East Champion could come down to vote

David Greene

ATHENS - The disgusted feeling Georgia fans have today is about to get worse. Not only did the Bulldogs lose again to Florida on Saturday but now their fans have to pull for Tennessee the rest of the season.

Georgia's 16-13 loss to the Gators, its 13th in 14 years, created a tie at the top of the Southeastern Conference East between the Bulldogs (7-2, 4-2) and Florida (6-3, 4-2). Tennessee is just one-half game back at 6-2 and 3-2.

If the Bulldogs, Volunteers and Gators win the remainder of their SEC games, the three-way tie would have to be broken by a vote of the league's athletic directors that aren't involved in the SEC Championship Game.

However, if Georgia and Florida win out and Tennessee stumbles, the Gators would win the division thanks to their head-to-head win over Georgia. If the Bulldogs and Vols win out and the Gators lose another league game, Georgia would go thanks to its win over Tennessee. And, finally, if Georgia doesn't hold up its end of the bargain, Tennessee goes on its win over Florida.

"People will be rooting for people they're not used to cheering for," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "The bottom line is for each team to stay in this possible tie, each team has to win."

The Bulldogs, who fell from No. 4 to No. 9 on Sunday, have this weekend off and will play Auburn on Nov. 15. After that, they finish their SEC schedule with a home game against Kentucky on Nov. 22.

"If we play well from here on out, the worst we can do is a three-way tie and rely on all that voting stuff," Georgia sophomore Bartley Miller said. "We had hoped to ... win it outright."

Clearly a vote of the athletic directors isn't the ideal way to determine a championship. In fact, it's seventh on the list of tiebreakers, but the first six wouldn't separate any of the three teams that could be at the top this year.

"I tried to read it a week or two ago, and I got down to No. 3 or 4 and it got kind of confusing to me," Richt said. "I needed somebody to interpret it for me."

The athletic directors of the three tied teams wouldn't be allowed to participate in the vote, and neither would the West Champion.

On Sunday, Richt seemed less concerned about the tiebreaking possibilities than about getting his worn out and depleted team in shape for the remainder of the season. He also didn't spend much time rehashing the heartbreaking loss to Florida, Georgia's sixth straight.

The Bulldogs threw for a season-low 188 yards but rushed for a season-high 202 against the Gators.

"To sustain drives we still need some balance, but, 'Can we rely more heavily on our running game?' We probably will have to," he said, "especially early in the ballgame until the offensive line gets lathered up a little bit."

Sunday was on off day for the coaches, and Richt didn't plan to look at the tape of Saturday's game until today.

"Right now we're just going to take full advantage of this open date in terms of getting people rested," he said. "I know I had a three-hour nap after lunch today which felt pretty good. I hope everybody is taking advantage of (the day off)."

Georgia won't practice today. The Bulldogs will be on the field Tuesday-Thursday of this week and then take off Friday-Sunday and begin preparations for Auburn on Nov. 10.

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