An Awesome Afternoon of Appetizers So Far

Conventional wisdom said that the best matchup in sports today would be the clash of titans in the SEC Championship, and that everything else would pale in comparison. Now, it looks like a longshot that it will live up to an early afternoon drenched in drama.

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Kentucky 68, North Carolina 66. Yeah, so John Wall is good. He led Kentucky to a scintillating first half (15-point lead at the break), got hurt in the second half, then came back to help the Wildcats hold on and defeat the defending national champions at Rupp Arena. Patrick Patterson was great as well: 19 points, seven boards. (John Calipari on CBS' Seth Davis picking North Carolina, in the above video: "He picked the Germans in World War II." Well, uh, sure, Coach.)

Cincinnati 45, Pittsburgh 44. Cincy trailed 31-10 in the second quarter after a blocked punt. Dion Lewis ran 47 times (!) for 195 yards. Brian Kelly had backup Zach Collaros warming up on the sideline in the third quarter. And Tony Pike (309 yards, three TDs) and Mardy Gilyard (two scores and 374 total yards receiving and on returns) heated up in the fourth quarter as the Panthers and Bearcats combined for five scores, 34 points, two missed extra points, one two-point conversion and enough excitement to make up for three underwhelming Big East seasons. Cincy's win completes their undefeated regular season and earns them a Big East title and a BCS berth.

East Carolina 38, Houston 32; Fresno State 53, Illinois 52. Two off-brand college football games delivered thrills, too. East Carolina withstood 527 yards and five touchdowns from Case Keenum (who went 56-of-75 through the air) to win the Conference USA title, and Fresno State and Illinois combined for 559 rushing yards in a 53-52 barn-burner that neither team led by more than ten points and ended on a tipped two-point conversion into a lineman's hands.

These thrills will make it hard for Tebow, Ingram, McClain, Spikes and their ilk to play a game regarded as a classic if the quality of play isn't excellent in Atlanta. But if it's even a good game, the colossal stage should do plenty to pump it up.

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This post originally appeared on the Sporting Blog. For more, see The Sporting Blog Archives.

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