As many Bulldogs would attest, Saturday’s win at Auburn wasn’t supposed to be that easy.
From the outside looking in, I too thought the flatlined fighting Gene Chizik’s would at least put up more of a fight than what flashed across the tube as a turnover and big play-infused collapse. Calling the upset was a stretch, but part of me didn’t believe Auburn had completely given up this season and thrown in the towel on Chizik and his current staff. By halftime, much like what has happened throughout the Tigers’ dreadful 0-7 SEC start, Auburn fans headed for the exits inside their own stadium.
There’s two sides to every game however and on the visiting sideline, Georgia looked like a team on a mission from start to finish that has responded with precise focus since an early-season loss to South Carolina. Reiterated by star linebacker Jarvis Jones after an emphatic 38-point drubbing on the Plains, the Bulldogs never considered throwing in the towel after losing to South Carolina and under Mark Richt’s watch, have responded well to adversity.
The last three games have proved UGA’s deserving of an SEC East title and a return trip to Atlanta, backed by a veteran quarterback with growing confidence and a defensive front seven that has reached near max potential. The Bulldogs’ win sets up what could be a classic SEC Title Game on Dec. 1 that’ll feature the conference’s two best teams, one-loss programs that remain in BCS title talks if one of three remaining unbeatens — Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame — go down. It may not have quite the build following Alabama’s upset loss to Texas A&M, but could have gargantuan championship implications once we know the result of the Fighting Irish’s road trip to Southern Cal the previous week. Oregon will try and avoid a letdown in the PAC12 Championship Game in Autzen the night before the SEC takes center stage from the Georgia Dome.
You have to feel good at this junction if you’re the Bulldogs. Since South Carolina’s afternoon loss in Gainesville on Oct. 20, you’ve controlled your own destiny over the last four games and have looked good doing it. Uber-talented at most positions, UGA poses a threat to any one of the BCS’s remaining unbeatens and plays a style of football indicative of the SEC’s six-year run to national titles. Richt’s squad beats you at the point of attack with a two-headed monster in the backfield and utilizes a vertical passing game with three-year starter Aaron Murray. UGA’s defense — a staple of past BCS champions LSU, Alabama and Florida — is vastly improving.
Back in September, I predicted the Bulldogs to be here at this point but selected South Carolina as the East champion based on a 1-1 October split at LSU and Florida. The Gamecocks wound up losing both games to Top 10 teams, opening the Bulldogs’ door to Atlanta. Similar to last season’s run, Georgia has seized its second chance and is playing for more at this point of the season.
Par the course with the BCS’ heavy emphasis on strength of schedule correlating to conference, one loss proves you’re still in the national championship picture. And for SEC fans, hope is not lost for the league’s seventh straight crystal football.
Photo Credit: John Reed-US PRESSWIRE