JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- In December 2000, Florida State offensive coordinator Mark Richt was only a few days away from being hired as head coach at Georgia. He asked a reporter visiting his office in Tallahassee about the measuring sticks the Bulldogs fan base would use to gauge success.
One of them: Go to the annual Georgia-Florida game in Jacksonville with the SEC championship still on the line. And win.
Richt has done a good job of winning at Georgia with 112 victories and four trips to the SEC championship game (with two wins) in less than 12 seasons. In Georgia's 120-year football history, the Bulldogs have won 10 games in a season only 19 times. Richt has seven of those seasons.
But he has not had a whole lot of success in the annual battle with the Gators by the St. John's River. Richt enters Saturday with a 3-8 record against Florida. Richt has never beaten Florida on back-to-back occasions, something he could check off the list with a victory Saturday in a crucial SEC East showdown. A Florida victory will clinch a spot in the SEC championship game for the No. 2 Gators. If Georgia wins, it would still have to beat Mississippi and Auburn in its last two conference games to earn a trip to Atlanta.
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And there is this: After watching four different SEC teams win six consecutive national championships, many in the Bulldog Nation are saying: "What about us? Where is our crystal football?" Richt has won a lot of games, but the fact is the Bulldogs are 6-14 in their past 20 games against ranked opponents.
In short, Richt needs a big victory against a highly rated opponent to calm down certain factions in his fan base. It's the SEC. So what else is new?
Here is the rest of Tony's Top 10 for the last Saturday in October:
Irish try to make history again
No. 5 Notre Dame faces the first of two moments of truth when it travels to Norman on to play No. 8 Oklahoma on Saturday. If the Fighting Irish, who slugged their way past Brigham Young 17-14 last week, can find a way to beat the Sooners, then the conversation turns to a Nov. 24 trip to No. 9 Southern California. Win both of those and get to 12-0, and it will be tough to tell Notre Dame it doesn't belong in the BCS championship game. Notre Dame has made history in Norman before. On Nov. 16, 1957, Notre Dame beat Oklahoma 7-0 at Owen Field to snap the Sooners' 47-game winning streak under the great Bud Wilkinson. Key stat: Oklahoma is No. 46 nationally in run defense (138.17 ypg). Guess what Notre Dame will try to do? Top 25 preview: Notre Dame at Oklahoma
A trap game for No. 1 Bama?
Before the season started, I labeled Mississippi State's visit as a trap game for Alabama. That's because it fell after Tennessee, a traditional rival, and before the big game with LSU next week in Baton Rouge. But who knew Mississippi State would be 7-0 and ranked No. 11 when the game arrived? Saturday will be the first time these two teams have met with spotless records since 1942. On paper, Mississippi State appears to have the elements to make this a competitive game. The Bulldogs are No. 1 in the nation in turnover margin (plus-15). They have a balanced offense with a quarterback (Tyler Russell) who is playing the best football of his career. Their defense has created 18 turnovers this season and has a future NFL player (Jonthan Banks, 16 career interceptions) in the secondary. But the game is not played on paper. If Alabama didn't already have enough advantages with the No. 1 defense and the No. 1 offensive line in America, they now have a quarterback in AJ McCarron who leads the nation in passing efficiency and has 249 attempts without an interception. It really doesn't seem fair. Top 25 preview: Mississipi State at Alabama
Does Kansas State have an answer for Seth Doege?
The Texas Tech quarterback has "only" thrown for 817 yards in the past two weeks. He had seven touchdown passes last week against TCU with three of them coming in overtime. So why do a I get the feeling that the Texas Tech defense, which gave up 53 points to TCU last week, is going to get a big old dose of running from Kansas State quarterback Collin Klein? Klein already owns the Kansas State record with 47 rushing touchdowns. But keep in mind this historical note: Texas Tech has won five of its past six meetings against the Wildcats and has won three straight on the road. Interesting statistical note: Texas Tech and Kansas State are tied for fifth in scoring offense in the Big 12. Both teams are scoring 42.86 points per game.
Ducks will cruise past Buffs with 'style'
They are called "style points" and as long as Oregon is No. 2 in the human polls and No. 6 in the computers, the Ducks are probably going to need them heading into next week's big showdown with No. 9 USC at the Coliseum. Last week, Oregon led Arizona State 43-7 and coach Chip Kelly decided to show a little mercy. The BCS computers didn't; Kansas State jumped over the Ducks into the No. 3 spot.
