ATHENS – Since Georgia is way past concerns about where it ranks in the Harris Poll, there’s little in the way of buildup for the unveiling of the first BCS standings Sunday. Certainly, there’s no reason for fans to reflect and wonder: “Will Vanderbilt’s record hurt our strength of schedule?”
But that shouldn’t matter right now. There is a pulse.
One week after thumping Tennessee 41-14, the Bulldogs boat-raced Vanderbilt 43-0 on Saturday.
That’s two wins by a combined 70 points. The only lingering depression following consecutive dismemberings stems from the fact the schedule is now exhausted of teams from the Volunteer State.
Seven weeks into the season, a 3-4 record is not what anybody in Athens had aspired to. But aesthetically, it’s far more appealing than 1-4 was — or what 1-4 seemingly projected to.
The latest win even inspired two Capital One Bowl officials to sit in on coach Mark Richt’s postgame news conference. A tad premature, perhaps.
Consecutive wins over bad teams at home don’t reveal a lot about how good a team is. But it certainly makes everybody stop guessing where the bottom is. It also says something about character.
As Richt summarized neatly: “It looks like we’re getting better. It looks like we’re playing with more passion. We’re getting some momentum.”
Next week at Kentucky will be a slightly tougher test. (The Dogs are 0-3 on the road.) The following week against Florida will be significantly tougher. (No reason to revisit inglorious history right now.)
Win those two games, and suddenly two Capital One Bowl officials won’t look so out of place. Uga VIII would be elevated to deity status.
If Georgia manages to turn this season into something special, people are going to start showing up at Uga’s doghouse, asking him to lay paws on their forehead.
The Dogs weren’t without some minor flaws Saturday. Among other things, Richt and his team burned three timeouts in the first five minutes of the game. But what followed was mostly a performance that gave them the look of a wrecking ball. Richt was even allowed to even joke about the early management issues. When asked about officials not checking replay when a seeming touchdown pass to A.J. Green was ruled incomplete, the coach cracked he couldn’t debate it because: “I didn’t have any timeouts left.”
But when a defense pitches a shutout and limits an opponent to 140 yards and an offense amasses 547 yards, there’s not a lot to pick on. The offensive line blocked. The running backs ran hard, broke tackles and didn’t fumble (Washaun Ealey: 123 yards, one touchdown). Aaron Murray threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns, and Green didn’t even account for most of that (he was the third-leading receiver after Kris Durham and Tavarres King).
The Dogs’ only challenge will be not looking back, not asking: What happened in Columbia? And Starkville? And Boulder?
“Obviously it hurts, especially when you look at the way we’re playing now,” tackle Clint Boling said. “Where was this two or three weeks ago? But we just have to move on from it. There’s nothing we can do about it now.”
“We just have to control what we can control,” Durham said. “Just get wins. That’s all we can do and hopefully get some help along the way.”
A two-game winning streak shouldn’t inspire parades. But it represents a breakthrough. Georgia hadn’t won consecutive games all season. They hadn’t won consecutive SEC games in 13 months — September of last season over South Carolina and Arkansas. Those were the same two opponents that started the spiral this year. Before the win over Tennessee, the Dogs were 2-7 in their previous nine SEC games. Now they will go to Kentucky with a chance to balance the season record.
Forget the BCS. Right now, it’s about cleansing, winning and landing somewhere north of Shreveport.
Durham again: “We were embarrassed the way we were playing before. We’re trying to get tougher as a football team.”
They are. We’ll soon find out where it gets them.