In & around SEC football: Conference championship preview

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By Cole Frederick/Sports Correspondent 

Iron Bowl Recap
“Fourth and 31” will soon be remembered in the same breath as “Kick Six,” “Punt Bama Punt,” and “Wrong Way Bo” in Iron Bowl lore. With Alabama’s playoff chances on the brink of elimination last Saturday in Auburn, quarterback Jalen Milroe connected with Isaiah Bond in the back-left corner of the end zone on fourth down and 31 to give Alabama a 27-24 lead with under a minute to play. The Crimson Tide committed a penalty and a ball was snapped over Milroe’s head on previous two plays, but the Tigers only rushed two on the fourth down play, providing Milroe with enough time to make the miracle throw to Bond. A few minutes earlier, Auburn muffed a punt to give Alabama the ball in plus territory
Despite the Tigers losing the turnover battle 0-3 on the afternoon, Hugh Freeze’s team had plenty of chances to secure the massive upset. Auburn (6-6, 3-5) rushed for 244 yards, including 93 from Jarquez Hunter and 85 from Damari Alston. Payton Thorne only threw for 91 yards along with one touchdown and two interceptions, but he added 57 yards on the ground.
Milroe tossed two touchdown passes and threw for 259 yards for Alabama (11-1, 8-0). He also rushed for 107 yards, while Jermaine Burton hauled in four passes for 107 yards. Alabama will take on Georgia in the SEC Championship Game this Saturday (Dec. 2) with a potential spot in the playoffs on the line.
Week 14 SEC rankings
1. Georgia (12-0, 8-0)
2. Alabama (11-1, 8-0)
3. Ole Miss (10-2, 6-2)
4. LSU (9-3, 6-2)
5. Missouri (10-2, 6-2)
6. Tennessee (8-4, 4-4)
7. Texas A&M (7-5, 4-4)
8. Auburn (6-6, 3-5)
9. Kentucky (7-5, 2-6)
10. Arkansas (4-8, 1-7)
11. Florida (5-7, 3-5)
12. South Carolina (5-7, 3-5)
13. Mississippi State (5-7, 1-7)
14. Vanderbilt (2-10, 0-8)
SEC Championship Game Preview and Prediction
Last week: 9-0; season: 90-16
Game of the Week: Alabama vs. Georgia (-5.5). On Saturday in Atlanta, the back-to-back national champion Bulldogs square off against the top modern dynasty in college football for the right to play in the College Football Playoffs. It’s a fitting matchup between two of the top elite programs in the country. Kirby Smart and Georgia thwarted Alabama’s dominance over the last two years, but the last time these two met in Atlanta, it was Alabama that emerged victorious.
Georgia got its revenge in the national title game to start its own dynasty, but Alabama is back and has an opportunity to end Georgia’s quest for a three-peat.
Unlike the past two seasons, it has been Georgia’s offense that has been the dominant unit on the field. Carson Beck, who took over at quarterback for the graduated Stetson Bennett, has been sensational over the second half of the season. It helps throwing to Brock Bowers, but the Dawgs have been clicking on all cylinders offensively.
Despite losing a plethora of players to the NFL, the Georgia defense remains very good. It is not quite the dominant unit that shut almost everyone down over the last two years, but the unit contains elite size and speed that Alabama has not as yet seen to this point.
Nevertheless, Alabama has played a tougher schedule than Georgia, and the Alabama offensive has continually improved over the course of the year. Milroe has been much better during the past month than he was against Texas and Ole Miss earlier this year, and Alabama has been versatile offensively.
While the Tide defense is not as elite as some of Saban’s early championship teams, the unit includes a handful of playmakers who wreak havoc on opposing offenses. Freshman safety Caleb Downs has been a revelation, while Dallas Turner might be a first-round NFL pick in the spring.
Both Saban and Smart are defensive wizards, but this matchup is shaping up to be more of an offensive game than a defensive struggle. Both offenses have played well over the last six weeks, so this game could turn into a shootout in the fourth quarter.
Prediction: Georgia 31, Alabama 27.

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