ATLANTA — Georgia can shake off any lingering disappointment that it won’t be playing in this week’s Southeastern Conference championship game by focusing instead on its hopes to play for the national championship.
Georgia moved to No. 4 in The Associated Press Top 25 and Bowl Championship Series standings on Sunday, one day after it finished its regular season with its sixth straight win, a 31-17 victory over Georgia Tech.
Coach Mark Richt learned during the victory over Georgia Tech that Tennessee beat Kentucky to win the SEC East in a tiebreaker over the Bulldogs. A Kentucky win would have sent Georgia to the SEC championship game at the Georgia Dome.
Instead of preparing to play Louisiana State in Atlanta, Georgia players and coaches can pull for Oklahoma to beat No. 1 Missouri and for Pittsburgh to upset No. 2 West Virginia. If the top two teams lose, the Bulldogs (10-2) might play for the national championship.
"I don’t know if I’ll be glued to a television," Richt said Sunday when asked if he’ll watch the Missouri and West Virginia games. "I don’t know if I could stand that."
Richt said he is still trying to understand all the bowl possibilities. He said he hopes his team retains its status as an at-large team in the Orange, Fiesta or Rose bowls.
"We’re very thankful for what we have," Richt said. "We’ve had a wonderful season. We still finished on a real strong note. We know we’ll be playing against a really great opponent. We’ll be in a really great bowl. It’ll be a great experience for our guys."
A season of upsets has made Richt believe more unlikely results are possible — including the top two teams losing.
"The bottom line is everybody does have an opportunity to beat the next team," Richt said. "There’s nothing in the bank. Everybody was predicting all these other scenarios and about every one of them has been blown up."
Still, Richt acknowledged Georgia is a longshot to play for the national title.
"There’s always a chance, but I’m not going to get my hopes up too high," he said.
The No. 4 ranking is the highest for Georgia since 2005, when it spent two weeks at No. 4. Georgia was No. 4 for five weeks in the 2003 season and was No. 3 in the final 2002 poll.
Richt conducted a team meeting on Sunday. He said he told his players to make a strong finish in their classes while waiting for a bowl invitation next Sunday.
Richt said there will be organized running and lifting to keep the players in shape, and he said he may have one practice each week before the bowl workouts begin.
Notes: Richt said kicker Brandon Coutu, who suffered a hamstring injury in the first half against Georgia Tech, should return for the bowl game. ... Tailback Knowshon Moreno may have been slowed by a minor injury in the game. "I don’t know exactly what it was, but you could tell he was not feeling well," Richt said. "I don’t know if it was a shoulder or what. He won’t say anything during a game. ... He looked like something was just stinging a little bit." Moreno’s five-game streak of rushing for 100 yards ended as he was held to 45 yards on 17 carries, but senior Thomas Brown led Georgia with 139 yards rushing and a touchdown. ... Richt said running back Kregg Lumpkin, returning from a knee injury, will play in the bowl game and could have played this week if Georgia had qualified for the SEC championship game.