ATHENS, Ga. — Georgia controls its own national title fate just in time for some “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.”
The Bulldogs are in position to play for their first BCS national championship Jan. 7 in Miami if they beat rival Georgia Tech Saturday in Athens and then likely Alabama Dec. 1 in the Southeastern Conference Championship Game. The Crimson Tide will be in the SEC title game by beating Auburn, winless in conference play.
That pinch-me feeling that Bulldogs fans and players had late Saturday night when unbeatens Kansas State and Oregon were upset became more tangible on Sunday night when Georgia rose, as expected, to No. 3 in the new BCS standings behind new No. 1 Notre Dame and No. 2 Alabama.
Hours earlier, Georgia coach Mark Richt sidestepped questions related to his team’s now prime position in the BCS pecking order.
“Anybody want to talk about Georgia Tech?” Richt asked after some silence.
His own players took to Twitter after Stanford beat No. 2 Oregon in overtime 17-14 Saturday night.
Minutes earlier, No. 1-ranked Kansas State was bulldozed by Baylor 52-24.
“Natty time,” linebacker Amarlo Herrera tweeted.
“TURNT UP.. Leggo BULLDAWG NATION!” linebacker Jarvis Jones posted on his Twitter feed.
Georgia (10-1) tied its highest BCS ranking, last held in the final standings in 2002 when the Bulldogs were No. 3 and left out as Miami and Ohio State played for the national title.
The BCS No. 1 and No. 2 teams lost on the same day for the first time since December 2007 when No. 1 Missouri lost to Oklahoma and No. 2 West Virginia to Pittsburgh.
Georgia that year set up an early morning teleconference for Richt to make his case for the Bulldogs to move into one of the top two spots, but the Bulldogs finished No. 5 and went to the Sugar Bowl.
This time the Bulldogs’ path is clear.
And so is Richt’s public focus: Georgia Tech.
Asked what went through his mind during the Kansas State and Oregon games: “Well, I was thinking we need to have a great week of preparation for Georgia Tech.”
Or if he will address Georgia controlling its destiny now and talk to his players about it: “Right this minute, all I can think about is Georgia Tech.”
The Yellow Jackets (6-5) still have a shot to win the ACC title. They will be Coastal Division champions if Miami falls to Duke.
The Bulldogs opened as 14-point favorites.
“I think that our players really understand how important this game is regardless of what’s going on outside of this game,” Richt said. “I think that we’ll all be able to focus on the right thing or we need to, that’s for sure.”
Notes: The Bulldogs are No. 3 in USA Today coaches’ and Harris polls, but No. 6 in the computer rankings. Georgia got one of the 59 first-place votes in the coaches’ poll. “I am not the person who voted for us,” Richt said. “I guess somebody thought we were No. 1. I guess that’s good.” Georgia is also No. 3 in the Associated Press poll, which isn’t in the BCS formula… Richt on Derek Dooley getting fired Sunday at Tennessee: “We all know it’s a very tough business. It’s a tough league. There’s a lot of outstanding coaches that have that happen to them from time to time. I can recall Tony Dungy getting let go at Tampa Bay and ends up Super Bowl champs not too long after that at the Colts. It’s just part of the business. I’m sorry for Derek and his family, coach (Vince) Dooley and Miss (Barbara) Dooley, just everyone in the family who’s dealing with it. He’s a highly intelligent person and a tremendous coach and I know he’s going to land on his feet and have something great happen in the future.”…Safety Bacarri Rambo got hit hard in the shin in Saturday’s game. “It was more of just kind of a bruise type thing,” Richt said. “It wasn’t anything structurally or anything with a knee. I think he’ll be fine.” Offensive lineman Watts Dantzler, who left the game at one point with an injury, returned to the game.