Georgia Football: 5 Reasons You Can't Count Bulldogs out of SEC Race Just Yet
The South Carolina Gamecocks embarrassed the Georgia Bulldogs Saturday night in Columbia. There’s no nice spin to put on that game, no excuses to be made for the Dawgs. It was a first-class beat down.
But don’t count Georgia out of the SEC East race just yet, folks. I’m sure I’ll be called a delusional homer—and maybe I am. But still, there’s a chance for the Dawgs to put that loss behind them and still compete for a return trip to Atlanta in 2012.
Here are five reasons why Georgia is still in the mix for the SEC East.
The Pressure Is off the Bulldogs
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The Bulldogs have traditionally not lived up to lofty expectations, and apparently this year is no exception. But now, having taken a loss, the Bulldogs are out of the spotlight and back to where they have traditionally excelled—proving critics wrong.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I am as disappointed as the next Georgia fan. I had a feeling that this Georgia team was different, that it would rise to the occasion this year. I was wrong.
But that doesn’t mean the season is over. There is still fight left in this Bulldog team.
Not for a second do I believe that Todd Grantham is going to give up on this defense. There is too much talent and Grantham is too good a coach for the defense not to improve and start playing up to its potential.
And, yes, the offense basically laid an egg against the Gamecocks, only avoiding a shutout by scoring a meaningless touchdown at the end of the game. But this offense has shown the potential to be great and will rebound.
Georgia Is Still Just a One-Loss Team
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For the Bulldog Nation, the beating suffered in Columbia may have felt like a season-ender. But remember, it’s only one game. Georgia won the SEC East last season despite losing to South Carolina and it can do it again this season.
Is it going to be easy? No. But are the Bulldogs going to roll over and play dead? No.
Georgia is going to need some help for sure. But if the Dawgs can take care of business the rest of the way through their SEC schedule, it may not be THAT crazy to believe that help could come and the Bulldogs will find themselves in Atlanta again come December.
South Carolina Has a Hard Road Ahead
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By virtue of South Carolina’s victory Saturday night, the Gamecocks own the tie-breaker against the Bulldogs in the East. So for Georgia to get back to controlling its own destiny, the Bulldogs need the Gamecocks to lose two SEC games.
Well, even though the ‘Cocks looked thoroughly dominant against the Dawgs, there’s a decent chance they will lose two SEC games—namely, their next two.
Next week, South Carolina has to travel to Baton Rouge to take on LSU at home in Death Valley at night. Sure, the Gamecocks looked like a superior team on Saturday at home in their hostile environment, but a night game at LSU is one of the hardest environments to play in.
Plus, LSU has its back to the wall in the SEC West race after suffering a loss at Florida on Saturday. Don’t be surprised if the Tigers give South Carolina all they can handle in Death Valley.
Likewise, in two weeks, South Carolina travels to maybe the other most difficult environment in the SEC when they take on the Florida Gators in the Swamp. Florida looked very good upsetting LSU on Saturday and should give the Gamecocks a great game in Gainesville.
Even if South Carolina splits those games, it will have another test when Tennessee comes calling the next week. Now, on paper, South Carolina surely looks better than Tennessee, but the Gamecocks will be finishing up a brutal stretch of games and could be susceptible to an upset against the Vols.
The Bulldogs Still Have a Crack at Florida
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Although South Carolina is gaining ground very quickly, Georgia’s biggest East rival is still Florida. Now, after losing to the Gamecocks, this game is even more important for the Dawgs.
The schedule works in favor of the Dawgs in this game as well. Florida is going to be fresh off their meeting with South Carolina and hopefully a little banged up. Georgia, on the other hand, has a bye week and Kentucky leading up to the showdown in Jacksonville.
Plus, this is a rivalry game. Anything can, and often does, happen. Florida may have owned Georgia for the past few decades, but Georgia is 1-0 against Will Muschamp and 2-3 in the last five meetings—hardly domination for the players on these teams right now.
There Could Be a 3-Way Tie in the East
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Of course, Georgia would have preferred to beat South Carolina and climb into the East driver’s seat. But if it had to lose, this was the right time.
The Bulldogs still have time to climb back into the BCS rankings with a potential win against Florida, which would give Georgia a big boost in the rankings. The Dawgs should be also favorites in the rest of their games besides Florida.
So why are the BCS rankings so important?
If Georgia can find a way to pull out a win against the Gators in Jacksonville, even if South Carolina and Florida run the SEC table, that could create a three-way tie in the SEC East with the Bulldogs, Gators and Gamecocks having identical 7-1 conference records.
In that case, BCS standings will determine who represents the East in the championship game. The lowest-ranked team will be eliminated. Then, if the two next teams are within five spots of each other in the BCS rankings, the head-to-head winner will go to the championship game.
Assuming all these pieces fall into place for the Bulldogs, if South Carolina and Georgia are the two highest ranked, and within five spots, the Gamecocks get the nod. If Florida and Georgia are the two highest ranked, and within five spots, Georgia gets the nod.
But there’s one more thing to consider that could put Georgia more than five spots in front of both South Carolina and Florida. Both teams play in-state rivals Clemson and Florida State, respectively, on the road in the season finales. A loss by either team there, assuming Georgia runs the table, could stretch Georgia’s BCS lead to more than five spots, giving UGA the championship game berth.
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Did the loss to South Carolina put a huge dent in UGA’s chances of a repeat trip to the SEC Championship Game? Absolutely.
Is it likely that all these things will come together and Georgia will be playing in the Georgia Dome on December 1? Honestly, probably not.
But do the Bulldogs still have a chance to reach Atlanta for a second year in a row? Absolutely.
Let the delusional homer name-calling begin. I can take it.