ATLANTA — OK, BCS championship game, top this.
You will have just about the most storied matchup any garishly-jacketed bowl rep could dream of: Notre Dame versus Alabama.
But can you match the drama, the brilliant plays, the breathtaking finish from Alabama and Georgia in Saturday’s Southeastern Conference Championship Game?
Usually, these SEC title tilts are tilted way to one side. In the previous 20, only four were decided by a touchdown or less. Last year’s game was a typical “Bleaux out,” as LSU rallied from 10-0 down to steam roll Georgia 42-10.
But this one wasn’t like that at all. On paper it looked like a great matchup, strength against strength against strength against strength. In the end Bama won 32-28, the difference being one tipped pass that Georgia’s Chris Conley caught as he fell to the turf at the Tide 5.
It was heaven for Bama, gut-wrenching anguish for the Bulldogs. Bankrupt in the time out department, the clock melted to nothing before Georgia could get off one more snap.
Georgia was trying to throw a pass into the end zone for Malcolm Mitchell, according to coach Mark Richt. But the pass fell short after being tipped. Conley had to make the catch and make his best effort to try to get into the end zone, but momentum betrayed him.
Richt has his explanation, but he will be riddled forever by why he didn’t have Aaron Murray spike it after throwing 28 yards to tight end Arthur Lynch to the 8. Richt said not spiking the ball gave Georgia an opportunity to run more plays — if the ball gets in the end zone.
For a time in the third quarter, though, it appeared the Bulldogs were well on their way.
Already leading 14-10, Georgia’s Cornelius Washington blocked a low line-drive field goal try by Cade Foster. The ball took a home field hop right into the arms of the Bulldogs’ Alec Ogletree, who raced 55 yards for the score and a 21-10 lead with 6:31 left in the third.
Clearly, Alabama’s hopes of reaching its third national championship game in four years were at low tide. But as the Crimson Tide proved in the LSU game, getting into tight spots is when this team excels the most.
Bama rocketed back down field, answering Ogletree’s thunderous scoop-and-score with a lightning quick four-play, 77-yard drive capped by T.J. Yeldon’s 10-yard TD run. Yeldon then ran for two, pulling Bama within 21-18 and putting the Crimson Tide back in the national championship business.
As in the 21-17 win at LSU, it was an AJ McCarron touchdown pass that proved to be the winner, this one covering 45-yards to Amari Cooper with 3:15 left. Georgia had enough time to come back and nearly pulled it off, but only succeeded in pushing Bama to its limit.
Now the Tide is off to Miami, in pursuit of the SEC’s seventh straight BCS title.
It’ll probably get it, but getting this kind of drama will likely require McCarron or Notre Dame quarterback Everett Golson jumping through a flaming hoop at the goal line as time expires.