Out west, the Georgia rules are in force
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Now we know why Georgia packed up its players and its bulldog mascot, Uga VII, who left an air-conditioned Dawg house back in Athens, to venture out on its longest regular-season trip since 1960.
It was a chance to play the Pacific 10 Conference.
If you were a college football team from the East, wouldn’t you head west?
Looking every bit like the No. 3 team in the nation, and maybe like the No. 2 or the No. 1 team, Georgia delivered a decisive Saturday night blow to Arizona State, 27-10, at Sun Devil Stadium.
Knock one more game off Georgia’s schedule and the Pac-10 down another peg.
Georgia (4-0) looked like a team capable of playing the season’s last game Jan. 8 in the Bowl Championship Series at Dolphin Stadium in South Florida.
The Bulldogs looked capable of playing current No. 1 USC in the matchup everyone but the Rose Bowl, it seemed, wanted to see in last year’s Rose Bowl.
Arizona State (2-2) looked out of sync and nothing near the No. 15 team it was billed to be back in August -- before anyone played a game.
“Considering the team we played, I’d have to say that was the most complete game for our team this year,” Georgia Coach Mark Richt said.
What a nice, gentlemanly thing to say.
Saturday was likely a sneak preview of what Arizona State will see Oct. 11 when it plays USC at the Coliseum.
There were acrobatic plays, the kind that Reggie Bush used to make.
In the first quarter, punctuating Georgia’s first score, tailback Knowshon Moreno ran around right end, sprang off his left foot from the four-yard line and did a Superman dive into the end zone.
“Half the guys on our team need a trampoline to make that play,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said.
Moreno finished with 149 rushing yards in 23 tries.
Stafford, meanwhile, looked like the top-five NFL draft pick he’s projected to be by throwing darts off both feet, and sometimes falling backward, on his way to a 16-for-28, 285-yard night.
Arizona State had no problem with freshman receiver A.J. Green, other than not being able to cover him. Green finished with eight catches for 159 yards and a touchdown.
“They’re so explosive offensively,” Sun Devils Coach Dennis Erickson said. " . . . Against a team like that, which is awfully athletic, I don’t think you know the speed until you actually sit there and see it on the field.”
Georgia looked like a pro team, Arizona State the amateurs.
Rudy Carpenter completed 23 of 36 passes for 208 yards for the Sun Devils, but the Tempe mayor didn’t hand him the key to the city.
“We didn’t execute, we didn’t convert, we didn’t have any big plays really go all the way,” Carpenter said.
Other than that . . .
Knowing their Knowshon could run and Arizona State couldn’t -- the Sun Devils finished with four net yards in 19 carries -- Georgia sat back in what you might call a “Barcalounger” zone.
“If you can’t run the ball, no way you can win the game, even if we have 10 receivers out there,” Sun Devils receiver Michael Jones said.
Georgia was bigger, stronger and faster, but what does that mean in September?
Arizona State let the air out of this highly hyped game last week by losing at home to Nevada Las Vegas.
Whether a win over Arizona State helps Georgia’s cause is yet to be determined -- UNLV diminished Arizona State before Georgia’s wheels touched down.
A week after going winless in four games against the Mountain West, the Pac-10 suffered another blow when Boise State, out of the Western Athletic Conference, upset Oregon in Eugene.
Saturday, though, may kick-start another conversation. Georgia started the season at No. 1 but dropped in the polls after three wins. Victory against Georgia Southern cost Georgia its top spot to USC. Georgia then beat Central Michigan and South Carolina, yet slipped to No. 3 behind Oklahoma.
There’s too much season left to worry about this now, but USC and Oklahoma were also No. 1 and No. 2 in 2004, the year undefeated Auburn was left out of the championship picture.
“That’s for other people to talk about and other people to think about,” Georgia’s Moreno said. “We’re just happy with this win.”
Maybe Georgia needs to get out more. Saturday’s game was its first nonconference trip outside the Southeast since playing Houston in 1967.
There were no simmering road issues to settle in Tempe, as there were back in 1965, when Georgia’s Vince Dooley-led squad made a rare trip to Michigan and came home as conquering heroes.
“To go up there and invade the North and come back a winner was the greatest thing for a lot of people,” Dooley recounted in the book “Southern Fried Football. “It was as if we had a chance to go to Gettysburg again.”
That was then.
This was only Tempe.