SEC Championship game tickets more affordable than usual

ATHENS — It just means more in the SEC, as we all know by now. Except this year, it means more in the Big Ten.

That’s based on ticket demand for those conferences’ respective championship games. For the first time since 2011, the SEC Championship game is NOT the most expensive ticket in college football. That distinction belongs to the Big Ten, which will match No. 2 Michigan (12-0) against unranked Purdue (8-4) at Lucas Oil Stadium in its championship game in Indianapolis.

The cheapest get-in price for that game was $192, as of Wednesday morning, according to TicketIQ.com. The cheapest ticket for the SEC Championship, which features No. 1 Georgia versus No. 14 LSU, dropped below that to $187 this week. And the price is continuing to drop.

“My guess is that goes down more before the game,” said Jesse Lawrence, president and founder of TicketIQ. “I think there’s two things going on here. I think there’s a little Georgia fatigue. I think Georgia fans have gotten a little spoiled, with the Bulldogs being in the game five of the last six years. There’s that, and that’s a real thing. And, on top of that, I think fans might be saving up for the semifinal or the final. Because even though they’re down, they’re not exactly cheap.”

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SEC tickets are a lot cheaper than they were even a year ago. Last year, when the Bulldogs met Alabama for the SEC title, the get-in price was a hefty $432. Only the 2017 matchup between Georgia and Auburn has been higher, with a record get-in cost of $463.

This year’s SEC ticket prices are the cheapest they have been since 2016. Fans were able to get into the Alabama-Florida game that year for $84. The most affordable SEC title game ever was Alabama vs. Missouri in 2014, with a get-in of $49.

“For the more casual Georgia fan, or the more casual college football fan, this is a relatively affordable SEC Championship,” Lawrence said. “We haven’t seen it get under $100 since 2016. I don’t think we’ll get that low. But I do think the cheapest ticket will get under 150 bucks.”

As Lawrence pointed out, there are numerous factors for that. One, is the aforementioned “Georgia fatigue.” The Bulldogs are playing in the SEC title game for the fifth time in the past six years. The other is the opponent.

Georgia fans reached for this article said they noticed an immediate drop in prices as soon as LSU clinched the Western Division’s berth with its road win over Arkansas on Nov. 12. The issue was the Tigers already had two losses at that point – and they weren’t Alabama.

Then, on Saturday, LSU lost to a five-win Texas A&M team in College Station, Texas. That eliminated all hope that the Tigers, then No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings, had for making the playoffs. Accordingly, many LSU fans either decided not to come or sold the tickets they already had secured.

That’s going to make for quite a pro-Georgia crowd Saturday. VividSeats projects a crowd split of 72% to 28% in favor of the Bulldogs, according to its “Fan Forecast” predictor.

“Georgia will have the clear crowd advantage,” VividSeats spokesperson Stephen Spiewak told the AJC.

That’s actually not drastically different than in other years. Spiewak said VividSeats reported a 69-31 split when LSU last played in the SEC Championship game in 2019. The Tigers beat the Bulldogs 37-10 that season and went on to win the national championship and finish at 15-0.

Meanwhile, the demand to see the Bulldogs play in the SEC title game remains high within the University of Georgia donor community. Season-ticket holder Jim Cooney of Roswell said he was told by the UGA Athletic Association ticket personnel that the cutoff for qualifying for SEC Championship game tickets was 70,000 points. That means an individual needed $70,000 of cumulative donations to the athletic department over the years for the right to buy the $150-and-up tickets.

The other factor at work is Georgia’s prospects beyond the SEC game. If the top-ranked Bulldogs win Saturday – they have been posted a 17-point favorite – they’re expected to have their choice of venue for the CFP semifinals. Considering those choices are back at Mercedes-Benz Stadium for the Peach Bowl or out west in Phoenix for the Fiesta Bowl, everybody expects the Bulldogs to be back in the Benz.

Some of the more shrewd Georgia fans recognized early on the possibility of Georgia playing at Mercedes-Benz Stadium three times this season. Accordingly, longtime fan and former season-ticket holder Andrew Rhodes of Statham decided to buy Atlanta Falcons season tickets. As a Personal Seat License (PSL) holder, that automatically gave Rhodes the right to purchase tickets for a Chick-fil-A Kickoff game, the SEC Championship game and the CFP semifinal in the Peach Bowl.

“I’ve always taken my customers to the SEC Championship game when Georgia plays, but the tickets always cost thousands of dollars,” said Rhodes, a business development specialist with Dalton Carpet. “So, I became a Falcons season ticket holder this year. The main reason was to have the chance to watch Georgia play three times at Mercedes-Benz. So far, I’ve gotten to see the Dawgs play Oregon and will see them play LSU on Saturday. Hopefully, I’ll get to see them play USC, too.”

The current projection is, if the top-ranked teams all win their conference championships, No. 1 Georgia would play No. 4 USC in the Peach Bowl, while No. 2 Michigan and No. 3 TCU would meet in the Fiesta Bowl in Phoenix.

Tickets for those games already are on sale. And they aren’t cheap.

“Right now, $365 is the get-in price, or the cheapest ticket,” Lawrence said of the Peach Bowl. “That’s double the current prices, and I could see it being three times what you’re seeing now (for the SEC Championship game).”

Still, other Georgia followers are holding off for the grand finale. Should the Bulldogs win in the semifinals, they’ll be bound for the national championship game. This year that is in Los Angeles at SoFi Stadium, where neither tickets nor the ability to travel or stay there will be cheap.

But first things first. The Bulldogs’ journey begins in the SEC Championship game, which Georgia hasn’t won since 2017 and where it is 3-6 all time.

Tickets are still available. According to TicketIQ, there were 6,788 of them as of Wednesday. That’s more than any of the other conference championships, Lawrence said.

“That much inventory available suggests that prices will continue to drop,” he said.