Ge­or­gia still has much to prove af­ter Florida win

USA TODAY Sports Weekly - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - Ge­orge Schroeder

USA TO­DAY

In the mo­ments af­ter a win against Florida, sev­eral Ge­or­gia fans took to Twit­ter — pre­sum­ably be­fore re­sum­ing their cel­e­bra­tion over a 36-17 vic­tory in the “World’s Largest Out­door Cock­tail Party” — to retweet an ap­par­ently irk­some com­ment.

It was some­thing I said last week on the “Paul Finebaum Show,” fol­low­ing the Bull­dogs’ 20-point loss to LSU: “Maybe we over­rated Ge­or­gia in the first part of the sea­son a lit­tle bit based on last year.”

It seemed like a fairly in­nocu­ous com­ment; not quite mil­que­toast, not ex­actly strong. But when tweeted by the @finebaum ac­count, it caused a fair amount of con­ster­na­tion from Ge­or­gia fans. Then Oct. 27, when Ge­or­gia’s 36-17 vic­tory over Florida was com­plete, an­other round of retweet­ing oc­curred.

That’s fine — just part of the gig — even as it shows even a mild com­ment can be taken as a big in­sult.

But af­ter the Bull­dogs’ win over their big­gest ri­val, to whom they were clearly su­pe­rior, a clar­ification of that com­ment is in or­der. So here’s what we’d like to say now:

Maybe we over­rated Ge­or­gia in the first part of the sea­son a lit­tle bit based on last year.

Got that? Be­cause in the big­ger pic­ture, noth­ing much changed in the Florida game.

The win put Ge­or­gia in con­trol of its fate in the South­east­ern Con­fer­ence East. The Bull­dogs (7-1 over­all, 5-1 SEC) can clinch the di­vi­sion next week by beat­ing Ken­tucky. The Wild­cats, who have the same record, could do the same, but Ge­or­gia clearly looks like the East’s best.

Of course, that’s not the goal, ex­cept as a means to an end. There re­mains se­ri­ous and le­git­i­mate doubt as to whether the Bull­dogs are any­where near good enough to con­tend for a Play­off berth, es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing Alabama likely looms in the SEC cham­pi­onship game. Noth­ing so far sug­gests the Bull­dogs can con­tend with the Tide.

That’s OK, by the way. At least for now.

It’s more im­por­tant that the

5. (tie) Ge­or­gia (7-1)

Bull­dogs re­bounded af­ter that dis­cour­ag­ing per­for­mance in a 20-point loss at LSU. And just beat­ing a ri­val is more than enough. Win­ning in Jack­sonville is never a guar­an­tee.

Florida-Ge­or­gia is a game that breeds goofiness and re­sults that rou­tinely do not reflect the teams’ ac­tual ceil­ings or floors — see Ge­or­gia’s six­play, zero-yard drive from the 1 that took 3:58 and ended in a field goal as one ex­am­ple — but the Bull­dogs grad­u­ally pulled away.

The matchup in Jack­sonville is al­ways in­tense, re­gard­less of ex­ter­nal stakes. But with both teams ranked among the top 11

11. Wash­ing­ton State (7-1)

in the Amway Coaches Poll, it took on more im­por­tance. Ge­or­gia’s loss to LSU, cou­pled with Florida’s ahead-of-sched­ule rise un­der first-year coach Dan Mullen, con­trib­uted to the an­tic­i­pa­tion.

In­stead, the Bull­dogs did it with a fa­mil­iar for­mula: a heavy dose of run game sup­ple­mented by a good per­for­mance from quar­ter­back Jake Fromm, who snapped back nicely af­ter a poor per­for­mance at LSU.

In the two weeks since then, there was plenty of spec­u­la­tion as to whether and how fresh­man quar­ter­back Justin Field’s role might in­crease. In­stead, he didn’t play at all, and Fromm

17. Hous­ton (7-1)

pro­duced one of his best games. He was 17 of 24 for 240 yards and three touch­downs, all com­ing on third downs, re­mind­ing peo­ple of the lat­ter part of last sea­son — and why coaches were so high on him go­ing into this sea­son.

Fromm picked on the va­cancy left by Florida cor­ner­back C.J. Hen­der­son, who was in­jured dur­ing the game. At least as im­por­tant, the Gators com­mit­ted three turnovers; Ge­or­gia turned two into 10 points.

But it was a promis­ing per­for­mance. And even if it wasn’t com­pletely un­ex­pected, it was good to see Ge­or­gia get back on track.

But in the big­ger pic­ture, there was not much to sug­gest Ge­or­gia is a Play­off-cal­iber team. No one should have buried the Bull­dogs af­ter the loss to LSU, and no one re­ally did. There’s plenty of po­ten­tial, and time will tell how much growth can oc­cur. It’s likely they’ll get their shot to prove ev­ery­one wrong.

Still, let’s not over­rate Ge­or­gia, even a lit­tle bit, based on the Florida win.

23. Fresno State (7-1)

KIM KLE­MENT/ USA TO­DAY

Ge­or­gia run­ning back D’An­dre Swift (7) is con­grat­u­lated by Tyler Sim­mons af­ter scor­ing a TD against Florida.

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