Halfway through his final Georgia regular season, Sony Michel seems to be accomplishing what he set out to do so far.
“I came back to win football games, to leave a legacy, build a culture and I think that’s what everybody’s doing here,” the senior tailback said. “I think everybody’s buying in; we’re winning games.”
Georgia’s latest dismantling of an SEC opponent helped pushed the Bulldogs up to No. 4 Sunday in the Associated Press poll. That’s the program’s highest AP ranking since it was No. 3 at the end of the regular season in 2012 before playing Alabama in the SEC championship game.
The Bulldogs, which coasted by Vanderbilt 45-14 Saturday, moved up one spot in the AP rankings and one in the coaches poll to No. 5.
The top three in both polls are Alabama, Clemson and Penn State. Washington is No. 4 in the coaches poll but No. 5 in the AP.
The top four that really matters is the College Football Playoff selection committee’s final one in December that sets up the national semifinals.
The first playoff rankings are three weeks from Tuesday on Oct. 31. Georgia is clearly opening eyes.
Chris Murray, an AP voter from the Reno Gazette-Journal, wrote online: “The Bulldogs have been as impressive as any team in the nation, including Alabama and Clemson, the only two teams ahead of them on my ballot. Technically, Georgia didn’t rise, staying at No. 3 on my ballot since I already had them over Oklahoma. The Bulldogs’ early-season win against Notre Dame was impressive and it has torn through the SEC with lopsided wins over Tennessee, Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. The SEC is down this year, but Georgia looks like a legit contender to Alabama and Clemson.”
Georgia (6-0, 3-0 SEC) sits alone atop the SEC East after Florida (3-2, 3-1) was saddled with its first conference loss, a 17-16 setback to LSU.
Georgia’s final six regular season games include just one opponent currently in the top 25: at No. 10 Auburn on Nov. 11. The Bulldogs will play teams currently second (Florida), third (Kentucky) and fourth (South Carolina) in the SEC East.
First, they get last-place Missouri (1-4, 0-3) Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network. The Tigers lost at Kentucky 40-34 Saturday night.
“It’s never about who we play because if we make it about who we play, you go up and down,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said Saturday afternoon. “I respect Missouri. I know you guys (the media) don’t, but I respect Missouri because I remember the game from last year. I know what we went through last year to win the game. I know what kind of offensive output they’ve got.”
Georgia slid past Missouri 28-27 last year in Columbia before losing four of the next five games.
The Bulldogs have now won 10 of their last 11 games and their seven-game winning streak dating to the Liberty Bowl win over TCU is the fifth-longest in the country.
“We’ve got to stay extra focused,” Michel said. “We can’t over-celebrate, if that makes sense.”