JOE BIDDLE: Tide escapes Georgia to face Notre Dame

SEC balanced early in conference play (Image 1)
SEC balanced early in conference play (Image 1)

The stage is set.

College football teams have
been auditioning since the season began. One by one, teams dropped from the
ranks of the unbeaten.

When Oregon and Kansas State
suffered their first defeats on the same week, it left Notre Dame all alone on

It will be defending national
champion Alabama playing undefeated and top-ranked Notre Dame in the BCS
National Championship Game. They are two of the most storied programs in
college football.

Could this often-maligned BCS
formula have turned out any better? No way.

The outcome leaves Alabama
going for its third national championship out of the last four years.

While some Alabama fans may
find it heresy for anyone to mention the legendary Paul “Bear'' Bryant in the same
sentence with any other college football coach, I would argue Alabama's Nick
Saban has earned that right. He is the best coach in this era, as Bryant was in
his. And Saban's program appears to be ready to contend for national
championships going forward into the future.

That being said, Georgia gave
the Crimson Tide all it wanted, and more. Trailing 32-28, Georgia drove the
ball inside Alabama's 10-yard line. With the clock running down, Georgia
quarterback's Aaron Murray's pass was tipped, but completed to Chris Conley,
who slipped and fell four yards short of the end zone.

It was that close, leaving
the Georgia Dome sellout crowd standing on their feet and sweating it out until
the final seconds expired.

“I'm ready to have a heart
attack on that last (Georgia) drive,'' Saban said on the telecast. “We had to
run the ball because we couldn't handle their pass rush.''

Alabama once trailed 21-10,
but rode the legs of running backs Eddie Lacy and freshman T.J. Yeldon in the
come-from-behind thriller.

Lacy earned Most Valuable
Player honors as he led the way with 181 yards and two touchdowns while Yeldon
added 152 yards and a touchdown as the Tide racked up 349 yards on the ground.
It was Alabama quarterback AJ McCarron's 44-yard touchdown pass to Amari Cooper,
who had slipped behind the Georgia secondary on a play-action pass. It turned
out to be the 32-28 difference with 3:15 left in the game.

But Georgia never quit
coming. The Bulldogs took advantage of Alabama's prevent defense to move the
ball down field.

“It got batted down at the
line,'' Georgia Coach Mark Richt said of the Dawgs final pass attempt. “The
outside guy was running a fade (in the end zone). That's where we were throwing
the ball.''

Richt joined a long list of
teams that have come up short when playing Alabama in recent years.

“I guess the clock ran out,''
Richt said.

Richt dropped to 2-4 in games
against Saban as Georgia was hoping to play for the national championship for
the first time since 1982 when led by running back Herschel Walker.

Georgia quarterback Aaron
Murray finished his career going 1-5 against top 10 teams while East Division
champion Georgia goes bowling with a 11-2 record, having lost to South Carolina
and Alabama.

Thus, it will be Alabama and
Notre Dame duking it out in Miami Jan. 7. The last two teams standing. Only one
will go home with the crystal trophy.

Contact Sports Columnist Joe Biddle at   

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