What more could you want as a college football fan for the 2012 SEC Championship?
The sport's best conference will fittingly pit two of the nation's top three teams when the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide and third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs square off on Saturday in the Georgia Dome.
There may be somewhat of a home advantage for the Bulldogs since the game is in their state, but Bama fans are among the most passionate in the country and are certain to turn up in huge numbers in this epic matchup.
Speaking of matchups, the most intriguing one is the battle of head coaches. Nick Saban has to be considered the best in the country, while Mark Richt is not to be underestimated for Georgia, especially since he was on the hot seat at the outset of the 2012 season.
With two extremely talented teams that sport balanced offenses and vicious defenses, it should be one for the ages—and certainly one of the best games of the year.
Here is a closer look at this outstanding battle for Southeastern Conference superiority—with a trip to the BCS national championship on the line to boot.
When: Saturday, Dec. 1 at 4 p.m. ET
Where: Georgia Dome, Atlanta, Ga.
Current Betting Line (via Odds Shark)
Spread: Alabama (-8)
Money Line: Alabama (-310), Georgia (+255)
The Crimson Tide are definitely the favorite, but this line seems a little bit too high. Both teams have very similar styles, with Alabama having the obvious edge on defense. But Georgia's offense has a little more all-around playmaking ability, which should drive the line down as the week progresses.
Alabama Injury Report
Kenny Bell, WR (leg) OUT—The loss of the speedy junior wide receiver takes away the Tide's most viable deep threat in the passing game. He broke his leg in the decisive 49-0 blowout of Auburn this past weekend. ESPN TideNation blogger Alex Scarborough reported that Bell would miss 5-6 weeks, and then later it was confirmed Bell would be lost for the remainder of the year.
John Fulton, DB (toe) QUESTIONABLE—An exceptional performance against Texas A&M was also the unfortunate site of Fulton's turf toe injury (h/t AL.com), which has kept him out the past two weeks. Fulton's status remains up in the air for Saturday's marquee showdown.
Georgia Injury Report
Merritt Hall, FB (ankle) QUESTIONABLE—As a former walk-on who leaped to the top of the depth chart after an impressive spring (h/t RedAndBlack.com), Hall has been out for several games and remains a question mark to play this week.
Mike Thornton, NT (ankle) QUESTIONABLE—The massive 300-plus pound sophomore is dealing with an ankle injury as well, and the reserve lineman is a 50-50 shot to play against the Tide.
(Note: Unless otherwise specified, injury information courtesy of USA TODAY)
What's at Stake/BCS Impact
There couldn't be more at stake or a more significant impact to the BCS national championship picture than this game entails.
The winner goes to the national championship to face Notre Dame, while the loser likely misses out on a BCS bowl entirely, thanks to the presence of No. 4 Florida with only one loss on their resume. It isn't a win-or-go-home scenario for these SEC staples, but it's about as close to that as it gets.
Alabama Player to Watch: RB T.J. Yeldon
Aforementioned ESPN blogger Alex Scarborough's tweet defined the toughness of the Crimson Tide's sensational freshman running back:
T.J. Yeldon (foot sprain) was 100 percent against Auburn, per Saban. He did note that guys are usually banged and bruised this time of year.— Alex Scarborough (@AlexS_ESPN) November 26, 2012
Playing through a sprained foot is no small task, especially considering it had happened just a week prior to the Auburn game. It should be interesting to see how effective Yeldon is against a much tougher Bulldog defense.
Although Georgia ranks only 67th in the nation against the run (h/t NCAA.com), the defense has improved immensely lately, albeit against lesser competition for the most part.
Saban may have said that Yeldon was at 100 percent this past weekend, but his 4.8 yards per carry were a little lackluster considering how awful the Tigers have been. Another week of practice and a bit of time to recover should help Yeldon, and if he is his usual self, it will be all the more difficult for the Bulldogs to get the Tide off the field.
Georgia Player to Watch: QB Aaron Murray
The Bulldogs have their own fantastic duo in the backfield, with two freshman in Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. But the game will likely boil down to which quarterback makes the fewest mistakes.
Murray has shown a tendency to be erratic against the top-flight competition of the SEC, and he can't afford that against a ball hawk-filled defense like Alabama.
Plus, Tide QB McCarron rarely ever makes mistakes, throwing his only two interceptions of the season in the home loss to Texas A&M. It will be up to Murray to make all the right reads and find explosive WR Tavarres King as often as possible. King leads the team with nearly 21 yards per catch and eight TD catches.
Can the Tide continue their bid to repeat as national champions, or will Richt finally get over the hump and take the Bulldogs to the promised land? That sounds like an excellent lead-in to the kickoff for the CBS broadcast team, doesn't it? The rankings of the teams and the incredibly high stakes speak for themselves as far as storylines are concerned.
Perhaps the venue gives a slight edge to Georgia in some regard, but it's impossible to bet against Saban.
It took an almost unbelievable performance by Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel to spoil the Tide's undefeated season, and it's hard to fathom them blowing a second opportunity to get back to the game's biggest stage.
The Bulldogs will make it very interesting with Jarvis Jones wreaking havoc on McCarron and the offense putting up gaudy numbers. But the Tide will roll to its second consecutive BCS national title game in a relatively low-scoring affair.
Final score: Alabama 20, Georgia 14