Georgia’s new reality: From on the brink to BCS possibility

Mark Richt and the Bulldogs know if they can win two more games they'll play for BCS title. (Brandt Sanderlin/AJC)

If Mark Richt and the Bulldogs win two more games they'll play for BCS title. (Brandt Sanderlin/AJC)

This is why we love sports. This is why it’s the greatest reality show we have going – unscripted and unexpected, with fluctuating emotions of fan bases from game to game.

Who foresees this? Who looks at a 0-2 Georgia team last season, with coach Mark Richt under assault by fans and media, with the program a non-factor in the SEC for more than two years, boat-raced in the conference by Alabama, Florida and LSU, and thinks: By the end of next season, those Bulldogs may have a chance to play for the BCS championship?

After some early hiccups in Athens Saturday, Georgia buried Georgia Southern 45-14. That’s one development that surprised nobody. What changed the landscape of college football’s national race is what occurred later that evening.

Kansas State, the BCS’s No. 1 team, got body-slammed 52-24 by Baylor (the same Baylor that was 1-5 in the Big 12 before kickoff). Oregon, the BCS’s No. 2 team, was upset at home by Stanford in overtime 17-14 (the same Oregon team whose point totals had ranged from 42 to 70 in its first 10 games).

These developments made happy people of everybody in the SEC office and a significant portion of the population in Georgia and Alabama. The losses by Kansas State and Oregon opened the door to the winner of the SEC championship game getting a pass into the BCS title game. When the new BCS rankings came out Sunday night, the top five teams were as expected: 1) Notre Dame; 2) Alabama; 3) Georgia; 4) Florida; 5) Oregon. Kansas State dropped all the way to sixth.

For the Bulldogs, it comes down to this: Win two games and they’re in. Yes, really.

Beat rival Georgia Tech at home next week (they will be favored) and Alabama in two weeks at the Georgia Dome (they will be underdogs) and the Dogs will play for their first BCS title.

Suddenly, residents of this state – at least those not associated with the teams on North Ave. – bark in unison.

Richt will have a difficult job trying to keep his players focused on a football game this week. That’s not the norm. Getting players to think about a game against their state rival shouldn’t be a chore. But the circumstances are extraordinary. Georgia’s last national championship came in 1980, and even if the Dogs need three more victories to win another one, nobody imagined they would get this close – not this year.

Just consider the reaction by some Georgia players on Twitter immediately following Oregon’s loss to Stanford:

Quarterback Aaron Murray (@aaronmurray11): “Yesssssssssssss!!!!!! The Murray household just went crazyyyyy!!!!!!”

• Running back Keith Marshall (@truthh4): “Can’t lie. I’m excited right now.” But he followed that with: “Gotta focus on GT first.”

• Wide receiver Tavarres King (@TKUnoDos): “ALL SMILES!!!!!!!!”

• Cornerback Sanders Commings: “Thank you Baylor, thank you Stanford.” And Sunday morning: “And I wake up pinching myself. Yea it’s real. We control our own destiny.”

• Safety Marc Deas (@DatBoiDeas): “Show me the BCS!!!!”

Richt will try to ground them all this week. But one thing Georgia has done well is respond to adversity, whether it’s a loss (like getting pounded by South Carolina) or struggling early in against an inferior opponent (like Saturday against Georgia Southern). Maybe that grounding effect can work in high times, too.

“The one thing that’s different about this team is our composure,” wide receiver Chris Conley said following Saturday’s win. “We haven’t had guys freaking out on the sideline when something’s not going right.”

It follows that now they can’t freak out when everything is going right.

By Jeff Schultz

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358 comments Add your comment

georgiadawg93

November 18th, 2012
12:00 pm

If Richt even gets UGA to the National Championship game, I will never criticize him again. Bobo on the other hand…

dawggirl

November 18th, 2012
12:01 pm

GT will bring the house to us. They have to be prepared to play disciplined football. I’m glad we got the warm up for the TO. They should be focused on Tech, and only Tech. Thoughts of Bama and beyond should not even enter into their consciousness, although I know that’s unrealistic.

Simply put, one game at a time. Beat GT!

