In the end, after all the thrills and all the excitement and all the beautiful brutality of football being played at its very best, it just made sense. It just seemed inevitable.
Yes, the Georgia Bulldogs played their hearts out on Saturday night in Atlanta. Yes, Mark Richt's boys threw everything they had at the mighty Alabama Crimson Tide. Yes, the Dawgs silenced the critics who said they weren't tough enough, weren't good enough, or weren't talented enough to hang with Nick Saban's boys in the biggest game of the year.
But even still, it wasn't enough. Inevitably, when the final gun sounded, it was the Tide who had come out on top. Because with Saban in charge, that's just the way things go these days. What we are witnessing here is nothing less than the establishment of one of the greatest dynasties in college football history.
Before we get to the Tide, though, let's start with this: What a football game. What an amazing, amazing football game.
In a modern football era where so many of the so-called "biggest" games--the Super Bowl, and increasingly, all of the big bowl games--have evolved more into pop-culture events than football games, the SEC Championship Game stands out as unique. For it is this game, it seems, that continues to be about football. Just football.
There is no ridiculous half-time show here. No ridiculous pre-game build-up. There is no talk about commercials. There are no celebrities in the stands. There is nothing but the two best teams from America's best football conference playing a game that more often than not serves as the de facto national title game. Each year, it's a war. Each year, it's a spectacle. Each year, it manages to live up to the hype.
And this year was no different. For 60 minutes the Dawgs gave 'Bama everything they could handle. They were tough on defense and crafty on offense and opportunistic on special teams. They pushed the Tide to limit, really. But the Crimson Tide's mammoth offensive line decided sometime in the third quarter that they were going to win the game, and that's basically what they did, opening running lanes for Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon and slowly but surely wearing the Georgia defense to a pulp. Yes, Georgia had one last drive, and yes, it could be said that the game came down that last ill-advised fade route, but really, the game was decided up front, in the trenches, where 'Bama always seems to dominate.
But it was decided, too, by the mental states of both of these teams. Watching the fourth quarter, one got the sense that Georgia was merely hoping to win. 'Bama, by contrast, looked like a team that could not imagine anything but a win. It's a confidence that has been born not only of years of success, but also of the remarkable leadership of the man who runs the whole show.
Saban is a competitor the likes of which we have rarely seen in this sport, and when he is at his best--as he is at the moment--there is simply nobody better. Every time the Tide take the field, they have the advantage. Saban is the reason why.
Which means, so long as he stays in Tuscaloosa, there will not be a better program in the country.
♦ Now, on to the national title game. On paper, and speaking in a strictly historical sense, it doesn't really get much better than this. Notre Dame vs. Alabama for all the marbles is pretty much a dream come true for the folks who run the BCS, and we can assume quite safely that the television ratings for this one are going to be absolutely insane. When you've got Alabama, representing all of the SEC, taking on Notre Dame, representing millions of fans who not only love the Irish or have adopted the Irish but also those who are quite frankly tired of the SEC's dominance over college football, you've got a matchup made in heaven. The media will love this showdown, and the fans will, too. I mean, the pregame hype is going to be absolutely ridiculous. As for the game itself? Well, I think it will actually be much better than many think. As expected, the SEC wonks have already started talking about how badly the Tide are going to crush the Irish, and in a sense, I get that; I mean, as I just explained above, the Tide boast one of the greatest coaches in college football history and a group of players who expect nothing less than a national title every single year. But as I mentioned last week in this space, it would be very unwise indeed to underestimate the Irish, who who have a pretty darn good coach themselves in Brian Kelly and a defense that is more than capable of keeping this one close. While the Tide certainly need to be considered the favorite here, I am more than confident that the Irish will make it a battle. They've been told all season that they aren't good enough, and they've proved us wrong every week. That won't change now.