Georgia and Alabama could decide which is the better one-loss Southeastern Conference team in the league title game.
Both can only hope that two of the unbeatens above them in the BCS standings — No. 1 Kansas State, No. 2 Oregon and No. 3 Notre Dame — lose to open the door for the SEC champion to get to Miami for the national title game.
Georgia is ranked again this week at No. 5 in the BCS standings, a spot behind Alabama.
Georgia now will try run the table against Georgia Southern, Georgia Tech and probably Alabama in the SEC championship game on Dec. 1 in the Georgia Dome and see if upsets materialize like it did when Texas A&M toppled Alabama over the weekend.
“These next two games are critical because you never know what can happen,” Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham said. “The only thing that we control is the SEC. After that, we don’t control anything, but we can put ourselves in position where it can mean something bigger as we move to Atlanta. We understand that.”
Alabama may be the highest positioned one-loss team in the BCS, but Georgia is the hottest team in the SEC.
A day after a 38-0 win at Auburn, Georgia’s athletic website on Sunday was selling SEC Eastern Division champion shirts: “Atlanta Bound And Hunkered Down.”
The Bulldogs — winners of four straight since losing to South Carolina on Oct. 6 — moved up a spot to No. 4 in the coaches’ poll Sunday and stayed at No. 5 in the Associated Press poll.
Georgia players have talked not only of winning the SEC after losing in the title game last year to LSU, but also of reaching the BCS title game in Miami.
“We set our vision just a little bit different this year,” coach Mark Richt told his players in the locker room after winning the SEC East in video shown on his coach’s show. “We might be one of those teams that people remember for years and years and years to come.”
The Bulldogs (9-1, 7-1 SEC) can notch the eighth 10-win season in Richt’s 12 seasons by beating Georgia Southern (8-2) Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in Sanford Stadium.
“We know we’re playing in Atlanta,” Richt said Sunday. “We know that’s settled right now, but we know there’s a lot of work in the meantime, which is the job of getting better on a daily basis.”
The Bulldogs have given up 10 or fewer points in three straight games for the first time since the start of the 2003 season and averaged 30.3 points per game since the 35-7 loss to the Gamecocks.
“We’ve definitely gained a lot of momentum the past few weeks,” quarterback Aaron Murray said. “We just can’t be happy.”
Richt sees similarities forming with this team and his 2002 SEC champion team in terms of “playing the style of football to force people to beat you and you weren’t going to try to help anybody. I think lately we’ve been playing that way and I hope we continue that trend.”
The SEC is staring at not having a team in the BCS title game for the first time since 2005, which would of course mean the conference’s six-year run of national champions would be over.
Alabama’s 29-24 loss put the conference’s inclusion in the title game in doubt since every team in the conference now has at least one loss.
The three unbeatens ahead of Georgia in the BCS each have at least one remaining game against a ranked opponent in the next three weeks.
Kansas State plays at Baylor Saturday and at home against No. 18 Texas on Dec. 1.
Oregon plays at home against No. 14 Stanford Saturday, goes to No. 15 Oregon State on Nov. 24 and has a looming Pac-12 title game
Notre Dame hosts Wake Forest Saturday and plays at No. 21 Southern California on Nov. 24.
Notes: There’s an “outside chance,” that defensive end Abry Jones could return to play in the Bulldogs’ bowl game after undergoing ankle surgery last month, Richt said on his radio show Sunday night. “We’re hoping for that for Abry,” Richt said. …Murray is up to No. 3 in the nation in passing efficiency with a 170.66 rating. He trails only Oregon’s Marcus Mariota and Clemson’s Tajh Boyd. …Freshman Todd Gurley now has 973 rushing yards. That ranks second for a true freshman in Bulldogs history behind Herschel Walker’s 1,616 yards in 1980. …Alabama will be heavy favorites to beat Auburn and lock down the West. If the Crimson Tide is upset, LSU will play for the league title if Texas A&M beats Missouri and LSU defeats Arkansas because LSU would win a three-way tiebreaker, but Texas A&M will go if it beats Missouri and Arkansas wins against LSU. … Richt said he did not know if offensive guard Chris Burnette (shoulder) will miss a second straight game.