Once the SEC started the conference championship playoffs, much of college football soon followed its lead. But the copies don't compare to the original.
That rarely has been more obvious than today.
Alabama vs. Georgia isn't just for the SEC championship. It's a stepping stone to the BCS national championship game.
That's not an aberration. Three times in the past five years, both teams in the SEC championship game have been in the running for the national title as well.
Contrast the Alabama-Georgia match-up in the Georgia Dome with what else is going on in college football today. In two words, not much.
Let's start with the ACC championship game: Florida State vs. Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets qualified for the game by winning five of eight conference games. But Georgia Tech lost to non-conference opponents Brigham Young, Middle Tennessee State and Georgia by an average of 29 points.
But in the ACC Coastal, it's not whether you win or lose that counts, it's how well you follow the rules that matters. Miami and North Carolina, who had the same conference record as Georgia Tech, were ineligible for postseason play because of NCAA probation.
The ACC playoff game lost even more value last Saturday when both Florida State and Georgia Tech lost to in-state rivals from the SEC.
Wisconsin can relate to getting into a championship game thanks to other teams breaking the rules. The Badgers played their way into the Big Ten championship game by losing three of their last four games. In fact, they could have lost all four and still have been the playoff representative of the Leaders Division, whose true leaders — Ohio State and Penn State — ran afoul of NCAA law.
So which conference playoff game do you think will draw the most viewers?
But it's not a perfect day for the SEC. If it were, Florida would play the winner of Georgia vs. Alabama for the national championship.
Everybody outside the SEC must cringe at how close the conference came to putting two teams in the national championship game, just as it did last year. If unbeaten Notre Dame had slipped up in any one of those close games it eked out, one-loss Florida would have had a shot at its third national championship in seven years.
Alabama 27, Georgia 24: Tennessee fans won't recognize the Bulldogs, who gave up 44 points in a seven-point victory over the Vols in late September.
In Georgia's last five games it has yielded only 43 points. And all of its supposedly high NFL draft prospects on defense are playing up to their preseason billing.
It's basically the same defense that held LSU without a first down in the first half of last year's SEC championship game. And the way it has played lately, it could match Alabama's No. 1-ranked defense almost hit-for-hit.
But can Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray match Alabama's AJ McCarron completion-for-completion?
Although Murray leads the SEC in pass efficiency, he struggled terribly against the two best defenses he faced. He completed only 23 of 55 passes and threw four interceptions against Florida and South Carolina combined.
Top 25: Nebraska 30, Wisconsin 23; Kansas State 41, Texas 23; Oklahoma 38, TCU 27; Florida State 40, Georgia Tech 21; Oregon State 45, Nicholls State 14; Baylor 42, Oklahoma State 37.
Record: 209-52 (.801), (.522) against the spread.