Bulldogs falling fast from national elite

Bulldogs falling fast from national elite

October 5th, 2009 by David Paschall in Sports - College

The Southeastern Conference has half of its 12 members ranked in the latest Associated Press college football poll.

Defending national champion Florida is No. 1, and the Gators have league company with No. 3 Alabama, No. 4 LSU, No. 17 Auburn, No. 20 Ole Miss and No. 25 South Carolina.

"It's better to be in than to be out," Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier said Sunday. "We don't make too big of a deal out of it, but that's good that we're in there. It's better than not being in."

Tell Georgia about it.

The Bulldogs fell from the national elite following Saturday's 20-13 loss to LSU at Sanford Stadium. Georgia (3-2, 2-1 SEC) is unranked for the first time since December 2006 and will try to reclaim Top 25 status with a win this Saturday at Tennessee.

Not since 1937 have the Vols and Bulldogs met with both teams unranked.

"Nobody really shows us that much respect, win or lose, but we're going to keep on fighting no matter where we're ranked," Georgia weakside linebacker Rennie Curran said. "We all believe in each other and believe in our coaches, so we're going to keep on fighting. This was a statement game, and we might have lost in the end, but we've got a lot more opportunities.

"We've got Tennessee. We've got Florida. We're going to keep fighting and grinding."

Saturday's Tennessee-Georgia game was picked up Sunday by ESPN Regional and will kick off at 12:21 p.m. At 2-3 overall, Tennessee is the first team with a losing record that Georgia has faced since the Vols were 2-3 entering last year's meeting.

The Bulldogs fell from the rankings despite their two losses coming to top-10 teams (they opened at No. 9 Oklahoma State).

"I knew if we were in that we'd be No. 23, 24 or 25," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "I knew we'd go down, but I didn't know if we'd go out or not. I'm just glad it's not the final poll."

Georgia's biggest focus this week likely will be its running game or lack thereof. The Bulldogs netted just 45 yards on 24 carries against LSU and now average 98.8 rushing yards a game, which ranks 105th out of the 120 Bowl Subdivision teams.

The last time the Bulldogs averaged less than 100 rushing yards a game was 1963.

"We absolutely need to block better and run better, too," Richt said. "We need our backs to get more than what's provided. That's why the running back at LSU is such a great player. He can bounce off a tackle and go to the house. We need a little bit more of that, too."

Freshman Washaun Ealey, who didn't play until midway through the third quarter, led the Bulldogs with 33 yards on eight carries. Richt believes there will be more playing time this week for Ealey but added, "I'm not ready to go farther than that."

Richard Samuel has started the first five games, but backup Caleb King has had the most carries over the past two.

Odds and ends

Georgia has lost at least one home game every year since 2004, when freshman Erik Ainge quarterbacked Tennessee to a 19-14 upset. ... Drew Butler no longer averages 50 yards a punt (49.78), but he still leads the nation. ... Curran is tied for eighth nationally with 11.2 tackles a game. ... Some dubious team rankings include 97th in punt return yardage allowed (13.2 a return), 112th in kickoff return yardage allowed (27.05), 115h in turnover ratio (minus-1.8) and 115th in penalties per game (9.6).