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August 4, 2011

Dienhart: Opener a must-win for Richt, UGA

Here is this week's "Three And Out," a weekly feature that will provide a quick but opinionated take from Tom Dienhart on three hot topics.

1. Pressure's on the Dawgs. I hate to overstate the importance of a season-opening game, but that's just what I'm going to do: Georgia HAS to beat Boise State when they meet in Atlanta on Sept. 3. It's no secret that this is a huge season for Bulldogs coach Mark Richt. Entering 2008, Georgia was a preseason No. 1. That year ended unceremoniously in the Capital One Bowl. The past two seasons have seen the Bulldogs go an aggregate 14-12 overall and 7-9 in the SEC. Last season was the nadir for Richt, as Georgia finished 6-7 and ended the season with a resounding thud in the Liberty Bowl with a loss to Central Florida. It was Georgia's first losing season since 1996. That brings us back to the cold, hard reality of today: No school will play a more important season opener than Georgia. A loss vs. a very good Boise State squad could send a Bulldogs team with shaky confidence into a funk with a visit from South Carolina - the favorite of most to win the SEC East - looming next. An 0-2 start could mean that Georgia's season is over before it hardly had begun.

2. Boise could win SEC East. Speaking of Boise State, how many of you think the Broncos could win the SEC East this season? C'mon, admit it: Boise State is better than any team in the East this season. The SEC East is at its lowest point since the conference broke into divisions in 1992. South Carolina is good and looks like the cream of the crop, but it doesn't stand shoulder-to-shoulder with SEC West powers Alabama and LSU. Florida, Tennessee and Georgia all have big issues. And Kentucky and Vanderbilt are, well, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Yes, the Broncos lost the two most productive receivers (Austin Pettis and Titus Young) in school annals. And a safety (Jeron Johnson) who paced the team in tackles in each of the past three seasons is gone. But there still is a lot to like about a Boise State squad that returns 13 starters - including Kellen Moore, who is better than any quarterback in the SEC - and is annually one of the best-coached teams in the nation under Chris Petersen. Yes, this team would win the SEC East in 2011.

3. Meyer and Ohio State. It was no shock to hear former Florida coach Urban Meyer state recently to CBSSports.com that "I don't think I'm done coaching." With all due respect to interim Buckeye coach Luke Fickell, many already assume that Meyer will be the next head coach at Ohio State. He's from the Buckeye State, has a tremendous resume that includes two national titles and is available. But it's off-field issues that could hinder Ohio State's ability to hire Meyer. Specifically, the myriad arrests of his players while he coached Florida. A USA Today article from September 2010 said that Florida had "at least 31 off-the-field arrests involving 25 of Meyer's players dating to the summer of 2005." The piece went on to say that many of the arrests were just college kids being college kids. But a dozen involved initial charges of felonies or violent misdemeanors. Knowing that, can Ohio State really afford to hire a coach who seemingly had difficulty controlling his players while at Florida? The Buckeye players sure seemed to be running amok on Jim Tressel's watch. It would see an ability to control players should be a bigger requirement for the next Ohio State head coach than a sparkling won-loss record. Knowing that, it will be fascinating to see if Meyer's on-field exploits trump the off-field exploits of his players when Ohio State gets around to hiring a coach.

Tom Dienhart is a national senior writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at dienhart@yahoo-inc.com, and you can click here to follow him on Twitter.

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