The head coaching matchup between Mark Richt and Nick Saban is one of many reasons the 2012 SEC Championship won't be the typical blowout affair.
The vast majority of recent SEC Championship games have ended in blowouts. In the 2012 version, when the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide face the third-ranked Georgia Bulldogs on Saturday, expect that trend to be put to a halt.
This epic clash between two of the country's best teams not only has a conference championship on the line, but a berth in the BCS National Championship Game at stake as well.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, all but one of the Southeastern Conference's deciding games since 1998 have been decided by less than a touchdown. The past two have been won by 39 and 32 points, respectively.
These two teams are simply too evenly matched for that to happen.
Despite what's at stake on a neutral field, Alabama is favored by eight points (h/t Odds Shark). That seems a little high for two teams as close as can be in the national rankings.
ESPN College GameDay analyst Lee Corso made it clear who he was picking on Saturday:
Coach Corso chooses Alabama over Georgia to win the SEC Championship! twitter.com/CollegeGameDay…— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) December 1, 2012
As Corso himself says, "Not so fast my friend!"
Although the Crimson Tide have the statistical edge defensively, both units run 3-4 schemes and are incredibly talented and athletic, with the Bulldogs headlined by stud linebacker Jarvis Jones. That makes it all the more interesting to see how each will match up with two extremely balances offenses.
QB Aaron Murray leads the nation in passing efficiency and averages an astounding 10 yards per pass attempt for the Bulldogs.
However, he hasn't fared well against the SEC's best, as evidenced by his poor play in the 35-7 loss to South Carolina and his three interceptions in an ugly win over Florida.
Who will win the SEC Championship?
His counterpart, Tide QB AJ McCarron, isn't quite up to the potential NFL snuff that Murray is, but he is extremely smart with the football and has proven his ability to get it done in big games. Just check out his national championship ring from last season as a frame of reference.
Georgia has an outstanding duo of freshman running backs in Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall, who have provided Murray with plenty of relief as the offense has been firing on all cylinders for the past month.
Not to be outdone, Alabama has its own freshman phenom in the backfield in T.J. Yeldon to go along with junior RB Eddie Lacy.
Combine that with the Tide's typical massive offensive line, and you get a pretty dangerous attack.
Without second-leading wide receiver Kenny Bell—who averages over 25 yards per catch—McCarron will be looking to others to step up in speedy playmaker's absence. He'll need it, and that may be the biggest disadvantage the Tide has in this game.
Any edge Bama had in terms of their defense versus Georgia's will be at least somewhat neutralized with the absence of Bell on the other side of the ball.
The Tide may continue to roll, but it's rather implausible to say it will be in a rout.