Georgia's SEC Championship Game History

ATHENS - The No. 3 Georgia Bulldogs have earned their way to another SEC Championship game. In Georgia's fifth trip to Atlanta for the conference title game the Bulldogs will play No. 2 Alabama in what amounts to a play-in game to see who will face Notre Dame in the BCS National Championship.

For Georgia head coach Mark Richt, a third SEC Championship is at stake. Richt has led the Bulldogs each of the previous four trips to the Georgia Dome, though the roads to get there have not always been the same.

Here is a look back at Georgia's previous four championship game apperances:

2002: Georgia 30, Arkansas 3

Along the way: Mark Richt entered his second season as the head coach of Georgia with a talent-laden squad, ranked 8th in the country and led by sophomore quarterback David Greene and All-American defensive end David Pollack. The Bulldogs rattled through a schedule consisting of Clemson, South Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee and Auburn. Entering the annual matchup with Florida, Georgia was 8-0 and ranked 5th in the country. The Gators bested the Bulldogs 20-13. It was the sole blemish on Georgia's record, but a win over Ole Miss the following week in Athens set up an all-or-nothing game at Auburn for Georgia. David Greene and Michael Johnson took it from there as Georgia won 24-21 on the Plains. The Bulldogs finished the regular season 11-1, drubbing Georgia Tech 51-7 in the season finale, a deficit that remains the worst defeat in the rivalry's history.

In the Dome: The Bulldogs faced the Arkansas Razorbacks, who finished in a three-way tie for second place and won the tiebreaker in the SEC West. Alabama actually won the SEC West in 2002, but was on probation and, thus, not allowed to play in the postseason. Georgia's Decory Bryant blocked a punt on No. 22 Arkansas' opening possession, and Thomas Davis recovered the ball at the Razorbacks' 2-yard line. Musa Smith plowed into the end zone on the next play as the Bulldogs scored on their first five possessions to lead 23-0 at halftime. Georgia added a final score in the fourth quarter when David Greene connected with Ben Watson to win 30-3.

The Bulldogs' SEC Championship victory earned them a shot to play in the 2003 Sugar Bowl. There, Richt defeated his former team and mentor, No. 16 Florida State and Bobby Bowden, 26-13.

2003: LSU 34, Georgia 13

Along the way: With the graduation of leading rusher Musa Smith and leading receiver Terrence Edwards, the Bulldogs entered 2003 ranked 11th in the country, behind only one SEC school – Auburn. Like the 2002 team, the Bulldogs leaned on Greene's passing and Pollack's play on defense. The No. 7 Bulldogs were 3-0 before a trip to Baton Rouge to play 10th-ranked LSU. Georgia only mustered one touchdown on a long screen pass from Greene to Tyson Browning and suffered a 17-10 defeat in a defensive battle that saw the Tigers take the final lead with less than a minute on the clock. Following the loss to LSU, the Bulldogs slid to eighth in the polls but quickly returned to the top five – rattling off four straight victories before another showdown with Florida. The No. 23 Gators had defeated LSU just three weeks after the Tigers toppled Georgia, and the Bulldogs were looking to avenge their only loss in 2002.

However, the Gators again escaped Jacksonville with a 16-13 victory, and the Bulldogs' hopes of winning the SEC East were in jeopardy. The Bulldogs defeated Auburn and Georgia Tech to finish 10-2 in the regular season. Richt's crew was 6-2 in the SEC. Florida and Tennessee also finished 6-2 in conference play. Florida beat Georgia. Georgia beat Tennessee. Tennessee beat Florida. The three-way tie was determined by each team's BCS ranking, and the fifth-ranked Bulldogs were crowned victors, finishing two spots ahead of Tennessee and six spots ahead of Florida.

In the Dome: For Georgia, an SEC East title meant a rematch with LSU in the SEC Championship. This time Bulldogs found themselves outmatched by the No. 3 Tigers who were riding a six-game winning streak. LSU boasted the top-ranked defenses in the country, entering the matchup allowing an average of just ten points per game. The Tigers, led by tailback Justin Vincent and defensive lineman Chad Lavalais, never trailed against the Bulldogs. Vincent scampered 87 yards for The Opening score, and on the ensuing possession, Georgia punter Gordon Ely-Kelso was tackled in the end zone for a safety. The Tigers led 17-6 at halftime. David Greene was picked off by LSU's Lionel Turner in the third quarter, giving the Tigers a 24-6 lead. Georgia's only touchdown came on an 18-yard pass from Greene to Ben Watson in the third quarter. LSU rocked the Bulldogs 34-13 on their way to the Sugar Bowl.

