Upsets launch Georgia into BCS title picture (UPDATED)

It took a little while but Aaron Murray and Georgia eventually took charge. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

It took a little while but Aaron Murray and Georgia eventually took charge. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

(LAST UPDATED: 12:18 a.m.)

ATHENS – For as much as Mark Richt prefers his Georgia players focus on opponents (Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech) and not acronyms (SEC, BCS) in these final two weeks of the regular season, it was difficult not to notice what was scrolling on the Sanford Stadium video board before Saturday’s game.

First came the screen shot with large bold letters screaming: “BCS STANDINGS.” Then came the screen shot listing the nation’s top ranked teams, from No. 1 Kansas State to No. 5 Georgia.

The topic is impossible to ignore. It’s why, even in games with seemingly foregone conclusions like Saturday’s against Georgia Southern, some will look at the way things started for the Bulldogs on this day and think, “Uh-oh.”

But don’t overthink this.

Did Georgia come out a little flat, a bit sloppy and probably unfocused against an FCS opponent? Clearly. When a team is one of the nation’s top ranked clubs and just before halftime it is clinging to a 10-7 lead over an inferior opponent — which resides in a full neighborhood to the south of college football’s power structure — it’s a problem.

But after what the Bulldogs have overcome in the past few weeks, a letdown should not have come as a surprise. Most importantly, they recovered. Aaron Murray’s touchdown pass to Malcolm Mitchell with four seconds left in the first half keyed a 31-0 string and Georgia went on to bury Georgia Southern, 45-14.

And who could’ve expected this scenario? Hours after the Bulldogs’ win, the BCS’s No. 1 ranked team, Kansas State, was hammered by Baylor 52-24, and No. 2 Oregon lost at home in overtime to Stanford 17-14. This means No. 3 Notre Dame is certain to take over the No. 1 spot when the new BCS rankings come out Sunday night and, more importantly, the door to a potential seventh straight national title has swung back open for the SEC.

Simplifying this from Georgia’s viewpoint: If the Dogs win their next two games over Georgia Tech next week and Alabama in the SEC championship game, they likely will wind up in their first BCS championship game. Entering the week, Alabama ranked fourth in the BCS and Georgia was fifth.

ESPN’s Brad Edwards projects that the top five in the new BCS rankings will be: 1)  Notre Dame; 2.) Alabama; 3.) Georgia, 4.) Florida, 5.) Oregon

After Stanford’s win in overtime, several Georgia players celebrated on Twitter, with Murray sending out the message: “Yesssssssssssss!!!!!! The Murray household just went crazyyyyy!!!!!!”

Christian Robinson and the defense got better as game went on against Georgia Southern's option offense. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Christian Robinson and the defense got better as game went on against Georgia Southern's option offense. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Richt has tried his best to steer the talk away from the BCS. Most of the first half of the Georgia Southern game showed us why. As Richt said of the first half, “We were fortunate to come out of there even with the lead.”

No kidding. With Georgia leading 10-7, a personal foul/chop block penalty by an Eagles’ lineman negated a first-and-goal situation from the Dogs’ five-yard-line. That set up a 39-yard field goal attempt that Georgia Southern missed. It set the backdrop for a touchdown drive going in the

Mark Richt wants players to focus on game, but BCS standings on scoreboard.

BCS standings are shown on Sanford Stadium scoreboard before game.

other direction. Instead of facing a potent halftime deficit of 14-10, Georgia led 17-7.

“I feel like that swung the mood in the stadium and on the sideline,” wide receiver Tavarres King said.

From that point on, it was Aaron Murray-to-anybody. He threw touchdown passes on four straight possessions.

Should Georgia have let an FCS opponent hang around that long? No.

But in the end, poll voters and BCS computers will see the lopsided final score. This certainly isn’t the first time the Dogs have played to the level of their competition. But the objectives Saturday were to win and use the Eagles’ option offense as a scout team for next week’s game against Georgia Tech. In that sense, mission accomplished.

“I don’t know how the BCS does things,” nose guard John Jenkins said. “But if that (45-14) looks good on style points, hey, we’re styling.”

