The Georgia Bulldogs are underdogs to Alabama this afternoon at the Southeastern Conference football championship in Atlanta, but what else would one expect?
This is the 40th consecutive game the Crimson Tide will play as the favored team, an amazing streak that started with their defeat of Texas in the 2009 BCS title contest. The '09 SEC championship was the last time Alabama was expected to lose, and the Tide responded by thumping Florida 32-13.
Asked this week if he ever missed being an underdog, Alabama senior center Barrett Jones said, "We just don't concern ourselves with that sort of thing."
Alabama is accustomed to the grand stage that will be today's matchup between the No. 2 Crimson Tide and the No. 3 Bulldogs. The winning team not only will gather at midfield to host the league trophy amid falling confetti but will clinch a berth opposite Notre Dame in the BCS championship game Jan. 7 in Miami.
The Crimson Tide have won two of the past three BCS crowns, including last season's title without playing for the SEC championship. Georgia has not won a national title since the BCS era began in 1998, and its lone Associated Press national championship occurred in 1980.
"Everybody knows what this game holds," Bulldogs outside linebacker Jarvis Jones said. "Alabama has been on this kind of stage more than a couple of times, but it's been a while since Georgia has played in a prestige game like this."
Each team enters with an 11-1 record, and Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray and Alabama counterpart AJ McCarron rank 1-2 nationally in pass efficiency. McCarron proved his worth in a pressure packer when he completed 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards in last January's 21-0 blanking of LSU in New Orleans for the BCS title.
Murray had never defeated a top-10 team until the Bulldogs stunned Florida 17-9 in late October, when he overcame three first-half interceptions. He has seven career interceptions against Florida, threw two in last season's 42-10 loss to LSU in the SEC championship game and was just 11-of-31 passing in this season's 35-7 loss at South Carolina.
For the first time since becoming the starter as a redshirt freshman in 2010, Murray has declined interviews leading up to a game.
"He knows it's a big game, and we all know it's a big game," Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "I want Aaron Murray to be himself and cut it loose. I want him to play aggressive. I want him to play like I know he can play and like we all know he can play. There are going to be mistakes that happen in this game, because these defenses are going to make plays.
"We might have to punt several times, but we have to stay confident and keep playing."
Georgia defensive backs Sanders Commings, Bacarri Rambo and Damian Swann were outspoken this week about the Bulldogs either being more talented or better than Alabama. Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban doesn't allow freshmen to speak with the media, but tailback Kenyan Drake had a Twitter post mocking this being Georgia's biggest game in 30 years and how Alabama plays in marquee matchups every year.
"Football is not going to be won in the media," Jones said. "When we kick off at 4 o'clock, that's when the game is going to be played. Say what you've got to say on the field."