Willy

November 18th, 2012
12:01 pm

UGA will lose to Tech and will not play in the National Championship!

Lance

November 18th, 2012
12:03 pm

no way I am first. not possible

Lance

November 18th, 2012
12:04 pm

and I was right. I should not have read the column. Heh!

Lance

November 18th, 2012
12:07 pm

Hey the Dawgs control their own destiny with one regular season game to go. Who could ask for more? There are 120 other teams that would kill to be in this position. I have always thought this team has national championship talent but just never played at that level as a team until recently. They have a shot and that is all you can ask for.

mike on lake hartwell

November 18th, 2012
12:11 pm

FOCUS AND PATIENCE, DAWGS.

Habersham Dawg

November 18th, 2012
12:11 pm

It’s the ability to run the ball this year that has made all the difference.

Top Dawg

November 18th, 2012
12:15 pm

The players need to tone down those tweets. They are just giving Alabama coaches bulletin board material. They have not won anything yet.

[...] more here: Georgia’s new reality: From on the brink to BCS possibility – Atlanta Journal Constituti… [...]

Blackout Tech

November 18th, 2012
12:19 pm

As a fan base, let’s Blackout Tech!! Let’s come together and be unified as one! Come dressed in black for the Tech game and bring the energy from start to finish, cause the Dawgs are playing to be in the National Championship Game!! Go Dawgs!!!

FalconFan

November 18th, 2012
12:20 pm

Given all the doom and gloom after the Bulldogs lost to South Carolina who’d a thunk? Just shows what an easy schedule can do for you.

Kool Aid Drinkers and Sunshine Pumpers

November 18th, 2012
12:21 pm

Embarrassing loss to SC… barely beat Kentucky and also Tenn both who fired their coaches BTW. What a joke of a schedule.

Jailyard Dwag

November 18th, 2012
12:22 pm

Now, I’m worried…Looks like we got to face the real SEC West…And I think that we’d be only the fourth best team there… Behind Alabama, LSU and A&M….Damn schedule… How can we be the National Champ if we have to play the SEC West….Oh well, fourth best ain’t all bad…..Go Dwags

Seriously?

November 18th, 2012
12:24 pm

If Coach Richt can’t get his players to concentrate on ths week’s game, he should probably just quit (or be fired). Two wins from being in BCS Championship Game and they may be looking past someone?
Granted, there would probably be one loss teams that played as hard or harder schedule than UGA, but no one would dare leave the SEC one loss team out of the championship game, assuming only one undefeated team.

Greg

November 18th, 2012
12:28 pm

Well we have a shot at a title. That’s all you can ask for is a shot. No way UGA lets GT, a hate rival, come into Athens and ruin that. I just don’t see it happening. I know Tech’s option offense can be tricky but we just faced it. So we’ll be ready to go. Especially now since this has happened. Tech’s defense has no shot vs. Murray, Gurley and crew. Dawgs win by 20.

Sammy

November 18th, 2012
12:30 pm

I would go to a ball control approach vs. GT.

Just play keep away, keep the UGA defense off the field, not risking injuries to the cut blocking.

Move to a total running game, or short passing attack. Run the clock, win the turnover battle, get out with a win, style points don’t matter now, just win baby win.

If you can get up by 21 on GT and force them to throw the ball, it’s game over, but even if the ideal doesn’t happen, just win. Keep a 2 score minimum lead thru the game.

GT will try and spoil this.

Greg

November 18th, 2012
12:34 pm

GT will try to spoil it, but not by winning the game. That won’t happen. They’ll try to injure our players. That’s just how dirty they’ll play. They’ll try to provoke us to fight and try to get some players suspended for the Bama game. Tech doesn’t have anything to play for, but UGA does clearly. Players must be disciplined and honed in on the task at hand.

Cdpridg

November 18th, 2012
12:34 pm

Simply put…The Georgia Way….is about competing for…and winning championships

Cdpridg

November 18th, 2012
12:36 pm

Defeating tech has become even easier under fish fry….because of his style. Dawgs start fast…jump to early lead and it is over

Moose

November 18th, 2012
12:43 pm

Go dawgs! Why all the negativity?

