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Alabama and Georgia seek SEC Championship

Matthew DeFranks | Friday, November 30, 2012

On Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m., No. 1 Notre Dame will be 700 miles away from the game with the most impact on them – the SEC Championship Game between No. 2 Alabama and No. 3 Georgia.

The Irish (12-0) have secured their spot in the BCS National Championship Game in Miami on Jan.7 and the SEC champion figures to grab the other spot.

“It’s a game that I think everybody across the country wants to watch,” Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said. “Of course, this game in particular, because everybody’s sitting there saying that the winner is going to go play for the national championship.

“The last six or seven years, the winner (of this game) has gone on to play for the national championship, so it’s not all that new.”

The Crimson Tide (11-1, 7-1 SEC) held the top spot in the rankings for the first 11 weeks of the college football season before losing 29-24 to then-No. 15 Texas A&M. Alabama’s defense ranks first in the country in scoring, yielding only 9.3 points per game.

Alabama, led on offense by junior quarterback A.J. McCarron, junior running back Eddie Lacy and freshman running back T.J. Yeldon, won the national title a year ago despite not even playing in the SEC championship game.

Georgia (11-1, 7-1), meanwhile, lost to LSU last season 42-10 in the very game they’re in this weekend.

“I think they’re hungry for some more, and we just want to have a better performance than we had a year ago in Atlanta,” Richt said. “I think the celebration wasn’t quite as hard as it was a year ago.”

The two teams did not play this year. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban said Alabama will still know what to expect from the Bulldogs.

“We’ve played against Mark Richt coached teams before,” Saban said. “They’ve played against us before. Even though it is different and they do have different players, philosophically, it’s not like they are completely different than what you played against before.”

Junior quarterback Aaron Murray has thrown for 3,201 yards, 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions this season. The Bulldogs also use a pair of running backs on offense – except they are both freshmen.

Running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall have combined for over 1,800 yards and provide a lightning and thunder combination, Saban said.

“Todd is a little bit like our guys. He is big, physical, he can inside or outside, can make you miss. He also has power,” he said. “Their second guy is a very good back in all those regards, but he is a very fast guy, so there is a little change of pace there that the players have to be aware of.”

On defense, junior linebacker Jarvis Jones paces the Bulldogs. Despite missing two games, Jones has racked up 10.5 sacks and 72 tackles.

“You certainly have to have a plan to try and help the players that have to block him, so hopefully he can’t just get in one on one situation where it’s a difficult circumstance for somebody,” Saban said. “That’s part of the planning that you need to do. There have been games this year where he has made a phenomenal amount of plays, like sacks causing fumbles.”

Irish senior linebacker Manti Te’o said he will be watching the game to get a sneak peek at his next opponent.

“I’ll enjoy it as a fan and as a future opponent,” Te’o said. ”Just watching them and how they work and tendencies. My main thing is finding out who we’re going to play.”

Contact Matthew DeFranks at mdefrank@nd.edu