As Georgia fans continue to process the pitfalls in Saturday’s loss to Georgia Tech — coach Mark Richt’s disastrous squib-kick call, three turnovers inside the Tech 5-yard line — they also face the fallout: a big drop in the Bulldogs’ ranking and bowl prospects.
On Sunday, Georgia fell to No. 15 in both the Associated Press and coaches’ polls, down from eighth (AP) and ninth (coaches) last week. A similar decline is expected Tuesday when the College Football Playoff selection committee resets its Top 25.
Georgia lost any chance at the four-team national playoff when Missouri clinched the SEC East title Friday. The 30-24 overtime loss to Tech dropped the Bulldogs further in the postseason pecking order.
Orlando’s Citrus (formerly Capital One) Bowl now appears to be the ceiling for Georgia’s postseason chances. The Bulldogs could slide one rung deeper, putting them in the mix for a group of six SEC-affiliated bowls that are considered equals by the league: the Outback in Tampa, Music City in Nashville, Liberty in Memphis, Belk in Charlotte, TaxSlayer in Jacksonville and Texas in Houston.
“Those six bowls make up what we refer to as the ‘pool of six’ and the conference will make the assignment as to which teams would participate in those games,” SEC executive associate commissioner Mark Womack said. “We’ll certainly have discussions with the bowls (and) with our institutions. … But at the end of the day the conference would make the decision.”
The opponent will be a factor in the choice of an SEC team for each of those bowls, said Womack, who added that the league will try to avoid rematches of regular-season games or last season’s bowls. That suggests Georgia won’t get another meeting with Nebraska, the Bulldogs’ bowl opponent the previous two seasons.
Richt said Sunday — one week before bowl-selection day — that he has no inkling about the Bulldogs’ destination.
“I’ve been trying to coach and recruit, and I really haven’t gone back to look at it to see where we might land,” he said.
On Saturday, Richt said he was “probably as sick as I’ve ever been after a loss” and “as sick” about the squib-kick decision as “any call that I’ve made.” The kick, which Richt called “not a good decision,” came after Georgia took a 24-21 lead with 18 seconds left in regulation. Tech turned the field position into a field goal that forced overtime.
Although Richt was occupied with recruiting Sunday, the game continued to weigh on him.
“You definitely go through some of the things that you might would have done differently,” he said. “There’s obviously a lot of good things that happened in the game. You think about them a little bit. But you probably think mostly about … what could we have done better to help get the victory?”
Richt said he consulted with co-special teams coordinator Mike Ekeler on the squib kick, “but that was my call.”
Georgia finished the regular season with a 9-3 (6-2 SEC) record and its second loss to Tech in 14 years. It was a tumultuous season marked by a four-game NCAA suspension of star tailback Todd Gurley, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in his first game back. It was an up-and-down season that ultimately fell short of Georgia’s goal of playing in the SEC Championship game.
“It’s hard. It’s hard to sit here and act all giddy about what happened,” Richt said Sunday. “We want to win the East and win the SEC. We want to be a team competing and winning some national championships. Obviously there were some things that were a little different and we had to manage.
“I know we’re on the right track. I’m so very excited about what’s going on here at Georgia and what’s happening with our recruiting and our staff. … I think we’re getting our players to buy in 100 percent. When we keep doing that and keep recruiting like we are, great things are going to happen.”
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Credit: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC