ATLANTA – Before the season, Georgia's visit to Kentucky looked like a bridge between traditional rivalry games against Florida and Auburn.
Instead, thanks to Florida's crushing 49-10 defeat of Georgia on Saturday, the Bulldogs' trip to Lexington has developed into a battle between also-rans in the Southeastern Conference's Eastern Division.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said it is clear his team can't look down on Kentucky this week.
"It's hard to deal with but you've got to get right back to work and get ready to play because Kentucky is playing for just as much as we are," Richt said Sunday. "They only have one more loss than we have."
Kentucky beat Georgia 24-20 in Lexington in 2006.
"It's obvious that will be talked about," Richt said.
A battle for second place in the SEC East is a bitter reality for fans of a Georgia team that began the season ranked first in the nation.
Georgia has dropped from No. 1 in the preseason AP Top 25 to No. 14 in Sunday's poll. The Bulldogs (7-2 overall, 4-2 SEC) have been overwhelmed in losses to the league's two top teams.
Before the lopsided loss to Florida came a 41-30 loss to Alabama on Sept. 27, when the Crimson Tide led 31-0 at halftime.
Richt said tough scheduling and a young offensive line have been difficult to overcome. He said the two lopsided losses do not mean his team lacks poise or composure.
"I think part of it is just the fact that we are young up front," Richt said. "You don't want to make an excuse, but the bottom line is we're playing a bunch of puppies offensively up front and that hasn't helped us."
Georgia has lost two starting left tackles and is left with only freshmen and sophomores on its offensive line.
"And then I'll just give these other teams credit, too," Richt said, referring to Florida and Alabama. "I think when the season is over, history might prove those two teams are the best teams in the country, too, at least two of the top five anyway. We had a chance to be one of those with a victory in either one of those games."
Richt noted the loss to Alabama followed a long road trip to Arizona State, and the loss to Florida in Jacksonville came one week after a win at LSU.
"It's just tough to peak week after week after week, and we didn't," he said. "I've got to do a better job of getting them to do that."
It's too late for Georgia to prove it can play at its best every week. The new challenge is for the players to refocus after falling out of the SEC championship hunt.
"I think I'm going to find out a lot (Monday) and Tuesday, actually, to see just where we're at," Richt said. "I can't sit here and say I can tell you exactly their state of mind. I think everyone spent themselves in a worthy cause and lost."
Florida would have to lose two conference games for Georgia to have a chance at winning the East.
"That's not likely," Richt said.
Even so, Richt doesn't believe his players would have a confidence problem against Kentucky (6-3).
"We've got to go back and win another game," Richt said.
"I don't think anybody feels good about (the loss). I don't think it's a confidence issue. I think it's just a matter of feeling sick and just having to get back to work and get back to hopefully winning a ball game. I don't think (confidence) will be a problem."