Richt, Dawgs entering 'Twilight Zone'
November, 20, 2012
By Chris Low | ESPN.com
Georgia has won SEC championships under Mark Richt, played in BCS bowl games and been a fixture in the Top 25 polls.
But controlling its own destiny this late in the season in the national championship race?
This is new ground for the Bulldogs.
As junior receiver Rhett McGowan tweeted Saturday night following Stanford’s upset of Oregon, the playoffs start now.
Good luck in getting Georgia coach Mark Richt to look past the first round of those playoffs, which begins Saturday at home against Georgia Tech.
For that matter, good luck in getting Richt to even acknowledge that the No. 3 Bulldogs are smack dab in the middle of the national championship picture.
“Right this minute, all I can think about is Georgia Tech,” said Richt, obviously mindful of how these past few weeks of the college football season are unlike anything else a team in BCS contention faces to this point.
It’s almost like "The Twilight Zone." Weird things start to happen, and the pressure leads to stunning losses.
Just ask Oregon or Kansas State ... or even Alabama from two weeks ago.
“I think our players understand how important this game is, regardless of what’s going on outside of this game,” Richt said. “So I think we’ll be able to focus on the right thing. We need to. That’s for sure.”
Richt and the Bulldogs are saying all of the right things, and there’s no question that they’re playing their best football of the season right now.
Still, they don’t really have a road map handy of what they’re about to navigate.
Some will point to the 2007 season, when the Bulldogs were hovering at No. 4 in the BCS standings heading into SEC championship week.
Georgia fans, many of whom still think the Bulldogs got the shaft, don’t need a refresher course on what happened that next Sunday, when the final BCS standings were released.
The top two teams in the BCS standings -- Missouri and West Virginia -- both lost. The Mountaineers inexplicably fell to bitter rival Pittsburgh, which entered the game with a 4-7 record.
Daniel Shirey/US PresswireMark Richt and Georgia will play for the national championship if they win their next two games.
The hope in Dawg Land was that Georgia would move up to No. 2 and face Ohio State in the BCS National Championship Game. But the voters had other ideas and moved LSU past Georgia in the two human polls.
Both teams had two losses, but what killed the Bulldogs was not playing in the SEC championship game. LSU won the SEC championship with a 21-14 victory against Tennessee, providing just enough pop for the Tigers to move up, even though they lost at home the final weekend of the regular season to unranked Arkansas.
Georgia didn’t control its own destiny in 2007. It’s a different story this season.
Two more wins, and the Bulldogs will be in Miami on Jan. 7 playing in the Discover BCS National Championship Game -- and they won’t have to rely on the voters this time.
Understandably, Richt wants no part of what the bigger picture might hold for the Bulldogs.
That said, we’ll paint it for him.
This is exactly the kind of breakthrough the program needs. It’s what the fans have been clamoring for. It’s what Richt needs to finally get some of the critics off his back.
Now comes the hard part: Going out and doing it.
The Bulldogs have been plenty resilient the past two seasons. They’ve fought through disappointing losses during the first part of the schedule and weathered a swarm of off-the-field distractions.
What they haven’t done is play particularly well in big games.
Here’s their chance to buck that trend, because they don’t get any bigger than these next two weekends.
Somebody cue "The Twilight Zone" music.
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
Final Marshall 52 Northern Illinois 23 Final Navy 17 San Diego State 16
Final Central Michigan 48 Western Kentucky 49 Final Fresno State 6 Rice 30
Final Illinois 18 Louisiana Tech 35 Final Rutgers 40 North Carolina 21 Final North Carolina State 34 UCF 27
Final Cincinnati 17 Virginia Tech 33 Final 15 Arizona State 36 Duke 31 Final Miami (FL) 21 South Carolina 24 Final/OT Boston College 30 Penn State 31 Final Nebraska 42 24 USC 45
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State