After losing a second time to eventual BCS National Champion LSU, Georgia went on to defeat Purdue in overtime 34-27 in the Capital One Bowl.

2005: Georgia 34, LSU 14

Along the way: After finishing sixth in the coaches' poll in 2004, the Bulldogs opened the 2005 season ranked 13th in the nation. D.J. Shockley took the reins at quarterback, replacing Greene, who ended his career with more wins than any quarterback in NCAA history. Led by Shockley and All-American safety Greg Blue, Georgia walloped No. 19 Boise State in the opener 48-13. The victory was the first of seven straight, including a 27-14 win over 7th-ranked Tennessee. For the second time since 2002 the Bulldogs were undefeated entering the Florida game. A win over the Gators would clinch the SEC East title, but Georgia lost Shockley to injury just a week before against Arkansas. Joe Tereshinski III stepped in to replace Shockley, but the Bulldogs lost to Florida 14-10. That set up a big game with Auburn. The Tigers and Bulldogs had a back-and-forth affair that night. But Auburn kicker John Vaughn booted the game-winning field goal giving Auburn a 31-30 win. Still, South Carolina helped Georgia earlier in the day. Florida lost its third SEC game to South Carolina in Columbia – padding Georgia's one-game lead over the Gators. The following week, Georgia whipped Kentucky 45-13 to lock up the SEC East title.

In the Dome: After winning 14-7 at Georgia Tech in the final regular season game, the No. 13 Georgia Bulldogs traveled back to Atlanta to play the familiar LSU Tigers, who entered the SEC title game ranked third in the country – and who had an outside shot of playing for the BCS title with an SEC win.

The Bulldogs wasted no time in the rematch of the 2003 conference title game, with two of Shockley's first three passes going for touchdowns. Sean Bailey was on the receiving end of both touchdown passes, with one spanning 45 yards and the other going for 29 yards. After Bryan McClendon blocked an LSU punt in the second quarter, Georgia took over in LSU territory, and Shockley soon scrambled for a 7-yard touchdown. Twenty-two minutes into the game, the Bulldogs had become only the second team to score 20 points against the Tigers all season. Tim Jennings returned an interception15 yards for Georgia's final touchdown, as the Bulldogs cruised to a 34-14 victory and earned a bid to the Sugar Bowl.

The Sugar Bowl trip would be Georgia's third visit to Atlanta in as many games after Hurricane Katrina forced the bowl game to be relocated from New Orleans. The No. 8 Bulldogs were stunned by 11th-ranked West Virginia 38-35 and finished 10-3 on the season.

2011: LSU 42, Georgia 10

Along the way: The 2011 season was anything but scripted for the Georgia Bulldogs. Two early losses, by a combined 17 points, to Boise State and South Carolina had the season looking like a replay of 2009 and 2010 when the Bulldogs posted a combined 14 wins. However, a schedule in which Georgia escaped the "Big Three of the West" (Alabama, Arkansas and LSU) allowed the Bulldogs to enjoy a successful 10-game winning streak. During the streak, Richt's squad defeated its four biggest foes – Tennessee, Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech – with three of those wins coming on the road. Georgia stayed perfect after the week two tilt against the Gamecocks… Carolina didn't. Losses to Auburn 16-13 in Columbia and at Arkansas 44-28 gave South Carolina one too many losses. Georgia won its first SEC East crown since 2005.

In the Dome: The underdog No. 12 Bulldogs raced to an early 10-0 lead, despite dropping two would-be touchdown passes. Georgia's defense forced three-and-outs on all seven of LSU's first half possessions, but LSU's Tyrone Mathieu returned a punt 62 yards for a touchdown midway through the second quarter, cutting Georgia's lead to 10-7 at the half. Mathieu then recovered an Aaron Murray fumble to end Georgia's first drive in the second half, setting up a Kenny Hilliard rushing touchdown to give LSU a 14-10 lead. The Tigers never looked back. After Georgia's next possession ended in a three-and-out, Mathieu added another dazzling 47-yard punt return. Hilliard ran for another score and caught a touchdown pass, and Morris Claiborne intercepted the last of Murray's SEC Championship game record 51 passes and returned it 45 yards for a score. Despite holding LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson to just 30 yards passing, the Bulldogs allowed 42 unanswered points in the 42-10 loss.

While LSU would later lose 21-0 to Alabama in the BCS National Championship, Georgia went on to Tampa for the Outback Bowl, where the Bulldogs were upended 33-30 by Michigan State in triple overtime.

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