ATHENS, Ga. -- Unbridled optimism is running rampant following Saturday’s uplifting lid-lifter for the Georgia football team against Clemson.
The No. 12 Bulldogs broke open a close game to dispatch No. 16 Clemson 45-21 for their largest margin of victory over a top 20 team since beating Hawaii 41-10 in the Sugar Bowl to end the 2007 season.
In the aftermath, two ESPN analysts—Kirk Hebrstreit and Mark May—not only have Georgia in their top four after week one but put them at No. 1. Fox Sports 1’s Stewart Mandel also noted the Bulldogs were a team that helped their chances to make the new four-team playoff.
“I don’t know how good we are, quite frankly,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said Sunday night. “We had a good performance. We had one good game. Even in that game, there were things that needed to be corrected so I’m not going to get too excited yet. We’ve got a long way to go.”
Georgia scored the final 31 points of the game after trailing 21-14 in the second quarter and pulled away with 21 points in the final 10:26.
“It was a very close game until the fourth quarter there,” South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday. “For some reason Georgia just smashed them, they just ran it down their throats and stopped them on defense completely in the second half. …Some of those runs by (Running back Todd) Gurley, yeah, you wonder how anybody is going to tackle him right now, but we’ll worry about him two weeks from now.
Georgia plays next at South Carolina at 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 13, but now has its earliest open date in a season since back in 2002 when it also started at home against Clemson and traveled to Columbia, S.C., two weeks later.
The Bulldogs won their first SEC title under Richt and first in 20 years at Georgia that season.
“That’s good for us,” Gurley said of the bye week. “We have a lot more game planning to do just like we did against Clemson.”
Spurrier said South Carolina is glad to get a chance to play again Saturday against East Carolina after getting thumped 52-28 at home to Texas A&M Thursday night.
“They got their tail whipped pretty bad,” Georgia receiver Michael Bennett said. “They’re going to come out guns flaring and really pissed off so we’ve got to be ready for that.”
Gurley was named Sunday as the Walter Camp Foundation national offensive player of the week after setting a school-record with 293 all-purpose yards. Gurley rushed for 198 yards and scored four touchdowns, one on a 100-yard kickoff return.
He’s the first player to rush for at least three touchdowns and return a kick or punt for touchdown in a game against a ranked team since UCLA’s Maurice Jones-Drew in 2005, according to ESPN.
The latest weekly polls will come out after games are completed this Labor Day weekend.