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Georgia football head coach Kirby Smart walks out onto the field before the University of Georgia vs. Louisiana State University football game on Saturday, October 13, 2018, in Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The Tigers led the Bulldogs 16-0 at the half.

BATON ROUGE, La. — Even as the P.A. announcer asked them not to, LSU fans rushed the field at Tiger Stadium on Oct. 13. A crowd of 102,321 had been loud and electric all game long as the 13th-ranked Tigers cruised to a convincing 36-16 win over the second-ranked Georgia Bulldogs. And after the buzzer sounded, many of them felt their moment of triumph.

LSU was dominant in every facet of the game. The Tigers outgained the Bulldogs 475-322 in total yards. They rushed for 275 yards. The LSU defense forced four turnovers and the Tigers won the kicking game by a large margin with five field goals and shaky Bulldog punting.

Georgia was beaten in every way imaginable. But for one of the nation’s hottest programs, it was a strangely familiar feeling.

On Nov. 11, 2017, the Bulldogs traveled for their most recent game in a hostile environment against a top team. Top-ranked Georgia got decimated by a red-hot Auburn team in front of a raucous crowd. Those Tigers downed Georgia, 40-17, and for a team that looked the part of a national title contender before the game, the loss felt like the beginning of the end.

Until it wasn’t.

The Bulldogs rebounded to finish 11-1 in the regular season and crushed Auburn in a rematch in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 2, 2017 to secure a spot in the College Football Playoff.

With that loss on The Plains at Jordan-Hare Stadium in the recent past, it’s hard not to draw similarities with the Bulldogs’ devastating loss to LSU on Oct. 13. Georgia fell to 6-1 and looked extremely vulnerable in multiple areas.

Georgia, now ranked No. 8 in the nation, still controls its own destiny. As bad as the loss in Death Valley looked, the story of the Bulldogs’ season is still largely incomplete.

“The key for us is to move forward,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said after the loss. “We still have a good football team. We still have an opportunity to do everything we want to do. Every opportunity we had before this game is still in front of us. The margin of error is just smaller.”

This year’s Georgia squad still has some marquee games ahead.

The Bulldogs’ next contest comes on Oct. 27 at a neutral site against 11th-ranked Florida, a game that could decide the SEC East. Georgia follows that up with a road matchup against No. 14 Kentucky before welcoming rival Auburn to Athens on Nov. 10.

Wins in all three of those games would put the Bulldogs right back into the playoff conversation. But first? A bye week for some self-reflection after a devastating road loss to LSU, a feeling that many Bulldogs are familiar with.

“Very similar [to the Auburn loss in 2017],” quarterback Jake Fromm said. “Hopefully, like we did last year, we come together as a team and really look ourselves in the mirror and say, ‘We really want to get better.’”

If one loss can derail a team’s season, it would probably look like the one that the Bulldogs suffered on Oct. 13.

Fromm played, perhaps, the worst game of his career. The offensive play-calling was puzzling, as Georgia went away from an effective run game and also unsuccessfully faked a field goal. To top it all off, the Bulldog run defense was gashed for 275 yards, which might be the most concerning aspect to a coach that takes pride in owning the lines of scrimmage like Smart.

But like last season, Georgia is still in control of its fate.

Victories in the next three games would put the Bulldogs back in the SEC title game and in the national title picture. 

It’s no guarantee that Georgia gets back there, as it did look very beatable on Oct. 13. However, to write the Bulldogs off would be foolish.

Because they’ve been here before.

“We’re definitely disappointed,” sophomore safety Richard LeCounte said. “But it’s a learning experience. All we can do is look forward to our next opponent in two weeks … Nothing we can take from the great team that we played today. But we’ll be back.”

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