It was the talk of the nation on Saturday night. The 2013 SEC Championship was a back-and-forth affair that featured offense and scoring like Southeastern Conference fans hadn’t seen in…maybe ever.
The Auburn Tigers beat the Missouri Tigers 59-42 as the two teams combined for 1211 yards and 10 total touchdowns at the Georgia Dome. But the Auburn Tigers weren’t the only winners on the night. Both CBS and the city of Atlanta also scored big, with huge ratings and a boom of fans from all over the country into the Peachtree city, including the 75,632 in attendance inside the Dome and the thousands who watched the game outside and around the city.
Those who made it inside paid a hefty price. Since Alabama’s last-second loss to Auburn the Saturday before, ticket reseller TiqIQ reported that even after the average ticket price on the secondary market dropped nearly by 10 percent (9.3 percent) it still cost a whopping $491.97 on average to get a ticket for the game. Even that deflated price was more than double the average championship game price of any other conference, according to business website Motley Fool.
One of the big reasons might be its location in Atlanta.
“Our partnership with Atlanta has been just great,” SEC Commissioner Mike Slive told the Daily World after the game. “It’s got the hotels and the transportation and everything you need to put on a great championship game, and we go back a long ways. We’ve got a waiting list and it’s just a great opportunity for fans to watch great football.”
Slive wasn’t the only one at the dome impressed with what the city had to offer. Fans who came in from Missouri, Alabama and elsewhere raved about the city’s attractions and even its oft-maligned public transportation.
“It’s not what I expected,” said Andrea Gephardt, who traveled to Atlanta from St. Louis for the game. “You get a little feel of Chicago, a little feel of St. Louis and everything. There’s so many different areas of the city that are different, so it’s cool. And we took the MARTA today and that was awesome. We don’t have anything like that. We have the MetroLink in St. Louis, but it’s not on that scale.”
On the Auburn side, Devin Taylor from Shelby County, Ala., lavished praise on Atlanta’s public transportation system as well.
“MARTA’s where it’s at. I’m telling you, park outside the city, roll in, it’s cheap, it’s efficient, genius idea,” said Taylor, who was also complimentary of the game’s arena.
“This is a great venue. I’m sad to hear that they’re tearing it down. It’s one of my favorite sports venues to go to,” he said of the Georgia Dome. “I always like to come to Atlanta, and I’ve got some friends that live around here. It’s always a good experience. As long as you play your cards right and don’t try to bring your car into the city, unless you come at daybreak, you’re good.”
The game was also very good for the SEC’s television partners. Auburn and Missouri’s score-a-thon produced big numbers for CBS, giving it the number one rating in its time slot and even challenging prime time matchups on ABC and Fox. CBS has top 3 rated college football games in 2013 to date in the metered markets, the network reported on Twitter following the game.
Initial estimates gave Auburn-Missouri SEC Championship game on CBS the highest rating of conference championship games with mm rating/share of 8.7 and 17 million viewers, CBS reported. Those numbers were actually below the Iron Bowl matchup between Auburn and Alabama the week prior, which garnered a 10.6 rating, according to Nielsen.
Last year, CBS’s broadcast was also the top rated college football broadcast at that point with a 9.8 rating and 16.2 million viewers. Numbers for the game have been tapering since the SEC title games between Alabama and Florida in 2008 and 2009, which were the last years the SEC championship was also a de facto national semifinal. The highest rating for an SEC Championship Game remains an 11.1 in 2009.
But 2013’s numbers were still impressive and it wasn’t hard to understand why the game fared so well. Fans of the SEC’s historically fortified defenses surely shook their heads in dismay, but for aficionados of offense there wasn’t much more one could ask. The game set a number of total team records, including SEC records for yards, rushing yards and points, but perhaps nothing was more memorable than the play of junior running back Tre Mason.
The Palm Beach, Fla. product added some serious star power to the game, finishing with an absurd 304 yards on the ground, which was an SEC single-game record. He set the mark on a conference-record 46 carries. His dominating performance put him above the likes of Cam Newton and Bo Jackson, who was in attendance, in the Auburn and SEC record books. The performance likely earned him an invitation to New York for the Heisman Trophy presentation.
But even before the game, coaches for both teams described making the trip to Atlanta as something special.
“In this conference, this is what you dream about, coming here,” said Auburn Coach Gus Malzahn. “We played in the Chick-Fil-A Bowl game, we played here in 2010. We do have some players that are familiar and we’re really looking forward to it.”
Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel, who coached in his first ever SEC championship game Saturday, added that the atmosphere of Atlanta and inside the Dome showed the conference’s commitment to a atop-notch atmosphere.
“Typical to the SEC since I’ve been here, this is what the SEC does,” said Pinkell. “In my observation, they do absolutely everything first class. I’ve noticed that since I’ve been in the league for two years.”
With third-ranked Ohio State’s loss to Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game, Auburn punched its ticket to Pasadena and the Rose Bowl in January to play for the BCS National Championship. But Atlanta will still likely be a popular travel destination during the 2013-14 college football bowl season. The city will soon welcome another crowd from a new SEC contender when Texas A&M takes on Duke in the Chick-fil-A Bowl on New Year’s Eve. It will be the 22nd year that the annual SEC versus ACC matchup, formerly known as the Peach Bowl, comes to town.
“Getting a matchup like this is like getting to open your Christmas presents early,” said Gary Stokan, Chick-fil-A Bowl president and CEO, in a statement. “Pitting a 10-win Duke team, coming off its best season ever, against an SEC powerhouse brand like Texas A&M is going to create a very compelling shootout that we’ll get to show off in front of a sold-out crowd in the Georgia Dome New Year’s Eve.”