UPDATED Sunday, Nov. 25 at 3:14 p.m.*
Next Saturday, No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia will play for a lot more than a SEC championship. Whichever teams wins on Dec. 1 will play Notre Dame (12-0) in the BCS championship game on Jan. 7 in Miami.
Alabama (11-1, 7-1) clinched a berth in the SEC championship game with Saturday’s 49-0 shutout over in-state rival Auburn in the Iron Bowl. The Tigers (3-9, 0-8) were never in the game and will end the season winless in the SEC.
Alabama’s starters went to the sidelines just after the half, but not before Eddie Lacy rushed for 131 yards to cross the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the season. In total, the Tide outrushed the Tigers 267 yards to 92. Bama quarterback A.J. McCarron completed 15 of 21 passes for 216 yards before backup quarterback Blake Sims entered the game. For the day, the Tide outgained the Tigers by a margin of 483 yards to 163.
Auburn head coach Gene Chizik described the Tiger’s performance as “sad.”
"Obviously, that was a very disappointing loss, embarrassing loss to our state rivals," he told ESPN. "It was obvious to everybody.”
Georgia (11-1, 7-1), which had already clinched a berth in the SEC title game, also had a successful day against their in-state rival. The Dawgs posted a 42-10 win over Georgia Tech as the engineering school’s team proved that doing something on paper doesn’t equate to actually doing it in real life.
“In what was predicted to be a much closer game, UGA absolute whooped up on Georgia Tech. Though if you had looked at the stats alone, you wouldn't think that the game was such a blowout,” Patch blogger Alex Reed wrote. “Tech ended up with around 50 more yards than UGA and almost twice as much time of possession, yet UGA held them to a single touchdown in the fourth quarter and a field goal in the first.”
The Dec. 1 SEC championship game will be the first between Alabama and Georgia. Alabama has made eight appearances in the conference title game, but has faced Florida each time. Georgia will make its fifth trip to the SEC championship game, the most recent of which was last year’s matchup against LSU -- a game the Bulldogs lost.
If Alabama wins on Dec. 1, the Tide will play for its third BCS title in the past four years, having won the national championship in 2009 and 2011. Alabama has won 14 national titles in all. If Georgia wins the SEC championship, the Bulldogs will play for their first national title since 1980. Notre Dame -- with 13 national championships -- has not won a title since 1988.
In other SEC action:
Kentucky 17, Tennessee 37 – Thanks to the Wildcats (2-10, 0-8), the Volunteers finally picked up their first SEC win of the season. The Vols (5-7, 1-7) now begin the search for a new coach after Derek Dooley was fired last week. Wildcats’ coach Joker Phillips has also been dismissed. “Unlike last year's streak-breaking victory in Commonwealth Stadium, there would be no victory for Joker Phillips in his final game as Kentucky's head coach,” a Bleacher Report article stated. “The game started with the Wildcats keeping pace with the Volunteers, but quickly went off the rails as Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray torched the UK secondary for 293 yards and four touchdowns through the air.” Both teams are most likely just happy to see this season end.
No. 4 Florida 37, No. 10 Florida State 26 – It was a real long shot, but, had Notre Dame lost, the Gators (11-1, 7-1) had a chance at a BCS title berth after a win over the Seminoles. Despite taking care of business Saturday afternoon, Florida fans had to sit back and weep as the Fighting Irish ended the Gators’ title hopes by defeating a USC team that took the field without its starting quarterback. “After Florida led 13-3 at the half, the game swung wildly in the second half, with the Seminoles dominating the third quarter. The Seminoles scored 17 unanswered points in the third quarter to jump on top, 20-13, heading into the final 15 minutes, but from there on out it was all Gators. Florida retook the lead with 11:01 left in the game on a 37-yard run by Gillislee after a Manuel fumble,” SB Nation reported. Florida will now await word on which bowl game it will get.
Vanderbilt 55, Wake Forest 21– Vanderbilt (8-4, 5-3) picked up its sixth consecutive win Saturday with a 55-21 victory over Wake Forest. The Commodores 8-4 season record is their best since 1982 according to ESPN. “The win was a cap to what has been a stunning run through the final six weeks of the regular season. The 'Dores have blown through November in every kind of fashion -- whether it was a close stand to hold off Auburn in October, a furious comeback to stun Ole Miss two weeks ago or any number of blowouts against the likes of Massachusetts, Kentucky or Tennessee,” ESPN reported. The Commodores, for the second consecutive season, are bowl eligible.
Mississippi State 24, Ole Miss 41– How, you may ask yourself, did a team that was 7-0 just a few weeks ago hit the skids in such a spectacular manner? After their Oct. 27 loss to Alabama, the Mississippi State Bulldogs (8-4, 4-4) understandably lost to Texas A&M and LSU, but Ole Miss (6-6, 3-5)? For the Rebels, the win marks the first Egg Bowl victory since 2008 and their first bowl eligible season since 2009. “When it was over, hundreds of Ole Miss fans rushed the field, celebrating with a team that bounced back from a dreadful 2-10 season in 2011,” DJJournal.com reported. The Bulldogs, despite the disappointing end to the season, are also bowl eligible and finish fourth in the SEC West behind Alabama, LSU and Texas A&M.
Missouri 29, No. 9 Texas A&M 59 – Johnny “Football” Manziel had yet another impressive outing throwing for 372 yards and rushing for 67 in the Aggies 59-29 thrashing of Mizzou (5-7, 2-6). The freshman quarterback gave fans and coaches a scare after falling to the ground and clutching his left knee after a tackle, but soon returned to the game with a knee brace and, according to the Dallas News, broke the SEC record for total offense in a season and led Texas A&M (10-2, 6-2) to its first 10-win season since 1998. The Aggies will await word on their bowl destination and will be on Heisman watch. “Manziel set the SEC record on a 13-yard pass to Ben Malena in the second quarter. He finished the game with 4,600 yards in 12 games, topping the mark of 4,327 set by Auburn’s Cam Newton in 14 games in 2010 -- the year Newton won the Heisman,” the Dallas News reported.
No. 12 South Carolina 27, No. 11 Clemson 17 – The Gamecocks (10-2, 6-2) wrapped up the regular season with a convincing win over No. 11 Clemson in the Palmetto State rivalry. “The win was [Steve] Spurrier's 65th at the helm of the Gamecocks' program, moving him past Rex Enright for most in school history,” Fox News reported. Both teams will make post-season appearances.
No. 7 LSU 20, Arkansas 13 – In what was a surprise to no one, Arkansas school officials announced interim coach John Smith will join Derek Dooley, Joker Phillips and Gene Chizik in the ranks of unemployed coaches. Smith went out on a relatively good note Friday afternoon with the Razorbacks (4-8, 2-6) putting up a good fight against LSU (10-2, 6-2). “The Tigers finished on top, winning 20-13. But the final score, a 28-yard field goal by Drew Alleman, didn’t come until the last 1:26 of the game. Arkansas had multiple chances to pull off the upset,” according to the Sporting News. LSU, of course, is bowl eligible. For the Razorbacks, the season is mercifully over.
*This article was updated to reflect the fact that Auburn coach Gene Chizik was officially fired on Sunday, Nov. 25.
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