ATHENS — By the time the Georgia football team kicks off its game Saturday, the complexion of the rest of its season will have already been decided.
Mark Richt, as head coach entrusted with keeping focus where it needs to be, is confident his team will have its mind on Georgia Tech and not events in Missouri.
“We’ve had some distractions this year from time to time, and it hasn’t seemed to affect us, in my opinion,” Richt said, a clear reference to the Todd Gurley situation. “I think we’ve done a good job of controlling what we can control, and that’s going to be the goal again.”
Still, everyone around the program knows what’s at stake when Missouri hosts Arkansas on Friday. A Missouri loss means Georgia takes the field a day later as the SEC East champion, a date punched for the SEC championship game and still an outside chance at the national playoff.
That all goes away if Missouri wins Friday, leaving the Bulldogs to play for bragging rights over Georgia Tech, a 10-win season and bowl placement.
Richt is banking on Georgia Tech serving as enough motivation and worry.
“This game kind of stands alone,” Richt said. “It’s almost a season within itself. I really believe we’ll be ready to go.”
Yes, the Bulldogs have taken 12 out of the past 13 from their in-state rivals. But the Yellow Jackets enter the game with an identical record (9-2) and are ranked No. 16 in the AP poll, eight spots below the Bulldogs.
“They’re outstanding, they’re winning, they’re doing the things you need to do to win,” Richt said.
Georgia was hoping it would have a spot in the SEC championship game wrapped up already, but Missouri won Saturday at Tennessee, carrying the uncertainty over for one more week. Richt said he watched the game at his house while also reviewing tape of Georgia Tech.
He didn’t offer up his reaction to the result, but it wasn’t hard to predict.Multiple Bulldogs said in the postgame locker room Saturday that while they were hoping Missouri would stumble, they also understood that they had put themselves in this helpless position. Beating either South Carolina or Florida would have already clinched the division.
“We could easily say we should be 11-0 right now,” senior cornerback Damian Swann said. “But we didn’t play consistent enough to where we could put ourselves in that position to where we don’t have to wait on a lot of things to happen. We could have controlled our own destiny. But it is what it is. I think we’re in a good spot right now, and we’ve got a big week ahead of us.”