting of Eastern and Western Division Champions on the first Saturday in December has become a national litmus test.
Legendary coaches have survived this final conference battle, while great players have made their mark on league history. What started with an Alabama victory over Florida in 1992 has turned into a steady stream of SEC success, with the game’s participant list littered with National Champions.
In the 21-year history of the SEC Championship game, nine National Champions have emerged victorious. Since 2006, five of the six league champions have gone one to capture the BCS Crystal Ball. Only Alabama, one of the teams playing next week, didn’t win an SEC Championship en route to their national title victory.
On two occasions (2009, 2010) the SEC’s title game featured a 1 vs. 2 matchup (both Alabama-Florida). The Tide and Gators battled in back-to-back years as the nation’s top ranked teams, a feat never before seen in any conference’s title game.
National implications have been prevalent in this matchup’s history, and this year is no different.
Not only have great teams played in Birmingham and Atlanta, but so have great players. Three Heisman Trophy winners (Danny Wuerffel, Tim Tebow and Cam Newton) have been named MVP of the SEC Championship Game.
Another Heisman recipient (Mark Ingram), tiptoed his way down the Georgia Dome sidelines, an image seared into the brain of any SEC fan. Ingram’s “Heisman Moment” took place in Atlanta, that play solidifying him as Alabama’s first ever Heisman winner.
If you are looking for future NFL talent, that’s in abundance as well. Two SEC title game MVPs (Peyton Manning, Cam Newton) went on to become top overall selections in the NFL Draft, while countless numbers of first round picks have played in either Birmingham or Atlanta. In last year’s game alone (Georgia-LSU), 12 players were selected in the NFL Draft, including four in the first two rounds.
If you are a fan of college football, you don’t need a reason to watch next week’s SEC Championship Game. The talent, the teams and the history spell out the importance, a chance at glory on the line in the Georgia Dome.
Two teams will head to Atlanta, but only one will leave as SEC Champion.
We will all be watching.