Review: The Play That Changed College Football

ESPN's second installment of its "SEC Storied" series of documentaries premiers tomorrow night on ESPNU. It's titled "The Play That Changed College Football" and is about the 1992 SEC Championship Game. ESPN sent me a copy to review ahead of time.

The advent of the SEC Championship Game really was one of those moments that changed the face of college football's history. Now, 20 years on, eight of the 11 Division I-A conferences either run or have run a conference title game. The landscape of conference alignment has shifted several times over the last two decades as leagues tried to hit the magic number of 12 to allow them to hold one.

"The Play That Changes College Football" has a grandiose title, but it's about far more than just Antonio Langham's game-winning interception return touchdown that gave Alabama the win in the inaugural '92 game. It covers the creation of the game itself, the paths of the two first team participants, and the lives before and after of some of the key guys involved in that game sealing play.

The film itself is rich in SEC nostalgia. There is plenty of old film and lots of reminiscences of people who played big roles back then. Beyond just Langham and Shane Matthews, you get to hear Roy Kramer, Steve Spurrier, Jay Barker, Keith Jackson, and more tell what it was like back when the game was first starting. See if you catch Kramer dropping a "Gino Torretti" when talking about Bama's eventual bowl opponent. They even get a handful of key players to reenact that game winning play, which happens to have a surprise ending.

You may not remember, and I certain don't having turned seven years old in 1992, but the SEC Championship Game was not always viewed as an unequivocally good thing. A key thesis of the film is right there in the title: that the play that saved the game for Alabama saved the SEC Championship Game itself. In other words, it argues that things would have been far different if Florida had pulled the game out and prevented the Crimson Tide from playing Miami (FL) for the national title.

Perhaps my youth then and hindsight now prevents me from seeing it that way, but I can't imagine the SEC scrapping the game after one try. Just look at the first ever Big 12 Championship Game, where Texas knocked off Nebraska and prevented the Huskers from playing for the national title. That upset didn't scuttle the Big 12's title game, and I don't think a UF upset in '92 would have killed the SEC's game either.

Regardless of whether you agree with the premise of the documentary's title, the film is well worth your time. It doesn't quite have all of the polish of the 30 for 30 film series, but it's still well put together. If you get ESPNU, be sure to catch this one.

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