BCS picks step on Dogs' paws

Associated Press
Georgia Tech quarterback Taylor Bennett (13) tries to keep North Carolina defensive tackle Aleric Mullins (97) at arm's length during the second half of a football game Saturday, Nov. 17, 2007, in Atlanta. Georgia Tech won 27-25.

By the time Georgia's players assembled at Butts-Mehre Heritage Hall, they heard enough bad news that they weren't shocked when the television talking heads delivered the verdict.

But that did not stop the indignation and disappointment. Not even Mark Richt's announcement that they would wear black jerseys again could soften the sting of getting jilted by the BCS title game.

"I'd already accepted the fact that it was going to turn out this way," center Fernando Velasco said. "Just look at logic. Obviously just before they announced it, we were No. 4 and we were No. 4 for a reason. So when No. 1 and No. 2 lost, I'm not the smartest man in the world, but that means No. 3 and No. 4 go to the dance. But it didn't happen like that."

The Bowl Championship Series Championship Game skipped Georgia and sent the Bulldogs to the New Year's Day Sugar Bowl to play Hawaii. Georgia will be the home team and wear its black jerseys in the bowl.

Georgia had been ranked No. 4 last week by the BCS. On Saturday the top two teams, Missouri and West Virginia, lost. But on Sunday Georgia slipped a spot in the BCS rankings. LSU and Oklahoma jumped over Georgia with the Tigers going to the title game.

"It would have been a lot better to not know we were going to the BCS championship game," running back Thomas Brown said. "It gave us some false hope. Of course it kind of sounds biased, but I'm not in favor of the BCS system because it didn't work for us."

Before Saturday's upsets, most of the Bulldogs did not expect to have the chance at the BCS title game. But as the surprises mounted, a few started to dream about the near-impossible.

"I was watching it last night with Blake (Barnes)," tight end Tripp Chandler said. "We were having a good time, man. We were jumping up and down. We were thinking that we were going to get our shot. Last night I couldn't sleep. I was tossing and turning, thinking we were going to have the opportunity to hold that crystal ball and kiss it. Then poof it's gone."

On Sunday afternoon the USA Today coaches poll came out, and LSU had leapfrogged over the Bulldogs and into the title game against Ohio State. That gave Georgia warning that it would probably not go to the title game. Georgia coach Mark Richt also suspected that the BCS would skip Georgia and told his team not to expect the big prize during Sunday night's broadcast.

"I think a lot of guys are thinking now that we got, maybe not screwed, but kind of overlooked, just because we weren't playing in a conference championship game," quarterback Matthew Stafford said. "We've got something to prove now."

Fox television announced Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl in the broadcast's first five minutes. Then it teased the completion of the matchup through three commercial breaks and the rest of the bowl slate. Fox completed the pairing with about 10 minutes left in the 30-minute broadcast.

"It was a complete tease," Brown said. "It was too long and drawn out. They should have come right out and said Georgia wasn't playing for the national championship. They should have told us we were going to the Sugar Bowl and gotten it over with."

Because Georgia is ranked higher, it will be the designated home team. Richt said the players will wear the black jerseys they wore against Auburn. Because game jerseys are part of the players' bowl package, they will get to keep them.

But the announcement did not produce the same excitement from the players as it did against Auburn.

"It's the Sugar Bowl. We're going to be pumped up whether we're wearing pink jerseys," Chandler said. "The black is something we like to wear. It's not a trick. It's not a hoax. It's not something we try to do to screw with our opponents. It's something our team likes to wear. It's that simple."

Georgia has won six straight games, the longest winning streak among the BCS top 10 except for unbeaten Hawaii. It finished in a tie with Tennessee for first place in the SEC East. But it had already lost to Tennessee and did not qualify for the conference title game. That failure to participate in a conference title game might meant the one-week's difference in the Bulldogs dates at the Superdome.

Reach Roger Clarkson at roger.clarkson@onlineathens.com.

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