ATLANTA -- Georgia’s players will discover their bowl fate Sunday night, but no matter where they play their final game of the season, it will fall short of the goal the Bulldogs set for themselves last January.
This is a team that warmed up for its first preseason scrimmage with Will Smith’s “Welcome to Miami” blaring over the speakers in Sanford Stadium -- a nod to their objective of visiting South Florida to play for the BCS championship on Jan. 7.
The Bulldogs fell 15 feet short of a game-winning touchdown that would have secured that goal when they lost 32-28 to No. 2 Alabama in Saturday’s SEC championship game. That dropped the third-ranked Bulldogs not only out of the national championship picture, but most likely out of a BCS bowl -- forcing them to instead regroup for the seniors’ final game in red and black at a destination that can’t help but be disappointing.
“To be honest, I’m crushed,” Georgia fifth-year receiver Tavarres King said. “It stinks just to be so close, to taste victory against a phenomenal Alabama team at this stage, this game. It hurts. It really, really hurts.”
Most bowl projections late Saturday night had the Bulldogs (11-2) playing Texas (8-4) in the AT&T Cotton Bowl on Jan. 4, but nothing becomes official until the bowls lock in their selections.
Wherever Georgia plays, the Bulldogs guaranteed there won’t be a letdown following Saturday’s disappointment.
“That’s not a problem,” Georgia tailback Todd Gurley said. “Whoever we have to face next, they’re just going to have to deal with an angry Georgia team.”
King and Gurley’s comments properly expressed the disappointment that was evident throughout Georgia’s quiet locker room in the moments after Saturday’s loss. The Bulldogs didn’t expect to be playing in the Cotton, the Outback or the Chick-fil-A bowls until the final seconds ticked off the clock on Saturday.
Now instead of meeting top-ranked Notre Dame with a championship in the balance and the entire college football world watching, the Bulldogs’ seniors -- and most likely several of their draft-eligible juniors -- will play their final game at a to-be-determined location.
“We still have a game left,” fifth-year senior linebacker Christian Robinson said. “Everybody’s been pointing to, ‘Miami, Miami,’ and when stuff like this happens, you’ve got to re-adjust. We’re still playing at a championship level. We made it to the SEC championship, the best conference in the nation. That means something.
“We still have something to play for. I don’t know where they’re going to send us, but wherever we go, we’re going to take it out on somebody.”