ATHENS -- In the fifth of seven College Football Playoff rankings, Georgia jumped one spot Tuesday to No. 9 -- the second-highest two-loss team.
With a win over Georgia Tech on Saturday, Georgia likely will finish the regular season in the top 10, putting the Bulldogs in good position for a spot in the New Year’s bowls that take place on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Outside of the national semifinals (Rose and Sugar Bowls this year), the Orange, Fiesta, Cotton and Peach Bowls will fill the other prime-time bowl slots.
The SEC has contractual ties with the Sugar Bowl when it isn’t a national semifinal and potentially the Orange Bowl.
With the Yellow Jackets looming, however, the Bulldogs have yet another shot to beat a top-25 opponent, enhancing their resume. And then there’s the potential of reaching the SEC championship game. A win there would give Georgia a shot at catapulting into the national semifinals.
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“It would give us a strong argument to be in the final four,” quarterback Hutson Mason said. “But the reality of it is, if we don’t take care of business on Saturday, it won’t happen.”
That has been the mantra around Butts-Mehre practice facility this week. Everyone knows the implications the Missouri-Arkansas game has Friday, but players and coaches have been mostly mum about that contest, which is out of Georgia’s control.
A reporter joked with head coach Mark Richt as he entered his news conference Tuesday that the players wouldn’t talk about Missouri, something Richt foreshadowed in his Monday radio show. Richt, somewhat in jest, requested that those questions not be asked.
“Obviously people are going to be checking the (Missouri-Arkansas) score. I’d be a liar if I said we weren’t, but our main focus is obviously on beating Tech,” Mason said. “It’d be a shame if we put all our time, energy and emotion into a game that we can’t control then come out here and don’t take care of business against Georgia Tech.”
QUARTERBACKING THE TRIPLE OPTION
Georgia Tech’s triple-option attack comes to Sanford Stadium on Saturday. It is perhaps the most threatening Yellow Jackets offense Richt has faced in his tenure with the Bulldogs.
Richt rattled off an extensive list of categories in which Georgia Tech leads the ACC. He has seen efficient Yellow Jackets offenses in the past, but the work of quarterback Justin Thomas impresses him.
“He’s good. He’s a winner. He’s got it,” Richt said. “I’m not an expert on his reads, but you see him execute really well. He throws the ball very well.”
But, as always, the talk around Georgia Tech is its running game. Georgia’s defense eagerly awaits another opportunity to brush off any run defense concerns.
“It’s the running game, and defensive linemen love to be in games that really pound and ground and run the ball,” defensive lineman Mike Thornton said. “I think it’ll be really good for us up front. I think it will be a great game for us up front.”
Thornton’s assessment on Thomas matched Richt’s.
“This quarterback, he’s really good. He’s deadly with his feet,” Thornton said. “He will kill you with his feet. You have to contain the quarterback.”
SENIORS SAY FAREWELL TO SANFORD
Georgia’s matchup against Georgia Tech on Saturday will mark the final time the Bulldogs’ senior class suits up to play at Sanford Stadium.
Georgia’s 27 seniors, including offensive linemen Zach DeBell and Xzavier Ward who actually have eligibility remaining, will participate in the senior day festivities before the game.
“It’s bittersweet,” senior cornerback Damian Swann said. “Eventually you know it has to come to an end. At the same time, I think it went by a little bit faster than a lot of people expected it to.”
Most of the seniors have experienced a wide range of Georgia success or lack thereof. They endured the 6-7 season in 2010. They subsequently made it to back-to-back conference championship games.
“I’ve enjoyed every moment I’ve been here, everything I’ve been a part of,” Swann said. “The goods and the bads. It’s just been a blessing to even be in this situation.”