Everything fell into place for Georgia.
The Bulldogs had to win. Tennessee had to win. And a Florida loss would complete the trifecta.
Check. Check. Check.
No. 5 Georgia clinched a return trip to the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday, beating Georgia Tech, 34-17, in a nonconference game and having two other games go the right way, too.
Tennessee defeated Kentucky, 20-7, ensuring a three-way tie in the SEC East. Georgia appeared to have the inside track under the league’s complicated tiebreaker system, but Florida had an outside chance to deny the Bulldogs.
That ended when the Gators lost to Florida State, 38-34, later in the day. All that’s left is the official confirmation, which will come today.
Georgia (10-2), the defending SEC champion, will return to Atlanta on Saturday to play No. 3 Louisiana State for the conference title.
The SEC’s convoluted tiebreaker system -- hastily adopted three weeks ago to avoid the possibility of an athletic directors’ vote to decide things -- is based on a combination of the bowl championship series standings and head-to-head meetings.
Georgia was seventh, Tennessee eighth and Florida 11th in last week’s BCS standings. But even if Tennessee jumps Georgia, the Bulldogs would still get the nod based on their 41-14 victory over the Volunteers.
Florida beat Georgia four weeks ago, but the loss to Florida State made that outcome moot.
After beating Georgia Tech, 51-7, the year before, the Bulldogs got off to another quick start, scoring two touchdowns less than two minutes apart in the first quarter.
Quarterback David Greene set up the first touchdown by completing a 46-yard pass to Fred Gibson, fooling the Yellow Jackets by faking a handoff and holding the ball against his hip. But the Bulldogs needed a little luck to score.
On first down at the four, Greene tried to run it in but fumbled short of the goal line. The ball rolled into the end zone, where freshman center Nick Jones fell on it for his first career touchdown.
“When we’re in practice, we talk about things like that all the time,” said Jones, who started because Bartley Miller was injured. “It came true today.”
On Georgia Tech’s ensuing possession, Bryan McClendon broke through untouched and blocked Hal Higgins’ punt. Georgia recovered at the 13, and Kregg Lumpkin ran it in on the next play to give the Bulldogs a 14-0 lead.
Georgia Tech (6-6) lost to Georgia for the third year in a row, but the Yellow Jackets are expected to get a bid to the Continental Tire Bowl or the Humanitarian Bowl.
The rivals showed plenty of animosity for each other. Georgia was penalized five times for late hits and unsportsmanlike conduct, while Georgia Tech was flagged three times -- including a penalty against quarterback Reggie Ball for shoving a Georgia trainer after being pushed out of bounds near the Bulldog bench.
The officials finally called Greene and Georgia Tech linebacker Keyaron Fox to midfield, hoping to calm things down.
“There was a lot of talking,” Georgia fullback Jeremy Thomas said. “When everyone knows each other, you’ve always got something to say.”