Column: Forget SEC East, Gators still factor in national title race

By Joe Morgan

The race for the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division is technically ongoing.

Assuming Florida disposes of  4-4 Missouri on Saturday, a Georgia loss to either Ole Miss or Auburn in the next two weeks would send Coach Boom and his boys to Atlanta.

That’s not going to happen. I mean, c’mon, right?

The Gators said they wouldn’t keep an eye on the out-of-town scores, and I don’t blame them. Hoping the Bulldogs lose to the Rebels or the Tigers is just depressing.

But that doesn’t mean you and I can’t talk about the entertaining possibility.

Ole Miss is a so-so squad, and Auburn is just awful.

Usually, the Tigers would present a stiff test, but since Satan is apparently out to get Gene Chizik — just ask his wife — Auburn is a terrible football team this season.

Despite the obvious shortcomings of both the Rebels and the Tigers, let’s talk about ways  the Bulldogs could pull off a colossal failure of epic proportions.

1. Georgia plays down to its competition — The Bulldogs have nearly lost against sub-par conference foes twice this season.

On Sept. 29, Georgia simply outscored Tennessee in a 51-44 victory. Not until UGA forced back-to-back turnovers by UT quarterback Tyler Bray in the game’s final three minutes did the Bulldogs escape at home against a team that is winless in SEC play this season.

On the road at Kentucky on Oct. 20, Georgia eked out a 29-24 victory. Aaron Murray’s 427 passing yards and four touchdowns overshadowed the team’s 77 rushing yards on 32 carries against the 11th-best rush defense in the SEC.

Who says Georgia won’t stoop to the level of Ole Miss and Auburn?

2. Momentum — The Tigers are just terrible, but the Rebels are riding high.

Back-to-back victories against Auburn and Arkansas may not sound impressive, but for an Ole Miss squad many expected to finish last in the SEC West, it’s one hell of a feat.

Also, keep in mind that the Rebels have some good-looking losses.

Aside from a 35-point loss to Texas, Ole Miss played top-ranked Alabama closer than any other team this season in a 33-14 loss on Sept. 29. Seven days later, Ole Miss nearly upset No. 16 Texas A&M, falling 30-27.

3. The SEC West — In his first seven seasons at the helm in Athens, Ga., coach Mark Richt compiled a 19-5 record against SEC West foes. Since 2008, he is 7-6 against the division.

4. Ole Miss is kind of average — The Rebels may not be setting the world ablaze, but they rank sixth or higher in the SEC in scoring offense, rushing offense, total offense, passing offense, pass efficiency, sacks, first downs, third-down conversions, fourth-down conversions, penalties, red zone offense and red zone defense. So, yeah. They’re not terrible like Auburn.

5. Auburn is basically an FCS team — Remember that time when Appalachian State beat Michigan? Maybe that could happen.

Hope is the ultimate double-edged sword. It can get you through tough times, but it will just as easily crush your dreams.

My advice? Root for Georgia.

Alabama is clearly the best team in the nation, and Florida should want no part of the defending national champions unless the crystal football is on the line.

If the Gators finish the regular season second in the SEC East with an 11-1 record, their BCS title hopes stand a much better chance than those of the Bulldogs, who are unlikely to survive the wrath of the Crimson Tide in Atlanta.

Alabama benefitted from not playing in the SEC title game last year, earning a rematch against LSU and ultimately winning the national championship.

So, enjoy these next few weeks of football. Florida has overachieved this season, and the national championship  race is technically ongoing.

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