By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
Boasting a No. 3 national ranking in both major polls and checking in at third in the latest Bowl Championship Standings, the Georgia football team will make its second consecutive and fifth all-time voyage to Atlanta for the Southeastern Conference Championship Game.
The Bulldogs (11-1, 7-1 SEC) are in their best position to vie for a national title since the 1980s. In 2002, Georgia entered the league championship game ranked third in the BCS Standings with Miami No. 1 and Ohio State No. 2. The Bulldogs had to hope for a loss by the Hurricanes to Virginia Tech, which did not happen, in order to have a chance at the title tilt in 2002. This season, Georgia controls its own destiny and would earn a national-title game berth with a win against the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide.
Georgia has been led this season by a pair of freshman running backs in Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall who wear No. 3 and No. 4, respectively. Gurley became the 11th Bulldog all-time to rush for 1,000 yards in a single season and currently has 1,138 yards on the year. Gurley ranks second in the SEC this season, behind only Texas A&M phenom Johnny Manziel, averaging 94.8 rushing yards per game. Marshall ranks second on Georgia’s team, averaging 60.0 yards per game for a total of 720 total rushing yards this season.
Junior quarterback Aaron Murray is the SEC’s most efficient passer with a 177.2 efficiency rating, having completed 213-of-320 passes for 3,201 yards with 30 touchdown strikes. He is only one of four SEC quarterbacks this season to eclipse the 3,000-yard plateau and he is the first quarterback in SEC history to chart three consecutive 3,000-yard passing seasons.
The 2012 edition of the Bulldogs is just the ninth in the history of the program to reach 11 victories in a single season and Georgia achieved that milestone with a 42-10 win against rival Georgia Tech this past Saturday. The 2002 Georgia team was the last to do so in the regular season.
Since the 2001 season, the Bulldogs are the third-winningest football program in the SEC with 117 wins during that stretch. Only LSU (125) and Florida (118) have more victories in that span.
Georgia Quick Facts
Location: Athens, Ga.
Colors: Red and Black
Stadium: Sanford Stadium (92,746)
All Time Record: 758-401-54
2012 Record: 11-1
2012 SEC Record/ Finish: 7-1 / Eastern Division Champions
SEC Championships: 12
Bowl Appearances: 47
Georgia’s 2012 Results (11-1, 7-1 SEC)
9/1 – Georgia 45, Buffalo 23 (Athens, Ga.)
9/8 – Georgia 41, Missouri 20 (Columbia, Mo.)
9/15 – Georgia 56, Florida Atlantic 20 (Athens, Ga.)
9/22 – Georgia 48, Vanderbilt 3 (Athens, Ga.)
9/29 – Georgia 51, Tennessee 44 (Athens, Ga.)
10/6 – South Carolina 35, Georgia 7 (Columbia, S.C.)
10/20 – Georgia 29, Kentucky 24 (Lexington, Ky.)
10/27 – Georgia 17, Florida 9 (Jacksonville, Fla.)
11/3 – Georgia 37, Ole Miss 10 (Athens, Ga.)
11/10 – Georgia 38, Auburn 0 (Auburn, Ala.)
11/17 – Georgia 45, Georgia Southern 14 (Athens, Ga.)
11/24 – Georgia 42, Georgia Tech 10 (Athens, Ga.)
Georgia’s SEC Championship Game History (2-2)
2011 – LSU 42, Georgia 10
2005 – Georgia 34, LSU 14
2003 – LSU 34, Georgia 13
2002 – Georgia 30, Arkansas 3
Quoting Coach Mark Richt
“I think we’ve been playing pretty solid football on both sides of the ball. I think our special teams have been solid. That’s what you’ve got to do; you’ve got to play a good, solid game. You’ve got to be able to run the ball good enough to make your play action pass worth it. You’ve got to gain enough yards on first and second downs so you’re not sitting there with third-and-long situations all day long. Defensively, you’ve got to be able to get after people, and in the red zone, force field goals instead of allowing touchdowns. I think we’re doing a lot of the things you need to do to be able to compete in a game like this. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens Saturday.”
The Bulldogs opened to a strong 5-0 start, but after struggling in a 35-7 loss to South Carolina and winning a close one at Kentucky, which went winless in the SEC, Georgia came into its own, defeating Florida 17-9 in Jacksonville and rolling through the remainder of its regular-season schedule.
Behind the veteran Murray and a youthful running backs corps, the Bulldogs know what it takes to be successful and, given that they are making a return trip to Atlanta, are also familiar with the SEC Championship Game atmosphere.
Georgia hung tough with LSU for nearly a half at last season’s SEC Championship Game. The Bulldogs will need another strong start to compete with Alabama, as the Crimson Tide are 60-3 under head coach Nick Saban when leading at halftime.