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Georgia bases hopes on Murray, strong defense

POSTED: August 15, 2012 8:27 p.m.

ATHENS — Georgia regained its status as a SEC contender in 2011.

The Bulldogs, who won the Southeastern Conference’s Eastern Division title last season, are expecting to do more than just contend in 2012. The next step is winning the SEC championship.

A conference title could bring an even bigger prize — the SEC is on an unprecedented run of six straight national championships.

“The bottom line is the last six years, whoever won the league got to play for it,” said coach Mark Richt when asked about his team’s national championship hopes. “Our goal is to win the East, go to Atlanta and win the game.

“If you win the SEC you have a pretty good chance. It’s not guaranteed, we know that, so our goal as always is to win the SEC, then get to Atlanta and win that thing. If at that point we’re allowed to play in the big game, then we would be there.”

Richt has no shortage of big names to lead the pursuit of the program’s first SEC championship since 2005.
Quarterback Aaron Murray set a school record with 35 touchdown passes last season. Malcolm Mitchell could be a breakout two-way star at cornerback and wide receiver.

Georgia returns nine starters from the nation’s fifth-ranked defense, including two 2011 first-team All-America picks — outside linebacker Jarvis Jones and safety Bacarri Rambo.

After opening last season with losses to Boise State and South Carolina, Georgia won 10 straight games. The Bulldogs beat Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, and Georgia Tech in the same year for the first time since Herschel Walker’s sophomore season in 1981.

The season ended with losses to LSU in the SEC championship game and to Michigan State in the Outback Bowl.

Despite the postseason losses, the 10-4 record was a much-needed recovery from a 6-7 finish in 2010 that left questions about Richt’s status.

Now Georgia players want more.

“We know what we’re capable of,” Jones said. “We had a lot of hype last year, and we had a great run. This year, we know that people are e


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