Dawgs climb back into AP rankings

ATHENS – Without much room to spare, Georgia got back into the last Associated Press football rankings Tuesday.

The Bulldogs were ranked No. 23 in the final poll, two spots ahead of Tennessee, which beat Georgia 51-33 in Athens on Oct. 7, and four sports below Virginia Tech, which Georgia beat 31-24 in the Dec. 30 Chick-fil-A Bowl.

It is the Bulldogs' lowest final ranking since 1996, when they weren't ranked, but it marks a positive milestone for a team that spent the final eight weeks of this season out of the polls.

"We know we were very, very close to being an 11-2 ball club, but we were very, very close to having a losing record, too," Coach Mark Richt said. "It was one of those seasons."

The Bulldogs (9-4) dropped four of five games at one point and lost to Kentucky and Vanderbilt in the same season for the first time since 1973, but they rebounded to beat three consecutive ranked opponents for the first time in school history to finish the season.

"It's not a whole lot different than some of those other years except we didn't win some of those close ones," said Richt, who suffered the most losses since his first season in Athens. "It was such a tough time when we did lose those games. We were struggling for answers. It was just a hard time for us, but looking back on it, it gave us more confidence in each other. The slogan ‘Finish the Drill' means more maybe now than it did when the season began."

Georgia, which was established Tuesday by PinnacleSports.com as having a 73-to-1 at the 2008 national championship, was not ranked in the coaches' poll.

Florida, which beat Ohio State 41-14 in the BCS National Championship Game on Monday night, was ranked No. 1 by the Associated Press. The voters ranked three SEC teams in addition to the Gators, Bulldogs and Volunteers: No. 3 LSU, No. 9 Auburn and No. 15 Arkansas.

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