In & around SEC football: Conference championship game preview

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By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent 

Iron Bowl Recap
Alabama rolled past Auburn, 49-27, for its third consecutive Iron Bowl victory last week. While the game was competitive for most of the first half, the Crimson Tide pulled away late in the second quarter for a comfortable win. Bryce Young threw for 343 yards and three touchdowns while adding 48 yards and a score on the ground. Jahmyr Gibbs rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown, while Ja’Corey Brooks caught four passes for 76 yards and a score. Jarquez Hunter led Auburn on the ground with 134 yards, while Robby Ashford rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns. Auburn dropped to 5-7 overall and 2-6 in the SEC, while Alabama improved to 10-2 overall and 6-2 in conference play. UA is currently No. 6 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings, and Nick Saban’s team will need a lot of help this weekend to sneak into the playoff field.
Week 14 SEC Rankings
1. Georgia (12-0, 8-0)
2. LSU (9-3, 6-2)
3. Alabama (10-2, 6-2)
4. Tennessee (10-2, 6-2)
5. Mississippi State (8-4, 4-4)
6. Ole Miss (8-4, 4-4)
7. South Carolina (8-4, 4-4)
8. Kentucky (7-5, 3-5)
9. Florida (6-6, 3-5)
10. Missouri (6-6, 3-5)
11. Arkansas (6-6, 3-5)
12. Auburn (5-7, 2-6)
13. Texas A&M (5-7, 2-6)
14. Vanderbilt (5-7, 2-6)
SEC Championship Game Preview and Prediction
Week 13: 6-3; season: 75-21
LSU vs. Georgia (-17.5). The SEC title game lost most of its luster after LSU was upset by Texas A&M in the last game of the regular season. Had the Tigers defeated the Aggies, they would have been potentially playing for a spot in the playoffs. Now, Georgia is a lock for the playoffs regardless of what happens on the field in Atlanta this Saturday.
This marks the second straight year the Bulldogs have finished 12-0 in the regular season, and the defending national champions are the favorites to win the title yet again. Georgia has only been close to losing once all season, and that game was at Missouri two months ago. It’s been a dominating season from the beginning, and the Bulldogs are facing an LSU team that limped to the finish line after its upset win over Alabama.
No one expected Brian Kelly to win the SEC West in his first season in Baton Rouge, but the Tigers played very well in big games against Ole Miss and Alabama and caught a break when the Crimson Tide lost to Tennessee. The loss to Texas A&M was a stunner, but LSU is still ahead of schedule for where most projected them to be in the SEC at this stage of Kelly’s tenure.
Unfortunately for the Tigers, Saturday’s matchup against Georgia does not inclde many favorable matchups. A&M’s offense had success on the ground and through the air against LSU, and Georgia is better in both facets of the game. Georgia’s defense will be the best unit on the field, while the Tiger offense has struggled over the past three weeks. Perhaps LSU will be more motivated since Georgia will make the playoffs regardless of the final score, but the Bulldogs should cruise to their second SEC title under Kirby Smart. Prediction: Georgia 38, LSU 17.
Coaching carousel
Auburn’s search for Bryan Harsin’s replacement ended right after the regular season finale against Alabama when athletic director John Cohen landed Liberty head coach Hugh Freeze as the Tigers’ 31st head football coach. Freeze spent the past four seasons at Liberty after five years at Ole Miss, where he resigned amid a variety of scandals and allegations. Freeze’s baggage did not deter Cohen from making the hire, and it’s clear Cohen believes that Freeze will turn Auburn back into a contender. Interim head coach Carnell Williams was named Associate Head Coach in addition to his duties coaching running backs. Freeze has not made any other decisions on his staff as of yet, but keeping Williams – who won over the locker room and the fan base as interim coach – was a priority for Freeze and Cohen.

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