By Tim Letcher
SEC Digital Network
Alabama is back in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game, after missing the contest the past two seasons. The Crimson Tide are ranked second in the national rankings as well as the BCS Standings, entering Saturday's showdown with Georgia.
Even though Alabama was not playing for an SEC title in Atlanta last year, the Crimson Tide did make the BCS Championship Game, where they beat SEC Western Division rival LSU, 21-0, claiming their second national title in three years.
Alabama entered the season as one of the nation's top-ranked teams, and stayed at or near the top of th polls until a Nov. 10 loss to Texas A&M. At that point, hopes of a repeat national title seemed bleak. But losses by Oregon (to Stanford) and Kansas State (to Baylor) vaulted the Crimson Tide back into the national title conversation.
The Crimson Tide offense is led by junior quarterback A.J. McCarron, who is second only to Georgia's Aaron Murray in passing efficiency in the SEC and in the nation. McCarron has thrown for 2,507 yards and 25 touchdowns, with only two interceptions this season.
Junior running back Eddie Lacy leads the ground attack with 1,001 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns on the season. True Freshman wideout Amari Cooper has had a big year, with 45 catches for 767 yards and eight touchdowns.
The calling card for Nick Saban's teams at Alabama has been defense, and that is the case once again this season. The Crimson Tide lead the nation in total defense (233.7 yards per game) and scoring defense (9.3 points allowed per game).
Alabama will be making its eighth appearance in the SEC Championship game. The Crimson Tide are 3-4 in previous such games. The 2012 contest marks the first time that Alabama has played anyone other than Florida in the SEC title game.
Alabama Quick Facts
Location: Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Nickname: Crimson Tide
Colors: Crimson and White
Stadium: Bryant-Denny Stadium (101,821)
All Time Record: 825-321-43
2012 Record: 11-1
2012 SEC Record/ Finish: 7-1 / Western Division Champions
SEC Championships: 22
Bowl Appearances: 59
Alabama’s 2012 Results (11-1, 7-1 SEC)
9/1 – Alabama 41, Michigan 14 (Arlington, Texas)
9/8 – Alabama 35, Western Kentucky 0 (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
9/15 – Alabama 52, Arkansas 0 (Fayetteville, Ark.)
9/22 – Alabama 40, Florida Atlantic 7 (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
9/29 – Alabama 33, Ole Miss 14 (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
10/13 – Alabama 42, Missouri 10 (Columbia, Mo.)
10/20 – Alabama 44, Tennessee 13 (Knoxville, Tenn.)
10/27 – Alabama 38, Mississippi State 7 (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
11/3 – Alabama 21, LSU 17 (Baton Rouge, La.)
11/10 – Texas A&M 29, Alabama 24 (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
11/17 – Alabama 49, Western Carolina 0 (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
11/24 – Alabama 49, Auburn 0 (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Alabama’s SEC Championship Game History (3-4)
2009 – Alabama 32, Florida 13
2008 – Florida 31, Alabama 20
1999 – Alabama 34, Florida 7
1996 – Florida 45, Alabama 30
1994 - Florida 24, Alabama 23
1993 - Florida 28, Alabama 13
1992 - Alabama 28, Florida 21
Quoting Coach Nick Saban
"The SEC Championship game is a great competitive venue. The winner has gone on to play in a national championship game. It's a great atmosphere. The Georgia Dome, just a great competitive venue in my experiences in the past. We're sort of honored and proud of our team in terms of what they were able to accomplish and win the West, play in the SEC Championship game against what is an excellent Georgia team, no doubt. We're just going to try to do the best we can to prepare our players to play the best they possibly can against a very good team."
Alabama opened the season with not one, but two targets on their backs. The Tide were not only the defending national champions, but the preseason number one. Despite getting nearly everyone's best shot, Alabama won their first nine games of the season.
In Game 10, Johnny Manziel and Texas A&M raced out to a big lead in Tuscaloosa. Alabama rallied from behind, but Manziel made enough plays down the stretch for the Aggies to pull the upset.
While Georgia has the experience in this particular venue and championship, Alabama has been to the BCS Championship, and that experience will be a big plus for them in this game. The Tide must play its typical strong defense, and force Georgia into turnovers and long third down situations. On offense, McCarron and Lacy will carry the load and the Tide hope that will be enough to earn a spot in the BCS title game in Miami.