There was no stylin’ early. After an opening touchdown drive, Georgia scored three points on the next possessions (fumbling once) against a Georgia Southern defense that had given up 88 points to your basic non-BCS outfits: UT-Chattanooga, Appalachian State and Howard.

Pick your cliche:

“We were shooting ourselves in the foot,” Murray said.

“Self-inflicted wounds,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said.

Georgia defensive linemen were getting upset by what they perceived as Georgia Southern’s intentional chop blocking. They were penalized only once, knocking down Georgia’s Kwame Geathers, but Jenkins said, “I felt like I was sliced and diced that game.”

But both the defense endured and Murray began shredding the Eagles’ secondary.

Actually, Murray has torn everybody apart lately. Since the fourth quarter of the Florida game, he has completed 62 of 88 for 1,005 yards, 12 touchdowns and zero interceptions. “Is he eating Wheaties or something?” King said.

The Dogs continued attacking to the final minutes, even after putting in the second-string defense. The last touchdown pass came by Parker Welch with 3:13 left. The thought occurred that they were trying to impress voters and computers. But Richt and Bobo both denied that.

“We had three runs called but they kept bringing both safeties on blitzes,” Bobo said. “On third down I was like, ‘OK, we’ve got to throw it. We have to protect our backs, too.’”

Richt never has been a pour-it-on coach. If anything, he has been accused of being just the opposite. So nobody is going to complain. And by next week people will only remember the score.

By Jeff Schultz

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495 comments Add your comment

ViningDawg

November 17th, 2012
7:39 pm

Greg

November 17th, 2012
7:43 pm

Dawgs blow the gnats away next week 48-12

Trevinb

November 17th, 2012
7:49 pm

I’m staying wishing by some miracle a rematch of the 1980 National Champonship occurs.

Greg

November 17th, 2012
7:53 pm

Go Stanford! Go Baylor!

kingdaddy

November 17th, 2012
7:56 pm

Ga. Tech’s football team doesn’t deserve anymore humiliation, but their crappy fans deserve much, much worse…

CeCe

November 17th, 2012
8:01 pm

UGA is the most balanced offense in the nation, and today it showed.

Georgia Southern scored 21 points on Bama, but only 14 points on UGA.

Georgia Southern committed to trying to stop the run, so UGA went to the air for 5 td’s.

Like Bobo & Grantham’s adjustments at halftime too, both dominated the 3rd quarter, and after the 3rd it was as usual now, game over.

UGA will be favored for the Bama game, and being the most balanced offense in the nation, and really, the best offense + defense in the nation combo, UGA should get invited to Miami.

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution [...]

Wutehvah

November 17th, 2012
8:04 pm

LOL @CeCe… UGA will be favored against Bama?? I don’t think so. Keep ridin’ high on your soft schedule. It’s gonna hurt after Bama crushes those hopes/dreams

Greg

November 17th, 2012
8:06 pm

Touchdown Baylor!

Pj

November 17th, 2012
8:10 pm

Baylor Baylor Baylor Baylor Baylor Baylor Baylor Baylor Baylor Baylor

spider

November 17th, 2012
8:11 pm

murray might throw for 500 yards next week,,,techs pass defense in pathetic.

Pj

November 17th, 2012
8:12 pm

We got the perfect tune up for GT. just show the team a compilation of GTBob posts and uga will win 56-0. Never mind, we’ll score 56 anyways

Greg

November 17th, 2012
8:13 pm

If Baylor had any kind of defense they would beat K-state! Come on Baylor! Come on Stanford!

T-Dawg

November 17th, 2012
8:17 pm

Didn’t watch the game. Any reports of any major injuries?

1eyedJack

November 17th, 2012
8:17 pm

I ain’t so sure Georgia will be favored over Bama CeCe. They’ve been there, done that. We’re trying to get there.

Eric C.

November 17th, 2012
8:19 pm

Jeff, I know the “thought” crossed your mind that UGA was running up the score even though the second string was in…are you serious??? You can accuse UGA of a lot of things…but that is one thing Richt has never done. I can’t believe you would suggest it.

