Bulldogs end pursuit of 10th game, await major bowl bid

ATHENS — Georgia’s regular season is over.

Two days after learning that Vanderbilt would not be coming to Sanford Stadium for what was supposed to be the final game of the 2020 season Saturday, the No. 8-ranked Bulldogs ceased efforts to find a non-conference fill-in.

That means Georgia’s regular season ends at 7-2. Those holding tickets for Saturday’s game will be refunded, people familiar with the process said.

Athletic Director Greg McGarity issued a statement through UGA on Wednesday afternoon.

“While we conducted our due diligence in finding a replacement game, we were unable to make it happen,” McGarity said. “We now focus on our upcoming bowl game. We are also working on alternative ways to honor our senior class, who deserve the opportunity to be celebrated as one of the most prolific classes in University of Georgia history.”

The Bulldogs will have to await the results of this weekend’s conference championship games to find out where they will end up in the postseason. Georgia is expected to receive a bid to play in one of the “New Year’s Six” bowls. Barring upsets in one or more of the league-title games, that’s expected to be the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Early guesses have No. 9-ranked Cincinnati as the opponent, assuming the Bearcats (8-0) defeat Tulsa (6-1) in the American Athletic Conference Championship game Saturday.

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In an attempt to give their 23 seniors a Senior Day at Sanford Stadium, UGA officials searched far and wide for a non-conference opponent that would be willing to come to Athens on Saturday. The Bulldogs had discussions with Colorado, Colorado State and New Mexico, in addition to several more regionally based, non-Power 5 teams.

Georgia coach Kirby Smart called it a “crushing blow” not to get one more game. Otherwise, he said he stayed out of the process.

“That’s tough,” he said. “Welcome to 2020.”

In the end, the risk-reward quotient proved unsatisfactory for Georgia. Already No. 8 in the College Football Playoff rankings, the Bulldogs could not significantly improve their standing in the bowl hierarchy. Without that incentive, UGA would have had to also assume the additional risk of injury for its players.

With that decision now made, Georgia has played its first nine-game regular season since 1932, when it finished 2-5-2 under coach Harry Mehre. With the impending bowl game left, the Bulldogs will play a total of only 10 games for the first time since 1970, when their season ended 5-5 under coach Vince Dooley.

There remain scenarios that would place Georgia in bowl games other than the Peach. Should Florida suffer a lopsided loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship game and Clemson lose to Notre Dame in the ACC title game in Charlotte, Texas A&M could move into one of the top four spots for the College Football Playoff, which would likely leave the two-loss Bulldogs as the highest-ranked SEC team not in the playoffs.

As such, Georgia would be in line for an Orange Bowl berth, which would pit it against Clemson. The Bulldogs and Tigers, of course, are slated to open the 2021 season against each other.