- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 26, 2010

ATHENS, GA. (AP) - When Georgia’s players are chillin’ back at the dorm, they can’t help but check out all the possible scenarios.

Who’s playing who? Who needs to beat who? Do we still have a chance?

Indeed, they do.

After losing their first three Southeastern Conference games, the Bulldogs improbably have a shot at playing in Atlanta on the first Saturday in December.

“We keep up with it,” linebacker Christian Robinson conceded. “Once we’re done playing, we’re checking out who else is playing, scores and everything. We’re cheering for people we normally wouldn’t cheer for. It’s exciting that we’re having some success and those opportunities are still out there.”

The Bulldogs (4-4) have evened their conference record with three straight wins, taking advantage of the soft spot in their schedule. Given the sorry state of the SEC East, a .500 record is good enough to be right back in the thick of things.

“I know a couple of teams have to lose and we have to win out,” receiver Tavarres King said. “If we can handle our part, hopefully the good Lord will take care of the rest.”

First things first.

Georgia must win Saturday’s game against Florida, a traditional stumbling block; the Bulldogs have won only three times in the series since 1990. Of course, the Gators (4-3, 2-3) don’t look nearly as imposing this season, having lost three in a row.

If the Bulldogs get by Florida, they could still win the East even if they lose their SEC finale against unbeaten Auburn. In a three-way tie with the Gators and South Carolina (5-2, 3-2), the tiebreaker would go to Georgia.

No wonder coach Mark Richt sounds a lot happier than he was a month ago, when a 1-4 start sparked plenty of speculation about his job security.

“We pretty much dug out of a hole, and now we’re just trying to climb the mountain a little bit,” he said Tuesday. “Hopefully we’ll just continue to play well and represent Georgia in a way that everybody will be proud of the guys and the effort and the players and the coaching staff.”

Granted, Georgia’s three wins have come against Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Kentucky, which are a combined 8-14 overall and just 2-11 in the SEC. But there’s no denying that the Bulldogs have looked impressive, outscoring those three teams by a combined 128-45.

Now, they know its possible to salvage something special out of a season that seemed lost.

“There is definitely that hope,” Richt said. “If we could get this victory, it opens the door for us to get to Atlanta. Just knowing that going into the ball game is an exciting thing for our players and coaches and I’m sure our fan base, too. I’m just thankful we’ve gotten to this game and there is true meaning for us in the Eastern Division race.

Basically, the Bulldogs need to beat Florida and hope No. 17 South Carolina loses two of its last three SEC games. That’s not out of the question, considering the Gamecocks still must host 19th-ranked Arkansas and go to the Swamp to face Florida.

Heck, Georgia could lose its final conference game against No. 3 Auburn and still win the East. If the Bulldogs finish in a three-win deadlock with South Carolina and Florida at 4-4, they would win a complicated tiebreaker that is based first on record within the division (that would eliminate the Gamecocks) and then goes to head-to-head results (that’s why this Saturday is vital to Georgia’s chances).

Amazingly, Florida is in even better position than Georgia. The Gators contol their own destiny, knowing that wins over Georgia, Vanderbilt and South Carolina would send them back to the Dec. 4 title game at the Georgia Dome.

“It has a tremendous amount of meaning in the Eastern Division race, period,” Richt said. “If Florida wins out, Florida wins the East.”