Dawgs looking for big things in 2008

NEW ORLEANS – Georgia didn't get a chance to play for the national championship like it wanted. Hawaii probably wishes it had.

The No. 4 Bulldogs throttled the No. 10 Warriors 41-10 in a Sugar Bowl that started Tuesday night but didn't end until early Wednesday morning and hope the result sent a message to the rest of the college football world.

"We could have played any team today and won," said sophomore cornerback Asher Allen, who led Georgia with nine tackles and also had two interceptions. "If this was the national championship game, we would have won. We would be national champions right now if we had played."

That's the point the Bulldogs were trying to make at the expense of Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan, a Heisman finalist who was sacked a BCS record eight times and forced into five turnovers, three interceptions and two fumbles.

"They were much faster than we expected," Brennan said after throwing for 169 yards, the worst game of his record-breaking collegiate career. "I was so excited to get out there, and everything went south. Obviously, for me, it's a gigantic disappointment. I'm sure now it's going to leave me up for all the analysts and everybody to take their shots on me."

Brennan left the game after the last of those, which came early in the fourth quarter. Hawaii's team doctors would not let him return to the field because he had trouble answering questions on the sideline, Brennan said.

"This is probably one of the toughest beatings I've had," he said. "That's why I kept so badly trying to go back in there because I wanted to prove I could take it."

The Bulldogs (11-2) wanted to prove something, too, namely that they will be need to be accounted for when the 2008 season begins.

"I think the nation knows what Georgia is about and what to expect from here on out," defensive end Rod Battle said.

Georgia returns 17 starters on offense and defense, and it has few question marks even in replacing the four starters it will tell goodbye.

"Just look at what we have coming back and what we did tonight," junior defensive tackle Jeff Owens said. "We had a lot of young guys out there. Forty-one to 10 to Hawaii, we think we should have been playing in the national (title) this year. It was the luck of the draw so, hey we did our best against Hawaii and proved to the nation we are a contender."

Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe thinks the Bulldogs should be preseason No. 1 when the 2008 season begins.

"You know I'm going to go with the home team," he said. "I'd have to say top two at least."

Senior running back Thomas Brown sounded a little disappointed after the game that Georgia's offense substituted so liberally in the second half rather than extend the margin of victory.

"I feel like we could have scored more points, but we kind of let up a little bit," he said.

Brown also is slightly disappointed he won't be around to play with what he thinks will be a national contender next season.

"They can be as good as they want to be," he said. "I expect them to (play for the national title). I expect them to."

The Bulldogs coaches, naturally, sounded were more cautious in their forecasting.

"It's going to be up to us to continue to build on this," defensive line coach Rodney Garner said. "I think we definitely have a good nucleus coming back, but we have to have a great off-season. We have a lot of work ahead us."

Head coach Mark Richt already is looking ahead to a 2008 conference schedule that includes games against the usual foes from the SEC East and LSU, Alabama and Auburn from the SEC West. "I think we're going to return a very good football team, but in the Southeastern Conference it doesn't matter how good you are, there's going to be at least seven, eight teams just as good as you are," Richt said. "To think that you can predict being in contention at the end is pretty brash, and I'm not going to do that."

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