published Monday, October 10th, 2011

Georgia Bulldogs face easier path to finish SEC slate

Florida has succumbed to Alabama and LSU the past two weeks by a combined 58 points, losing its top two quarterbacks indefinitely in the process.

Tennessee must play the Tigers and Crimson Tide these next two weeks without Tyler Bray, but there are no such worries at Georgia and South Carolina. The Bulldogs and Gamecocks are the only East Division members that are not facing either of the nation's top two teams during the 2011 regular season.

"Obviously they are great football teams, and they are both great defensive football teams," Georgia coach Mark Richt said Sunday. "Not having to play them certainly is an advantage for anybody on this side of the bracket, that's for sure."

Georgia and South Carolina exited Saturday as the lone East teams with fewer than two league losses -- the Bulldogs prevailing 20-12 at Tennessee and the Gamecocks trouncing visiting Kentucky 54-3. The Bulldogs and Gamecocks are 3-1 in SEC play, and South Carolina would hold the tiebreaker by virtue of its 45-42 win in Athens on Sept. 10.

The Bulldogs visit Vanderbilt this week before having their lone open date that will precede the annual showdown against Florida in Jacksonville. Leading Georgia receiver Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring) will not play against the Commodores, but Richt is hopeful he can return to face the Gators.

South Carolina, meanwhile, will hit the road with games at Mississippi State this Saturday, at Tennessee on Oct. 29 and at Arkansas on Nov. 5. The Gamecocks have lost their last two trips to both Knoxville and Fayetteville.

"We look forward to it," South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday. "We know what it's all about, I think."

Said Richt: "We've just got to keep winning and hope somebody can help us."

Richt won his 100th game with the Bulldogs on Saturday and said he received double the text messages he typically receives on a Sunday, adding that a lot of former players chimed in.

"I know Coach is saying that he's happy for the players, but I'm happy for Coach Richt," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "He's such a class act and does everything the right way, and I think that's why he's a winner. He's been consistent, and I think we've got a special team this year.

"There are a lot of things that could have gone wrong after we lost the first two, but these kids have stayed together."

Since kicking off its football program in 1892, this is the first time Georgia has dropped the first two and then won four straight.

By holding Tennessee to minus-20 yards on 23 carries, Georgia registered its most effective effort against an opposing ground game since punishing Kentucky for minus-50 yards in 1999. The Bulldogs vaulted to 12th nationally in rushing defense (allowing 85.8 yards a game), and they are 11th in pass defense (174.7), sixth in total defense (260.5) and fourth in third-down defense (26.2 percent).

"Most of it has started up front," Richt said. "If you can negate the run and make a team one-dimensional, it's a great thing."

In their past two meetings against Tennessee, the Bulldogs have limited the Vols to minus-11 yards on 49 rushes.

Odds and ends

Georgia and LSU are the only SEC teams to have scored first in every game. ... Richt on the Boise State opener: "We were not ready for that game as much as they were ready for that game. They were a veteran bunch who knew how to play." ... Freshman tailback Isaiah Crowell on Saturday: "The first half was pretty tough, but you just had to keep fighting and pounding. The coaches said soon they would give up, and soon that's what happened."

about David Paschall...

David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...

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