published Monday, October 14th, 2013

Georgia Bulldogs now need help in chaotic SEC East

Missouri quarterback James Franklin has helped the Tigers to a 6-0 start that included Saturday’s upset at Georgia, but he is expected to miss the rest of the regular season with a separated shoulder.
Missouri quarterback James Franklin has helped the Tigers to a 6-0 start that included Saturday’s upset at Georgia, but he is expected to miss the rest of the regular season with a separated shoulder.
Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

What's a Georgia football season without the need for some help?

The Bulldogs lost control of their destiny in the Southeastern Conference's East Division race by virtue of Saturday's 41-26 home loss to Missouri. They lost to South Carolina during the 2011 and '12 seasons but regrouped to win the East on both occasions after the Gamecocks relinquished the reins.

"We've dug ourselves out of a hole before, and hopefully we can do it again," Bulldogs tight end Arthur Lynch said Saturday. "It's not ideal or what you hope for, and we know the only thing we can control as a team is what's in front of us. We have to be better next week up in Nashville, and hopefully we can build some momentum up there and take it into the bye week and obviously the big showdown in Jacksonville.

"To be 4-2 after the gauntlet we've been through is not easy, and even if people from a national standpoint have lost hope for us, that's fine."

Georgia has not controlled its East destiny at this point of the season since 2008, when the Bulldogs opened with wins over South Carolina, Tennessee and Vanderbilt and a cross-divisional loss to Alabama. A 49-10 loss to Florida that season abruptly took away that control.

The Bulldogs and Gamecocks were picked first and second in this year's race, but Missouri and Florida are the only teams that control their destiny. South Carolina needs Georgia to lose another league game as a result of losing to the Bulldogs on Sept. 7, and the Bulldogs need Missouri to lose twice.

Missouri hosts Florida and South Carolina the next two weeks but is expected to be without quarterback James Franklin for the rest of the regular season due to a separated shoulder.

"The East may be a little stronger than it used to be," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday. "Georgia did beat LSU, and LSU may be right there with Alabama on the other side and [Texas] A&M and so forth. We'll have to play it all out."

Spurrier coached at Florida when the Gators claimed seven of the first 10 East titles and Tennessee won the other three, so a four-team race is new to him. His Gamecocks are coming off a 52-7 rout of Arkansas and will travel to Tennessee this week.

Unlike Florida, Georgia and Missouri, the Gamecocks do not have any glaring injury concerns.

"We've mentioned just briefly that we're still in the hunt for whatever we're in until we're not," Spurrier said. "We haven't given up hope, but we don't sit around talking about winning the East that much. Sometimes you can look pretty foolish talking about winning the SEC and things like that and end up losing three or four in a row, but we know where we are, and we know there's a chance.

"This was by far our best game, but can we take that game to Knoxville?"

When Georgia coach Mark Richt was asked Sunday if the East had become a survival of the healthiest, he said, "It might be who can handle the adversity the best. That's probably what it's going to come down to."

Georgia will visit Vanderbilt on Saturday in a second straight noon kickoff. The Bulldogs overwhelmed the Commodores 48-3 last season in Athens but survived 33-28 two years ago in Nashville, when a frantic finish was overshadowed by a heated exchange between Vandy coach James Franklin and Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham.

Richt was not sure whether tailback Todd Gurley (ankle) and safety Tray Matthews (hamstring) would try practicing today.

"We've got to keep battling and take of ourselves," quarterback Aaron Murray said Saturday. "First and foremost, we've got to win games. There is a lot of season to play, but we've got to hope they lose two games and that we win the rest of ours."

Said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo: "This one is going to hurt, but we've got to forget about it and move on. We can't let this loss beat us again next week, plain and simple."

Odds and ends

For the first time in program history, Georgia has allowed 30 or more points in five of its first six games. ... The Bulldogs dropped to 15th in the Associated Press poll and to 16th in the Harris and USA Today polls that help determine the BCS championship participants.

Contact David Paschall at dpaschall@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6524.

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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