Alabama (12-1, 8-1 SEC) will play Notre Dame (12-0) in the BCS National Championship game Jan. 7, 2013 in Miami, but it wasn't easy earning that right Saturday. The Tide trailed Georgia (12-2, 8-2) by as many as 11 points in the second half and had to stop a charging Bulldogs offense that nearly went 85 yards in just over a minute to win the game.
Georgia QB Aaron Murray's pass was deflected and caught short of the goal line in the final seconds. The Bulldogs, with no timeouts left, could only watch as the last seconds ran off the clock.
The final seconds capped a back-and-forth game that looked like it could go either way until the clock hit zero. The Bulldogs led 21-10 when they blocked an Alabama field-goal attempt, and LB Alec Ogletree scooped it up and went 55 yards for the score. But the Tide took to the ground and scored two TDs in the next five minutes.
Georgia had its own response, turning to freshman RB Todd Gurley, who ran 10 yards for a score to put the Bulldogs up 28-25 early in the fourth quarter. But another freshman, Alabama WR Amari Cooper, had what turned out to be the game-winning score on a 45-yard TD reception with 3:15 remaining in the game.
When the game turned: It looked like the game was over when Murray threw an apparent INT to Alabama CB Dee Milliner with under a minute to play. But replay showed that he trapped the ball and Georgia was given another chance. The Bulldogs marched to the Alabama 3-yard line, but, down by four points, ran out of time before reaching the end zone.
Highlight moments: Cooper's 45-yard TD reception in the fourth quarter will be remembered for a long time in Tuscaloosa. McCarron threw a perfect ball to the freshman, who got behind the Georgia secondary. Lacey and Yeldon provided plenty of highlights as well. One third-quarter run from Lacy sticks out. He spun out of the grasp of Georgia LB Jarvis Jones and then stiff-armed S Bacarri Rambo for a nice gain.
Georgia fans won't soon forget the vicious blind-side hit Alabama DL Quinton Dial had on QB Murray in the first half. And had the Bulldogs won the game, the field goal block by LB Cornelius Washington and the return by Ogletree might've gone down as one of the biggest plays in program history.
Significance of Alabama's victory: Although it won the national title last season, this is Alabama's first SEC title since 2009. More importantly, the win will give the Crimson Tide a chance to win a third national championship in the last four seasons. Alabama can become the first team to win three national titles under the current BCS system, solidifying it as the nation's premiere program.
Significance of Georgia's loss: The Bulldogs, who were just a few yards from a chance at their first national championship since 1980, will now, in all likelihood, be left out of a BCS bowl. They will likely end up in a second-tier game such as the Capital One Bowl, but it will be a disappointment after Saturday's heart-breaking loss. There's no shame in their performance, but coach Mark Richt and Murray will take some heat for their inability to win the big one.
- Alabama RB Eddie Lacy -- 185 yards, 2 TDs on 20 carries
- Alabama RB T.J. Yeldon -- 152 yards, TD on 25 carries
- Alabama WR Cooper -- 8 catches for 127 yards, TD
- Alabama LB Xzavier Dickson -- 5 tackles, 2 sacks
- Georgia QB Murray -- 18 of 33 for 267 yards, TD, INT
- Georgia RB Gurley -- 121 yards, 2 TDs on 23 carries.
- Georgia WR Tavarres King -- 5 catches for 143 yards.
- Georgia LB Jones -- 6 tackles, 3 TFLs, 2 sacks, forced fumble.
What they said:
- Alabama coach Nick Saban on Georgia's postseason destination: "I think it's a crying shame Georgia doesn't get to go to a BCS game."
- Richt on the last play: "We were attempting to throw the ball to Malcolm Mitchell in the end zone and the ball got batted."
- Saban on playing Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship Game: "It's a one-game season."
- Richt on the perception that he and Murray come up short on the big stage: "I'm not worried about that."
Numbers you should know:
347: That's how many rushing yards Alabama had against a Georgia defense that came into Saturday's game allowing just 164.3 yards per game.
37:35: That's how long Alabama had the ball Saturday. Richt claimed that his team didn't get tired late, but his defense was on the field for a long time Saturday.
2: That's how many fake punts were called in the game. Only one counted officially, though. Georgia converted a first down on its fake in the first half when TE Arthur Lynch hit CB Sanders Commings on a pass. Alabama tried one as well, but a delay of game negated a first-down run by DB Vinnie Sunseri.
(For more on the SEC title game, check out Eye on College Football blog)
For more up-to-the minute news and analysis from SEC bloggers Larry Hartstein and Daniel Lewis, follow @CBSSportsSEC.