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Georgia not shying away from title talk.


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Georgia not shying away from title talk

National championship is the goal and can be accomplished, says DB Allen

By CARTER STRICKLAND

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 01/24/08

Athens Two years before Don James hugged the national title trophy the pressure was squeezing him.

The former Washington coach knew what he had way back in 1989. It was then, at the Freedom Bowl in Anaheim, Calif., the coach first started to allow himself to think of the possibilities of the title and then talk about them.

"The plan was to come right back here, stay in this hotel the next year, play in the Rose Bowl and see what happened," James said.

Washington finished fifth in the final AP vote after a 46-34 win over Iowa in the Rose Bowl.

That led to a preseason No. 4 ranking in 1991 the year the Huskies went on to win the championship. The pressure was evident throughout.

"We all felt it," James said. "We all knew it was there."

Everybody.

"You had to try to make it fun," said James' wife, Carol. "It was fun."

Perspective has given her that much.

Dogs relishing title talk

Now Georgia is about to be in the thick of it. It is the calm before the storm. Georgia may be No. 1 in some eyes. But the season is still eight months away. Spring practice is two months away. The hype should start somewhere between the two.

The players are ready to accept the title talk and, in fact, have stoked it. Georgia coach Mark Richt, characteristically, has been more cautious. Some others who have been through it have advice for both as Georgia starts its quest to be No. 1.

"That's our goal," said cornerback Asher Allen. "It's something we know we can accomplish."

Such talk is not customary around Georgia. Maybe in the depths of the locker room the players talk about the possibility of winning it all. But in Richt's program bold statements are few and predictions rarer still.

"To think that you can predict being in contention at the end is pretty brash," Richt said. "And I'm not going to do that. But I do think that we're going to have a more veteran team than we've had in a while, and I think we'll have some good depth, and I think we'll have a chance to make a run at it. But so there's also about six or seven others in our league."

Richt said all that but then again this is a team he has allowed to become brash. Florida, anyone? Even the coach, who at first said it was boys being boys when talk of a possible national title in 2008 started to percolate, has softened his stance.

"If guys want to start talking about it out in the open then they have got to understand there is a lot of responsibility that goes with it, mainly work," Richt said. "(National championships) happen because people pay the price. If (title talk) helps our guys work even harder, that's great."

With that comes the price of pressure. But that is not all bad, said Dr. Stanley Teitelbaum, a renowned clinical psychologist with a background in sports.

"It can be very positive talking about and feeling such dedication toward a powerful goal," Teitelbaum said.

That, in turn, can bring about a team cohesion, a solidarity for one goal that pushes the players to achieve more, he said.

"Staying focused but not too focused, that is the key," said John Robinson, whose Southern Cal team won the UPI title in 1978. "Our motto was 'What is the big deal? We are always in big games. Let's just understand what it is we need to do to win.'"

Both Robinson and James said keeping a light, fun atmosphere and keeping in touch with players is the key.

"The biggest problem are the external things," Robinson said. "The things that are out of your control. We had an advantage in Los Angeles, being an inner-city school because of all the stuff that went with it. It was every day for us, the press and everything, it wasn't like we were going to be overwhelmed like we were some school in a small town with two beat writers."

It's a little too early for the national media to start making trips to Athens. No photo shoots have been scheduled. No camera crews are roaming the Butts-Mehre Athletic complex.

Bulldogs' back now featuring target

In a few months, as the hype starts to sizzle, that may come. What undoubtedly are already in place are the targets on Georgia's back. The Bulldogs, despite not making it to the national title game, finished the season as the hottest team in the SEC. They return 17 starters. They are a lock for a preseason top five poll spot.

It all sounds familiar to former Georgia coach Vince Dooley.

"You become the hunted," Dooley said of the 1980 championship season. "That can be a challenging to say the least. I always told them 'It is not my fault, it is your fault because what you have done, so you better be ready.'

Dooley's team always was that season and that he said came from within the players.

"It is more self motivation," he said. "They know what the goals are. What I was pointing out was the challenges of getting there."

One of the greatest challenges aside from the schedule that has Georgia at LSU, Arizona State, Auburn, Kentucky and Florida is keeping everything in perspective.

"They have to order their priorities and put that in perspective," Teitelbaum said of the players.

If the national title becomes a singular obsession it has the ability to take over one's life, he said. That can lead an athlete down a destructive path.

This is where the coaches come in.

"You have to keep them focused on what they are doing at that time," James said. "You think about the national title. You know it is there. It is always there in the back of your mind when you start the season and stays there until you lose.

"But you can't just talk about that all the time," he said. "We didn't push it. We talked more about what they could do that day."

Doing that finally allowed that day to come for James in 1991.

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doogiehouser (1/25/2008)
I'm really looking forward to next season, but I think every week I'll be saying a prayer before each game.

Every game will be that big IMO.. There isn't a game that won't be magnified due to the position UGA will be in. They will have to embrace it and work their tails off and do something great or not. Starting with game 1 they have their future title chance in their own hands and they have to deliver if they want that chance.

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SacFalcFan (1/25/2008)
doogiehouser (1/25/2008)
I'm really looking forward to next season, but I think every week I'll be saying a prayer before each game.

Every game will be that big IMO.. There isn't a game that won't be magnified due to the position UGA will be in. They will have to embrace it and work their tails off and do something great or not. Starting with game 1 they have their future title chance in their own hands and they have to deliver if they want that chance.

Pretty much, and whether they succeed or fail will be up to them. We have to come out every single week with our A game.

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doogiehouser (1/25/2008)
SacFalcFan (1/25/2008)
doogiehouser (1/25/2008)
I'm really looking forward to next season, but I think every week I'll be saying a prayer before each game.

Every game will be that big IMO.. There isn't a game that won't be magnified due to the position UGA will be in. They will have to embrace it and work their tails off and do something great or not. Starting with game 1 they have their future title chance in their own hands and they have to deliver if they want that chance.

Pretty much, and whether they succeed or fail will be up to them. We have to come out every single week with our A game.

That is one reason why I don't want uga to be a preseason #1.. that's a huge target.. I would rather then be like #5, #7 something like that..

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