ATHENS, Ga. — The middle of October is usually dangerously early to be talking about the SEC championship game. Thanks to the events of Saturday, it's not too early to recognize Georgia is in excellent position to make its first appearance in the game.
With Georgia's 18-13 win over Tennessee, followed by Florida's loss to Louisiana State Saturday night, the Bulldogs improved their already strong standing atop the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division.
Suddenly, this is the bottom line for a fifth-ranked and undefeated Georgia team which plays host to Vanderbilt next Saturday: In order to fall out of the SEC championship game, the Bulldogs would have to suffer at least two conference losses.
"It's exciting to know that we've got a realistic shot of getting this thing done,'' Coach Mark Richt said Sunday. "That's exciting, but on the other hand you can't get too carried away with anything but what's happening this week. You'll find yourself feeling like some of the other people in the league right now.''
Georgia (6-0 overall, 3-0 SEC) is the only undefeated team in the league and the only team in the East with no conference losses. South Carolina beat Kentucky Saturday night to move to 3-1 in the SEC, but Georgia already has a win over the Gamecocks and so would win the tie-breaker if both teams finish 7-1 in league.
Following Georgia and South Carolina, every other team in the East has at least two conference losses.
Said Richt: "The biggest thing for us is that we won this last one. That was huge. If we would have lost that game then we would have lost control. We would have been at the mercy of Tennessee the rest of the way. Now we still have control over what happens to us.''
Georgia continues to be rewarded in the polls for its best start in 20 years.
By moving up one spot to No. 5 in both major polls Sunday, Georgia has its highest ranking since finishing No. 4 in the 1983 season. After beating Alabama and Tennessee in the same year for the first time since 1910, Georgia now has a home game against Vanderbilt (1-5 overall, 0-3
SEC), followed by a visit to Kentucky.
Vanderbilt suffered a disappointing loss to previously winless Middle Tennessee State Saturday.
Richt already has cautioned his team that wins — or losses — in games against Vanderbilt and Kentucky count the same as those against Alabama and Tennessee.
"The big thing I told them after the game is that every single game that we play is for the East championship, and they all count the same,'' Richt said. Richt said tailback Musa Smith came out of the Tennessee game with a stiff neck and was to have more tests today to determine his status for the Vanderbilt game.
There were no other significant injuries reported.