Aaron Murray’s Heisman hopes were likely dashed on Saturday, but the Bulldogs still have an outside chance to make it to the SEC title game and salvage at least part of their season. (Reuters)
ATHENS — The reality is, even after losing to Missouri 41-26 on Saturday, Georgia still has a realistic shot of getting to Atlanta and the SEC Championship game for a third consecutive year. But beyond winning the next game against Vanderbilt Saturday, coach Mark Richt wasn’t in the mood to discuss any long-term goals.
“There’s no doubt,” he said. “I’m not going to get much into that with the guys. The best thing we can do right now is get ready to play Vanderbilt and get a victory there. It’s been tough to be able to do that, especially the last time we were there (33-28 in 2011). It was quite a game, if you remember. We were very fortunate to get out of there with a win.
“So we’re better off just taking care of business. Then maybe the open week, we can see where the dust settles prior to the Florida game. But the best thing we can do to help ourselves is to get ready this week.”
Missouri (6-0, 2-0 SEC) remains the only SEC East team without a loss, ahead of Florida (4-2, 3-1), Georgia (4-2, 3-1) and South Carolina (5-1, 3-1). Missouri hosts Florida and South Carolina in the next two weeks and then Tennessee the week after that. But the Tigers will be doing so without quarterback James Franklin. The talented quarterback could miss the rest of the season with a separated shoulder suffered in the fourth quarter against the Bulldogs.
Georgia dropped five spots in the Associated Press poll to No. 15 on Sunday and nine spots to No. 16 in the USA Today/Coaches’ rankings. But the Bulldogs still have the head-to-head tiebreaker against the Gamecocks. And after playing the Commodores (3-3, 0-3), they have a bye week before taking on Florida in Jacksonville. Auburn and Kentucky round out Georgia’s SEC schedule.
The Bulldogs need Missouri to lose twice. The Tigers also have Ole Miss and Texas A&M to play from the West.
Like Georgia and Missouri, Florida has incurred more than its share of serious injuries to date. So team health could also be a factor.
“It might be who can handle the adversity the best,” Richt said. “Who can find a way to win, who can fight and scratch and who can, you know, figure out a way? That’s probably what it’s going to come down to.”
Of course, Georgia’s cause could be helped considerably if UGA can get some of its injured players back in action. Richt said Saturday he thought there was “a realistic shot” tailback Todd Gurley could come back for the Vanderbilt game. Sunday night, he reiterated that the Bulldogs won’t rush back Gurley because their situation in the conference race is suddenly more dire.
“What we want is a really healthy Todd Gurley,” Richt said of the sophomore, who has been out since spraining his left ankle early in the second quarter against LSU on Sept. 28. “We want him to be at his best. We don’t want him in there if he’s not really full speed. That might get him hurt worse. When he looks or feels healthy enough, we’ll play him.”
Richt did say he was confident that wide receiver Jonathan Rumph will practice on Monday. Rumph has been sidelined since preseason camp with a pulled hamstring. Safety Tray Matthews (hamstring) remains questionable.
Some good news: the Bulldogs suffered no new injuries against Missouri.
“(Trainer Ron Courson) didn’t tell me about anything that would cost anybody any time, or even practice time for that matter.” Richt said. “So it looks like we came out of there clean.”