Style points don’t matter in SEC race

rseibel@macon.comOctober 17, 2011 

That whole thing about winning ugly? Well, victories don’t get any uglier than the one Georgia had Saturday night at Vanderbilt.

Let’s face it. Georgia stunk up the field pretty badly at times Saturday night. Eleven penalties for 89 yards? Ugh. Aaron Murray throwing an interception to Perry product Casey Hayward late in regulation with less than a two-score lead? Inexcusable. Allowing Peach County product Udom Umoh anywhere near Bulldogs punter Drew Butler on the Bulldogs’ final punt? Gasp.

At the end of all of this, however, there is one thing that matters above everything else when it comes to this game and the bigger picture, which is the SEC East race.

Georgia won. Period.

Sure, the naysayers will claim that the ugliness of this win means that Georgia is unprepared to take on the remainder of the season. They will say that Georgia would have a difficult time beating the lowest Sun Belt program, let alone anyone in the SEC.

But look at Georgia’s record. The Bulldogs are 4-1 in SEC play, tied with South Carolina for the lead in the East and at least two games ahead of everyone else in the division. And while the Gamecocks hold the head-to-head tiebreaker, there are issues in Columbia that could derail that team. Not only is there the lingering Stephen Garcia saga, but Marcus Lattimore’s fourth-quarter knee injury Saturday gave South Carolina a whole new set of issues.

The Gamecocks’ two-point victory Saturday at Mississippi State wasn’t impressive. And the team’s remaining conference schedule -- at Tennessee, at Arkansas and home against Florida -- is definitely not free of turbulence.

Georgia, meanwhile, has a week of rest prior to its Oct. 29 game in Jacksonville, Fla., against a very beatable Florida team. With all the disappointment the Bulldogs have endured in the series in recent years, motivation shouldn’t be a problem. The home game against Auburn on Nov. 12 might be a bit tricky, but Georgia does get to close conference play a week later against a struggling Kentucky team.

So Georgia might not be playing the best football right now. There have been some road bumps. But drama isn’t something that only happens in Athens. Every other team in the conference -- and the country -- has to deal with negativity in some form or fashion.

Let’s not forget this: As bleak as things looked following its 0-2 start, Georgia is now one victory away from being eligible for a bowl game. And it’s not even Halloween yet.

Yes, some people are going to take a look at the style points and cast a negative glance toward the Bulldogs. But to win five straight after losing the first two in a season that some saw as a make-or-break year for head coach Mark Richt and the Georgia program is quite impressive, no matter the quality of the opposition.

If the Bulldogs can stay hungry, a lot of things are possible. Even if they win ugly.

Contact Ron Seibel at 744-4222 or rseibel@macon.com

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