1 play, 2 divisions: Auburn miracle could shape both SEC races
Alabama was that close to winning the West. Missouri was that close to a one-loss cushion in the East. Neither happened.
Auburn's Nick Marshall flung the ball downfield, seemingly more in hope than expectation. Ricardo Louis was double-covered. The pass was mildly overthrown. An incompletion meant the game was over.
And while the ball was in the air, it seemed as if both SEC divisional races had been decided, or something close to it. Assuming it fell to the turf, Alabama had clinched the SEC West, done and dusted. And in the SEC East, the Georgia victory meant that -- barring a Kentucky upset of the Dawgs next week -- Missouri could lose one of their two remaining games vs. Ole Miss and Texas A&M and still win the division.
Instead, this happened. Instead, this happened on the Georgia sideline:
For Auburn fans and for Georgia supporters, the leaguewide fallout from the "Prayer at Jordan-Hare" was secondary, of course, to the raw, visceral emotion of the moment. But for both teams and both divisions, the ramifications went far beyond the immediate gutpunch:
Alabama: The Tide were never going to need any kind of motivational boost to play Auburn, not with their undefeated season and national championship hopes on the line. (And, you know, Auburn being Auburn and all.) But the stakes were ratcheted up another notch all the same: lose on the Plains in two weeks, and everything -- even the SEC title -- is gone.
Auburn: The Iron Bowl has never before been a winner-take-all matchup to decide the SEC West. And now Auburn will host it, sitting at 10-1 and with a continued outside chance at working their way into the BCS title conversation.
Missouri: If Florida had held on to an early 14-6 lead at South Carolina, what happened at Auburn wouldn't have made any difference. But after the Gamecocks' win, it made all the difference. Georgia can no longer land in a three-way tie at 6-2, and the Tigers lose a two-way tie with South Carolina, now safe in the clubhouse at 6-2. Missouri now has to sweep both the Rebels (in Oxford) and Texas A&M to finish at 7-1 if they want to go to Atlanta.
Most gutting for Missouri is that the entire situation could have been avoided if they had held on to their 17-point fourth quarter lead vs. the Gamecocks. The two most unlikely wins in the SEC this season? That one at Faurot Field for South Carolina, and Auburn's Saturday. Both were devastating for Missouri.
Georgia: For the Bulldogs, losing to Auburn is bad. Losing in that fashion is far, far worse. Losing in that fashion to Auburn to officially be eliminated from the SEC East race is worst of all.
You can argue that the SEC has seen games with bigger stakes this season. You could maybe even argue there were better games. (We'd disagree.) But there's no arguing that no individual play looms as large on the conference picture as that one -- and given how mind-blowing that particular play is, isn't that appropriate?
Vine HT: Brian Floyd
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