Sammy

November 18th, 2012
12:45 pm

We now know how to beat Bama:
1- Mobile QB at T A& M was more than they could handle–look for Murray to run and scramble to keep plays alive, a la Big Ben Rothlesberger
2- Pass on their defense like Mettenberger did so well, just short passes when they blitz, burn their corners, and their lb’s, especially on 3rd down
3- Force AJ to pass and throw picks, hopefully from way behind score wise, AJ tends to panic there
4- Win the turnover battle, like Florida, Bama relies on luck(turnovers) to win games, win the turnover battle, and they become an average team.

Alabama’s offense is 1 dimensional, they are 73rd in passing, and havn’t repped it enough this year.
Alabama, like Florida, relies too much on turnovers. Beat them at their own game and they lose.
Alabama’s defense is weak against the pass and mobile running qb’s.

Resident Georgia Fan

November 18th, 2012
12:45 pm

Georgia can beat Bama. And they will.

Sammy

November 18th, 2012
12:49 pm

Murray is the #2 QB in passer rating in the nation. If Bama thought Mettenberger was a nightmare, wait until they meet the 2012 Murray.

And Murray is MUCH more mobile than Mettenberger, not as mobile as Johnny football, but very creative, and can keep drives and plays alive with his legs, that will drive Bama nuts.

And the UGA defense will win the turnover battle, just like the Florida game.

[...] ranked No. 2 in AP poll, behind Notre Dameal.comSB Nation -San Jose Mercury News (blog) -Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)all 865 news articles » http://news.google.com [...]

Sammy

November 18th, 2012
1:06 pm

UGA should beat Bama with “Operation Offensive Chaos”.
1- Let Murray be Murray, and run around like Tarkenton.
2- have the UGA WR’s vary scramble rules, sometimes go deep, sometimes break to sidelines, sometimes run comeback routes.
3- Sometimes throw 5 plays in a row, sometimes run 5 plays in a row.
4- Throw it on 4th down, Murray is VERY good throwing on 4th down, ask Florida about 2011
5- Run the hurry up at warp speed without substitution, Saban hates it
6- The backs should do a lot of cutbacks, spins, and stop moves.
7- run a LOAD of trick plays, which UGA has NEVER ran before
8- Spread out the defense with 5 wr’s and run the ball
9- 50% go against tendancies, 50% go with tendencies, keep Bama’s defense uncertain
10- run formations they havn’t seen on film

Vince

November 18th, 2012
1:09 pm

The techies would love nothing better than to beat us Saturday(envy is such a great motivator). We better be ready and motivated for that game.

Burma Shave

November 18th, 2012
1:25 pm

To the Georgia Dome the dawgs will go
The score will go to and fro
But in the end, Bama wins
And for the dawgs it’s No, No, No!

BURMA SHAVE

[...] Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog) [...]

Twilb Dawg

November 18th, 2012
1:41 pm

The players know what is at stake. They will be focused on the task at hand…beat the NATS for th 4th straight year, and 11 out of the last 12.

Really?

November 18th, 2012
1:51 pm

I know I’m not the only one, but I have been saying all season if Georgia stays focussed this would be a special seaon. Despite having no opportunity for their starters to gel until the second half of the season and losing 2 of their key offensive players, Georgia is back in the SEC Championship and finally looking good on both side of the ball.

As the true freshman Keith Marshall said “Gotta focus on GT next.”

fayncdawg

November 18th, 2012
1:55 pm

Give the Dawgs their due1 They did not lose a single game in which they were favored by 10+.KSU and Oregon now can’t say that! And wasn’t Bammer favored by ten or more against A&M?

I don’t even pay much attention to the South Carolina loss anymore! Everybody in Columbia was juiced that night (figuratively, I THINK).One thing the Chickens should take away from their season is that it does no good to pour all your emotional eggs in one game. That’s a good way for a team to burnout. A few weeks later the Chickens were burnt to a crisp (and they still look burnt out)

UGA vs. Notre Dame for the NC this season! UGA vs Urban Crier for the NC in 2014! If the Dawgs remain steady and focused this WILL occur. And they will beat ND!