None of this is good news for Colorado, which has given up 246 points in its past five games (and one of those was a 35-34 victory against Washington State). Oregon, conversely, is second nationally in scoring with 51 points per game. And here's the really scary part of this game if you're Colorado: The Ducks rarely attempt field goals. In seven games, Oregon has scored 49 touchdowns and has kicked only four field goals.
Trojans, Barkley tune up for Ducks
There is hot, then there is very hot, and then there is USC's Matt Barkley. Some wrote him off in the Heisman Trophy race after the Trojans lost to Stanford, which now seems like a lifetime ago. But last week Barkley showed that he's not done yet, completing 19 of 20 passes for 298 yards with six touchdowns in a 50-6 thumping of Colorado. He now owns the USC career record for touchdown passes (102). He needs only 33 more completions to break Carson Palmer's Pac-12 record of 927. He might get that many against the Wildcats. Scary stat (at least if you're Arizona): The Wildcats are 11th in the Pac-12 and No. 111 nationally when it comes to stopping the pass (291 ypg). Barkley will make yet another statement to the Heisman voters in this game.
Will a tired South Carolina come out flat?
Derek Dooley, the head coach at Tennessee, can't catch a break. The Volunteers are 0-4 in the SEC but the four teams they faced (No. 1 Alabama, No. 2 Florida, No. 10 Georgia, No. 11 Mississippi State) have a combined record of 27-1. Dooley is 1-11 in his past 12 SEC games and 0-14 against ranked opponents. In short, Dooley really needs a quality win. It is the perfect time to play No. 13 South Carolina. Not that long ago, the Gamecocks were in the Top 10 and were coming off an impressive 35-7 beatdown of No. 5 Georgia. But then came two miles of bad road for the Head Ball Coach (Steve Spurrier) as the Gamecocks suffered back-to-back losses, first to No. 6 LSU and then No. 2 Florida, both on the road. One wonders what the energy level will be like for a noon start at Williams-Brice Stadium? Top 25 preview: Tennessee at South Carolina
Mr. Robinson goes to Lincoln. And wins
Once upon a time, Nebraska was really good on defense. No, seriously. The Cornhuskers were so good at stopping opponents that their defense earned their own nickname: "The Blackshirts." But these days, Nebraska's defense is having a tough time, especially against mobile quarterbacks. UCLA ran for 366 yards in a 36-30 victory. Ohio State's Braxton Miller ran wild against Nebraska (187 yards) in a 63-38 blowout in Columbus.
Say hello to Michigan's Denard Robinson, who leads the Big Ten in rushing with 900 yards in his first seven games and is gaining 7.44 yards per carry.
Nebraska is 10th in the Big Ten in rushing defense (187.86 ypg). How is that possible?
Mr. Robinson, the floor is yours.
Can the Beavers keep eyes on the prize?
The Oregon State Beavers (6-0, 4-0 Pac-12) have quietly gone about their business and find themselves ranked No. 7 in the BCS as the calendar prepares to turn to November. Mike Riley, who was very much on the hot seat coming into this season, now has a team that could do something special. The hope is to keep winning and be unbeaten heading into the Civil War with Oregon on Nov. 24 in Corvallis. Then anything would be possible. Oregon State should be able to take care of business at Washington thanks to the return of quarterback Sean Mannion, who has missed Oregon State's past two games with a knee injury. Key stat: Oregon State wide receiver Markus Wheaton had seven catches for 125 yards last season against Washington. With the return of a healthy Mannion, Wheaton's numbers could be even better against the Huskies this time. Fowler on Oregon State
Will Duke's Conner Vernon break Peter Warrick's record?
I've written before that Duke wide receiver Conner Vernon is the best player you've never heard of. Well, you'll probably hear about him this weekend when surprising Duke (6-2, 3-1 ACC) goes to No. 12 Florida State (7-1, 4-1). We certainly expect Florida State to win the game, because the Seminoles still have designs on reaching the ACC championship in Charlotte. But Vernon, the senior from Miami, has a chance to surpass another significant milestone in Tallahassee. He already has the ACC record for career receptions with 249. With 93 yards against the Seminoles, he would break the ACC career receiving yardage record of 3,517 yards held by Florida State's Peter Warrick (1996-99).
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