Ah, Championship Saturday. Born of southern persuasion in 1992 on a cold, rainy afternoon at historic (dilapidated) Legion Field near SEC headquarters in Birmingham. College football had experienced nothing like it: A Saturday solely devoted to determining a conference champion, like it was our own little Super Bowl.
The inaugural SEC Championship game is eerily similar to the 19th edition taking place today in the comfort of the Georgia Dome. An undefeated Alabama team faced off against the 8-3 Gators. Most of the talk for that game was about the fact that there was a championship game for a conference. Underlying all of that, the SEC brass were probably cringing, knowing that Florida, a legitimate underdog, could come out on top with two conference losses and three total losses, knocking league darling, Alabama, out of the Sugar Bowl and contention for a National Championship. The genius plan to provide exposure to the SEC and legitimize the champion for national contention could have backfired in year one. Despite a second half charge by Shane Matthews, who caught fire against one of the best defenses in history, Bama made the big play that champions make in the 4th quarter when Antonio Langham read the post-fade pattern perfectly and picked off the Gators hopes for a second SEC title.
It was a risky endeavor, but 18 years later, it is hard to argue with the success of the game, especially the 2008 and 2009 editions that paired two undefeated teams that were as big or bigger than the BCS title game. Many conferences have put in their own version, but none are as meaningful as the annual game in the SEC.
Including this year, 13 of the 19 SEC Championship games have featured at least one team looking to play for a national championship. As stated, 2008 and 2009 was sending the winner to the BCS game, no matter what. Only in 1994 (Florida over Bama) did an underdog without national title hopes take out the favorite.
What does that mean for today’s game? Spurrier was one drive away from spoiling the party in 1992 and had a defense come up big in 1994 to end title hopes for the undefeated, opposing team. Today, he’s depending on Garcia, the most frustrating quarterback he has ever coached and dynamic freshman, Lattimore. The Cock defense is definitely better than the Auburn version, but can anyone stop Scam Newton when he is clicking? Let’s go to the picks and find out…
Sonny & Sam have won nine straight consensus picks. We are keeping our picks aligned this week to end the regular season.
Oklahoma -4 Nebraska – Sooners are who we thought they were. It just took them the whole season to gel. It just wouldn’t be right to send Nebraska to the Big 10 with the Big 12 title.
Va Tech -3 (buy the half point) FSU – The Hokies are hot against the spread since their early season debacle. Were it not for the big margin of victory over what I consider the worst Gator team in over 2 decades, this line would be around 6. And the Hokies are at least that much better than the Noles on a neutral field.
Louisiana Tech +8.5 Nevada. This is a Vegas line if there ever was one. A chance to play with the house and big money. The trap, the let down, the three connections and an airboat ride from Reno to Ruston are all against your eager desire to give up 8.5 points for the new kid on the non-AQ block against the 5-6 Karl Malones. You may want to bleed this line as it is sure to go up as kickoff approaches.
Wazoo +6 U-Dub. Yes, we are betting on a 2-9 team. This game means the world to the Washington State program. Jake Locker has been terrible down the stretch. Look for the Cougars, who have beaten the line more than they’ve lost to it this year, to win outright.
Cocks +5 Auburn. Neither one of us feel 100% on this pick, but this game is our version of the Super Bowl, and therefore, a must play. As much as we’d like to see an SEC team compete for a 5th straight national championship, it doesn’t seem right to pull for what will be another vacated season for Auburn. On paper, Auburn looks like they can blow South Carolina away, but our gut and our heart tells us that Spurrier is ready for this game. Rule 1 in handicapping is to never let your heart or rooting sense guide your decision. We’re openly doing it this time, but our soul feels a little safer riding the Cocks. And yes, it makes us feel like a night of tequila shots capped off by 4th meal at the Bell to know this righteous play depends on Stephen Garcia. Imagine how the ‘Ol Ball Coach feels?