Originally created 11/18/02

Big win means little without SEC crown

It was unquestionably the biggest play of the season for Georgia, and it was probably the biggest of the past 20 years.

The question after the No. 6 Bulldogs' 24-21 triumph at Auburn on Saturday was whether Michael Johnson's decisive 19-yard touchdown reception on fourth-and-15 was as big as any in Georgia history.

Buck Belue's 93-yard touchdown pass to Lindsay Scott in 1980 - which gave Georgia a 26-21 victory over Florida, a No. 1 ranking and set the stage for its last national title - is a unanimous first.

Now people are wondering whether Johnson's grab, which came with 1:15 left and finished off a six-play, 59-yard drive, should be considered an equal. Assessing the historical significance of the monumental play, however, likely won't be possible until the Bulldogs' season is history.

In beating the Tigers for the first time since 1998, Georgia (10-1, 7-1 Southeastern Conference) kept alive the goals it carried into the season. An SEC title - the program's first since 1982 - will be on the line when the Bulldogs walk into the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for the Dec. 7 championship game.

A national title, despite being rendered extremely remote after Georgia's Nov. 2 loss to Florida, is a possibility. The Bulldogs figure to move up from No. 6 in the Bowl Championship Series standings after Texas' loss to Texas Tech on Saturday.

"We're still sitting in that position where a lot of things can happen between now and the end of our season," Bulldogs coach Mark Richt said Sunday.

This week, Georgia's first task is to rest. The Bulldogs have had little time to do so recently, having gone 10 weeks without an open date. They'll have two weeks to prepare for their regular-season finale at home against Georgia Tech on Nov. 30, and their belated bus ride to Atlanta comes a week later.

"It's been a long grind," Richt said. "I don't know if I've been through 10 in a row before."

Reach Larry Williams at (706) 823-3645 or larry.williams@augustachronicle.com


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