Georgia finally among the nation’s elite

mlough@macon.comNovember 30, 2012 

As they gather on the Georgia Dome turf for the first time Saturday, Georgia players should stop and look around and take it in.

“So this is what it feels like to be on the inside looking out.”

Since seemingly back to the leather-helmet days, to some, Georgia has been on the outside looking in whenever the discussion was about national title contenders.

The Bulldogs were in the conversation with a perfunctory tone, a nice team with potential, but not quite on that next level. They just couldn’t get over the hump.

By late dinner time Saturday, that might have changed, because for the first time in a long time, Georgia is in the conversation, legitimately and deservedly.

And yet, since the Bulldogs have had the players to jump the hump before and haven’t, there are concerns.

“What if the Georgia of Oct. 6 in Columbia shows up? What if the Alabama of 2009 or 2011 shows up? What if Saturday becomes Georgia-Alabama of Sept. 27, 2008 in Athens?”

After all, it’s Alabama. Until further notice, don’t bet against the Tide and president of the Coaches United for Process and Obsession Association, Nick Saban. Lately, the Tide either get the rings or make teams beat them to get the rings.

Sure, Texas A&M and Johnny Football rode into Tuscaloosa and performed magically, and Alabama lost at home to a team not in the top 10. But Alabama quickly returned to normalcy and made it to this point.

Georgia is a legitimate player on the national stage because it appears that the mental part has caught up to the physical part.

And even at 11-1, Alabama clearly isn’t as dominant as in other championship years. LSU played one style against the Tide and should have won. Texas A&M played another style and did win. Aaron Murray is no Johnny Football, but Murray has the feet and athleticism to do some things that’ll make Alabama’s defense work. And pass defense isn’t the Tide’s defensive strength.

Alabama is very beatable. Georgia is very capable. And the Bulldogs know both.

The confidence that Steve Spurrier added to South Carolina’s team made, early in the season, the Gamecocks a better matchup for Alabama in the title game, with Georgia again being a nice team with potential.

But the Bulldogs are playing fast, downhill, smarter and more fundamentally than usual and with confidence that’s not just talk. Except for one still-antagonizing loss at South Carolina, Georgia did what people believed must be done: It took care of business.

Saturday does come down to quarterback play and the offensive game plan.

Do you trust A.J. McCarron, who drove the five-play, 72-yard, 43-second game-winning drive to beat LSU? Or do you trust Murray, who doesn’t have much big-game success to put on the résumé?

There’s the chance Murray is tight, the result of perhaps overcompensating for what he has heard all season about big games. Frankly, his teammates need to hold him down and tickle him about 10 minutes before they leave the locker room to relax him. Preparation won’t be a problem but anxiety might.

There are more reasons to pick Alabama than Georgia, but for the first time in long time, there are almost as many reasons to pick Georgia. And now that the Bulldogs are deservedly on the inside, it is, in fact, time to pick Georgia.

Contact Michael A. Lough at 744-4626 or mlough@macon.com

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