Georgia could have lost even more defensive talent from last year’s team if not for the return of projected NFL draft picks Deandre Baker and Jonathan Ledbetter.

Ledbetter, the defensive lineman, said this week that he came back for games like Saturday’s SEC Championship Game against Alabama, partly because this matchup was “inevitable” in his mind.

“We are ready for it,” he said. “We have been waiting for it the whole year.”

Ledbetter returned after a junior season in which he appeared in 14 games last season and registered 38 tackles, 2.5 sacks and 5.5 tackles for loss for the SEC champions. This year, he has 49 tackles, five for a loss, and one sack.

“I didn’t come back this year to not be here,” Ledbetter said. “This was expected of me. I worked for this. I think everybody on the team worked for this. I think anybody that came back and didn’t go on to the next level that didn’t have to, really expected this to be another season. We have unfinished business and we intend to go ahead and handle that.”

Ledbetter said he is confident in the coaches’ game plan for the week, and added that sacks don’t always win games, but Georgia must still affect the quarterback, be it batted balls or quarterback hurries.

Being a near two-touchdown underdog is fine with Ledbetter, because he believes it’s just an outsider’s view.

“That’s cool with me, man,” he said. “I will let the people think what they want. I think everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but they are not out there playing the football that we do. They are not out there sweating for their brother and doing it for them. So they don’t really understand. That’s fine with me. But we are going to give it everything we got and I’m confident in my guys and my team. I’ve been here for a while. We’ve put in just as much work as them and to have that, it is what it is.”

Ledbetter made three tackles, including one for a loss and a half sack last season against Alabama. Ledbetter understands that all the talk and build up to the matchup ends early in the game.

“You can hype up whoever you want before a fight, whether we get hyped up or they get hyped up,” Ledbetter said. “But whoever comes out there the first punch that is thrown, whoever gets hit in the mouth first, it is a dogfight from there. It will be that. We’re ready for that. We expect that. We want it.”