Though they notched a win over a BCS-bowl opponent, the jury is still out regarding Georgia's temerity against top-rated competition. After all, it's almost universally assumed the Louisville Cardinals would not have received an invite to the December Madness proceedings had the Cards played in a respected conference like the ACC, Big Ten, or even MAC. (Yes, we said. Check the results this season between the Big East and MAC. Paints a pretty clear picture on how the "Big Least" moniker came to pass.) Taking down Kansas State, a team that was penciled in for the national title game as late as November, would erase any doubt that the Bulldogs have what it takes to dance with the big boys.
No such reservation resides with the Wildcats, as Kansas State handled one of the country's toughest schedules with relative ease, most notably, striking down the Sooners in Norman. Yet the shellacking handed out by Baylor remains fresh in the minds of Manhattan, left wondering what could have been. The Wildcats were able to focus on the task at hand in their first-round battle with Utah State, disposing of the Aggies 34-23. Though armed with Colin Klein and one of the more explosive offenses in the land, Kansas State may be in for a rude awakening versus the speed and tenacity of an SEC defense.
Or perhaps it's the ‘Dawgs that were in for a wake-up call. A 56-yard house call by Kansas State running back John Hubert gave the Wildcats an early 7-0 advantage. After an unstable first quarter, Georgia was able to right the ship in the second, with two touchdowns in the period's first four minutes. The first came off a five-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Murray to Rantavious Wooten, capping off a drive set up by a beautiful 35-yard catch-and-run by receiver Jay Rome. The second score was all Todd Gurley, as the bruising Bulldogs back went the distance for a 75-yard run, giving Georgia a 14-7 lead. The Wildcats failed to muster much in the second, putting the Big 12 champs behind the eight ball heading into the break.
The third quarter seemed like one without fanfare, with only the Wildcats' Anthony Cantele's 35-yard field goal providing fireworks. Yet in the quarter's final minute, Rhett McGowan was the beneficiary of a 26-yard strike from Murray to augment Georgia's lead to 21-10.
However, just as Georgia appeared to open the floodgates, Klein engineered a masterful drive, finished by a four-yard scamper by Angelo Please to pay dirt, and a Klein bull-rush into the end zone for a two-point conversion cut the deficit to three. Alas, that's as close as the Wildcats would get, as Georgia's Murray found Rantavious Wooten for his third touchdown of the day, putting Georgia back on top for good. Kansas State would score in the final minutes but failed to seriously threaten after that, vaulting the ‘Dawgs into the semi-finals.
For Georgia, Murray finished with 275 passing yards and three touchdowns, earning Player of the Game honors. In the losing effort, Hubert racked up 111 rushing yards for the Wildcats, while Klein was held in check with just 93 passing yards and 37 more on the ground.
Player of the game: Aaron Murray (275 passing yards, 3 TD)
Winning Percentage of 1,001 Simulations:
Georgia 51.4% - Kansas State 48.6%
Average Score of 1,001 Simulations:
Georgia 23.2 - Kansas State 22.3