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SEC reigns at the College Football Playoff national championship

“A special moment,” the SEC commissioner said. "Very special moment."
The stage is set. BAKER | TIMES
The stage is set. BAKER | TIMES
Published Jan. 8, 2018

ATLANTA – Greetings from the spectacular Mercedes-Benz Stadium, site of tonight's College Football Playoff national championship between Georgia and Alabama.

Or, if you prefer, another SEC showcase.

"A special moment," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said. "Very special moment."

One of Sankey's teams will win the conference's second title in three seasons, and ninth in 12. The other will settle for No. 2.

Not bad for what was widely viewed as a down year for the conference.

No, the SEC isn't as good as it was when Urban Meyer and Nick Saban were battling annually for the league (and national title). Only three teams were ranked in the top 15 of the penultimate AP poll. In 2012, there were five. It didn't help that UCF's claim of a national title came at the SEC's expense – the win over Auburn at this very stadium.

Still, consider where Sankey was last week, not long after Auburn's loss. He was at the Rose Bowl, watching Georgia rally to beat Oklahoma in the first semifinal. By the time he got to a TV, 'Bama was in control of Clemson, the defending national champs.

"Fans of these two universities – and particularly fans of our conference – need to understand how special this is," Sankey said. "This is not easy to achieve. I would argue it's even more challenging than when it happened in 2011 (Alabama-LSU) because there was another game involved, in this case against the No. 1 and No. 2 teams in the country."

They were the No. 1 and No. 2 teams, at least. In a few hours, those titles will belong to the SEC.

A few other notes from the press box:

The Secret Service is running security here. It is very, very tight. Almost as if the president is coming tonight, or something. I saw no signs of protest on my way here.

Georgia fans greatly outnumbered 'Bama fans downtown. I think the Bulldogs will have the cheering edge tonight, if that's worth anything.

Some links from our previous coverage…

Georgia is in the title game with its own Sabanite. So why are the rival Gators 0-for-2 on the Saban tree?

On the state-of-the-art stadium, which has raised the bar for Tampa and everywhere else.

The most interesting man tonight? How about Jeremy Pruitt, the former FSU and Georgia assistant who's coordinating Alabama's defense AND working as Tennessee's new head coach.

This is not hyperbole: If Saban wins tonight, it might be the most impressive coaching performance of his decorated career.

Keep an eye on Georgia left tackle Isaiah Wynn, the Lakewood High alumnus who made the rare leap from not-great as a junior to all-SEC as a senior.

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