Georgia still has outside shot at national title

semerson@macon.comNovember 5, 2012 

ATHENS -- Football players are not immune to the parlor game analysis. When they got back to their house in Athens this weekend, several players, including Christian Robinson, Arthur Lynch and Aaron Murray, mapped out what would have to happen for their team to end up in the national title game.

Robinson, recounting the discussion Monday night, was a realist.

“We need some help,” the senior linebacker said.

But considering where the Bulldgos were a month ago, it’s also nice to even be in the discussion.

Georgia currently sits No. 5 in the BCS standings as the highest one-loss team. It can take care of one of the unbeatens in a month in the SEC championship game, assuming Georgia and Alabama both get there. But then the unbeaten status of Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame becomes a factor.

A week ago, the feeling was Georgia simply needed to win out, and the SEC champion surely would be one of the two teams to be picked for Miami for the title game. But the feeling has changed.

Jerry Palm, a respected BCS analyst for CBSsports.com, is blunt about Georgia’s chances.

“They need two of those three to lose,” Palm said Monday.

Brad Edwards, a BCS analyst for ESPN, goes even further.

“I think Georgia needs to win out to be in a BCS bowl,” Edwards said.

So, basically, boom or bust. Win out and play for a national championship or at worst the Sugar Bowl.

Lose somewhere, even to Alabama in Atlanta and get ready for another non-BCS bowl in Florida.

Georgia might now be a top-five team in the BCS, with plenty of football left to be played. But its chances to get in the national title game are still far-fetched, if for no other reason than it requires beating Alabama in the BCS championship. And that proposition, even the most diehard Bulldogs fans will admit, seems daunting.

But such a matchup with the seemingly unbeatable Crimson Tide doesn’t come for almost another month, by which time the Bulldogs could be a much better team. The defense could continue its upward trajectory. The offensive line might find consistency. The special teams might finally be mistake-free.

In any case, let us dispense with breaking down a matchup that still isn’t a certainty, although it looks probable.

This does seem indisputable: Alabama rallying to beat LSU on Saturday night was a net positive for Georgia.

Why? Let’s say LSU had held on to win. Then, assuming LSU and Georgia took care of business, the SEC championship would have been a matchup of one-loss teams. Georgia would need to achieve a win so impressive it would merit serious consideration for reaching Miami.

Beating Alabama would be that.

But it still won’t be enough, by itself. Oregon, Kansas State and Notre Dame all remain unbeaten, and the first two are doing so in impressive fashion. If that holds up, there won’t be as persuasive a case for a one-loss Georgia, even after beating Alabama, to leapfrog Oregon and Kansas State. And even though Notre Dame looked mediocre in beating Pittsburgh, the Fighting Irish are still unbeaten and own more quality wins than Georgia. That list includes Oklahoma, Michigan, Michigan State and Stanford and in three weeks would also include Southern California.

Georgia has something else working against it -- the memory of how it lost that game at South Carolina.

“I don’t see any way a once-beaten team with a 28-point loss is finishing ahead of a major undefeated team, even if that one-loss team is from the SEC,” Edwards said.

So Georgia has to root for one of those unbeatens to stumble. That seems clear now.

But in order for it to make it to a BCS bowl, even with a close loss to Alabama, the Bulldogs still might need to root against the teams below them in the standings.

“A second loss with no SEC title would not leave UGA among the better options for the Sugar,” Edwards said. “There’s a chance Florida could be 11-1, South Carolina could be 10-2 and LSU could be 10-2, and all would have more momentum than Georgia if the Bulldogs lose the SEC championship game to Alabama. Obviously, if UGA does win out, it will be in the Sugar as the SEC champ in a worst-case scenario.”

Palm added, “bowls don’t like championship game losers, so it’s probably contingent on there being no other good choice.”

That’s why the current bowl projections, on SI.com, CBSsports.com and ESPN.com all have Georgia either in the Capital One Bowl or back in the Outback.

Not that such a fate would be considered any shame. Just consider how low the Bulldogs were valued a month ago after the debacle at South Carolina.

“Even farther back from that. Where this team was two years ago,” Robinson said. “The expectations are flipped, where Georgia was no longer relevant. And now we have a chance to have some people fall and we end up where we want to be.”

Contact Seth Emerson at semerson@macon.com

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