0

Georgia suddenly alive in jumbled SEC East race

Photo by John Bazemore

Photo by John Bazemore

ATLANTA -- A modest two-game winning streak has boosted Georgia from last place to near the top of the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division.

Georgia still has losing records -- overall and in the SEC -- but a 43-0 win over Vanderbilt on Saturday has the Bulldogs right back in the East race.

The Bulldogs had help as two teams ahead of them in the division, South Carolina and Florida, were upset by Kentucky and Mississippi State, respectively.

"People always say year in and year out that anybody can win on any given weekend, and that's what's happening right now," Georgia coach Mark Richt said Sunday.

Georgia, 3-4 overall, is 2-3 in SEC games and tied with Florida for second in the East behind South Carolina. No team in the division has a winning SEC record. South Carolina, at 2-2, is the only .500 team in the division.

"No one has certainly proved to be an unbeatable team in our Eastern Division or in our league for that matter," Richt said. "There are some undefeated teams still, but even the teams that are undefeated have had some extremely close calls.

"It's an exciting SEC year, no doubt."

Georgia plays at Kentucky next Saturday.

It's too early for Georgia to make much of its renewed status as a contender in the division. Four straight losses to South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi State and Colorado left the Bulldogs in a big hole with games left against Florida, Idaho State, Auburn and Georgia Tech after the visit to Kentucky.

There will be no big-picture talk from Richt this week. He said he wants to keep his players' focus on Kentucky.

"I don't even know if I have to say anything to them," Richt said of the SEC East race.

"I think they are kind of keeping an eye on it. I think the one thing we had to do to win these last couple games was to kind of focus on the process of becoming a better football team instead of where we were in the league and that kind of thing. We just knew we had to be better."

Georgia beat Tennessee 41-14 on Oct. 9 before rolling over Vanderbilt.

"Everybody is starting to play well," said center Ben Jones. "I think it shows a lot about this team to win the last two games like we have after losing four in a row. But we can still get better."

Georgia showed good balance on offense in the lopsided win over Vanderbilt. Washaun Ealey had 123 yards rushing and a touchdown, Carlton Thomas ran for 40 yards and two touchdowns and Aaron Murray passed for a career-high 287 yards and two touchdowns.

Georgia had 547 total yards and held Vanderbilt to 140.

The Bulldogs outscored Tennessee and Vanderbilt 84-14.

"We've got some momentum, certainly, because of how we've played the last couple of weeks, but I don't want to forget what got us in this mode, and I want to keep focusing on that," Richt said.