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Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley (3) celebrates his touchdown against Clemson with Alabama running back Damien Harris (34) during the first half Monday, Jan. 1, 2018, of the Allstate Sugar Bowl College Football Playoff Semifinal at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Advocate staff photo by SCOTT THRELKELD

The first chants of "S-E-C! S-E-C!" started in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with 3:45 left in the first quarter of Monday night's Sugar Bowl.

And those chants weren't even for Alabama, which was playing Clemson in the 84th Sugar Bowl.

The chants were for Georgia, belted out by the Bama fans after the public address announcer informed the crowd of 72,360 of the Bulldog's 54-48 Rose Bowl victory over Oklahoma in the day's first semifinal game.

More "S-E-C!" chants rang down with 1:43 left as Bama put the finishing touches on an easier-than-expected 24-6 thumping of Clemson to set up an all-Southeastern Conference national title game next Monday night in Atlanta.

Now the conference that tends to support its own like no other is assured of yet another national championship.

A week from now, the S-E-C will crown its ninth national champion in 12 years.

Many fans at the other 12 schools in the S-E-C will watch with plenty of pride — almost as if a replica championship trophy will also be shipped to their campuses in Baton Rouge, Auburn, Fayetteville, College Station, Starkville, Oxford, Gainesville, Knoxville, Gainesville, Lexington and both Columbias (Missouri and South Carolina).

So much for this being a down year for the S-E-C.

There were many (me included) who thought the conference didn't deserve two teams in the playoff — especially one like Alabama, which didn't even even reach the S-E-C championship game.

The bowl season did nothing to disprove that assumption the league was down prior to Monday's two semifinals.

The SEC was just 2-5 in bowl games before the Bulldogs' and Tide kicked off in the marquee games on New Year's Day. 

Mississippi's State (which beat Louisville) and South Carolina (which beat Michigan) had the S-E-C's only other postseason wins.

LSU lost to Notre Dame earlier Monday, joining Missouri, Texas A&M, Kentucky and Auburn in the loss column.

Those losses came on the heels of a year ago, when the SEC stumbled to a 6-7 record in bowl games.

The conference's seven-year run of national champions from 2006-12 was starting to seem like a distant memory.

But now, the S-E-C is guaranteed to return as king of the college football hill after coming away victorious in the two bowls that matter the most.

Alabama and Clemson had a tough act to follow Monday, trying to duplicate the Georgia-Oklahoma double overtime thriller in Pasadena.

They also had a tough act to follow after their two epic battles in the national championship games the past two seasons.

Those previous two Tide-Tigers showdowns were decided by a total of nine points. Both came down to the wire.

This one was a snoozer in comparison, pretty much sealed with 5:27 left in the third quarter when Bama's Mack Wilson picked off a Kelly Bryant pass and rumbled 18 yards into the end zone to put the Tide up 24-6.

That was plenty for a Bama defense that surely had Bryant seeing white jerseys chasing him in his sleep Monday night.

In the process, Nick Saban exorcised his Sugar Bowl demons since he's been in Tuscaloosa.

Saban was 0-3 as Bama's coach in the Sugar Bowl, losing to Utah, Oklahoma and Ohio State in his previous three trips to the Dome on New Year's Day. (He went 2-0 in the Sugar Bowl during his time as head coach at LSU, including the 2004 BCS title game to cap off the 2003 season.)

Now he'll go for his sixth national championship.

He'll have to beat an S-E-C team to do it again.

There will be plenty of "S-E-C" chants this week to remind you.

Follow Rod Walker on Twitter, @rwalkeradvocate.