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Column: Irish smiling, but SEC eyes another title
Question of the Day
A year ago, the Tide team didn’t even win its division but got a do-over against LSU for the national title. Alabama romped in the rematch, 21-0.
From the rest of the nation, a giant yawn.
This time, the Tide cruised into the SEC championship game on a high after thumping Auburn 49-0 in the Mismatch Bowl (sorry, the Iron Bowl moniker just doesn’t fit at the moment), surely bringing the Gene Chizik era to an inglorious end a mere two years after he guided the Tigers to a national championship.
Georgia will be waiting in Atlanta as the East Division winner for the second year in a row, finishing off its regular season with a 42-10 blowout of Georgia Tech. The Bulldogs are our Comeback Team of the Year, somehow finding a way to get back in the mix after taking a four-touchdown whipping at South Carolina.
“Keep up the good work,” Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal told the Bulldogs after presenting a trophy for their big win over the Yellow Jackets. “We’re looking for a national championship.”
So was Florida, which was fourth in the BCS standings a week ago. The Gators did nothing to hurt their position, stunning Florida State with a 24-point outburst in the fourth quarter on the way to a 37-26 victory. As soon as that one ended, coach Will Muschamp and his players headed off to root for the Trojans, hoping they could take down the Irish.
It wasn’t to be. Notre Dame clinched the win with a brilliant goal-line stand, stuffing the Trojans after they had first-and-goal at the 1.
Oregon was the only other team with a shot, and the Ducks took care of business with an impressive 48-24 win over Oregon State in that state’s version of the Civil War. But they’re all done, too. Heck, the Ducks didn’t even make the Pac-12 title game; Stanford locked up the spot with a victory over UCLA.
Hard to believe, but the SEC seemed down and out just a few weeks ago. Alabama was knocked off by conference newcomer Texas A&M in Tuscaloosa, leaving three non-SEC teams _ Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame _ in the lead positions.
Three-fourths of the nation rejoiced.
Its long, Dixie-induced nightmare seemed over.
Of course, everything flipped again seven days later.
Oregon lost. Kansas State lost. Just like that, Alabama and Georgia were right back in the prime positions.
The Tide and the Bulldogs closed the deal Saturday against overmatched opponents, proving once again the SEC has, if nothing else, an impeccable sense of timing. Outside of Notre Dame, every team in the mix had one loss. But Oregon and Kansas State lost last, so they get shortchanged.
Ohio State might have messed things up, finishing off a 12-0 debut season for coach Urban Meyer with a victory over Michigan. But the Buckeyes are on NCAA probation because of Tattoo-gate, the championship dreams pushed off into the future by some shady ink. They look like the sort of program that can challenge the SEC’s dominance, but not this year.
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