The Eastern Division in the Southeastern Conference has a pair of top-five teams in the thick of the national title picture.
Georgia is no longer in that enviable spot after being dominated by South Carolina in a 35-7 drubbing Saturday night.
The Bulldogs (5-1, 3-1 SEC) tumbled down nine spots Sunday to No. 14 in the Associated Press poll and seven to No. 12 in the USA Today coaches’ poll.
Georgia is looking up at No. 3 South Carolina and No. 4 Florida (both 4-0 in conference) in the East standings, but it still can get to the league title game in Atlanta with some help.
“It’s one day, it’s one game,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Sunday evening. “It’s unfortunate that it came out the way that it did with so much at stake. There’s still a lot at stake as the season rolls on. The sun did come up and we’ve got to get back to work. … If we can get back on the winning track, a lot of good things can happen. That’s what we’re going to be fighting hard to do.”
South Carolina plays road games at LSU Saturday and Florida on Oct. 20 and plays Tennessee at home the week after.
The Gators get Georgia on Oct. 27 in Jacksonville, the week after playing the Gamecocks.
“Georgia’s not out of the division race right now either just because they have one loss,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said on Sunday.
The Bulldogs won the East last year despite losing to South Carolina because the Gamecocks had one more conference loss.
“I’m definitely not losing confidence in this team at all or our coaching staff or anything like that,” Richt said. “That’s the worst thing you can do. That’s what teams do. Teams panic and they tend to fall apart. Georgia’s not going to fall apart. … A year ago we’re 0-2 and everybody wants to decide that the sky has fallen and it’s over for Georgia. What did we do? We stayed firm, we believed in each other, we kept banging away, we began to win and before you know it, we won the Eastern Division.”
The Bulldogs still have the softest remaining slate. Besides the Gators, Georgia plays Kentucky, Ole Miss and Auburn, a combined 0-8 in the SEC. Spurrier isn’t beating the drum about scheduling inequalities like he did this offseason.
“Oh, we got over that last summer,” Spurrier said. “Summertime is for all that kind of stuff and then when the season starts, you don’t even really talk about it much. You accept the fact
that, ‘Hey, that’s who we’re going to play.’ If you talk about during the season, you’re probably looking for
Even if Georgia doesn’t win the SEC East, at least one analyst, CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm, projects an 11-1 Georgia to still go to the Sugar Bowl with South Carolina losing in the SEC title game to Alabama.
That may be hard for Georgia fans to fathom after South Carolina won its third in a row against the Bulldogs for the first time ever with a 28-point margin of victory that was 11 points more than its next biggest win against the Bulldogs.
Spurrier gave game balls to both his defensive and offensive line coaches.
“I would say that South Carolina physically whipped us,” Richt said when it was suggested that his team had a flat performance.
The Gamecocks gave Georgia’s offensive line fits throughout, leaving quarterback Aaron Murray often with little time to throw in a game he passed for a career-low 109 yards. South Carolina end Jadeveon Clowney told The State (Columbia) newspaper that Murray gave away the snap count by tapping center David Andrews’ hip to call for the ball because of the crowd noise.
Georgia doesn’t play again until Oct. 20 at Kentucky.
“We’ve got to do our job and just keep winning,” cornerback Sanders Commings said. “Even if those guys (South Carolina) keep winning, an 11-1 season, you can’t be mad at that.”
Notes: Georgia is No. 11 in the first Harris poll of the season. The coaches’ poll, Harris poll and computer rankings each count for a third of the BCS standings, which debut this coming Sunday. Former Georgia athletic administrator Dick Bestwick again is among 113 who voted in the Harris poll . …Todd Gurley went from the SEC’s leading rusher to fourth after being held to 39 yards on 13 carries Saturday. Florida’s Mike Gillislee leads with 109.6 yards per game. … Richt didn’t expect any offensive line shakeup after Saturday. “I don’t think we’ll do anything that would change right now,” said Richt, who suggested that tackle Mark Beard could get some more playing time. “I still think we’ve got our best five in there, at least our best six as we move that combination around.”