ATHENS, Ga. -- Georgia is making its second consecutive trip to the Southeastern Conference football championship game, and the Bulldogs insist that Alabama will be facing a very different team from the one LSU encountered a year ago.
"This team is way more confident and has way more swagger than last year," Georgia sophomore cornerback Damian Swann said Tuesday. "That is what's going to help us this weekend, because we've got to play like we're the best team on the field."
The Bulldogs played that way for a little while in last season's game before LSU thundered off to a 42-10 whipping. Georgia was ranked 12th nationally going into the matchup against the No. 1 Tigers, and the outcome was no big surprise considering the Bulldogs were two-touchdown underdogs.
Georgia is a one-touchdown underdog this week, but the experience gained last year is providing a different feel this time around, as is the BCS title-game berth that's at stake.
"It's a big difference, because you know what to expect," inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera said. "You know you have to try and control your emotions and don't let your emotions overwhelm you. I think that's what happened to us last year. We played in a few big games, but no big game like the SEC championship.
"We're more confident this year because we've had a great year, and we've been playing together for a long time. We also have more at stake this year. It's all or nothing."
Swann and fellow defensive backs Bacarri Rambo and Sanders Commings have been outspoken this week about Georgia being more talented or simply better than Alabama. Rambo and Commings made similar comments before last December's game, but there also was this quote a year ago from quarterback Aaron Murray: "We have to come out with the mentality that we're not going to be scared or intimidated."
Nobody has mentioned trying not to be scared or intimidated against Alabama, which has won two of the past three national championships.
"We're just as good as they are, if not better," Swann said. "Of course we had a couple of games where we didn't play too hot, but we've played just as good as they have. We did just as good against Ole Miss as they did, but this week is the challenge that we need, and I think we're going to step up to it."
Georgia opened last year's game by taking a 10-0 lead and by forcing LSU into seven consecutive three-and-outs. Dropped touchdown passes by Tavarres King and Malcolm Mitchell and a missed field goal by Blair Walsh could have given the Bulldogs an even bigger bulge, and the momentum swung in the second quarter when Tyrann Mathieu's 62-yard punt return for a touchdown pulled the Tigers within 10-7.
Within the first several plays of the second half, Murray fumbled and Tigers tailback Kenny Hilliard scored from 15 yards out to open the floodgates.
"It just so happened that we made some mistakes and they got up on us," Georgia defensive end Garrison Smith said. "They returned a punt and an interception and got some good field position on different stuff that happened, but I don't really think it was intimidation or us being scared. It was just how it happened. But that was last year."
King admits he's still bitter about last year's SEC title game and appreciates another opportunity. Inside linebacker Christian Robinson said the Bulldogs have yet to truly celebrate anything because they are not satisfied with an 11-1 record.
Being 12-1 and having the accompanying SEC championship and BCS title-game date obviously would change that.
"I think they're hungry for some more and at least want to have a better performance than we had a year ago in Atlanta," coach Mark Richt said. "I think we believe."
Contact David Paschall at email@example.com or 423-757-6524.
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...
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