Not even Georgia considered it would be in the BCS National Championship hunt after getting blown out by South Carolina early last month. But there the Bulldogs are, ranked No. 3 in the country behind No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama.
And so, if Georgia beats Georgia Tech this weekend, all the ‘Dawgs would have to do to make it to the title game in Miami would be to knock off Alabama in the SEC Championship game in Atlanta. And that is not far-fetched.
Coach Mark Richt is keenly aware of the hoopla that suddenly surrounds his team, so much so that he steadfastly refused to even address the national race on his weekly teleconference.
Asked for his reaction when both Oregon and Kansas State were beaten in stunning upsets Saturday night, Richt replied: ”I was thinking we need to have a great week of preparation for Georgia Tech.”
Someone else asked, in a slightly different way, about having a shot at winning it all.
”Right at this moment, all I can think about is Georgia Tech,” the coach said.
Finally, as the line went quiet and reporters tried to figure out another way to ask the same question, Richt piped in.
”Does anybody want to talk about Georgia Tech?” he asked.
But there’s no getting around the fact that everything has fallen into place for the Bulldogs (10-1), who haven’t always looked impressive but kept winning games, enough to push them into the spot they needed.
Georgia has taken advantage of a soft schedule, padded with non-conference patsies such as Buffalo, Florida Atlantic and lower-division school Georgia Southern, which fell to the Bulldogs 45-14 on Saturday. Inside the SEC, Richt’s team benefited from a juggling of the scheduling formula to account for the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M.
Instead of facing Alabama in the regular season, as they would have under the former 12-team format, the Bulldogs picked up Missouri. Their two crossover games from the opposite division were against Auburn (3-8) and Mississippi (5-6). Contrast that with their two major rivals from the SEC East, No. 6 Florida and 13th-ranked South Carolina, which both had to play No. 8 LSU.
South Carolina blew out Georgia 35-7 the first Saturday in October, but the Gamecocks dropped their next two games against LSU and Florida. The Gators also beat LSU, climbing to No. 2 in the rankings, only to be taken down in Georgia’s most impressive victory of the season, a 17-9 defensive struggle in Jacksonville, Fla.
The Bulldogs’ only other victory over a Football Bowl Subdivision team with a winning record came against Vanderbilt (7-4). They routed the Commodores 48-3.
Nevertheless, timing is everything in the BCS. Oregon and Kansas State fell right at the end of the regular season, with little time to recover, while Georgia has won five straight since the debacle at South Carolina.
”We obviously have goals and aspirations. We’ve had them since January,” Aaron Murray said after throwing four touchdown passes in the win over Georgia Southern. ”Let’s just see what happens.”
Besides, as Richt will continually stress this week, the Bulldogs won’t have any chance of playing for the national title if they don’t beat Georgia Tech (6-5), the longtime rival which would love nothing more than to ruin Georgia’s national title hopes.
”You can’t even think about (the BCS) until you handle the business in front of you,” receiver Tavarres King said. ”We can’t think about that until we beat Georgia Tech. One game at a time. I know it’s super cliche, but that’s really the way it is.”