Sugar Bowl: Georgia focused on Texas, not CFP snub
Texas has used a breakthrough, return-to-prominence campaign this fall to garner an invitation to a New Year's Six bowl game -- a dustup against Southeastern Conference powerhouse Georgia on Tuesday in the 2019 Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
And while the No. 15 Longhorns have enjoyed their share of success this season, their final grade -- like a report card for the program's resurgence -- will be determined, fairly or not, by their play on the big stage against the No. 5 Bulldogs.
Texas (9-4) is focused on getting a 10th win with a victory over Georgia, a team that's likely good enough to have been included in the College Football Playoff.
Finishing 10-4 sounds a lot better to the Longhorns than ending the season at 9-5 and with back-to-back losses.
To get to that 10th win, Texas will continue to focus on its game-to-game mantra and try to put the hoopla that comes with playing in a bowl game as big as the one in New Orleans on the back burner.
"We do want them to enjoy the time in New Orleans -- our team has earned this," Texas coach Tom Herman said Thursday. "This is a tremendous bowl game and a tremendous city. But we also know that we've come here with a job to do, too, and that's to win the Sugar Bowl championship. When it's time to work, we're going to be dialed in, focused in, and ready to work."
The Longhorns head to New Orleans after a 39-27 loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Championship game in Arlington, Texas, on Dec. 1. Texas will be playing in its 55th bowl game and will make its fourth appearance in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.
This season, Texas has played in nine one-possession games, going 6-3 in those contests. Prior to the loss in the Big 12 title game, the Longhorns' three regular-season losses came by a combined nine points. Texas has defeated four ranked teams in 2018, tied for second-most in the country.
"We're winning games on toughness," Herman said. "We're winning games on attitude, physicality. We're winning games this season certainly because we genuinely love the guy next to each other. And we don't want to let them down. And that motivates us much more powerfully than if you were by self-centered motivations."
Even though Texas played the CFP-bound Sooners twice this season, Georgia might be the Longhorn' biggest test. The Bulldogs are 11-2 overall and lost to top-ranked Alabama, 35-28, in the SEC Championship game on Dec. 1 in Atlanta.
"That's past us -- the guys have put it behind us," Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm said of the loss to Alabama. "I've put it behind me. We're here now. You can't change anything that's happened in the past. We're excited and ready to play."
Georgia's only other loss this season came in the state of Louisiana on the road at LSU, 36-16, in mid-October. Georgia also has four wins over ranked opponents this season.
Last year, in coach Kirby Smart's second season at Georgia, the Bulldogs were defeated by Alabama in overtime in the National Championship Game.
Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker, the Jim Thorpe Award winner, is skipping the Sugar Bowl to focus on the 2019 NFL Draft.
"We know the hurdle that's in front of us in Texas, a team that has got a great tradition, really good football team," Smart said. "Texas plays in a really good conference, and we have a standard that we play to regardless of who we play. We know we're playing a really good opponent, and our players are excited for that opportunity. This is one of the best bowls in the country."
The Longhorns are 3-1 against the Bulldogs all-time, with Texas posting wins in the 1949 Orange Bowl and in both games of a home-and-home series played in Athens, Ga., and Austin, Texas, respectively, in 1957 and 1958.
Perhaps most memorably, Georgia defeated Texas in the most recent matchup, a 10-9 victory in the 1984 Cotton Bowl, a loss that cost the Longhorns (who were undefeated heading into the game) a national championship.