October 23, 2011

Dawgs in prime position

You often hear college football coaches and players impart that time-honored sports cliché of 'taking it one game at time.'

While that's true to a large extent when it comes to Georgia head coach Mark Richt, there are a couple of areas where he's willing to make an exception - the Top 25 polls and the SEC Eastern Division race.

As the Bulldog (5-2, 4-1) look forward to Saturday's game in Jacksonville (3:30, CBS) against Florida (4-3, 2-3), Georgia does so ranked Nos. 22 and 21 in the Associated Press and Coaches/USA Today Top 25's, respectively, while tied with South Carolina for the top spot in the SEC East.

"I actually asked Claude (Sports information director Claude Felton) where we were and where we landed. I think it's a good thing. Once you get in the polls, you obviously try to stay there, because it's hard to see progress unless you're in there," Richt said during his weekly Sunday teleconference. "Although I knew we were making progress, you really can't see it unless your team is in the Top 25 and when it comes to media coverage, especially on the networks that cover college football, they tend to spend a lot more time on teams who are in the Top 25. Hopefully, we can stay there a while."

The Bulldogs can assure themselves of that by winning, which if they do, will keep the squad's dreams of making the SEC championship game alive.

With three conference games to go, Georgia still needs another league loss by South Carolina.

The Bulldogs know what's at stake against the Gators.

"We talk about the race a lot. That's one of our primary goals each year - to win the East Division. That's something we always keep track of what's going on and my thought has always helped us understand the things we have to do every week to stay in the race," Richt said. "It's definitely at the forefront of our mind."

Of course, the Gators will always have the Bulldogs' attention.

When asked by a reporter from a Florida newspaper if the rivalry still holds the same meaning, it took Richt about a millisecond to respond.
"It does to us. We know it's a big game. We know it's big. A lot of our fans the only thing they want to ask me in the offseason is 'Are you going to beat Florida, are you going to beat Florida, are you going to beat Florida?'" Richt said. "That's the goal, but what I hope more than anything is when we do, that it's still very meaningful to the Eastern Division race. It is right now, so that's what we're thrilled about, even though we haven't had a lot of success in Jacksonville lately."

But when it comes to this year's Gator squad, Richt is more worried about the future, more specifically who is going to start at quarterback for Florida?

Starter John Brantley has not played since injuring his ankle against Alabama, and head coach Will Muschamp has been very careful not to give out much information regarding the senior, and whether or not freshmen Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel could possibly get the call.

"It's difficult, no doubt. The only thing, I guess, that's good is we do have some video of all three of their starters - at least the guys who have started at one time or the other," Richt said. "We don't know who is going to play or who is going to start, so we need to have a plan for each one and then try to get as much information as we can going into the game. But my guess is we're not going to get a whole lot of help in that area, so we'll have to figure it out."

Georgia will change up its typical practice routine somewhat coming off last week's bye.

The Bulldogs will go full pads on Monday and shells on Tuesday, after finishing up their game-week install Sunday afternoon.
Richt's fingers are crossed that his team will remain injury free.

Along with starting Moe linebacker Alec Ogletree and starting Will linebacker Cornelius Washington[/db[ who is coming off a two-game suspension, Georgia is expected to have both wide receiver [db]Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring) and Bacarri Rambo (toe) available for the Gators.

Once Kwame Geathers and Shawn Williams serve their first-half suspensions, Richt said the Bulldogs will have as close to their full complement of players for the first time since the opener against Boise State.

"We think so, we hope so. We still have to practice tomorrow and Tuesday and we still have to go in pads and shells, and there's always something that seems to happen in one of those practices where you have that kind of contact," Richt said. "I'm not sure if we'll tackle or not, but even if you go full-speed thud you typically have things going on, and when you compete, change directions, there's always a chance something could happen. We hope that nothing bad happens, but so far we look very healthy. Rantavious Wooten (concussion) is the only one who may not be able to play. He's still struggling with his concussion."

Anthony Dasher is the managing editor for UGASports
and he can be reached via email at dash@ugasports.com.