ATHENS, Ga. — The final result was the only thing not obvious from the beginning.
It took No. 3 Georgia four plays and 63 seconds to score the first of its seven touchdowns and that initial drive was all it took to tell the difference between the Bulldogs and their state rivals.
Georgia is bigger, faster, stronger, more athletic and better coached than Georgia Tech, and that was plain to see in the Bulldogs’ 42-10 win on Saturday.
These longtime enemies are about 70 miles apart, but the talent gulf is much wider.
It’s just one of the reasons why the Bulldogs have won this game 11 times in the past 12 seasons.
And Georgia’s talent is one of the reasons why the Bulldogs are two wins away from their first national title in three decades.
Georgia easily could have gotten got caught looking past this game.
With Alabama and the SEC Championship Game up next, and all this talk about playing for the biggest prize, it would have been easy for the Bulldogs to lose focus and lose their way.
But they’re not only playing well, they’re playing with determination.
Their mindset is set on what they can accomplish, on winning the BCS National Championship Game.
And they’ll soon see if they’re capable of defeating teams much better than Georgia Tech. First up: The SEC Championship Game.
“We’ll be grinding and working hard and coming up with the best plan possible as quickly as we can,” coach Mark Richt said. “We know it’s going to be a battle. We’re looking forward to the opportunity to get back to that game, and it’s another chance for us to play well. That’s the goal.”
The Bulldogs (11-1) seem to have four essential pieces needed to be a national title contender.
• Quarterback Aaron Murray: He threw three interceptions against Florida on Oct. 20, but has been nearly flawless since, throwing 14 TDs and no picks. Murray entered Saturday’s game as the nation’s top-rated passer and did nothing to hurt that by going 14-of-17 for 215 yards and two TDs. He is the first QB in SEC history to throw for at least 3,000 in three seasons.
• Running game: Todd Gurley added another 97 yards and two TDs to his excellent freshman season, and has 1,137 yards and 14 scores. He and fellow freshman Keith Marshall, who has 720 yards and eight TDs, complement Murray and give the Bulldogs options when the passing attack struggles.
• Tough and improving defense: Georgia Tech entered Saturday’s game averaging 38.6 points, but was held to a season-low 10 points and didn’t score a TD until Georgia’s reserves were populating the field. With a stout front line, havoc-creating linebackers like Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree, and top safeties like Shawn Williams and Bacarri Rambo, Georgia has the defensive weapons worthy of a national championship contender.
• Coaching: Richt has matured as a head coach and has improved his ability to get his team geared up for the big games. His coordinators — Mike Bobo (offensive) and Todd Grantham (defensive) — take their share of the heat when things don’t go right, like at any successful program, but they’ve adapted well to their personnel and continue to draw up the right schemes.
“It’s an opportunity, and we have to take advantage,” linebacker Christian Robinson said. “We have to see next week as just another game. Sure, where we’re ranked might mean certain things, but bottom line is that it’s just another week. We’re still in it, and this is everything that we’ve worked for all year.”