Alabama offensive lineman D.J. Fluker (76) and offensive lineman Cyrus Kouandjio (71) react after a win over Auburn during the second half of a NCAA college football game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Saturday. Alabama beat Auburn 49-0. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
1. Notre Dame
6. Kansas State
9. Texas A&M
10. South Carolina
The 2012 Southeastern Conference football championship game is set, with Georgia's thirst challenging Alabama's thirst for more.
A victory by No. 2 Alabama at the Georgia Dome this Saturday would enable Nick Saban's Crimson Tide to inch within one win of a third BCS title in four years. The No. 3 Bulldogs, meanwhile, haven't been on a stage this grand since losing the 1982 national championship to Penn State in the Sugar Bowl.
It's definitely the biggest of the 157 games Mark Richt has coached with the Bulldogs.
"It's not about me. It's about Georgia," Richt said Sunday afternoon. "It's about this program, this team, these young men and this coaching staff. I don't worry too much about all the personal stuff, but it is great to be in this position at this point.
"You fight like mad every year to get your team in a position like this. It certainly is a good thing."
Georgia completed its first 11-1 regular season in a decade with Saturday's 42-10 trampling of Georgia Tech. As that game was ending, Alabama was beginning to cap its 11-1 regular season with a 49-0 rout of Auburn.
The Crimson Tide lost 13 starters from last season's championship team yet ascended to No. 1 following a 41-14 opening romp over Michigan and remained at the top until Texas A&M pulled a 29-24 upset on Nov. 10. Alabama has become well-versed in these pressure pairings.
"I've been pretty pleased with the way this team has tried to respond to it," Saban said. "They've put themselves in a position to play in the SEC championship game, which is a very positive step."
Saturday will mark the 21st SEC title game but the first involving Alabama and Georgia. The Crimson Tide have made seven previous trips to the league championship, facing Florida every time, and went 3-4 in those matchups.
Georgia has played in four previous SEC title games, three against LSU and one against Arkansas, with the Bulldogs going 2-2.
"It is a little unusual they haven't played before as many times as Alabama has been there," said South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier, who won five SEC title games while at Florida. "Georgia has been there a few times under Mark Richt, and it just happens to have been in the years that Alabama wasn't there. It should be an interesting matchup, and I think Georgia's got a chance to beat them."
Alabama and Georgia were supposed to play this season before the additions of Missouri and Texas A&M altered this season's schedule. The last meeting between the two occurred in 2008, when the Crimson Tide went to Athens and rolled to a 31-0 halftime lead before winning 41-30.
"I've always held their program in very high esteem in terms of the consistency they've had," Saban said. "They've won on a very consistent basis the entire time Mark has been there. He's developed a lot of good players and a lot of good quarterbacks."
The Bulldogs opened Sunday as 7.5-point underdogs but are quite confident after following a 17-9 upset of Florida on Oct. 27 with wins over Ole Miss, Auburn, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech by a combined count of 162-34.
Alabama has outscored Western Carolina and Auburn 98-0 the past two weeks.
"I feel like we have better players than anybody in the country at each position," Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo said, "so we've just got to go out there and show everybody."
Said Alabama defensive end Damion Square: "We know how good we are and how good we can be. We come out and play to our full potential."
Odds and ends
Alabama holds a 36-25-4 series edge against Georgia. ... Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray (177.15) leads the nation in efficiency, with Alabama's AJ McCarron (176.26) second. ... The Bulldogs have worn red jerseys during their first four SEC title trips and will wear red again Saturday. ... Bulldogs reserve defensive lineman Mike Thornton sprained his ankle against Georgia Tech and may not be available.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...