published Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Wiedmer: Georgia deserved BCS bowl after SEC performance

No matter what the BCS schedule tells us today, does anyone doubt that college football's real national championship game was played Saturday night inside the Georgia Dome?

Is it even remotely possible that SEC champ Alabama and undefeated, top-ranked Notre Dame could possibly play a game as entertaining, exciting and exhausting as the Crimson Tide's 32-28 victory over Georgia?

And if they do, wouldn't that have to qualify as the greatest college football game ever?

Of course, the Tide and Fighting Irish have already staged the best bowl game I've ever watched, though as a 15-year-old SEC loyalist I was crushed when ND denied Bear's Boys the 1973 national championship with a 24-23, New Year's Eve triumph in that year's Sugar Bowl.

Or maybe Bama and ND could again play the kind of game on Jan. 7 in Miami that they previously staged in the Orange Bowl at the close of the 1974 season, when the Irish prevailed 13-11.

But that doesn't mean it could top the Tide's twisting, turning, taut win over the Dawgs, the one literally not decided until the game's final play?

More important, because of that game and that ending, how can there possibly be a BCS formula that excludes Georgia from its four non-title game bowls -- the Fiesta, Orange, Rose and Sugar?

Or as Bama boss Nick Saban observed late Saturday: "I think it's a crying shame if Georgia doesn't get to go to a BCS Bowl game. I watch teams playing that are 7-5 that are talking about they might go to a BCS game because they won their championship? Something's not right there."

And it's not. Not when Wisconsin is 8-5, Georgia is 11-2 and the Badgers are in the Rose Bowl as the Big Ten champ and the Bulldogs are facing Nebraska -- which lost 70-31 to Wisconsin on Saturday -- in the Capital One Bowl.

At the very least, if your league is in the national title game and a second league team that isn't in your conference title game (in this case, Florida in the Sugar) is slated for a BCS bowl, then the remaining BCS bowls should be allowed to take the SEC loser if that team is in the top eight of the final BCS standings.

Given that Georgia was seventh in Sunday's BCS rankings, it's reprehensible that the Dawgs aren't in one of those bowls.

Especially when Northern Illinois -- winner of the mediocre Mid-American Conference -- is in the Orange Bowl after defeating Kent State in double-overtime in the MAC title game.

In case you've forgotten, that's the same Kent State that was crushed by Kentucky, easily the worst team in the SEC this season.

Again, Saban: "I thought the BCS Bowl games were supposed to get the best teams. Now it's all about the conferences sharing the money. But I still think they can share the money however they want. It's not a financial decision.

"If you only lost one game in this league [SEC], you should be in a BCS game. If you got in [the SEC title game] you should be in a BCS game."

I'll part company with Saban on his second point. If one SEC division winner had three losses, it would be hard to argue it should play in a BCS bowl if it lost the title game. But an SEC team with one loss (which Georgia had entering the title game) certainly deserves to get in.

As for the rest of the bowls, the best non-BCS bowl has to be the Cotton with Oklahoma facing Texas A&M and possible Heisman winner Johnny Manziel at quarterback.

My biggest complaint other than Georgia would be Vanderbilt playing a few blocks from campus in the Music City Bowl after winning its final six games while Mississippi State -- which lost four of its last five -- is in the Gator Bowl.

Had those two teams switched bowls, I'd say the SEC did pretty well.

But before we spend too much time on the future let us briefly revisit Saturday night and a Saban move that got lost in all the focus on Georgia's decision not to down the football in those final 15 seconds.

In hindsight, the most important play of the game may have been Saban's call to order a two-point conversion attempt after the Tide scored to pull within 21-16.

Think of how failing to score those two points could have dramatically altered the rest of that game.

Had Bama come up short it would have needed a two-pointer on its next score to make it 24-21. But let's say it failed again, thereby leading 22-21 when Georgia scored its fourth and final touchdown with two minutes gone in the fourth quarter.

Now the Tide would have led by either one or two when it scored late, which meant Georgia would have needed no more twhan a last-second, chip-shot field goal to win. And if everything else had gone as it did, that's just the opportunity the Bulldogs would have had on their last snap.

Everything else could have been different, of course. The Tide might have been more aggressive on defense if a field goal could have tied it or beaten it rather than UGA needing a touchdown to win.

Still, the importance of that two-point conversion cannot be denied. It just may have been the difference in Alabama playing for a national title or facing Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl.

about Mark Wiedmer...

Mark Wiedmer started work at the Chattanooga News-Free Press on Valentine’s Day of 1983. At the time, he had to get an advance from his boss to buy a Valentine gift for his wife. Mark was hired as a graphic artist but quickly moved to sports, where he oversaw prep football for a time, won the “Pick’ em” box in 1985 and took over the UTC basketball beat the following year. By 1990, he was ...

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mkelly54 said...

Mark, as usual you're right on the money. I'm a life-long UGA and SEC fan, so it's difficult for me to see the Dawgs in anything other than a BCS Bowl. The conference tie-ins have created some impressive match-ups through the years and there are some interesting games on this year's schedule.

But for FSU to play Northern Illinois in the Orange Bowl is a real joke. So is UGA playing Nebraska in a bowl.

I really hope UGA makes a huge point by posting 70 on the Huskers. After what I saw this season and Saturday, it could happen.

Thanks for all your great copy. It's always a pleasure to read your work!

December 3, 2012 at 9:54 a.m.
Livn4life said...

You are more than spot on here Marko. But then...there is the system. The bowl system has been the bane of Division 1A college football deciding a for certain national champ and now it comes to this outside of the NC game. GA is to be commended and can hold their heads high. It is now up to them to go show the Big? runner up what SEC football is like.

December 3, 2012 at 5:24 p.m.
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