BCS buster Hawaii earns date with Georgia in Sugar Bowl

Updated: December 3, 2007, 2:29 AM ET
Associated Press

Colt Brennan and high-scoring Hawaii are perfectly thrilled to play in the Sugar Bowl. Georgia hoped to reach the Superdome, too -- only not for this game.

In the year of the upset, Georgia was indeed upset. The Bulldogs blossomed into one of the best teams in the country with six straight wins, and believed they should've been picked for the BCS championship game.

Instead, LSU jumped the Bulldogs in the standings and will play Ohio State for the title.

"We feel like we got shafted a little bit,'' Georgia safety Kelin Johnson said. "The numbers don't add up. The numbers do not add up. The numbers do not lie. That's what is confusing. I don't know what's going on.''

Now, Georgia (No. 5 BCS, No. 4 AP) will head to New Orleans for a matchup on New Year's night against the lone unbeaten team in major college football.

Hawaii (12-0) earned an at-large bid to the Bowl Championship Series by rallying past Washington 35-28 Saturday night. Brennan completed the comeback, going 42-for-50 and throwing five touchdown passes for the highest-scoring team in the land.

"Sugar is definitely sweet,'' Brennan said. "We're going to do it Hawaiian style.''

The 10th-ranked Warriors are the champions of the Western Athletic Conference, the home of last season's BCS-buster Boise State. Few thought highly of those Broncos until they startled Oklahoma last season in a crazy Fiesta Bowl.

"I think Boise State proved that anything can happen in college football. Appalachian State proved it, too,'' Hawaii coach June Jones said.

The Warriors did not get more credit this season because of a relatively soft schedule that became even softer when Michigan State Spartans dropped off.

"Questionable schedule, rightfully so,'' Jones said. "We don't feel like we have to anything to prove.''

In recent years, Hawaii has beaten the likes of Alabama, Michigan State and Oregon State. Brennan and his teammates were not deterred when critics took aim at their team.

"We didn't say anything when those guys were talking all that. We just focused on winning. There's a lot of people out there looking pretty stupid,'' Brennan said.

Fact is, many fans never stayed up to see Hawaii. The Warriors will be in prime-time in a few weeks, and bunches of colorfully dressed islanders are expected to travel more than 4,000 miles to watch in person.

"Our whole state is going to be there,'' Jones said.

With Brennan slinging the ball short, long and everywhere in-between, Hawaii led the nation by scoring 46.2 points per game. Even in the wide-open Southeastern Conference, Georgia never saw an offense quite this wild.

"No one does it quite like coach Jones' team does it,'' Georgia coach Mark Richt said.

Jones was eager to return to the Superdome, where he played and coached in the NFL. Richt wanted to get there a week later for the BCS title game.

LSU (11-2) got its chance after beating Tennessee Voluneteers 21-14 Saturday in the SEC championship game. Georgia (10-2) lost earlier this season to Tennessee, and that defeat cost the Bulldogs when the teams wound up tied in the league standings.

"I do think we were unofficially disqualified for not winning our conference,'' Richt said. "It's just one of those wacky years.''

Richt said he probably would vote for a rule that required teams to be league champions to reach the BCS title game. But because none exists, Richt felt Georgia was penalized.

"I thought we could've got at least a little more thought,'' he said. "It's a popularity contest. It's kind of a beauty contest.''

Georgia will be playing in its second Sugar Bowl in three seasons. Hawaii will be making its eighth bowl appearance overall and just its second on the mainland, having beaten Illinois in the 1992 Holiday Bowl.

"To compete with a school like Georgia is amazing,'' Jones said. "It's the big time.''

So is the bowl payoff. The multimillion dollar reward dwarfs Hawaii's recruiting budget of $50,000.

"Hopefully, it means we'll get some new carpet and new stuff in my office,'' Jones said.

Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press