The defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide are one win away from playing for another national title. But first they'll have to get by the upset-minded Georgia Bulldogs, who have championship plans of their own, in the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday afternoon at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta (4 pm ET, CBS).
Most sportsbooks opened this game with Alabama favored by 7.5 points and it is creeping upwards to -8.5 as of Friday as bettors throw cash behind the Tide.
The winner of this game is basically guaranteed a spot in the BCS championship game opposite Notre Dame. The loser, meanwhile, will fall all the way out of contention for a BCS bowl bid.
The Tide only returned 11 starters this year from the team that went 12-1 and beat LSU in the BCS national title game last January. But 'Bama was still fully expected to make another run at the championship this season, and outside of that shocking home loss to Texas A&M, that's exactly what the Tide has done.
The Tide opened this season with that mashing of Michigan, and later tossed in a 52-0 win at Arkansas and a come-from-behind victory in the big game at LSU.
But Alabama ran into a buzzsaw three weeks ago in Tuscaloosa vs. Johnny Football and the Aggies, going down to a 29-24 defeat. At the time, looked like it might end the Tide's chances of repeating as national champs while also vaulting Manziel to the top of the Heisman Trophy odds lists.
But as Alabama won its last two games over Western Carolina and Auburn by identical scores of 49-0, other BCS contenders fell, allowing the Tide to sneak back into the top two in the BCS standings.
Georgia, meanwhile, returned 16 starters this year from a team that went 10-4 and lost the SEC championship game to LSU last season. So the 'Dawgs were expected to contend with Florida for the East Division title this season, and that's exactly what happened.
UGA started off 5-0 this year but had a bad day and lost at South Carolina 35-7. Since then the Bulldogs have won their last six games in a row, including their big game vs. Florida last month 17-9, which gave them the head-to-head tie-breaker over the Gators. With both teams finishing at 7-1 in SEC play, Georgia gets to play in the conference championship game.
The Bulldogs ended their regular season last Saturday with a 42-10 romp over in-state rival Georgia Tech.
On the season Alabama outrushed opponents by a 214-77 YPG margin. Georgia, meanwhile, outrushed its foes 190-163.
It's almost hard to believe but these two conference rivals haven't met since 2008, when 'Bama beat the 'Dawgs in Athens 41-30.
Free SEC Championship Game Pick: Alabama is getting all the attention this week, as the specter of a Tide-Irish national championship game looms. Georgia has a nice team and would love to pull an upset here, but we are not convinced they can stem the Tide. (Courtesy of PickShark.com.)
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