It won’t happen for four weeks but Georgia will compete in the SEC Championship for the first time since 2012.
Georgia took care of its end and stayed unbeaten by beating South Carolina 24-10. The Bulldogs then got some help from Mississippi, which beat Kentucky 37-34. With those two games playing out that way, Georgia has clinched the division title.
But wrapping up his post-game news conference, head coach Kirby Smart didn’t seem too concerned about clinching the SEC East.
“The only thing significant right now is that I get back over there, talk to these recruits and then get ready for Auburn,” Smart said.
Georgia is set to renew its annual rivalry next week against Auburn. Regardless of the outcome in that game, the Bulldogs (9-0, 6-0 SEC) will play the SEC West champion in Atlanta for the conference title game on Dec. 2. The SEC West is still to be decided between Alabama, Auburn, LSU and Mississippi State.
The Bulldogs have not won the SEC since 2005 and dropped the title games in both 2011 and 2012. The 2012 game pitted Georgia against Alabama, which ended in a thrilling 32-28 Crimson Tide victory.
Therefore, no one on Georgia’s roster has competed for an SEC title before.
“It's always been a goal to make it to the (SEC Championship). That's everybody's goal in the SEC period,” running back Sony Michel said. “At the end of the day, we got to take one game at a time. Like Coach says, humility is one week away. We got to stay focused. We got to enjoy this one because we deserved it and get ready to go back to work in 24 hours.”
Running back Nick Chubb, however, said the team hasn’t spent much time wondering about the SEC title race.
“We're not thinking about that,” Chubb said. “We're controlling what we want to do.”
Smart is the second consecutive Georgia head coach to win an SEC East in his second season. Former head coach Mark Richt accomplished this in 2002 and went on to beat Arkansas in the SEC Championship.
Georgia’s game against South Carolina proved to be a tough test for the Bulldogs, which entered the day the No. 1 team in the country in the College Football Poll rankings. It was also the closest game Georgia has had since its 20-19 road win at Notre Dame.
Every other win Georgia has had this season was by at least three scores.
Georgia entered the year the preseason favorite to win the East division. Back then, it would have been tough to predict the Bulldogs would be in the position they are in with only three games remaining in the regular season.
While it didn’t result in a blowout like seven of Georgia’s nine wins, Smart was pleased with how his players performed in the victory over South Carolina.
“That was a grind-like, workmanlike win,” Smart said. “That’s a good football team. I really worried our kids wouldn’t respect or listen to us as coaches, because we watch the tape, we know. And they did. They had a really good week of practice.”