Dawgs depending on Boise State game to right Richt's ship

by | CBSSports.com Senior Writer

HOOVER, Ala. -- Georgia's Mark Richt, the dean among coaches of the nation's most dominating football conference, began gushing about an upcoming opponent.

"A big deal for us," Richt said. "The winningest college football team in America over the last 10 seasons, a team that as you watch their film, you realize that they are a special football team in the way they approach it. I've probably never seen anybody play any harder than they play as a team down after down, film after film. They are a very confident team."

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So which Southeastern Conference super-team was Richt referring to?

Was it Alabama or LSU, considered among the favorites to win this year's national title? Nope.

Then it must have been defending national champion Auburn or perhaps South Carolina, Mississippi State or Florida? Sorry, guess again.

The team Richt was referring to was little ol' Boise State. Yes, an SEC coach was touting a Little Sister of the Poor.

What in the world has college football come to?

These are strange days, indeed. Especially at Georgia, where the Bulldogs are looking at a victory against a former Western Athletic Conference member as a springboard to returning to national relevance.

The odd matchup was OK'd in November 2010.

"Where we were at that time was a decline in our record, a decline in how people perceived our program, a place that I didn't really like," Richt said. "I wasn't very comfortable [there], wasn't used to [it]. I said, 'What better way to send a surge of energy into this program than to schedule a game like that?' "

Has Georgia's program really fallen so far that it desperately needs a win against Boise State? Apparently so.

Last year, the Bulldogs finished 6-7, the most Georgia losses since going 4-7 in 1990 under Ray Goff. Last season ended with a 10-6 defeat to UCF in the Liberty Bowl.

"Well, [the UCF loss] wasn't devastating," Richt said. "It hurt real bad. I didn't enjoy it. But devastation means you've, like, blown up the program and it's beyond repair, so I don't think it was devastating.

"But it was awful. I can say that."

It was an distressing end to a very un-Georgia-like season. Richt has won two SEC titles, been named SEC Coach of the Year twice and is 2-1 in BCS bowl games. But those accomplishments are a distant memory.

As are his early years with Georgia. In Richt's first three seasons, he won 32 games and lost only eight -- one more than last year's seven-loss season.

Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray said the Bulldogs don't enjoy hearing that Richt's job status is uncertain.

If Georgia stumbles in September, Mark Richt and the Bulldogs might have to part ways. (Getty Images)  
If Georgia stumbles in September, Mark Richt and the Bulldogs might have to part ways. (Getty Images)  
"It kind of hurts a little bit," Murray said. "Coach Richt is a tremendous man. Everyone loves playing for Coach. We definitely want him to be here through our time at Georgia. We're going to get things done this year. Get some wins under our belt and make sure he stays here."

Whether that occurs -- and whether he finally can unbuckle that strap that keeps him sitting on the SEC's hottest coaching seat -- could depend on how the Bulldogs start the season. After Boise State, Georgia will play host to South Carolina, the SEC Eastern Division favorites, in a critical league contest.

A 2-0 start for Georgia would be huge, but an 0-2 start would be ... well, let's just say the Bulldogs don't even want to think about it.

"To go 6-7 [last year] adds motivation," Murray said. "It's a great way [winning the first two games] to put us back on the map. I feel like a lot of people aren't worried about Georgia. We're ready to show the nation. We have a great team.

"South Carolina is a big SEC game. It's a great way to get rolling, to get some momentum for the rest of the season and for the SEC in general. If we win those two games and get rolling, it would be huge for us for the rest of the year."

Murray said the Bulldogs last year were "only 10 plays away from 10 wins." Richt suggested that last year's record was misleading.

"We know that six of our losses were within a touchdown in the fourth quarter," Richt said. "If we just finished better, we'll have a better season. We're not getting blown out of the water. We just didn't win. We know that."

Richt also knows all too well how important this season is for him as well as the Bulldogs. Richt laughed about the difficulty of being at an SEC school for more than a decade.

"It's not difficult if you win nine, 10, 11 a year, win the Eastern Division every other year, win the SEC every three or four years," he said. "It's not a problem at all.

"It's when you [finish] 6-7. That's when it's a problem. But greater days are coming. The best is yet to come."

Those were Richt's last words from Thursday's SEC Media Days press conference session. But will it be his last appearance at the event?


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