ATHENS — Alabama was supposed to be the best team in the country. Then Oregon and Kansas State got all the hype. Now it's Notre Dame looking down at everyone else.
Plodding along quietly, barely noticed, is one other team that has a prime spot in the national championship race.
The Georgia Bulldogs.
Coach Mark Richt's squad moved up to No. 3 in The Associated Press poll on Sunday and the same spot in the BCS standings. That leaves only three teams in control of their own destiny: top-ranked Notre Dame, second-ranked Alabama — and Georgia.
The Bulldogs need to beat Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale, then Alabama in the Southeastern Conference championship game to earn a shot at the big prize in Miami.
Richt is keenly aware of the hoopla that suddenly surrounds his team, so much so that he steadfastly refused to even address the national race on his weekly teleconference.
Asked for his reaction when both Oregon and Kansas State were beaten in stunning upsets Saturday night, Richt replied: "I was thinking we need to have a great week of preparation for Georgia Tech."
Someone else asked, in a slightly different way, about having a shot at winning it all.
"Right at this moment, all I can think about is Georgia Tech," the coach said.
Finally, as the line went quiet and reporters tried to figure out another way to ask the same question, Richt piped in.
"Does anybody want to talk about Georgia Tech?" he asked.
But there's no getting around the fact that everything has fallen into place for the Bulldogs (10-1), who haven't always looked impressive but kept winning games, enough to push them into the spot they needed.
Georgia has taken advantage of a soft schedule, padded with non-conference patsies such as Buffalo, Florida Atlantic and lower-division school Georgia Southern, which fell to the Bulldogs 45-14 on Saturday. Inside the SEC, Richt's team benefited from a juggling of the scheduling formula to account for the addition of Missouri and Texas A&M.