ATLANTA — Given little chance to knock off the nation’s top-ranked team, Georgia doesn’t have a lot to lose in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
Then again, No. 1 Louisiana State University probably doesn’t either.
In all likelihood, the Tigers have already put together a résumé that’s impressive enough to get them to New Orleans for the BCS title game — even if the 12th-ranked Bulldogs pull off a huge upset today.
Count Georgia coach Mark Richt among those who feels LSU (12-0, 8-0 SEC) deserves to play for the national championship, whether they win or lose to his team. He can certainly read a schedule, noting the Tigers have already beaten three teams among the top eight in The Associated Press poll – No. 2 Alabama, No. 6 Arkansas and No. 8 Oregon – as well as 22nd-ranked West Virginia.
“If you look at all the one-loss teams and if, in fact, they became a one-loss team, just look at who they played,” Richt said Friday. “I would think they’d be a shoe-in to play (for the national title). I know that’s not what they’re focusing on, because you don’t go 12-0 unless you can focus on every game.”
LSU’s Les Miles, whose team is a two-touchdown favorite, refused to get dragged into the debate. No need to, really, since he’s coaching the last unbeaten team from one of the major conferences.
To some, this game is just an afterthought, something the Tigers must get out of the way before they play for an even bigger crown. Miles doesn’t see if that way.
“I do know that’s an issue for other folks,” he said. “It’s not one for us. We’re very, very focused on the next game and a very quality Georgia opponent.”
The Bulldogs (10-2, 7-1) might be the hottest team in the country outside of LSU. Georgia has bounced back from an 0-2 start with their longest in-season winning streak since 1982.
Given the pressure his program was under coming off its first losing mark in 14 years and then dropping its first two games, Richt and has engineered an impressive turnaround that bodes well for the future, given the youth of the team (only five starters are seniors).
“We’ve had a lot of really special times with this team,” Richt said. “I’ve enjoyed it maybe as much as any team I’ve coached.”