The meatgrinder portion of Georgia‚Äôs schedule ‚Äî three top-10 teams in the first four games ‚Äî is now in the past.
The Bulldogs made it the other side of that harrowing Clemson-South Carolina-LSU stretch pretty much right where they started.
Georgia‚Äôs up to No. 6 in the nation in both The Associated Press and USA Today coaches‚Äô polls, one spot below where they were in the preseason and still very much national title contenders.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôve gotten through the toughest part of our schedule, now we‚Äôve just got to keep it rolling,‚Äù safety Josh Harvey-Clemons said.
After the rugged slate, the Bulldogs (3-1, 2-0 Southeastern Conference) are in favorable position to win a third consecutive SEC East title and get back to Atlanta for the conference title game. There is just one ranked team left on the Bulldogs‚Äô schedule: No. 18 Florida on Nov. 2 in Jacksonville.
Only one other team on the schedule is receiving votes in either poll ‚Äî Missouri.
Georgia plays at Tennessee (3-2, 0-1 SEC) Saturday in a 3:30 p.m. CBS game.
The Bulldogs are the big attraction after a 44-41 win Saturday against then-No. 6 LSU 44-41 and a 41-30 win against then-No. 6 South Carolina on Sept. 7 after opening with a 38-35 loss to No. 8 Clemson on Aug. 31.
Tennessee, under first year-coach Butch Jones, beat South Alabama 31-24 Saturday after losses to Florida 31-17 and Oregon 59-14.
‚ÄúIf we think it‚Äôs going to be any easier, we‚Äôre crazy,‚Äù coach Mark Richt said. ‚ÄúWe‚Äôre going to Knoxville, Tenn., man. They‚Äôre going to be fired up. Their fans are going to be ready to go. If we think it‚Äôs going to be anything less than we‚Äôve been living through, we‚Äôre nuts. We‚Äôve played North Texas. That was a barnburner. Every game‚Äôs going to be a barnburner until we really get more stout on defense and continue to get our special teams in order.‚Äù
The loss to Clemson gave Georgia no room for error to reach the BCS title game, but it had no impact on the SEC East race.
‚ÄúIf you had to lose one of the games, obviously Clemson was the one just because they‚Äôre in the ACC,‚Äù quarterback Aaron Murray said.
Said Richt: ‚ÄúIt would have been nice to win three of them.‚Äù
Georgia is one of only two teams since after the 2000 season to beat two top-10 teams in a season before Oct. 1, according to ESPN citing the Elias Sports Bureau. Alabama in 2008 was the other when it defeated a No. 9 Arkansas and No. 8 Georgia.
Bulldogs offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said he had never been through a stretch like this. While acknowledging the high-pressure of the games, he said: ‚ÄúTo be honest, SEC games are like that every week. It‚Äôs going to be a war (Saturday) in Knoxville. A hundred-and-something thousand (fans). We‚Äôve got to do a good job of enjoying this and getting back to work.‚Äù
The Bulldogs have won three in a row against Tennessee, but won just 51-44 last season in Athens and 20-12 in Knoxville in 2011.
‚ÄúWe know this month was a heck of a month, not just this year, but historically,‚Äù defensive end Ray Drew said. ‚ÄúWe know going into October it‚Äôs not going to be any easier because we are in the SEC. We have Tennessee coming up, we have Vanderbilt, we have Florida, we have all these people.‚Äù
Richt said Sunday that Georgia doesn‚Äôt do well when it‚Äôs not focused on its opponent, no matter who it is.
‚ÄúWe‚Äôre not very good, in my opinion, unless we‚Äôre really locked in,‚Äù he said.