NCAA Football: Prepare for the inevitably epic SEC championship game
It would make no sense to look forward to a matchup that wasn't going to happen. But this one is a lock.
The #1-ranked Georgia Bulldogs and the #2-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide are both 9-0 with three games left in the 2017 college football regular season, and they will be favoured in each and every one of those games.
This will set up a Southeastern Conference (SEC) championship game pretty much as good as the College Football Playoff championship game, much like we saw in 2011 when Alabama took on the LSU Tigers in the regular season in what was billed the "Game of the Century" between the top two teams in the country, a matchup that ended up being replayed as the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) National Championship Game.
The SEC championship game is one of five championship games among Power Five conferences, which include the SEC, the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), the Big 12 (Big XII), the Big Ten (B1G) and the Pacific-12 (Pac-12). The game features one team from the SEC East division and one from the SEC West division, and those teams are those whose records within the SEC are the best in their respective divisions. If the game happened right now, it would be between the teams currently ranked #1 and #2 in the country.
Even a loss by the East division's Georgia, who last appeared in the SEC championship game five years ago, or the West division's Alabama, the winner of the last three SEC championship games, over the remaining three games of the season, would not prevent the SEC championship game from featuring two teams with serious championship aspirations if both teams do still, in fact, make it. A similar scenario occurred in 2012 when they both had a loss coming into the game and were still ranked in the top 3.
The winner of that game, Alabama, went on to play in the BCS National Championship Game against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the team ironically ranked behind Alabama and Georgia right now at #3 whose only loss was to the Bulldogs in Week 2.
With this game, we'll essentially be getting a fourth College Football Playoff (CFP) game in addition to the three we get with the annual four-team CFP, the two semifinals and the championship game. With no team left on either team's schedule that will be favoured over Alabama or Georgia, we are set to get a game in which both teams are likely to advance to the CFP, even the loser.
Whoever loses the Alabama vs. Georgia SEC championship game is still going to get into the College Football Playoff. Just four Power Five conference teams are still unbeaten, with Alabama and Georgia being two of them, and the other two, the Wisconsin Badgers and Miami Hurricanes, yet to really be tested by a top-tier team.
So, even a loss for Alabama or Georgia in the SEC championship game will not be enough to eliminate them from the CFP. Assuming that both teams end up going into the game unbeaten, whichever team loses the Alabama vs. Georgia game will have only one loss, and that loss will be against the #1 team.
A 12-1 SEC team with one loss to the #1 team in the country will get into the CFP every single time even though two teams from the same conference have never gotten into the game before. Even an 11-2 SEC team who lose a close SEC championship would likely get the nod by the CFP selection committee despite the fact that no 2-loss team have ever made the CFP either.
Are there teams you could make a case for over either of these teams? Certainly, and that is important since ranks are determined by a committee. But while those teams are playing tough teams and losing close games just to keep themselves in the CFP mix, someone has to lose the provisional Alabama vs. Georgia game, thus giving that team a loss against the #1 team in pretty much a mock championship game. That game is essentially a free CFP matchup that will be used for CFP seeding purposes only. It's a great matchup and essentially a bonus for the fans.
And it's just over three weeks away.