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November 30, 2007

Dawgs hope for warm weather, gifts

ATHENS, Ga. -- For the first time in his seven years at Georgia, Mark Richt conducted a bowl practice before learning where his No. 4 Bulldogs will play.

The light workout Thursday was a good way to keep the players thinking of football during their first open week after completing a 10-2 regular season with last Saturday's 31-17 win over Georgia Tech.

It also was a good way to work off some nervous energy as the Bulldogs wait to learn Sunday whether they'll be invited to the Orange, Fiesta or Rose bowls, or possibly even have a chance to play in the national championship game.

The Bulldogs' title hopes rest on No. 9 Oklahoma beating No. 1 Missouri and Pittsburgh beating No. 2 West Virginia on Saturday. It might also help Georgia if No. 14 Tennessee upsets No. 5 LSU in Saturday's Southeastern Conference championship game in Atlanta.

There is speculation LSU could pass Georgia in the Top 25 if it claims an impressive victory over Tennessee. If Georgia falls one spot to No. 5 in the BCS standings on Sunday, it wouldn't be assured of a spot in a BCS bowl.

"There are Pittsburgh fans, Oklahoma fans, Tennessee fans on the team," said senior running back Kregg Lumpkin. "Maybe we will get that golden shot to play for the national championship."

Richt said he's curious to see how Saturday's games end, but won't watch all of them.

"It would be really fun to watch if we really knew what would happen," Richt said.

"The reality is we can watch all the football we want on Saturday and we still won't know the answer until they make decisions on Sunday."

Richt has said he would enjoy making his first visit to the Rose Bowl. He already has participated in the Orange and Fiesta bowls.

"I want to be sure everyone understands me, I know I will be excited about any opportunity given to us," Richt said. "It's just exciting to think about all the possibilities, and I know our players are the same way.

"I do believe all the bowl experiences are going to be awesome. I did say I've never been to the Rose. That was made to be a bigger deal that it probably should have been. I guarantee I'd have a good time in the Orange or Fiesta or wherever."

The players just know to expect a New Year's Day bowl as a reward for a 10-2 season.

"I think any bowl would be cool," said running back Knowshon Moreno. "All three are real big bowls. The Orange Bowl in Miami would be warm weather, and the same thing in Pasadena. Any of the three would be great."

Said linebacker Marcus Howard: "Either way, the BCS is the BCS."

When asked his preference on Thursday, linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said: "It don't matter to me. I want to go to the bowl that gives the best gifts."

Richt acknowledged he was reluctant to schedule practices for Thursday and another next week. In past years he has had players involved in only running and weight-room workouts before the formal bowl practice schedule in mid-December, though he said he's always heard of other coaches opting for earlier starts.

"Other teams have done it," Richt said. "It's been brought up to me every year since I've been here. I didn't see a reason to do it."

Richt said the practice "is not going to be a lot," adding he doesn't agree with coaches who want to make the bowl practice schedule "another spring practice."

"My biggest desire is to be ready to win the bowl game," he said.

No matter what bowl that may be.

"I'm just thankful we are where we are," Richt said. "I'm going to feel the same way next week."

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