Bergamot

November 18th, 2012
1:57 pm

Never before in the history of the BCS has such an undisciplined gang of illiterates, thugs, dopeheads, woman-beaters, public urinators, drunks, jailbirds, and low-life morons come so close to backing into the title game. Fortunately for the integrity of the game, Alabama will send these pretenders and their low-class fans running back to their mobile home parks and welfare existence.

ROLL DAWGS

November 18th, 2012
1:58 pm

Squash the BUGS!

DBV7

November 18th, 2012
2:01 pm

ESPN really makes me mad

fayncdawg

November 18th, 2012
2:07 pm

RollDawgs

I have a funny feeling Bergamot might be a Bug that needs to be squashed. Can’t be a Bammer fan. His entry would clearly be the pot calling the kettle black if he were a Bammer!

hmmmmm...........

November 18th, 2012
2:08 pm

Hey Bergamot, was it your daughter or wife caught in the car w Damon Evans? And have you forgotten about Miami and Ohio State

Tide Will Crush You

November 18th, 2012
2:09 pm

You Dawg fans are delusional. You aren’t even the second best team in your own division (Florida had six turnovers–three of which were unforced–and still could have won the game with two minutes to go; and South Carolina destroyed you).

Bama will absolutely crush the Dawgs, not least with superior coaching and game planning.

Pj

November 18th, 2012
2:10 pm

Lets. Focus. On. Tech. Please.

Preston

November 18th, 2012
2:21 pm

Losing a LOT of players to the NFL after this season. Better get it done this year!

RxDawg

November 18th, 2012
2:22 pm

Wow… I’ve got my doubts about beating Bama, but hey anything is possible. Go dawgs!

Lance is 100% correct

November 18th, 2012
2:22 pm

UGA is in the hunt. If your school des that often, you have a team. Had we defeated LSU last year in the Dome, UGA would have been near the top 4 or 5 programs.

UGA is a good second tier program and this level is where 75-100 schools WOUD DO ANYTHING to. replicate with CMR’s consistency. Saturday night, ask any GT alumnus.

UGA class of 71&73

Preston

November 18th, 2012
2:27 pm

If we had shown up to play South Carolina and were undefeated right now, we would be number one! Proud of the Dawgs right now though. Been far too long since UGA was mentioned in the national championship conversation.

fayncdawg

November 18th, 2012
2:32 pm

Preston

It’s called reloading! More than enough talent to replace the NFL-bound! And Murray isn’t exactly 6 foot 5, so he may NOT be NFL-bound! If Murray, ‘Tree, and Geathers have enough sense to not test the NFL waters, there will be NO big holes to fill!

GeoffDawg

November 18th, 2012
2:33 pm

I would think it’d be the opposite perception in the locker room. If all you’re playing for is a conference title, you might very well overlook the OOC foe. Winning all your remaining games is the only way to get into the BCS championship.

Johhny Football

November 18th, 2012
2:35 pm

Georgia beats bama, just like i did!

Mark Richt

November 18th, 2012
2:37 pm

the dawgs are a weak program, the are scared to play a real schedule, like Notre Dames
georgia brags about beating Ga southern, buffalo ,get ready for the outback bowl.

Sunbury Ga dawg

November 18th, 2012
2:38 pm

Dawgs are too SOFT to beat Tech or beat Alabama!

now that i have added fuel to the fire GATA you dirty hairy stinking dawgs! it’s all on you now!

fayncdawg

November 18th, 2012
2:40 pm

Also Preston

As mentioned in a previous blog entry DON’T SWEAT THAT SOUTH CAROLINA LOSS! The Chicken played juiced up for Georgia and have not played nearly as stellar since! BCS title games are for the steady (ND, Bammer, and Georgia), not for the team juiced up for Georgia and burnt out for Wofford! Your pride in this Dawg team is nothing you should be ashamed of!

TheBabe

November 18th, 2012
2:44 pm

Bama fans here seem incredibly, mind-bogglingly dense. No way Bama can lose??? Really. Here’s a headline for you: Everybody can lose. And like it or not, GA has the athletes to compete with AL. Maybe they’ll win, maybe not, but no one will have an easy time of it. Of course, you’re free to enjoy your delusions. Better focus on AU first.