SEC Championship Game

High Tide

By: Kenneth Harrison

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The SEC Championship Game saw #1 Alabama (10-0) face off against #7 Florida (8-2).

These two programs played in the first SEC Championship Game in 1992. This was a matchup of two historically great programs, but it also determined the Heisman winner.

Mac Jones and Kyle Trask were the two frontrunners to win the Heisman and they did not disappoint.

This was the first real test for the Crimson Tide against a Gators team that would not quit. This is the case of the best player on the best team versus the best player in college football.

Mac Jones threw for 418 yards, five touchdowns and one interception. Najee Harris rushed for 178 yards and scored five TD’s. DeVonta Smith caught 15 receptions for 184 yards and two scores. It was enough to win a 52 – 46 shootout in Atlanta.

“Those guys are pretty phenomenal. They have been all year,” Nick Saban said. “They certainly delivered tonight when we needed them to.”

The Gators trailed 35 – 17 at halftime but they scored a couple of third quarter touchdowns and held Alabama scoreless. They scored two more touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but Bama scored 17 points.

Kyle Trask threw for 408 yards and 3 touchdowns.

“We were rolling pretty good,” said Trask. “We just ran out of time.”

Harris was the MVP of the game. He had 31 carries for 178 yards, but he also caught 5 passes for 67 receiving yards and turned three of those into scores.

“I’ve been catching the ball since birth,” he quipped. “People don’t expect it because of the running back name, but I can catch.”

Harris set an SEC championship game record with his five touchdowns, breaking the mark of four scored by Auburn’s Tre Mason in 2013. The Alabama senior also broke a couple of school records, setting new standards for career rushing TDs (44) and overall TDs (54).

Kadarius Toney led the Gators with 8 receptions for 153 yards 1 TD. Tight end Kyle Pitts had 7 catches, 129 yards and a touchdown. Florida’s leading rusher only had 2 carries for 24 yards. I think the lack of offensive balance has been a problem all season that came back to haunt them in this game.

“I thought we showed a lot of character,” coach Dan Mullen said. “That was an excellent team we played … give them credit. That’s why they’re ranked No. 1 in the country.”

This win completed an undefeated season for Alabama. They are the clear favorites going into the College Football Playoff.

“This has been a year with a lot of disruptions,” said Saban, who had his own bout with COVID-19. “The resiliency this team has shown this season to win 11 games is pretty phenomenal.”

The only team that I think is capable of beating Alabama is Clemson. The Tigers would not see them until the National Championship, assuming both teams win. They beat #2 Notre Dame 34 – 10 in the ACC Championship Game.

Hot Seat?

By: TJ Hartnett

TheSouthernSportsEdition.com news services

The University of Georgia Bulldogs stumbled early on in 2019, losing a game in September to a South Carolina Gamecocks squad that would eventually end the season with a 4-8 record.

They battled back and scored big wins against the likes of Auburn and the University of Florida to propel them to a third consecutive SEC East Championship and a showdown against the Louisiana State University Tigers for the SEC Championship.

Given that they didn’t have to play Alabama, the specter that haunted them each of the previous two seasons, this seemed like a golden opportunity for Kirby Smart to right the ship after a disappointing follow-up season in 2018 to the 2017 College Football Championship run.

However, Joe Burrow and the Tigers showed up to Mercedes Benz Stadium and sealed their own CFB playoff spot instead.

Burrow blew the ink dry on his Heisman campaign with 349 passing yards and 4 touchdowns to boot. Jake, from State Fromm, managed 1 touchdown while throwing for 225 yards but tossed two interceptions as well.

It was, as I mentioned before, UGA’s second loss of the season, while LSU remained undefeated.

You have to wonder now if the Bulldog’s rabid (no pun intended) fan base is going to turn against Smart. Even though he was sending out a depleted roster to take on a Tigers team that averaged nearly 50 points per game during the season.

Kirby followed in the footsteps of Mark Richt, who – like Smart – took a season to get acclimated to Athens before winning the SEC Championship in his second year.

That victory was in 2002 and Richt earned another in 2005 before a decade of pretty good, but not quite great, football.

All the goodwill Richt earned by winning the first SEC Championship in 20 years had pretty much worn off by the time he was dismissed in 2015 and Richt remains a debated figure by the UGA faithful.

Smart may not get the 10 years that Richt had, but he led a team to the National Championship game and has taken steps back in the two years since.

Today’s coaches are on the hot seat the second they’re hired. Especially, in the SEC.

I’m not saying that Kirby Smart isn’t going to make it to the New Year with his job intact but he’s in definite danger after losing a second straight SEC Championship.

The Bulldogs seemed like they were trending up just a couple of short years ago, but that trend has seemingly done an about face.

A double-digit lead over Alabama in the 4th quarter in the National Championship Game in 2017 led to a loss.

A double-digit lead in the 3rd quarter in the SEC Championship the very next year led to a loss and to the exact same team, no less.

They followed that with an embarrassing Sugar Bowl loss to Texas. Now they’re entering Championship games as the underdog and the upsets aren’t happening.

That’s a dangerous path for an SEC coach to be on, especially with popular former Bulldog player & coach Mike Bobo suddenly in the unemployment line.

I know there have been calls for Kirby to bring Bobo onto his staff but now I wonder: after this loss and with this continuing trend of getting farther away from greatness, will those calls now change to calling for Bobo to replace Smart?