The twenty-third edition of college football’s original conference championship game takes place this Saturday afternoon in Atlanta.
Representing the SEC West is one of the sport’s most storied programs, the University of Alabama Crimson Tide. With its illustrious history, rabid fan base, future Hall of Fame coach, a trophy case overflowing with national championships, and a roster stacked with NFL talent, Alabama is rolling toward another national title.
From the East we have . . . Missouri, which this season lost at home to Indiana, a team that went 1-7 in Big Ten play.
No one outside Columbia, Mo., gives the Tigers a chance. Vegas installed Alabama as a 14.5-point favorite. Pundits have penciled in an Alabama victory and subsequent berth in the College Football Playoff.
Given Tuscaloosa’s proximity to Atlanta compared to Columbia and Alabama fans’ borderline absurd passion for the Tide, the Georgia Dome will be 90 percent crimson, transforming the venue into Bryant-Denny Atlanta.
Alabama is expected to dominate Mizzou early and often, then sit back and await its playoff fate come Sunday.
But if you’re questioning the need to play this game in the first place, you’re overlooking legions of underdogs throughout history who overcame long odds to win.
For example, no one I’ve spoken with gave David a chance over Goliath.
William Wallace’s Scottish uprising was destined for failure against the tyrannical English king in “Braveheart.”
The good old U-S of A had no business starting its tradition of butt-kicking the world back in the 1770s as heavy underdogs to the Brits.
Fast-forward to the greatest decade of all time and it’s littered with underdogs.
The 1980 Winter Olympics men’s hockey team had no shot against the evil empire Soviets.
Rocky Balboa was a little-known fighter with not even a puncher’s chance to beat the heavyweight champion of the world, Apollo Creed.
No one gave Daniel LaRusso, aka the Karate Kid, a chance to defeat the Cobra Kai dojo, especially after Johnny swept the leg.
There may not have been a bigger band of overlooked underdogs than the Cleveland Indians in 1989’s “Major League.”
The Lambda Lambda Lambda fraternity was a huge underdog to the Alpha Betas in a fine work of cinema, 1984’s “Revenge of the Nerds.”
I won’t belabor the point any further because surely you know these underdogs have one thing in common: they won despite odds stacked heavily against them.
This Missouri Tigers squad may not have the moxie of American revolutionaries, Rocky or the Karate Kid. (Although, if Elisabeth Shue, the classic 80s sweetheart, appears on the Georgia Dome turf to hug Mizzou in victory, I’ll be convinced otherwise. And really impressed.)
Like so many underdogs before them, the Missouri Tigers have been written off in Saturday’s SEC Championship game.
Weird things happen when teams are written off. Weird things like college football’s modern-day dynasty, with everything on the line, losing to a team it’s supposed to dominate.
I won’t be surprised if Bama wins by 20 or more, even 30 points. That’s the logical result.
But I won’t be shocked if Mizzou somehow pulls off the underdog upset.
Paging Elisabeth Shue.
Ben Prevost is a contributing columnist for The Times. Follow him on Twitter @SECbanter or contact him at SECbanter@hotmail.com.