Conventional wisdom had the 2005 Georgia football team pegged to drop a couple of notches from what had been the norm under coach Mark Richt. The Bulldogs were tabbed to finish third in the Southeastern Conference East Division and began the season with their lowest preseason rank since 2001.
Now everybody else knows what Georgia players and Richt said they suspected all along: This team could be something special.
"We knew our abilities," senior safety Greg Blue said after Georgia's 27-14 win over Tennessee on Saturday on national television. "I think the world - you know CBS and the fans watching the game - know we're for real, too."
Georgia (5-0, 3-0) is in sole possession of first place in the SEC East near the midway point of the season - even with marquee players David Pollack, Thomas Davis and David Greene departed. Richt said he had his first inkling about the makeup of this team with the way the players attacked the off-season conditioning program.
"I wasn't really surprised, but I guess maybe a lot of people thought it was doomsday with these big-name guys leaving the program," Richt said.
The Bulldogs have reason to believe they can win an SEC title and can be a factor in the national title picture. The first BCS standings are released a week from today. Georgia, one of nine Division I-A teams still unbeaten, is among a handful of teams jockeying for position to get into the title game.
The Bulldogs moved up a spot to fourth in the Harris Interactive Poll on Sunday, jumping Florida State after their third consecutive win over Tennessee on the road.
The Bulldogs held steady at No. 4 in the USA Today coaches' poll. The Harris and USA Today polls each count as one-third of the BCS formula, with the computer rankings the other third.
"To us, we always see ourselves as a national championship (caliber) team," defensive end Charles Johnson said.
Georgia is right where it wants to be in the SEC East. Looking down at Florida (5-1, 3-1) and Tennessee (3-2, 2-2) heading into Saturday's game (7:15 p.m., ESPN2) at Vanderbilt (4-2, 2-1).
The Bulldogs' biggest tests in the conference appear to be against No. 11 Florida on Oct. 29 in Jacksonville, Fla., and at home against No. 21 Auburn on Nov. 12 after another well-positioned open date.
While Georgia jumped a spot in the Harris poll, it remained fifth in the AP voting, but it significantly closed the gap on No. 4 Florida State, which went from 73 points ahead to four.
"I'm not going to say where I'm voting us but we're up there in the top five, that's for sure," said Richt, a voter in the coaches' poll. "I think we deserve to be up there.
"The rankings really aren't that important right now."
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