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Fun with Numbers: Stats show Georgia might have best team since 2002

Does Mark Richt's Georgia team have the goods to stay in the national title race? The numbers suggest yes. (Getty Images)

This is no place for 29-second coach news conferences, BCS posturing or realignment cannibalism.

Just straight, unfiltered football numberage. Down and dirty.

And Mark Richt might be having the most "Fun with Numbers" in this week's edition, because he has so many of them stacked in his favor.

We're not ready just yet to include Georgia's Richt into the one-syllable-name boy band of college football title contenders -- Nick, Les and Chip. Besides, the Bulldogs are usually good for a midseason flub or two. And they haven't really played anyone yet.

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But there's an argument to be made the 4-0 Bulldogs could package their strongest title contention since the 13-1 season in 2002 or, to a lesser extent, the 11-2 finish in 2007.

Consider ...

1: The number of current top-10 teams (No. 6 South Carolina) left on Georgia's schedule. No. 11 Florida is surging but still has more to prove. UGA's schedule is much less daunting without those purple-and-crimson gusts coming from the West. Beat Tennessee on Saturday, and the Bulldogs will enjoy their first 5-0 start since 2006.

5: The number of Bulldogs from playmaking positions with at least 264 offensive yards and at least two touchdowns. Quarterback Aaron Murray spreads wealth like E. Gordon Gee at a bow-tie convention.

4: Number of offensive categories where Georgia ranks in the SEC's top three: First in scoring offense, third rushing offense, third passing offense, first total offense. The result is a school-record four straight games of topping 40 points.

36: Georgia's national ranking in third-down efficiency (23 of 51, 45 percent). This is the room-for-improvement number, which should be encouraging for Georgia fans. The Bulldogs can actually play better on offense.

122: The overall defensive production returning to Georgia as early as this week. That's 58 from suspended linebacker Alec Ogletree (52 tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles last season) and 64 from suspended safety Bacarri Rambo (55 tackles, eight interceptions, one fumble recovery a year ago). Nothing official on whether they'll play against the Vols, but early signs are promising.

No guarantees here, but the stage is set for one of Richt's biggest years.

End arounds

7: Top 25 teams on a bye this week, out of a total 18 Football Bowl Subdivision teams sitting out. Of those seven, two teams (Florida, Southern California) have played more than one conference game thus far (excluding Notre Dame). In other words: better get your rest now. These teams will be bench-pressing from the incline the rest of the way.

70: Clemson's national ranking in scoring defense (25.5 points per game), which is second to last among Top 25 teams (No. 25 Baylor is 90th at 29.7 ppg). Florida State sure torched that Brent Venables honeymoon phase last week in the Doak. No ranked teams are included in that bottom fourth of poor defense.

34: Years in Central Florida's football history, which brings us to this week -- possibly the first time the Knights have been favored over an SEC team. Mizzou is listed as a 2 1/2-point underdog at the impenetrable Bright House Networks Stadium. The UCF sports information department doesn't keep track of spreads, but reps couldn't think offhand of an SEC game where the Knights were expected to win nationally.

375: Days since Tulane won a game. On Sept. 17, 2011, the Green Wave knocked off UAB 49-10. Since then, 13 L's. Here's to getting off the schneid this week against Louisiana-Monroe.

11: Non-SEC opponents to put up more than 14 points on Alabama or LSU since 2008. The glass-chewing Tigers and Crimson Tide defenses have played a combined 44 out-of-conference opponents during that span, and though they've stifled most, there's still at least some hope for Oregon, Florida State or others should they meet each other in January.

No huddle

5: Mountain West Conference schools (UNLV, Boise State, Hawaii, Wyoming, Colorado State) that average fewer rushing yards per game than Nevada's Stefphon Jefferson (174.8).

4: Current top-six teams the Florida Gators face in the eight weeks after their bye. And to think they didn't draw Alabama this year. Quarterback Jeff Driskel's fiercest tests are to come.

128,316: Times someone tweeted, wrote or told a friend "Florida State is back" late Saturday or early Sunday after a momentous win over Clemson in the Doak.

170: Miles from Ann Arbor to South Bend, a path less traveled on fall Saturday mornings from 2015-17, when Michigan and Notre Dame discontinue their annual matchup.

8: Years since Minnesota started 5-0, which the Gophers have a chance to do Saturday at reeling Iowa.

Shout-outs

To college football colleagues Dennis Dodd and Bruce Feldman for tweeting out some great stats this week.

From Feldman: With Arkansas' disastrous 1-3 start, interim coach John L. Smith is a combined 2-11 in his past 13 games dating back to his Michigan State days in 2006. Improving that record won't be easy with Auburn and Texas A&M in the next two weeks and Mississippi State and LSU looming in November.

From Dodd: 56 teams have yet to open conference play. Is September over yet?

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