- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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ATHENS, Ga. -- His team has improved to third in the BCS standings Sunday and his fan base is nearly hysterical over its postseason prospects, but Georgia coach Mark Richt steadfastly refused to discuss the opportunity that awaits the Bulldogs.
“Anybody want to talk about Georgia Tech?” Richt asked reporters on his Sunday teleconference after shooting down multiple BCS-related questions.
If answering honestly, most would have answered no. But the rival Yellow Jackets (6-5) represent the final hurdle that Richt’s Bulldogs (10-1) must clear before a possible SEC championship game matchup with No. 2 Alabama (10-1) could essentially function as a national semifinal preceding the BCS championship game.
But don’t expect much from Richt this week about his team controlling its own destiny to play for the national title after No. 1 Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon lost Saturday night. He wouldn’t even acknowledge having watched the games that put his team in this position.
“You know what, I was thinking about Tech that night,” Richt said.
But the coach’s perspective -- which is understandable in that his team can’t afford to look past the Yellow Jackets and their dangerous option offense -- won’t prevent mass speculation concerning the Bulldogs’ chances this week. And if they do in fact beat Georgia Tech, and if Alabama beats hapless Auburn (3-8) to claim the SEC West title, the discussions about Georgia's BCS worthiness will become unavoidable during the run-up to their Dec. 1 meeting in Atlanta.
If Georgia and Alabama are still one-loss teams when they reach Atlanta, the winner is all but assured of a spot in the BCS championship game. And yet there will be arguments around the country for and against those teams.
For Georgia in particular, the loudest argument would no doubt revolve around the Bulldogs’ 35-7 loss to South Carolina on Oct. 6. In the history of the BCS championship game, only one entrant has ever had such a wide margin of defeat on its resume -- Oklahoma in 2003, after losing 35-7 to Kansas State in the Big 12 championship game, before also losing to LSU for the BCS title.
“We’ve got a chance, then,” Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson joked when informed of that fact.
Only a small group of title-game contenders suffered a double-digit loss during the season, however -- a collection of teams that includes Nebraska in 2001 (62-36 to Colorado in Game 12), Florida State in 1998 (24-7 to NC State in game 2) and LSU in 2003 (19-7 to Florida in game 6).
Working against Georgia in this scenario is the knowledge that each of the teams that lost by at least two touchdowns during the season also lost in the BCS title game.
But the Bulldogs are a lock to play for a Waterford crystal championship trophy provided that they beat the Yellow Jackets -- against whom they are a two-touchdown favorite -- and unseat the defending BCS champion Crimson Tide for a conference title.
Their overall strength of schedule by that point would not be particularly impressive, but the headlining wins on Georgia's resume would have come against Alabama and No. 4 Florida (10-1), which was undefeated and ranked second in the BCS when it suffered its only defeat against the Bulldogs on Oct. 27.
Those victories would be more than enough to get Georgia to Miami for the championship game. The SEC simply has developed too much national credibility by this point, as its six straight BCS titles and 7-0 overall mark in the BCS title game indicate, for a one-loss SEC champion to be left out in the cold. Particularly since there is only one undefeated team left in the FBS ranks: new No. 1 Notre Dame (11-0).
That’s a discussion for another day as far as Richt is concerned, however. The sky-high stakes in a potential Alabama-Georgia game won’t exist if his Bulldogs don’t topple their in-state rivals on Saturday.
“I think that our players understand how important this game is regardless of what’s going on outside of this game,” Richt said. “So I think that we’ll all be able to focus on the right thing.”
5dAlex Scarborough and Greg Ostendorf
5dSharon Katz, ESPN Stats & Information