I am a creature of habit, and I’m all out sorts.
You see, prior to the beginning of every year, I mark the first Saturday of December on my calendar. For 10 of the last 11 years, I have traveled to Atlanta to cover the SEC Championship football game. For me and most of you, it’s been almost automatic: plan on watching the Crimson Tide or the Auburn Tigers play an eastern division team for — most often — a spot in the BCS Championship Game or, over the last several years, the College Football Playoff.
This week, however, my brain is frazzled; for only the second time since 2008, a team other than Alabama or Auburn will appear in the big game.
What’s a super fan who roots for Alabama and Auburn this time of year do now? I think this Saturday I may be buying a Christmas tree.
Now, before you LSU and Georgia fans go off, let me say that what your teams have done this season is downright impressive, and this weekend’s game has all the makings of a good one. Your teams feature superb quarterbacks, explosive offenses and battle-tested defenses. But I have to tell you, for this spoiled fan — a fan who has seen either the Tide or Tigers win eight of the last 10 SEC Championships, it’s just not the same.
Over the 27 years of the SEC Championship Game’s existence, it’s been a Tide and Tigers lovefest: Bama won four of the first five championship games, and over the first 10 games, Auburn or Alabama won seven of them. Fast forward to the last decade, where the Tide or the Tigers have won eight of the last 10 — in fact the Crimson Tide has won six of the last 10 and four of the last five.
It’s not only the wins by both teams that I have enjoyed, but the way our hometown teams have won games. In fact, many of those Alabama and Auburn wins have etched satisfying memories into the minds of the home folks. In 2009, Tebow cried. In 2010, Cam attacked, and just last fall, Jalen was a hero … again. I have to tell you, a SEC Championship Game without the Tide or the Tigers feels a bit like a McDonald’s shake without the whipped cream — tasty, but incomplete (of course, that is if the shake machine is actually working).
To what degree have the Tide and the Tigers dominated their SEC Championship Game appearances? The last time LSU was in the game (2011), many of the current Bayou Bengals players were seven years old. And Georgia? The Dawgs will play in the championship game for the third year in a row, looking for their second win in the last three years — I say kudos to Kirby!
There are huge ramifications in this weekend’s game, especially for the Georgia Bulldogs, as a loss means their College Football Playoff hopes will be over. The pageantry will, as usual, be lit (that’s the hipness in me talking, my friend), and the telecast will achieve blockbuster ratings. But from where I sit, something is missing without the Tide or the Tigers heading to Atlanta.
If you do plan to watch the game, enjoy it, as it should be a good one. As for me? While the Bulldogs and the Tigers will hope to receive an early Christmas present, I’ll be trying to get my new Christmas tree into that dang Christmas tree stand. That, my friend, is always an adventure.