“And by next week people will only remember the score.”

Well, ha…maybe you can tweet the link for this column to all voters in the coaches and harris polls and ensure that they know UGA struggled against GSU. It would be a shame if they only saw the final score and actually thought UGA took care of business you know?

Say what you want, but Alabama only had a 10 pt lead at halftime vs this same team last year. I’m not disappointed at all with UGA.

UGA Season Ticket Holder since 1986

November 17th, 2012
8:27 pm

I was at the game today. I don’t know what game Jeff was watching but Georgia came out sharp, marched down the field and scored a touchdown. They never trailed in the game. Nobody in the stands was complaining. Noboby was ever worried. Georgia Southern is a good team. They are 8-2 (now 8-3) and will likely go far in the playoffs. Sure, the game was close but Kansas State is actually trailing Baylor. Anybody who complains about the game today is being silly and should not be taken seriously.

35-7

November 17th, 2012
8:29 pm

UGA should have scored Style Points all year long. It gets attention whether you wanna believe it or not Kool Aid Drinkers. Mark Richt isnt a hard nosed football coach and will never win the big prize at UGA.

So what.. 10 - 1

November 17th, 2012
8:40 pm

We lost a beatdown to South Carolina. It still stinks. We start slow and all the pundits know this too.

So what.. 10 - 1

November 17th, 2012
8:45 pm

Richt conceded afterward, “In the first half, we were fortunate to come out of there even with the lead.”

UGA wont be so lucky against Bama. They will make the Dawgs pay. Being fortunate aint gonna cut it.

Overrated Notre Dame

November 17th, 2012
8:48 pm

Let’s go Baylor & Stanford!

Overrated Notre Dame

November 17th, 2012
8:50 pm

First half Dawgs looked like my dogs excrement’s. But 2nd half looked like a polished diamond. Keep the diamond outta the doo doo.

Here comes the Tech trolling...

November 17th, 2012
8:54 pm

I’m waiting for the Tech fans to come on here and pound there chest and point to their mediocre record and declare they’re the best. This team would give Tech all they want and i think Southern has a better offense. As far as the negative slant by Schultz, its par for the course. We’re told countless time that our defense sucks, (it doesn’t) or offense starts slow, (it hasn’t) and our coaching is terrible, (it isn’t). This is the best offense in this schools history and our defense has finally clicked. UGA will shock the world in atlanta. Till then expect more columns like this.

Greg

November 17th, 2012
9:10 pm

Touchdown Baylor! SEC! SEC! SEC!

Hairy Dawg

November 17th, 2012
9:11 pm

Baylor beating K State and Stanford beat Oegreon. This setting up perfect with Dawgs winning BCS champs. And we get to shut the Bammer pie holes and that dirty Saban in process. Winning SEC means best team in SEC that’s is deserving of national champs. Dawgs first get chance to beatdown on pestky bugs. We showed today what happens when the gimickey high schooler offense play against a real team with talents. We displays dominants that goning to happen worse next week to now with extra week prepping and scrimmages it today. Now we unload the whooping can on nerds when we we expose talents. But the final score blow out is 48-13 cause that Al Grobe designs Defensive got holes that is swiss cheese.

Cdpridg

November 17th, 2012
9:15 pm

2SEC teams should play for the title…top 3 are crap

UGA Season Ticket Holder since 1986

November 17th, 2012
9:19 pm

Like I said, anybody who complains about the game today is being silly and should not be taken seriously. We WERE fortunate to be ahead at half time but we were not fortunate to drive the field for a touchdown in 56 seconds with no time outs. We were dang sharp. 56 seconds and no time outs. Ttouchdown. ‘Nuff said.

Hairy Dawg

November 17th, 2012
9:19 pm

That right. SEC is best and that means SEC champ is BCS champ. We just needs get rid others and make SEC always own BCS champs cause we always winning that BCS.

Ralph Kramden

November 17th, 2012
9:20 pm

Honey Boo Boo says FIRE RICHT !!!

Ralph Kramden

November 17th, 2012
9:23 pm

@UGA Season Ticket Holder since 1986… What are you boasting about ? The Blind Academy football team could beat Georgia Southern…. ‘Nuff said.

