UGA X looks on as tailback Elijah Holyfield dives into the end zone for a touchdown and a 35-7 lead over Georgia Tech.
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton
Photo: ccompton@ajc.com/Curtis Compton

Bulldogs have plenty of motivation for Sugar Bowl

NEW ORLEANS — Somebody forgot to tell the Georgia football players they are supposed to accept their role as a non-College Football Playoff team and fade into the bowl scene quietly. 

“We feel like we were one of the top four teams in the country,” Bulldogs tight end Isaac Nauta said, “and we want to come out and show that, and let everybody know they messed up.” 

The four-team College Football Playoffs begin Saturday with the Orange Bowl (Alabama vs. Oklahoma) and the Cotton Bowl (Notre Dame vs. Clemson). 

Georgia plays Texas at 8:45 p.m. next Tuesday in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, but the Bulldogs players feel they were wrongly overlooked and deserved better. 

Georgia football coach Kirby Smart suggested the same thing the day after the Bulldogs’ narrow 35-28 loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game. 

“I certainly think we’re one of the best four teams in the country,” Smart had said. “Do I have any clarity (on the process), I don’t think I have clarity.” 

It will be up to No. 5-ranked Georgia (11-2) to provide clarity to the CFP committee — and the athletic directors from Florida and Georgia Tech who are a part of the 13-member panel — that they made a mistake leaving out the Bulldogs. 

“This is going to be one of the biggest games of our career, that’s how we feel,” UGA senior linebacker Juwan Taylor said. “It’s a statement game, we play to a standard here, and that’s what it is, and that’s what it’s going to be.” 

Don’t get it wrong — the Georgia players say they respect No. 15-ranked Texas (9-4). 

The Longhorns players and fans, meanwhile, are riding a wave. Ticket projections suggest Texas could have twice as many fans in attendance at the game as Georgia. 

It’s the Longhorns’ first New Year’s bowl game in 10 years (the 2009 Fiesta Bowl vs. Ohio Sate,) and first bowl game outside the state of Texas in eight years. 

The Bulldogs were aiming higher this season. 

“There’s something on the line because we feel like we should be in the playoffs for sure,” junior receiver Mecole Hardman said. “We think we’re better than most of those teams in the playoffs, if not all four of them, so there’s definitely a little pressure added. 

“It’s all good, we’ll treat it like another game and try to get that ‘W.’”

Sophomore receiver Jeremiah Holloman said Georgia appreciates the opportunity and plans to make the most of it. 

“We’re happy to be in the sugar bowl competing against Texas, a really good football team,” Holloman said. “We’re going to go out and take care of business.” 

Quarterback Jake Fromm, the first player off the airplane on Thursday, set the tone. 

“We’re going to come out fighting and hopefully we win a big football game,” Fromm said, “and it might show we should have been in the final four.”

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