After Shocking Upset, Georgia's Season Isn't Over
The Bulldogs have been in this position before and their Playoff hopes are still alive
- Undefeated Georgia lost their first game of the season, 20-17, in stunning fashion to 24-point underdog South Carolina.
- The Bulldogs (5-1) dropped seven slots to No. 10 in both the Associated Press Poll and the Coaches Poll.
- Ranked No. 3 all season, UGA is the highest-ranked team to lose to an unranked team this season.
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- With games against No. 22 Missouri, No. 9 Florida, No. 11 Auburn, and potentially the SEC Championship Game, Georgia still controls their destiny.
- They’ve been here before. The Bulldogs were No. 6 heading into the SEC Championship Game in 2017 before they were selected to the College Football Playoff.
Favored by more than three touchdowns, the Georgia Bulldogs were shocked by the South Carolina Gamecocks on Saturday, losing 20-17 in overtime.
It was not a stellar day for the UGA offense, as the normally-dominant running game averaged just 4.0 yards per carry (6.7 YPC coming in), quarterback Jake Fromm averaged a mere 5.7 yards per attempt (9.6 YPP coming in), his receivers had trouble getting separation on the perimeter, and he was intercepted three times (none in his first five games), one of which was returned for a touchdown. The normally unflappable Fromm, who is known for being mistake free, also fumbled and thus committed four turnovers.
"You can't beat anybody when you have a 4-0 turnover margin," Georgia coach Kirby Smart told reporters in his postgame press conference. "We didn't force any on defense. We didn't cause any problems on defense and we didn't take care of the ball."
Down 17-10, Fromm did lead the Bulldogs on a 96-yard game-tying touchdown drive with less than two minutes on the clock in the fourth quarter to keep their undefeated season alive, albeit briefly. When South Carolina inexplicably attempted and predictably missed a 57-yard field goal with 40 seconds remaining, it looked like Georgia might win it in regulation.
However, when Kirby Smart passed up a chance at a game-winning field with Rodrigo Blankenship, who already drilled a 50-yarder earlier in the game, Georgia and South Carolina were off to overtime.
In the first overtime, it appeared Fromm’s third interception would seal UGA’s day. That was before South Carolina missed another game-winning field goal to give the Dawgs new life. Down by three points in the second overtime, Georgia’s Blankenship missed a 42-yarder after they failed to pick up a single yard an the upset was complete.
Bulldogs Plummet in the Polls
Heading into the week, the previously undefeated Bulldogs were ranked third in the Coaches Poll and tied for third in the AP Poll, behind only Alabama and Clemson, the participants of last year’s College Football Championship Game. With the loss, Georgia dropped seven spots all the way down to No. 10 in both of the polls. It was the most any team fell this week.
The reason the Bulldogs took such a big hit is they’re the highest-ranked team to lose to an unranked team this season. Before falling to No. 10, the SEC school had been ranked No. 3 all year since starting there in the preseason.
Georgia had been the second-highest ranked SEC team and now they’re fourth among teams in their own conference looking up at No. 1 Alabama, No. 2/No. 3 LSU, and No. 9 Florida, just ahead of No. 11 Auburn.
Surprisingly, Notre Dame is among the teams ranked ahead of the Bulldogs, as the Fighting Irish check in at No. 8. It was just two weeks ago, that UGA defeated the Golden Domers 23-17.
Still in the Playoff Hunt
Don’t write off the Bulldogs just yet. At 5-1, their season is far from over. They can still win the SEC East. They can still win the SEC. And they can still make the College Football Playoffs.
Their next three games are against SEC East opponents, including No. 9 Florida who is undefeated and first-place Missouri who is ranked No. 22. With wins over the Gators and Tigers, the Bulldogs would be in the driver’s seat in the East division. If they run the table, Georgia will find themselves back in Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game for a third-straight year.
Wins over Florida, Missouri, and No. 11 Auburn would give them four wins over ranked teams, potential three top-10 wins and impressive resume. If they do that, they’ll pass not only the Gators, but the Fighting Irish as well.
They’ll still need some help and will get it. Teams in front of them will lose. They have to. No. 1 Alabama plays No. 2/No. 3 LSU. No. 4 Ohio State plays both No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 7 Penn State.
As the SEC East champ, Georgia would likely take on the winner of the Alabama/LSU game, very likely the No. 1 team in the country. If the Bulldogs win out and knock off the No. 1 team in the SEC Championship Game to win the toughest conference in college football, UGA will accomplish all the lofty goals they had going into the season.
At the same point in the season, the Oklahoma Sooners were sitting at No. 9 in the AP Poll and No. 10 in the Coaches Poll at 5-1 a year ago. They would go on to run the table and make the playoffs. Their loss was a quality loss to a ranked Texas team, you say? Ok.
Two years ago, OU was No. 9 in both polls at 5-1, while 6-1 Clemson was No. 7 in the AP and No. 8 in the Coaches after seven weeks of football. Who did the Sooners and Tigers lose to? In OU’s case, it was unranked Iowa State at home, a team that would finish the regular season 7-5. Clemson’s loss was to an unranked Syracuse team that only won four games. The 2016 Tigers lost to unranked Pittsburgh and Oregon lost to unranked Arizona in 2014. Those two teams, as well as the Sooners in 2017 were ranked in the top three, lost to an unranked foe, and still advanced to the College Football Playoff.
Every SEC Championship Game winner has made the College Football Playoff, including Georgia in 2017 who was No. 6 going into the game. The last time an SEC champ didn’t earn a chance to compete for a national title was 2005.
It may feel like UGA’s season is over coming off their disappointing loss to the Gamecocks. If they don’t play better, that probably will be the case. However, as Kirby Smart said after the loss, everything the Bulldogs want to achieve is still in front of them. If Georgia can get back on track, run behind their powerful offensive line, clean things up in the defensive secondary, and get the type of clutch performances we’ve become accustomed to from Jake Fromm, their season is far from over.