1eyedJack

November 17th, 2012
9:25 pm

Give ‘em hell, Hairy!

So what.. 10 - 1

November 17th, 2012
9:26 pm

You should never be fortunate against a mickey mouse team at any point….sorry Im not drinking that Kool Aid.

Cdpridg

November 17th, 2012
9:28 pm

Baylor…k state looking very very good boys..

So what.. 10 - 1

November 17th, 2012
9:34 pm

K State just scored 28 – 14 Baylor choking like Dawgs

JDawg

November 17th, 2012
9:35 pm

We need to fire our coaches and get somebody like Saban who will yell at people and get in their face. Anybody, like us blog geniuses knows that even though UGA set a school record for touchdowns this year, Bobo sucks and doesn’t know as much as we do. We’ll see what happens when the choir boys play a real team with a coach that doesn’t mind publicly embarrassing his players. If we had an a-hole like that for a coach, then we would be winners too. Anyone with sense can see that Richt and his loser staff doesn’t know how to coach.

So what.. 10 - 1

November 17th, 2012
9:40 pm

28 – 17 K state coming back….

Strat Cat Dawg

November 17th, 2012
9:42 pm

The season consists of one game: UGA vs GT. GATA, TCB and it’s all good

So what.. 10 - 1

November 17th, 2012
9:42 pm

Who woudnt set records playing against the sisters of the poor….. Please Get off the kool Aid….this is too funny…

fan

November 17th, 2012
9:53 pm

That chop block and cut blocking is dirty business. The player should be thrown out of the game, the team penalized and the coach reprimanded. That type of blocking is meant to inflick permanent inury. That play against the Georgia player was scary.

air of mendacity

November 17th, 2012
10:01 pm

Hmmm – ducks and K state games going well for SEC – we will see what happens – still need to beat GT and Bama – it can be done.

Erk Russell

November 17th, 2012
10:06 pm

Ga Southern has run the option for 30 years and just now ppl start complaining about “chop blocks.” Luckily it worked with the refs and uga didn’t end up down at the half. No matter, had a good time in Athens Go Eagles and yes, Go Dawgs

Greg

November 17th, 2012
10:10 pm

GT is going to get a motivated Georgia team next week because their national title goals are likely to be on the line. Even more reason for UGA to crush the gnats.

Hairy Dawg

November 17th, 2012
10:10 pm

Yes sir! K State getting the spanking those sorry Big 12 teams deserves. And Pope goning be sad next week also with Notre Dumb losing to Lame Kitten.

ND Irish

November 17th, 2012
10:12 pm

What happens if everyone has a loss ? Will it be ALA/UGA vs. UF in the NC? BCS will be exposed for what it is – a complete disaster..

Hairy Dawg

November 17th, 2012
10:15 pm

Why they ever think that Calvin Klein at K State be in Heisman race. He looking real stinky to me with Baylor blowing them out. None of the top rank 3 teams is as good as Dawgs. And we better than Bammer to.

Hairy Dawg

November 17th, 2012
10:24 pm

Dang! All the Big 12 teams stinkys. They play that bad defense to give other teams int for short field and easy scoring.

td

November 17th, 2012
10:40 pm

ND Irish

November 17th, 2012
10:12 pm

What happens if everyone has a loss ? Will it be ALA/UGA vs. UF in the NC? BCS will be exposed for what it is – a complete disaster.

Yes, that is how it should be. No, it proves that the SEC is where real college football is played and the rest of the nation sucks.

Cdpridg

November 17th, 2012
10:40 pm

Baylor will not be denied boys…get this fraud k st outta here…nd..getem outta here…overrated. Not impressed with oregon either!

439the

November 17th, 2012
10:41 pm

Stanford offense just giving the game to Oregon. Looking more and more like an Oregon vs. ND national championship…gross.

Hairy Dawg

November 17th, 2012
10:44 pm

That Big 12 needs being known as Sorry Defense 12. They play D like embarrassing themselves. The Dawgs in SEC play D like real mens.