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Dogs enter season with best shot at title.


SacFalcFan
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The two national title rings are kept zipped up in a bank bag stowed away in a closet in Mark Richt's home.

It sits right there along with 30-some other rings, two decades worth of bowl bling accumulated with Florida State and Georgia teams that almost annually were still playing in January.

The Bulldogs coach brought out his Seminoles national championship rings from 1993 and 1999 to show to his Georgia team prior to the 2002 season before it won its first SEC title in 20 years and finished No. 3 in the nation.

If another national title ring isn't deposited in Richt's bag after this season, there is bound to be disappointment from Albany to Zebulon, from Brasstown Bald to the Golden Isles.

That's what happens when you roll into the season with a No. 1 ranking, and you have most of the key ingredients back from a team that ended last season as hot as any team in the land, a team that is still riding a seven-game winning streak and could be as deep in talent as it's ever been.

"It's a question of not if we can do it, but how and when," linebacker Rennie Curran said. "From what we accomplished last year, just knowing what we can do when we all focus and all come together and just have good team chemistry, there's definitely a lot more focus on doing big things."

It doesn't get any bigger than hoisting that Waterford Crystal trophy.

After finishing last year ranked No. 2 and returning 16 starters (after offensive tackle Trinton Sturdivant was lost for the year with a knee injury), it's become almost a case of national title or bust. Even with a schedule that looks plenty fierce on paper.

"If we go 11-1 and don't win the national championship, is there a disappointment in the Georgia fan base? Yes," Georgia athletic director Damon Evans said. "But I don't think they're disappointed in the program itself. If the record was really bad this year because the expectations were so high - and I'll let you figure out what a really bad record would be for Georgia - then there would be a 'Was it a bust?' "

High expectations

When you play or coach at Georgia, the thirst for winning is as much a part of the program as the hedges or Uga.

"Every year there's high expectations because of playing at the University of Georgia, but this year has a little extra spice to it because of the buzz," senior tight end Tripp Chandler said. "We're happy to have it. You definitely want to be in the position we're in."

When the BCS title game ends Jan. 8 in Miami, Georgia wants to be the third SEC team to celebrate in as many years.

"I think guys have their swagger," defensive tackle Jeff Owens said. "Guys have a chip on their shoulders. We know what we're here to accomplish and we know our goals."

In the last 12 years, five national champions have come from the SEC with LSU and Florida winning the past two years. Before that, LSU (2003), Tennessee (1998) and Florida (1996) captured titles.

Is Georgia next?

"For me, there's a window of opportunity here for a couple of years - this year and next year," said Buck Belue, quarterback of the 1980 Bulldogs. "I think they line up and have as good a shot as anybody. I think they're just so strong and deep all across the board that they've got a window of opportunity of a year or two here to make a run at it."

That sense of anticipation of what Georgia could do this year has brought a level of anticipation not seen since the glory days of the early 1980s.

No stranger to winning

Richt, 72-19 in seven seasons, knows about winning at a rapid clip. He's done it at Georgia at a rate that puts him in the best of the best in college football.

He's fourth among winningest active coaches who have coached for at least five years.

Above him: Southern California's Pete Carroll, Oklahoma's Bob Stoops and Florida's Urban Meyer. Just below him: Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer, Florida State's Bobby Bowden, Penn State's Joe Paterno, South Carolina's Steve Spurrier and Ohio State's Jim Tressell.

Richt is the Sergio Garcia of the group. He's the only one without a national title.

"Oh, yeah, everybody wants that," a relaxed Richt says days before Georgia began preseason practices. "Everybody wants that, but it's not going to define my life for sure. I guess it's up to other people to decide how it might define my career. I try to define my career by lives that have been affected in a positive way. I know you have to win to keep doing it."

All pieces in place

Georgia is well-positioned as the top-ranked team in the coaches' poll. Stumble early and you've got a shot to regain your footing and have less of a climb back.

The Bulldogs might have the best quarterback-running back combo in the country in Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno.

Nine starters are back from an underrated defense that shutdown Hawaii and Colt Brennan in the Sugar Bowl.

It has a devoted fan base that fills up Sanford Stadium with more than 92,000 every home game.

