In & around SEC football: Conference championship preview and prediction

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By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent

Iron Bowl Recap
For nearly 58 minutes last Saturday afternoon, the Iron Bowl was a defensive slugfest combined with abysmal offensive performances. Auburn led the entirety of regulation, including a 7-0 halftime lead, but Bryce Young led the Crimson Tide on a 12-play, 97-yard touchdown drive in one minute and 11 seconds to tie the game at 10-10 and force overtime. Both teams traded touchdowns and field goals in the first two overtimes. The game moved to triple overtime and was decided by two-point conversions. After Auburn failed to convert in the fourth overtime with the score 22-22, Young found John Metchie for the win as UA escaped by a score of 24-22. Young threw 51 times for 317 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception, while Metchie caught 13 passes for 150 yards. T.J. Finley threw for two touchdowns and a pick as well, but he only had 137 yards through the air as he battled an injured leg for most of the second half. Auburn finished the regular season at 6-6 with four straight losses, while Alabama improved to 11-1 and will take on Georgia this Saturday (Dec. 4) in Atlanta for the SEC title game.
Week 14 SEC Rankings
1. Georgia (12-0, 8-0)
2. Alabama (11-1, 7-1)
3. Ole Miss (10-2, 6-2)
4. Arkansas (8-4, 4-4)
5. Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4)
6. Mississippi State (7-5, 4-4)
7. Tennessee (7-5, 4-4)
8. Kentucky (9-3, 5-3)
9. Missouri (6-6, 3-5)
10. South Carolina (6-6, 3-5)
11. Auburn (6-6, 3-5)
12. LSU (6-6, 3-5)
13. Florida (6-6, 2-6)
14. Vanderbilt (2-10, 0-8)
SEC Championship Game Preview and Prediction
Last week: 7-2; season: 93-19
Saturday, Dec. 4
Game of the Week: Alabama vs. Georgia (-6.5). Kirby Smart has the best team in the country, and his Bulldogs are almost certainly a lock for the playoff field regardless of the outcome on Saturday. However, a win over Alabama in the SEC championship would accomplish three things for Smart’s program. First, and most obvious, the Bulldogs would win a conference title and earn the No. 1 seed in the College Football Playoffs. Second, Smart would beat Nick Saban for the first time in his career despite two very close calls in the national title game and SEC title game in previous years. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, a win on Saturday would likely eli-minate Georgia’s biggest threat when the playoffs actually start. Ohio State and Alabama probably have the best chance at beating Georgia of any team in the country. The Buckeyes are out of contention after a loss to Michigan, and if Alabama loses, they’d need extraordinary circumstances to occur elsewhere to make the field.
Despite the 11-1 record, this is the far from the strongest Alabama team of the Nick Saban era. Bryce Young and Will Anderson are two of the best players in the country who have carried an Alabama team that has serious flaws on the offensive line, among other places. The Crimson Tide are more than capable of winning this game, but the line will need to play its best game of the year against the best defensive front in the country and one of the best in recent history. Georgia’s offense has been efficient all season but has not really been tested or had to score with its back against the wall. The Bulldog defense has allowed less than seven points per game, and while Alabama will almost certainly score much more than that, it will take a Herculean effort for the Tide to pull off the upset. Prediction: Georgia 31, Alabama 24.

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