Not that anybody wants to see a great athlete have his season ended by an injury. But could anything more possibly go right for Georgia?
South Carolina has lost running back Marcus Lattimore for the season with a torn knee ligament. Lattimore was the key to the SEC East title last season. It was reasonable to think the Gamecocks might be able to overcome the personal and career meltdowns of quarterback Stephen Garcia and still win the division if they could get reasonable play from backup Connor Shaw. But losing Lattimore might be too much.
What does that mean for the Bulldogs? Just this: Beat Florida in two weeks and there’s a good chance they’ll be in the SEC championship game (against either Alabama or LSU).
Consider the top three teams in the East and the remaining schedule:
• SOUTH CAROLINA (4-1): The Gamecocks hold a tiebreaker edge over the Dogs for their win in game two. They probably will still win their game at Tennessee in two weeks, but sweeping the final two games at Arkansas and home against Florida will be difficult. Actually, they could lose both of those games. A split leaves them at 6-2. But minus Lattimore, 5-3 may be more likely.
• GEORGIA (4-1): If the Dogs sweep their final three conference games against Florida, Auburn and Kentucky – all at home – they’ll almost certainly win the division with a 7-1 record. If they beat the Gators, they’ll eliminate Florida and likely finish at least 6-2 (assuming a win over Kentucky). In that scenario, they would need South Carolina to lose to both Arkansas and Florida (assuming a win over Tennessee). If the Dogs to Florida, they probably would drop a game back, allow the Gators back in the race and lose tiebreakers to both division competitors. They could finish 7-1, 6-2 or 5-3.
• FLORIDA (2-3): The Gators need to sweep their final three games to have a shot in the East. That’s possible, particularly if injured quarterback John Brantley comes back from a leg injury. (Coach Will Muschamp said he hopes to get Brantley back for the Georgia game.) After Georgia, Florida’s only remaining SEC games are against Vanderbillt and South Carolina. They’ll finish 5-3, 4-4 or 3-5.
Most of the Dogs’ shortcomings were on display at Vanderbilt Saturday night. Mistakes and the lack of discipline upset coach Mark Richt. But they’ve won five straight and getting back to the SEC title game now may hinge on just beating Florida. Which, of course, has been a problem over the last two decades.
By Jeff Schultz