It has a home state rich in talent to recruit and a growing national profile to lure elite prospects from Texas, New Jersey, Missouri and Massachussets.

"Everything that we need to win and win big we have at Georgia," Richt told some 600 fans at a Bulldog Club gathering in Atlanta this preseason.

Yet the program hasn't won a national title since 1980.

It's won two since 1942.

"After the first year (at Georgia), I was kind of like why not us?" Richt said. "Why can't we win the (SEC) East? Why can't we win the Southeastern Conference? Why can't we have a shot at playing at all in the end? But there's about seven or eight other teams in our league that can lay the same claim legitimately before the season starts.

If not now for Georgia, when?

"So much of it is knocking on the door," Belue said. "Sooner or later when you knock on the door, it opens for you. They've certainly been in the mix. Things just haven't fallen their way. I think this year and next, they've got a chance to see that door open for them."

If Georgia busts through that door, there will surely be some corks popping and cigars lit. If they are the outside looking in, they will return to the grind and go for it again next year.

"We win one we're going to come back and go to work," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "We lose one, we're going to come back and go to work. At the end of the season, we're going to hopefully celebrate a good year."

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Don't know if its the BEST shot considering the scedule. The easiest road to the title game IMO lies with the winner of the OSU/USC game. But I also don't think its as all bad as alot of the Haterz and ESPN want us to think. Make no mistake to the road to BSC championship runz through Athens.

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This is their most talented team in quite a while but the schedule is nothing short of brutal. I'm afraid that expectations may be a bit too high because I doubt that you will see another 2-loss team sqeak into the NC game like LSU did last year.

They cannot lose more than one game and can't lose one late in the season. With that schedule, it would be a tall order for any team.

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Florida had an equally brutal schedule in 2006, and IMO, this year's Dawgs are every bit as talented as that Gators team. Can they do it? Of course they can, but whether they will is a different story.

But make no mistake, I will be watching them every weekend, and rooting for their complete and utter failure.

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Don't know if its the BEST shot considering the scedule. The easiest road to the title game IMO lies with the winner of the OSU/USC game. But I also don't think its as all bad as alot of the Haterz and ESPN want us to think. Make no mistake to the road to BSC championship runz through Athens.

I say Clemson has a very strong outside shot.

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This is their most talented team in quite a while but the schedule is nothing short of brutal. I'm afraid that expectations may be a bit too high because I doubt that you will see another 2-loss team sqeak into the NC game like LSU did last year.

They cannot lose more than one game and can't lose one late in the season. With that schedule, it would be a tall order for any team.

The schedule is being way overrated IMO, people are focusing on the road games way too much.

27-4, that's Richt's road record overall. Just unreal.

9-2, that's Richt's road record against ranked opponents.

IOW, the Dawgs will be fine. We lose 1(Auburn) and no more.

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Florida had an equally brutal schedule in 2006, and IMO, this year's Dawgs are every bit as talented as that Gators team. Can they do it? Of course they can, but whether they will is a different story.

But make no mistake, I will be watching them every weekend, and rooting for their complete and utter failure.

Fair, and gets a shot in @ the same time. Gotta love it. :lol::lol:

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The schedule is being way overrated IMO, people are focusing on the road games way too much.

27-4, that's Richt's road record overall. Just unreal.

9-2, that's Richt's road record against ranked opponents.

IOW, the Dawgs will be fine. We lose 1(Auburn) and no more.

and if you lose that particular game that may enough to keep you out of the championship. Im not hating all man this is straight up. My only worry for that scenario for you guys is that if USC beats OSU and then go undefeated and OSU doesnt lose again you guys might get hurt by losing that late in the season.

Of course Im hoping we have something to say in the matter as well.

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and if you lose that particular game that may enough to keep you out of the championship. Im not hating all man this is straight up. My only worry for that scenario for you guys is that if USC beats OSU and then go undefeated and OSU doesnt lose again you guys might get hurt by losing that late in the season.

Of course Im hoping we have something to say in the matter as well.

