ATHENS – A scout from the Independence Bowl was on the sideline Saturday night. As Georgia closed out its upset win over Auburn, the scout smiled and knew he probably wouldn’t be back: Shreveport, in all likelihood, is now out of the Bulldogs’ immediate future.
This hasn’t been the kind of season anyone at Georgia wanted. But the past two weeks, especially Saturday, have changed the complexion of the final month, and possibly the season.
“You’ve got a two-game winning streak. Build a little momentum up,” tailback Nick Chubb said. “We’ve been down for awhile, but a win like that definitely gets our spirits up.”
Two weeks ago, it was a legitimate question whether Georgia would even go to a bowl. Now it has a chance to finish a respectable 8-4, make a decent bowl, and finish its season strong.
“I think it really just solidifies our family,” junior linebacker Davin Bellamy said. “Coach (Kirby) Smart always said, a lot of outside noise is going to try to break up the family. We kind of just shut the doors and kept working.”
Georgia’s next two games are very winnable, though not sure things: Louisiana-Lafayette (4-5), coming off a road win at Georgia Southern, visits Saturday; Georgia Tech (6-4), which on Saturday won at ranked Virginia Tech, comes in two weeks.
The bowl situation remains very muddled for Georgia. Technically it could still end up in Shreveport or the Birmingham Bowl, the two lowest-tier SEC-affiliated bowls. That would almost certainly require Georgia losing one, or probably both, of its remaining games.
By winning both of their remaining games, the Bulldogs are likely in one of the SEC’s “six pack” bowls: Outback (Tampa), Music City (Nashville), Liberty (Memphis), Belk (Charlotte), Texas (Houston), TaxSlayer (Jacksonville).
The TaxSlayer is probably off the table because Georgia has gone there twice in the previous three years. The Outback may also be shooting high because it tends to get one of the better SEC teams available, and Georgia probably still ranks behind Florida, Tennessee and a couple West Division teams. The Texas Bowl usually goes to a West Division team.
So the Liberty, Music City and Belk seem Georgia’s most likely destinations … if it finishes well. And it’s playing well again.
“Nothing’s different,” Bellamy said. “The same way I said a couple weeks ago, when we were going through our downs, I said we know we’re a good football team. Just certain things weren’t going our way. We started fixing the little things and everything just starts working itself out. This team, we believed in each other, even when nobody else did. So we’re just going to keep grinding from here on out.”
Smart, who appears to have held his team together in his first year as a head coach, talked Saturday in more general terms than wins and losses.
“Our goal all along has been to make this team become what it’s capable of,” Smart said. “You want it to happen early, of course. But what matters most is that it does happen. We’re starting to see some of that resiliency and push, and getting better and improvement, that we’ve talked about all year.
“But we’ve still got a ways to go. We’ve still got a lot of young puppies out there. We’ve still make some mistakes tonight. But we were able to overcome them. So I’m proud of those guys.”