clear
Tuesday September 1st, 2015 10:31PM

Forgotten Georgia in thick of championship race

By The Associated Press
ATHENS -- When Oregon and Kansas State both went down, Aaron Murray whooped it up as much as any Georgia fan.

He knew what that meant for the Bulldogs - a shot at the national championship.

"I've never screamed so much at the television and prayed so much in my life," Georgia's star quarterback said Tuesday. "It was definitely an exciting night. We were screaming, high-fiving, hugging, group hugs. It was a lot of fun."

Funny thing, though. Outside of this state, hardly anyone is talking about the Southeastern Conference's other title contender.

Instead, everyone is gushing about the possibility of two storied programs - Notre Dame and Alabama - playing for No. 1.

Georgia, it seems, is just an afterthought.

"We don't mind being the underdogs," Murray said. "We know what we have to do, and that's win games. If we do that, we'll be good to go."

Indeed, while it may appear the third-ranked Bulldogs are trying to sneak in the back door, they have exactly the same path to the championship as the top-ranked Fighting Irish and second-ranked Crimson Tide.

Win out. Win it all.

For Georgia, it starts with Saturday's regular-season finale against state rival Georgia Tech (6-5). The Bulldogs have won 10 of 11 in the series and are a two-touchdown favorite to extend that domination against the high-scoring Yellow Jackets. Still, coach Mark Richt is working hard to ensure his team doesn't get caught looking ahead to the SEC championship game against Alabama the following week.

He's gone to some rather extreme measures to keep the one-game-at-a-time mentality. Richt refuses to even say whether he was watching last Saturday night when Kansas State got blown out by Baylor and Oregon lost in overtime to Stanford, allowing Georgia to jump to No. 3 in the BCS standings.

If anyone tries to bring up Alabama or the BCS, Richt won't even respond.

"I had to hang up on my mom," he said, only half-joking.

Richt insists there's been no discussion with his staff about what might happen beyond the Georgia Tech game, and he said there's no need to remind his players it's business as usual.

"We meet every day to talk about how we're going to handle the week: who we're playing next, what kind of challenges they bring, what we're going to do on a daily basis to get ready for them," Richt said. "That's all we do."

After Saturday, the picture could be even clearer.

Notre Dame (11-0) is favored by a touchdown against disappointing Southern Cal, which will be further hampered by the absence of star quarterback Matt Barkley. He won't play because of a sprained right shoulder, forcing the Trojans to give freshman Max Wittek his first career start. Alabama (10-1) opened as a 33-point pick over hapless Auburn, which is winless in the SEC and wrapping up its worst season in decades.

If all three favorites win, Notre Dame is assured of a spot in the Jan. 7 BCS championship game in Miami. The SEC title game between Alabama and Georgia (10-1) would essentially serve as a national semifinal.

Of course, nothing is assured in this sport.

Just ask Oregon and Kansas State.

"Not to get negative," said Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson, pondering the idea of losing to the Yellow Jackets with so much on the line, "but it could be horrible. It could be everything we didn't want this season to be about. People would pile on everything negative they could think about us.

"We have an opponent coming here that probably hates us more than any other opponent. And it's probably mutual."

It's stunning that Georgia (10-1) had clawed its way into this position considering what happened on Oct. 6.

The Bulldogs rolled into South Carolina for a crucial game between two unbeaten teams - and got blown out. They were behind 21-0 at the end of the first quarter and lost 35-7, scoring a meaningless touchdown in the closing minutes just to avoid a shutout.

According to STATS LLC, no team that has finished No. 1 in The Associated Press poll or claimed the Bowl Championship Series title with such a lopsided loss on its record. The worst defeat by a champion came in 1983, when Miami dropped its opener to Florida 28-3 but rebounded to win its last 11 games, including an upset of then-No. 1 Nebraska in the Orange Bowl.

Georgia dropped to No. 14 in the AP poll after the debacle in Columbia, which most thought was too far back to have any shot at No. 1. But the Bulldogs bounced back with five straight wins, most notably a 17-9 triumph over Florida, and kept climbing as one unbeaten team after another fell in defeat.

"After South Carolina, especially, we had to take a step back and realize that we can control our future," tight end Arthur Lynch said. "We haven't looked ahead."

Now, even though the Bulldogs are one of just three teams that controls its own destiny, they're not breaking from the philosophy that has served them well.

So this week, it's all about Georgia Tech.

"No matter what the records are, or what's happening, nothing changes the fact that if we lose to them, it's a living hell for the next 365 days," Lynch said. "It's what fuels me and gets me motivated. If you're not motivated for this game, you probably shouldn't come to Georgia. You always have to beat Tech."
© Copyright 2015 AccessWDUN.com
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
Tech beats Southern California in Sun Bowl
Tevin Washington threw a touchdown pass and ran for another score to help Georgia Tech beat Southern California 21-7 on Monday in the Sun Bowl.
5:54PM ( 2 years ago )
Top 10 sports stories of the year: 2012 one for the history books
2012 has been all things to all people in the sports world. The last 12 months have run the gamut of emotions and given fans and spectators much to awe, rue and everything in between.
2:33PM ( 2 years ago )
College Football Hall to break ground in Atlanta
Groundbreaking for the new College Football Hall of Fame in Atlanta will be Jan. 28 and the museum is scheduled to open in the fall of 2014.
2:15PM ( 2 years ago )
Sports
Tech's 2nd half surge beats Fordham 73-48
Daniel Miller and Robert Carter Jr. each scored 14 points and Georgia Tech scored 17 straight points in the second half en route to a 73-48 victory over Fordham on Saturday night.
10:17PM ( 2 years ago )
Djurisic's career night leads Dogs past Florida A&M
Nemanja Djurisic scored a career-high 21 points and Georgia won its third straight Saturday 82-73 over Florida A&M.
7:26PM ( 2 years ago )
Ga. Southern beats Ga. State, 68-64 in overtime
Eric Ferguson scored 24 points and Georgia Southern overcame a late double-digit deficit to beat Georgia State 68-64 in overtime on Saturday.
7:25PM ( 2 years ago )
College Sports
Win streak on the line, start of a campaign feature on air during Week 2
The talk will undoubtedly center on the number 42 this week -- when the real discussion should be on the football, which promises to be interesting indeed when Buford travels to face McEachern on Friday in Week 2 of the 2015 high school football season.
6:58PM ( 3 hours ago )
Softball: Buford edges Grayson, 3-2
The Buford softball team pulled ahead in the seventh inning to knock off Grayson 3-2 on Monday in Grayson.
By AccessWDUN Staff
11:32AM ( 10 hours ago )
(VIDEO) Player of the Week: Wood's second dominating night earns Jefferson RB award
Heading into the season Jefferson coaches and players knew that Colby Wood would be an asset...
11:15AM ( 11 hours ago )
Lambert picked as starting quarterback for No. 9 Georgia
With less than a week to go before the season opener, No. 9 Georgia finally has a starting quarterback.
10:33AM ( 11 hours ago )
Falcons' offense has issues entering final preseason game
The Atlanta Falcons' most glaring unanswered questions are on offense as they began a short practice week before their final preseason game against Baltimore on Thursday night.
9:52AM ( 12 hours ago )