TAMPA, Fla. — The Outback Bowl offers Georgia the chance to make its double-digit win season look even better and help set the stage for what’s to come for the program in 2012.
The No. 18 Bulldogs (10-3) aim for win No. 11 today against No. 12 Michigan State (10-3), something that been done only eight other times in program history. Georgia also wants to solidify what’s expected to be a top-10 preseason ranking next season.
“You want to have that momentum going into the off-season to say we’re going to keep going up from here,” junior linebacker Christian Robinson said. “We’re excited about this game. We’re happy that we have an opportunity to play a great opponent and hopefully to show we are a dominating team that can compete going into next season for a national championship. That’s what we’ve all been talking about already.”
Even coach Mark Richt referred to getting to college football’s biggest stage eventually when he was asked about the criticism he’s endured in his job.
“We’re going to be knocking on the door of the greatest success that you can have in college football,” Richt said.
First things first – win No. 11 for this season.
Georgia last won 11 in 2007 when it went 11-2 and beat Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl. That set up a preseason No. 1 ranking the next season.
“Coach has been telling us that this game is like the beginning of next year as far as rankings and stuff like that,” linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “If we’re able to win this game, it will help out rankings going into the next year.”
Even before the new year, Georgia landed at No. 5 in the early 2012 rankings at NationalChamps.net.
“Expectations will probably be off the chart,” Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity said.
Quarterback Aaron Murray said this year’s team changed the perception of the program and the toughness it had as the Bulldogs went from 6-7 last year to the SEC title game
“If you look at our team coming back next year, we have anywhere from 15 to 17 starters coming back, depending on if a couple of juniors go or not,” Murray said. “We’re going to be pretty talented next year. I think this is going to be a great way for people to look at us and say, ‘Hey, watch out for Georgia.’”