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Saturday, December 7
For Georgia, 'the sky's the limit'

By Bruce Feldman
ESPN The Magazine

ATLANTA -- We learned two things Saturday night in the Georgia Dome: The Georgia Bulldogs are the class of the SEC, and the rest of the conference stinks.

How else could you explain a team as shaky as Arkansas being in the title game? Truth is, there are probably four Big East teams that would maul the Hogs. Arkansas' offense was so inept it never would have crossed midfield if it didn't benefit from personal fouls by Georgia.

Musa Smith
Musa Smith may be one of the best running backs ever to come out of Georgia.
But that shouldn't take anything away from Georgia. The Bulldogs could have come out flat, having been deflated earlier in the day watching their Fiesta Bowl hopes dashed by Miami's win over Virginia Tech. Instead, UGA blew the Hogs off the field and the only thing that appeared to derail them was Mark Richt's QB flip from David Greene to DJ Shockley with Georgia up 20-0. And, of course, those personal foul penalties. But considering the day's events, Georgia fans shouldn't be sweating the extra emotion. The Dawgs came out to dominate, and they did, putting an exclamation point on a glorious season. Their 12-1 record notwithstanding, the Bulldogs are underrated.

They have a dangerous passing attack with Greene piloting; a fast, punishing runner in Musa Smith and a veteran O-line. Defensively, Georgia has an elite front seven led by DT Jonathan Sullivan and DE David Pollack. Give credit to Richt for shepherding the ride, but also credit former Dawg boss Jim Donnan who brought in most of the talent and laid the foundation.

In the next month, Georgia fans probably will speculate whether the Dawgs could beat Ohio State and give Miami a better game. After the game, Sullivan said he would love to play OSU and Miami back-to-back and said there would be "no doubt" the Dawgs would take 'em both.

But Georgia and its fans shouldn't bother wasting their time with 'what-ifs' this year. Championship teams find ways to win, no matter what. Whether they have their "A" game or their "C" game. By three points or by thirty. The better question for UGA fans and for folks all over the South is what is brewing in Athens? Is this the start of something huge? Sullivan says it is.

"The (power) is changing," he said. "Georgia could do this for a while."

We agree. Granted, Georgia does lose its entire O-line and Terrence Edwards, the SEC's all-time leading receiver as well as play-making linebackers Boss Bailey and Tony Gilbert (and Sullivan, the stud DT, is probably gone too). But Greene is back as are Smith and gamebreaker Fred Gibson.

Most important, the SEC is ripe for dominating right now. Florida is on shaky ground in the Zook era. Tennessee is coming off a nightmare year where injuries and a lack of player leadership chased the Vols out of the Top 25. LSU appears to be stuck in neutral and 'Bama could be feeling the aftershock of Coach Fran's jump for months. Better still, Richt's old boss, Bobby Bowden, and his program look vulnerable and that will sting when the 'Noles go up against Georgia on the recruiting turf they share.

Richt's mantra of late has been "knock the lid off." Saturday night, they did.

"And now that the lid's off," junior wideout Michael Johnson said, "the sky's the limit." No kidding. What went down in the Dome shouldn't viewed as the end to a great Georgia season, but rather the start of a newly-minted powerhouse.

Bruce Feldman covers college football for ESPN The Magazine. E-mail him at

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