I don't think they'd do the rematch scenario...but that scenario would suck b/c they'll likely be another 1 loss or undefeated team when you look at some of the schedules top teams have. What people have to realize is both Florida and LSU benefited from a little luck that final week of the season. (USC losing in '06 and WVU falling in '07). Both were improbable and I don't think the Dawgs can count on that kind of luck if they do drop one this season.

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I don't think they'd do the rematch scenario...but that scenario would suck b/c they'll likely be another 1 loss or undefeated team when you look at some of the schedules top teams have. What people have to realize is both Florida and LSU benefited from a little luck that final week of the season. (USC losing in '06 and WVU falling in '07). Both were improbable and I don't think the Dawgs can count on that kind of luck if they do drop one this season.

I dont know if they'd have a choice if OSU's only loss was to an undefeated USC that early in the season. Also unless som injuries happen OSU will get better through the season. The reason I say that is beacuse the later the season goes the more they are going to use Terrell Pryor as a change of pace and Im telling you that kid is gonna be unreal. I know how talented UGA is and that kids like AJ are going to add another dynamic to the offense. All im simply saying is that a loss that late under the one scenario I listed could keep them out. I think they could jump say an undefeated West Virgina.

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This is their most talented team in quite a while but the schedule is nothing short of brutal. I'm afraid that expectations may be a bit too high because I doubt that you will see another 2-loss team sqeak into the NC game like LSU did last year.

They cannot lose more than one game and can't lose one late in the season. With that schedule, it would be a tall order for any team.

yes it's a very tough schedule, but I do think uga is talented enough to get through it with 1 loss, but that may be 1 too many.. who knows, i just hope we keep it going late in the year..

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and if you lose that particular game that may enough to keep you out of the championship. Im not hating all man this is straight up. My only worry for that scenario for you guys is that if USC beats OSU and then go undefeated and OSU doesnt lose again you guys might get hurt by losing that late in the season.

Of course Im hoping we have something to say in the matter as well.

If OSU has one loss as well as UGA, OSU won't get the benefit of the doubt IMO. Especailly over an SEC team. It won't happen.

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If OSU has one loss as well as UGA, OSU won't get the benefit of the doubt IMO. Especailly over an SEC team. It won't happen.

no but if that 1 loss we have is to uf and they have 1 loss to another team and they get to the sec championship game that 1 loss is huge.. it's not just 1 loss, but it's who we lose to as well..

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I dont know if they'd have a choice if OSU's only loss was to an undefeated USC that early in the season. Also unless som injuries happen OSU will get better through the season. The reason I say that is beacuse the later the season goes the more they are going to use Terrell Pryor as a change of pace and Im telling you that kid is gonna be unreal. I know how talented UGA is and that kids like AJ are going to add another dynamic to the offense. All im simply saying is that a loss that late under the one scenario I listed could keep them out. I think they could jump say an undefeated West Virgina.

I guess the scenario that comes to mind was Michigan Ohio State 2 years back. I realize that the difference there though is that the teams played in the same conference. That said, I do think if some other teams were in the hunt that they'd pass on OSU in that scenario for sure. A lot of people are down on them after the NC games the last 2 years.

As for jumping an undefeated WV...I don't even know if I see that happening. I can remember watching Kansas and Mizzou play last year as the #1 & #2 teams and thinking...these aren't the best two teams in the country..NO WAY! At that stage in the season though...folks seemed to think so. Now they have a Big 12 Championship so Kansas would have had to see OU had they won and Mizzou had already lost to them, but if WV gets past Auburn and runs the table I'd say they're in.

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Whoever loses the USC/OSU game should be out of the national title. It would suck to see a rematch. That's unless something crazy like last year happens (which may be more likely than not, I don't know..)

And I think UGA deserves a shot if we can make it through with one loss. Of course like Sac said, if that one loss is to FLA we may be out of the SEC championship picture, and I've always believed you have to win your conference to play for a national title so we should be out of the national title hunt as well I guess..

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This discussion will only be around for a couple more weeks

:lol::lol::lol::lol:

Florida had an equally brutal schedule in 2006, and IMO, this year's Dawgs are every bit as talented as that Gators team. Can they do it? Of course they can, but whether they will is a different story.

But make no mistake, I will be watching them every weekend, and rooting for their complete and utter failure.

:lol::lol::lol::lol::lol:

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