If you want to bet on the winning horse, consider a Nick Saban-led Alabama team as Secretariat. Or something close.
For the most part, when a championship rides on the outcome, the Crimson Tide has picked up its game a little bit under Saban.
In last season’s BCS National Championship Game, Alabama pounded out a 21-0 win over LSU, which had beaten Tide 9-6 in Tuscaloosa. In 2009, the Tide wrapped up the season by whipping two previous unbeaten teams: Florida 32-13 for the SEC title and Texas 37-21 for the national championship.
Saban did the same at LSU. In 2001, his seven-point underdog Bengal Tigers knocked off No. 2 Tennessee in the SEC Championship Game 31-20, eliminating the Vols from a spot in the national title game.
In 2003, Saban coached No. 3 LSU against No. 5 Georgia in the SEC game and scored a 34-13 win. In the national title game that season, LSU beat Oklahoma 21-14.
There’s one hiccup to the theory: the 2008 SEC Championship Game. Alabama fell to Florida 31-20.
Then again, even though the Tide rode into that one ranked No. 1, that Tim Tebow-led Florida team entered at No. 2 and a 10-point favorite. Alabama led in the fourth quarter but couldn’t hold on.
Saban famously says he doesn’t want his players to think about results and instead worry about the process that will get them there. Even so, Saban’s results when he has a shot at a championship seem worth talking about. His team’s processes crowns awfully efficiently.
Now, Alabama appears to have awakened after a listless performance in a 29-24 loss to Texas A&M three weeks ago.
The poll shakeup Nov. 17 gave Alabama (and Georgia) a second chance. The Crimson Tide responded with a devestatingly methodical beating of Auburn 49-0.
The Tigers appeared toothless, although running back Tre Mason told reporters the players hadn’t given up on their embattled coaches, who got their dismissal papers from Auburn on Sunday.
Bear Bryant used to tell his Alabama players they needed to show the other team early and often why they had won a national championship. Saban’s Tide did that to Auburn on Saturday.
Now, can Alabama do that to Georgia?
Consider the Bulldogs have their own SEC Championship Game history. They’ve won this game twice.
They beat Arkansas 30-3 as a favorite in 2002. In 2005, Georgia met No. 3-ranked LSU in Les Miles‘ first season as the Bengal Tigers’ head coach. LSU had three defensive linemen who went in the first six rounds of that spring’s NFL draft, but the two-point underdog Bulldogs rolled to a 34-14 win.