Georgia will enter November riding a six-game winning streak, tied for first in the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division and still with some convincing to do in the eyes of some in the program.
“A lot of people don’t believe in this football team, question who we’re playing, question what’s going on,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said after the Bulldogs’ 24-20 win over Florida on Saturday in Jacksonville. “We stepped it up and got after it.”
Georgia’s five SEC wins have all come against teams with records at least two games below .500 in the conference. Florida, Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Mississippi State and Ole Miss are a combined 4-22 in league play.
“You use it as motivation to your team,” Bobo said. “The bottom line is finding a way to win football games.”
Georgia has done that and is gaining recognition in the national polls for it.
The Bulldogs moved up four spots to No. 18 in the AP poll Sunday and up a notch to No. 20 in the coaches’ poll. The AP ranking is Georgia’s highest since Sept. 27, 2009, before losing to LSU 20-13.
College football’s latest game of the century is Saturday in the SEC West showdown between No. 1 LSU and No. 2 Alabama. The SEC East’s best team — whether it’s Georgia or No. 10 South Carolina — is perceived to be several notches below those powers.
Georgia (6-2, 5-1 SEC) and South Carolina (7-1, 5-1) remained tied for first with two conference games remaining after the Gamecocks won at Tennessee, 14-3, Saturday night.
The Bulldogs, whose winning streak is tied for the ninth longest in the Football Bowl Subdivision, go out of conference Saturday at 12:30 p.m. against New Mexico State (3-5, 1-3 WAC) before playing at home against Auburn and Kentucky. South Carolina plays at Arkansas at 7:15 p.m. Saturday and then at home against Florida.
The Bulldogs fell off the radar nationally after an 0-2 start. The Gamecocks hold the tiebreaker over Georgia thanks to their September win against the Bulldogs, but lost starting tailback Marcus Lattimore and dismissed quarterback Stephen Garcia.
“When we went 0-2, we said it’s not over, it’s a long year, you never know what can happen in the SEC,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “Look at us now. We’re 6-2 and tied for the lead in the East.”
Georgia’s surge has included a rare Tennessee-Florida sweep. The Bulldogs beat the Volunteers and Gators in the same season for the first time since 1988.
“You lose the first two, people start to question you, the program, the coaches, but these guys believed in each other, they believed in us, that’s what makes it so special,” Bobo said. “If we keep fighting for each other, we’re going to have a chance to win every football game.”
NOTES: Blair Walsh’s struggles on field goals apparently won’t cost him his kicking job. Walsh is 13 of 23 this season after missing 2 of 3 against Florida. “What do I do? I encourage him and keep loving him,” Richt said. “As far as trying to make some move or change or all that kind of stuff, it hasn’t even crossed my mind.” Georgia has another scholarship kicker — senior Brandon Bogotay, who missed his only field-goal try as a Bulldog from 35 yards last season. … Starting offensive guard Dallas Lee broke his right leg Saturday, but it might not knock him out for the rest of this season. “I don’t know if it’s season-ending,” Richt said. “It’s regular season-ending. I would think he’d have a very good opportunity to play in the bowl would be my guess.” Lee tweeted after Saturday’s game that he hoped “to heal so I can be ready for the # secchampionship.” Kenarious Gates will replace Lee in the starting lineup. Freshman David Andrews becomes the sixth man on the line. … Richt said he is unsure if receiver Malcolm Mitchell will return from his hamstring injury Saturday. Richt expects Israel Troupe (undisclosed injury) to be healthy to play Saturday. … Tailback Richard Samuel’s status for Saturday is uncertain. He suffered a sprained ankle against Florida. Samuel rushed for 58 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries. … Jarvis Jones was named the Walter Camp national defensive player of the week after he had four sacks and a forced fumble against Florida. Jones now leads the SEC with eight sacks and 14 tackles for loss. … New Mexico State is coming off losses to Nevada, 48-34, and Hawaii, 45-34.