This was supposed to be the year for Mark Richt and Georgia. The Bulldogs entered the 2008 season as the consensus pre-season No. 1 and were looking to bring home the program's first national title since Herschel Walker led them to the hardware as a freshman in 1980.
Two blowout losses have thrown those hopes out the window, however. Georgia was humbled earlier in the year by Alabama in a game that they trailed 31-0 at halftime. Then, on Saturday, Florida took the Dogs to the woodshed 49-10.
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Not only are the national title dreams dead, but the Southeastern Conference East crown looks out of reach, as well. Richt said he and his team won't give up hope until Florida officially clinches, but Georgia (7-2, 4-2) would need to beat Kentucky and Auburn and hope that the Gators lose their final two games to Vanderbilt and South Carolina to win it.
"That goal is still a possibility," Richt said. "We're not going to say no until it's over. If it does become a moot point, you might have to reassess your goals but, in the meantime, our main goal has to be to get back in the win column."
Richt said the Florida loss won't have his team emotionally shaken when it rolls into Commonwealth Stadium Saturday to face UK (6-3, 2-3).
"I don't think anybody feels good about (the Florida game), but I don't think it's a confidence issue," Richt said. "You just kind of feel sick about the matter, but you've got to get back to work and get ready to play. I don't think it will be a problem."
If he senses his team lacking focus, Richt will just pop in the tape from his last trip to Lexington when a 4-4 UK team knocked off the Bulldogs 24-20.
"It's obvious that will be talked about," Richt said.
While Georgia is a long shot to get to the SEC Championship Game, the Kentucky game will still have serious implications in the East standings, with UK, Vanderbilt (5-3, 3-2) and South Carolina (6-3, 3-3) all jockeying for second place behind the Gators.
"Kentucky is playing for just as much as we are," Richt said. "They're right there, neck and neck with us right now trying to take over the Eastern Division."
UK Coach Rich Brooks can relate to what Richt is going through. His team was blown out 63-5 by Florida the week before the Bulldogs were run off the field by Urban Meyer and Co. Brooks said those games are more indicative of how dominant Florida is.
"You look at what Florida has done the last two or three weeks, and it's pretty scary," Brooks said.
Richt said his team's brutal schedule might have caught up with it in the two losses. The Bulldogs made their longest road trip in 48 years to Arizona State in September and won in convincing fashion.
But then they had to return home and face Alabama.
And Georgia traveled to Baton Rouge and whipped Louisiana State 52-38 before its high-profile game against Florida.
"It's just tough to peak week after week after week, and we didn't," Richt said. "I've got to do a better job of getting them to be able to do that.
And let's give these other teams credit. When the season's over and you look back, (Florida and Alabama) might be the two best teams in the country, and at least two of the top five."