For Georgia, this is ‘the turning point’

semerson@macon.comOctober 8, 2011 

ATHENS -- Georgia safety Bacarri Rambo picked up his phone last Saturday night and saw a text from offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. There were things going on that night pertaining to the SEC East race, and Bulldogs coaches were making sure players knew.

“It was about the South Carolina and Auburn game. I was watching a little bit (too),” Rambo said. “I’m glad South Carolina lost. It just opened the doors for us and let us know the East is wide open.”

After Saturday, when Georgia visits Tennessee, it could be more than wide open for the Bulldogs; they would likely be the favorites with a win.

But the opposite result in Knoxville could send Georgia’s season back in the direction that it started.

“It looks as if this will be the turning point,” Georgia inside linebacker Christian Robinson said. “And I think this will be a game where people decide whether we’ve turned a corner or not.”

Georgia (3-2 overall, 2-1 SEC) enters the weekend in a three-way tie for first place with Florida and South Carolina. And the schedule the rest of the way clearly favors Georgia.

The Bulldogs don’t have to play Alabama, LSU and Arkansas, the three top-ranked teams from the SEC West. After Tennessee, they play at Vanderbilt, then Florida in Jacksonville, Fla., and host Auburn and Kentucky. That’s not exactly a cakewalk, especially given Georgia’s history in Jacksonville.

But compare it to the situations at the two other first-place teams:

Florida just lost senior quarterback John Brantley to a lower leg injury, and freshman Jeff Driskel will replace him for an undetermined amount of time. First up is a trip to No. 1 LSU on Saturday, then a trip to No. 15 Auburn, the Georgia game, home against Vanderbilt and then at South Carolina to wrap up its SEC season.

South Carolina has finally yanked quarterback Stephen Garcia and replaced him with unproven sophomore Connor Shaw. The Gamecocks’ remaining schedule: Kentucky at home, at Mississippi State, at Tennessee, at No. 10 Arkansas and the Florida game.

Georgia is still essentially a game behind South Carolina because it lost to the Gamecocks. But given what Florida and South Carolina have left, and the fact they still play each other, the Bulldogs could still win the division if they lose to Florida.

That is, if they beat Tennessee, which as Robinson pointed out is still trying to find itself.

“They’re 7-2 (dating back to last season) since (Tyler) Bray has been the quarterback and only lost a game to Florida thus far,” Robinson said. “This will be the determining game for both teams. It doesn’t mean we can’t do well from here, but if a team comes out and is dominant it’ll show that they’re for real, I think.”

Head coach Mark Richt said this week he detected a “bounce” from his players as a result of the renewed chances to win the division. And Bobo wasn’t the only coach sending out mass texts last Saturday, according to players. Tight end Aron White said he received one that told the players to “keep believing, that things are still in our favor and we have a lot of momentum.”

Rambo put it another way.

“The coaches have been preaching to us that this is probably one of the biggest games that’s come this year,” he said.

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