Georgia football: Sugar Bowl bid wasn't the goal, but it is a nice consolation prize
Almost immediately after Georgia’s heartbreaking 35-28 loss to Alabama concluded Saturday, the lobbying began. Despite blowing a two-touchdown lead, the Bulldogs were convinced they were still a worthy candidate to be included in the four-team College Football Playoff.
Through the pain, and through the tears of a brutally tough loss, they lobbied.
But it didn’t work.
As expected, Alabama, Clemson and Notre Dame were all locks. The final spot went to Oklahoma, with Ohio State and Georgia most notably left out.
Oklahoma was 12-1 and won the Big 12 Saturday, avenging its only loss with a win over Texas to earn the fourth spot. Georgia was fifth in the rankings, a near miss. They are headed to the Sugar Bowl to play Texas on New Year’s Day. Ohio State was No. 6.
Georgia controlled its own destiny, of course, and would have earned a spot in the playoffs with a victory. That was in their grasp before some coaching blunders and a few breakdowns led to Alabama’s huge comeback behind backup quarterback Jalen Hurts.
“Same as last time,” said Georgia running back D’Andre Swift, who finished with 138 yards from scrimmage (75 rushing, 63 receiving). “A new quarterback comes in (Hurts for Tua Tagovailoa) and we get beat. Can’t dwell on it, but it’s still gonna hurt.”
Missing out on the Playoff really hurts because this Georgia team does think it can beat anybody.
They aren’t alone. SEC commissioner Greg Sankey was firmly convinced that Georgia belonged in the field of four. The league proved last year that its two entrants were worthy when they won their semifinals and played for the national title.
He could have envisioned that happening again.
“I actually think there’s an argument that Georgia is still one of the four best teams, even with two losses, when I go back to that unique rigor of our schedule,” Sankey said Saturday night. “And I know that the committee has indicated deep respect for the competition in this conference. They still merit consideration.”
Georgia hasn’t played in the Sugar Bowl in 11 years. The last time the Bulldogs went was after the 2007 season, when they squared off with an undefeated Hawaii team but had no trouble, winning 41-10. Georgia, led by quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno, finished that season 10-2 and was ranked No. 4 in the country in the final AP poll.
The Bulldogs have played in the Sugar Bowl nine times and have a 4-5 record. The highlight, of course, was winning the national championship with running back Herschel Walker back on Jan. 1, 1981, when they beat Notre Dame 17-10 to finish off an undefeated season.
Georgia and Texas, two of the most storied programs in college football, have met only four times, and it has been a while. Their last meeting was in the Cotton Bowl after the 1983 season, and Georgia won 10-9.
It’s the only time the Bulldogs have ever beaten the Longhorns. Texas won both games in a regular-season series in 1957-58 and also won the Orange Bowl 41-28 after the 1948 season.
Texas and Georgia will see each other again, but it’s a long way down the road. The schools announced in November that they will have a home-and-home series in 10 years from now. They will play in Austin on Sept. 2, 2028, and then play at Sanford Stadium in Athens on Sept. 1, 2029.