August was a long time ago. It was so long ago, actually, that on the last day of it, Georgia wasn’t a national championship contender.
On Aug. 31, the first day of the college football season, Clemson beat Georgia 38-35 in Clemson, S.C. That’s the kind of event that has the potential to end a national title hunt before it even begins, and, in the moment, it looked like that’s what happened to Georgia.
It’s so difficult to get through the SEC that you assume any nonconference loss by an SEC team is as good as a tomb inscription – here lies Georgia, which briefly mattered.
But time passed, as it does, and on Saturday in Athens, Ga., the No. 9 Bulldogs beat No. 6 LSU 44-41, improving to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the SEC.
This is the wonderful, agonizing, every-week-matters nature of college football. A team can be in, out and back in again in the span of a couple weeks. That’s what appears to have happened with Georgia.
Georgia isn’t going to look past Tennessee next weekend, but that doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t, and Georgia has only one scary game left on the schedule. The Bulldogs play No. 20 Florida Nov. 2 in Jacksonville, so it isn’t even a true road game. Georgia’s remaining road games are against Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Auburn and Georgia Tech. The Gators are the only currently ranked team left on Georgia’s schedule (except, of course, for whoever Georgia might face in the SEC championship game).
Georgia will be favored, usually by a lot, in the rest of its games. There isn’t a one-loss team in the country with a clearer path to the national championship game, and considering the conference in which Georgia plays, it might have a theoretical advantage over some undefeated teams, too (sorry, Oregon).
Ironically, Georgia’s biggest hurdle may be Clemson. The No. 3 Tigers have two ranked teams left on their schedule — No. 8 Florida State and No. 12 South Carolina. That’s not an easy schedule, exactly, but with a win over Georgia already in the books, the Tigers are in better shape than any non-undefeated SEC team.
I’m doing an awful lot of projecting about this, I know. Predicting the outcome of a college football season is a fool’s errand, and that’s not the point here. The point is to say that it should be just as easy to see Georgia as a national title contender today as it was to write off the Bulldogs a month ago.
The only thing that has changed in that time is that Georgia lost to Clemson, which isn’t anything to be ashamed of. It is still true that Georgia has a likely first-round draft pick playing quarterback. It is still true that nobody has been able to slow down Georgia’s offense. And it is still true that having two SEC teams in the national championship game is neither against the rules nor anything poll voters are likely to reject.
Saturday, Georgia’s season began for the second time and, with a month gone by, the Bulldogs are still going to have as good a look at the national title as anybody.