Originally created 10/17/01

Dawgs ranked higher than Noles



ATHENS, Ga. -- Mark Richt rolled his eyes and smiled when someone mentioned the latest college football poll.

Who could have imagined that Richt's new school would have a better record and higher ranking than his old one?

But there it is, for all to see. Richt and the Georgia Bulldogs (4-1) are No. 17 heading into Saturday's game against Kentucky, while Florida State (3-2) dropped all the way to 21st after a 49-27 loss to Miami last weekend.

"Well, it's just one week," said Richt, the former Seminoles offensive coordinator in his first season as Georgia's coach. "Things can change in a hurry."

Richt spent more than a decade working for Bobby Bowden, whose team hasn't finished below fifth in The Associated Press rankings since 1986. That streak is likely to end this season after routs by North Carolina (41-9) and the Hurricanes.

"It's interesting to see where they are," Richt said Tuesday. "But it really doesn't matter until the end. There are teams ranked in a certain spot where you pretty much know the team that is lower ranked is better than a team that is higher ranked. It all comes out in the end."

Georgia hopes to come out with its first Southeastern Conference championship since 1982. The odds improved dramatically over the weekend when both Florida and South Carolina sustained upset losses on the road.

That leaves four teams - Georgia, Florida, Tennessee and South Carolina - with one conference loss apiece in the SEC East.

"It's definitely improved the outlook," offensive guard Kevin Breedlove said. "Everybody is starting in the same spot again."

Florida, which dropped from first to seventh in the AP poll after a 23-20 setback at Auburn, will have two weeks to prepare for its next game against Georgia.

While the Gators lost their aura of invincibility at Jordan-Hare Stadium, Richt worries about facing a Steve Spurrier-coached team after a defeat.

"They have two weeks to get mad about it and two weeks to get well," Richt said. "We are going to be the first thing they see. I don't know if that's a good thing or not."

First, the Bulldogs must get by Kentucky (1-5, 0-4), which nearly pulled off an upset of LSU last Saturday before losing 29-25.

The Wildcats have struggled defensively, allowing an average of 39.25 points per game in the SEC.

"They've come close to doing some great things," Richt said, doing his best to build up a 23-point underdog. "They had an opportunity to turn the corner last week. I'm sure they feel like they have a chance to do it this week."

Richt said he was troubled by the lack of effort from some players in a 30-14 victory over Vanderbilt.

"It's not like the whole team was playing at half-speed," he said. "But as I look at the grades, every position had two or three loafs in the ballgame. It's not an epidemic, but the guys have got to realize that they need to go hard every single play. If you're too tired to play, you've got to get out of there and let the backup go in."

Other than running back Musa Smith, the Bulldogs are in pretty good shape on the injury report.

Smith, who has been troubled most of the season by a groin injury, will be held out this week in hopes of being closer to full speed for the Florida game.

Linebacker Will Witherspoon returned to practice Monday after missing the last two games with a sprained knee ligament.

The knee was sore and had some swelling on Tuesday, but Witherspoon is expected to play against Kentucky, Richt said.

The Bulldogs aren't sure if Smith, who has rushed for 447 yards and six touchdowns, will be recovered in time for the Gators.

"It's not fair to him and it's not fair to us for him to be at less than full speed out there," Richt said. "I just want him to get healthy again before we put him back in."

STAYING POSITIVE: Bulldog coaches continue to be pleased with the attitude of backup quarterback Cory Phillips after the emergence of redshirt freshman David Greene has virtually ended his playing time.

"He's worked hard at every practice, he's been attentive in the meetings and diligent on the tests we give our quarterbacks each weekend," Richt said. "He understands his role and he knows he'd better be prepared in case something happens.

"It's not a good place to be. I spent my whole career in that position where you're one play away from being a starter or maybe an eternity. You never know when you're moment might come, but he's done a very good job of that," Richt said.

According to Richt, Phillips is still listed as the Bulldogs' co-No. 2 quarterback along with freshman D.J. Shockley.

Last year, Phillips made his first career start against Kentucky, completing 20 of 38 passes for 400 yards and four touchdowns in the Bulldogs' 34-30 win.