“It wasn’t like they were some big, powerful team,” South Carolina’s coach said the day after his Gamecocks beat Georgia 16-12 in Sanford Stadium.
“And he’s right,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said this week. “He’s just stating the facts. You’ve got to win, and you’ve got to look good doing it sometimes so when people turn your film on they have some respect for what they’re about to face.”
The No. 22 Bulldogs (2-1, 0-1 SEC) are on the verge of losing that respect heading into today’s game against No. 16 Alabama (3-0, 2-0) in Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala. (ESPN, 7:45 p.m.) The 2002 and 2005 SEC Champions have lost five of their last seven conference games and will be 0-2 in the league for the first time since 1993 if those lose today.
Georgia has the second-best record of any SEC team since Richt took over in 2001, but there are signs of slippage, most notably the fact that the Bulldogs now have a losing streak against every team from their division, a fact Richt pointed out to the team in practice this week, according to one player.
“I believe we get down on ourselves sometimes,” safety Kelin Johnson said. “If we just learn to keep having fun, we’ll forget about the mistakes that we make. If you’re having fun, it outweighs everything. (But) it’s easy to get down on yourself, especially when you’re losing.”
The rest of the conference is not waiting on the Bulldogs to right their ship. LSU and Florida are ranked in the country’s top five, Kentucky has its best team this decade and the Gamecocks have already stated their case.
Under first-year coach and local savior Nick Saban, Alabama is fresh off a 41-38 comeback win over Arkansas and with a win tonigh might just take Georgia’s place in the top tier of the conference.
“We need to win, not necessarily to make a statement but just to meet all our goals, to win the SEC East, win the SEC Championship, we need a win for that,” Bulldogs senior Fernando Velasco said. “We’re really not worried about the past. That’s the past. We want a win for this year’s team.”
Quarterback Matthew Stafford is similarly disinterested in talking about anything other than this season.
“This is kind of a sport that is, ‘What have you done for me lately? Are you winning now?’” Stafford said. “It doesn’t really matter how many years ago we won the SEC or anything like that. I think it’s more of a year-to-year thing than the past having any effect on the future.”
The Crimson Tide won’t take Georgia lightly despite the recent past, quarterback John Parker Wilson said.
“We know they’re a good team,” he said. “Just because they lost to South Carolina and didn’t have as good a year as they’d like last year, we know they’re good. They can come out here and beat us just like anybody else.”
If they don’t come out and beat Alabama, that’s exactly what the Bulldogs are in danger of becoming – just like anybody else.