ATHENS, Ga. -- If Georgia wants next Saturday’s SEC championship game -- possibly a matchup between the third-ranked Bulldogs (10-1) and the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide (10-1) to determine which team plays for a BCS title -- to truly mean something, it still has a hurdle to clear.
A loss to rival Georgia Tech (6-5) on Saturday wouldn’t remove Georgia's chance to win a conference championship, but it would rank among the most devastating defeats in Mark Richt’s tenure because it would knock the Bulldogs out of national championship contention.
Georgia Tech has lost just once since dumping defensive coordinator Al Groh at midseason. So the Bulldogs cannot afford to look past the Yellow Jackets -- and Richt has made that point clear throughout the week.
Let’s take a look at five UGA-related storylines as we move closer to kickoff:
1. Championship aspirations
Saturday’s game pits two division winners against one another -- although their trajectories have not exactly been the same. No. 3 Georgia (7-1 SEC) won the SEC East for the second straight season and remains in the thick of the national championship hunt. Georgia Tech (5-3 ACC) got off to a 2-4 start, but is 4-1 since -- including last Saturday’s 42-24 win against Duke which clinched the ACC Coastal Division title.
2. Last go-round for the seniors (and others?)
Prior to the noon kickoff, Georgia will hold its senior day festivities at 11:46 a.m. This season’s fourth-year seniors have a combined record of 34-17 between 2009 and 2012. The fifth-year seniors are 44-20 as a group. It very well might be the final home game for some of the Bulldogs’ draft-eligible juniors, such as outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, inside linebacker Alec Ogletree and quarterback Aaron Murray.
3. Aaron 3,000
With 2,986 passing yards this season, Murray is just 14 yards away from becoming the first quarterback in SEC history to pass for more than 3,000 yards in three consecutive seasons. Murray averaged 261.5 yards and 3.5 touchdowns per game in two previous starts against Georgia Tech.
4. Defending the option
Georgia typically only sees Georgia Tech’s brand of offense once per season, but this will be the second straight week that the Bulldogs face the flexbone offense. After allowing 302 rushing yards but only 14 points to Georgia Southern last Saturday, the Bulldogs have faced a good warmup act. Now they’ll go up against a more talented group of FBS athletes and one of the innovators of option offense in Yellow Jackets coach Paul Johnson. Georgia Tech has averaged 433.5 yards and 25.5 points per game in two outings against Georgia since Todd Grantham became the Bulldogs’ defensive coordinator.
5. History on their side
Series history is on Georgia’s side, although the extent of the Bulldogs’ advantage depends on who you ask. Georgia Tech claims that its record in the series -- which is the 19th-most-played rivalry game in the FBS -- is 39-62-5. Georgia claims its advantage in the series is 62-37-5 because it does not recognize two Georgia Tech wins during World War II (1943-44) when the Yellow Jackets used players from a naval officer’s program hosted on campus.