Will Bulldogs Handle Notoriety of No. 1 Ranking? … Yes, Indeed!

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Will Bulldogs Handle Notoriety of No. 1 Ranking? … Yes, Indeed!

Isaiah Wynn (77) lifts Sony Michel (1) to celebrate a touchdown
Isaiah Wynn (77) lifts Sony Michel (1) to celebrate a touchdown


Now, the Bulldawg Nation awaits to see if its Georgia Bulldogs can handle the spotlight and notoriety of being the No. 1-ranked team in the country.


No question about it, when the Bulldogs were named No. 1 in the first College Football Playoff poll on Tuesday night — ahead of 2nd-ranked Alabama — it placed the proverbial bulls-eye squarely on the back of Kirby Smart’s 8-0 football team.


Georgia, of course, will get its first opportunity to prove it deserves the playoff committee’s trust when the Bulldogs welcome the 6-2 South Carolina Gamecocks between the hedges on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.


But the priority for this team now isn’t remaining at the top of the playoff rankings but, rather, winning the SEC East Division title. If Georgia can whip the Gamecocks for a second straight season — and the Dawgs are a whopping 25-point favorite or so to do that — while at the same time Saturday Kentucky is upended in Lexington by the Ole Miss Rebels, then Georgia will indeed be bound for the SEC Championship Game Dec. 2 at Atlanta’s new Mercedes-Benz Stadium.


If the Bulldogs do de-feather the Gamecocks and Kentucky stays alive with a win over the Rebels, then Georgia must wait until the Cats come to Sanford Stadium on Nov. 18 to clinch the East crown and a berth in the title game. Of course, there’s also the little matter of the clash with the Auburn Tigers, which is Nov. 11 on the plains and sandwiched between South Carolina and Kentucky.


In other words Georgia, take care of these three vital conference games first and then the “Old Fashioned Hate” skirmish with the Yellow Jackets the Saturday after Thanksgiving and you will still be undefeated and residing in the No. 1 or No. 2 slot in the college football playoff rankings as you prepare for the SEC championship tilt.


As one would expect, Smart has downplayed his top national ranking, saying being accorded the No. 1 spot is a distraction more than anything and that his team’s sole focus has to be on beating the South Carolina Gamecocks this Saturday. He’s right about that but, certainly, hasn’t it been a sweet and satisfying week for all who love the Red and Black? Coming off a rout of those Florida Gators and then watching your team being ranked No. 1 in all the land a few days later.


But again, how will the Bulldogs handle the prosperity of sitting atop the college football world at the moment? I do know this …. this 2017 Georgia team has handled each Saturday’s competition in a magnificent way thus far. The Bulldogs haven’t played down to the opposition at all, that being evident by Georgia routing all six teams it’s faced since the 20-19 squeaker over Notre Dame by at least 25 points. That’s something that hasn’t happened, folks, since the year Babe Ruth smacked 60 home runs … in 1927!


This South Carolina team of ex-Bulldog Will Muschamp has enough skill players to finally put these Bulldogs into a tight football game, that is, if Georgia were to experience a letdown of sorts after celebrating the pummeling of the Gators. Jake Bentley can deliver the ball on target to his capable band of South Carolina receivers and in linebacker Skai Moore and defensive end D.J. Wonnum, the Gamecocks have a couple of defenders that can cause havoc for the UGA offensive line, again, if the Bulldogs aren’t at the top of their game once again.


But, bottom line, as we all know Kirby, his assistant staff and especially the Georgia players have bought into the head coach’s philosophy of “keep chopping wood” and that the next opponent up is the one the Bulldogs’ tunnel vision is fixed upon. I’m sure the coaching staff has emphasized to the Bulldogs that this game could be for the SEC East title and I’m expecting Georgia to play with the same fire and energy the Bulldogs have displayed this entire season. The Gamecocks beat the spread on this game but, not by much.


Georgia 35, South Carolina 14.




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Murray Poole is a 1965 graduate of the University of Georgia Journalism School. He served as sports editor of The Brunswick News for 40 years and has written for Bulldawg Illustrated the past 16 years. He has covered the Georgia Bulldogs for 53 years.