Despite a 14-7 win against South Carolina on Saturday, the Bulldogs fell to third in both the Associated Press and USA Today Coaches’ Poll Sunday, behind Southern California and Oklahoma.
Despite dropping for the second time in three weeks – both after wins – head coach Mark Richt said the polls are no concern at this point in the season.
“So much time has got to pass, there’s so many games that have to be played, but we all know that we have the type of schedule that will put us back in business if we take care of business,” Richt said.
The next big hurdle in Georgia’s grueling schedule will come this week when the Bulldogs travel to Arizona State, which lost Saturday to UNLV.
But it was Georgia’s play against South Carolina that may have cost it the No. 2 spot in the polls.
The Bulldogs struggled for points in a 14-7 win in Columbia over the unranked Gamecocks, whole Southern Cal had no trouble defeating then-No. 5 Ohio State and Oklahoma, ranked third a week ago, cruised past Washington 55-14.
The close contest against South Carolina came as no surprise to Richt, however, even if it failed to impress voters. After the game, Richt recalled that during Georgia’s 13-1 season in 2002 and in the Bulldogs’ 1980 national championship season, the Gamecocks nearly put upsets both times.
“I think our players are happy. I’m happy. I can’t control the voters. The bottom line is, we won this game,” Richt said. “If we get a victory, we’re happy. If we don’t, we’re not. The style points don’t mean a darn to me, and in this game in particular.”
The style points don’t matter now, but that could change as the season moves along.
A year ago, Georgia lost to South Carolina at home, then found itself on the outside looking in as the national-championship matchup was announced at season’s end.
Now the Bulldogs will once again be chasing at least two teams in their quest for a national title, and the road from here won’t be easy.
Georgia, however, won’t be the only team with a tough slate of games ahead of it. Richt said last year’s confusion at the top of the polls, when numerous teams appeared to have a top-two spot locked up before losing unexpectedly, sets the template for what to expect this season.
“Everybody kept moving up by default, and some of them stayed ranked relatively high because they didn’t play a great opponent until the fifth, sixth game of the year, and then they got knocked out,” Richt said. “It was just musical chairs last year. We’ll just see how it goes this year.”
In fact, Richt pointed to Arizona State’s loss to UNLV as the perfect example of what can happen when the games are played. The Sun Devils were ranked 15th in the country going into the game, but fell to the unranked Rebels.
“There aren’t many games that you play that you can just chalk up on the front end,” Richt said. “We’ve been through that. Michigan’s been through that. There’s a lot of teams who have been through that. Is that shocking? I don’t know. I think there’s more parity in football, and everybody’s got to realize it.”
So while Richt said he’s not interested in running up any high scores for now, as the season moves along he admitted that might change.
“If it’s the 12th game of the year, maybe,” Richt said. “But not before then.”