ATHENS, Ga. - Two weeks after his Bulldogs defeated Houston Nutt's Ole Miss Rebels in what was dubbed the "Hot Seat Bowl," Georgia football coach Mark Richt has an opportunity at a milestone that could enhance an already lengthy regime.
With a win at Tennessee this Saturday night, Richt would attain his 100th victory with the Bulldogs.
"I never thought I would get to 100," said Richt, who tallied No. 99 last Saturday with a 24-10 win over Mississippi State. "I didn't know if I would get to 100 games period, but to get to 100 victories would be sweet, no doubt. The sweetest part of it would be if it happened this week."
The 51-year-old is 99-36 nearing the midpoint of his 11th season, and he is on the doorstep of joining Vince Dooley (201-77-10 from 1964-88) and Wally Butts (140-86-9 from 1939-60) as Georgia's only coaches to eclipse the century mark. He also could become the third in the SEC to assemble 100 wins since the league expanded in 1992, joining former Florida and current South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier (170-61-1 combined record) and former Tennessee coach Phillip Fulmer (152-52 from 1992-2008).
Fulmer replaced Johnny Majors, who went 115-62-8 with the Vols from 1977 to '92.
"You look at the people who have that many wins and the company of coaches that he's in, and it just lets you know what kind of great coach Mark Richt is," said offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who along with defensive line coach Rodney Garner has been with Richt from the start. "To do it in one place, too, nowadays is just a phenomenal feat. He's a consistent person who believes in what he's doing, and he doesn't get rattled easy to where he thinks he has to make wholesale changes."
Richt's early years were defined by SEC titles in 2002 and '05, the first two for the program since Herschel Walker's dominance. The nagging negative was coming up short against Florida, a trend that has continued with two victories over the Gators in 10 tries.
Current SEC coaches and their number of wins in the league:
Steve Spurrier 170-61-1
Mark Richt 99-36
Houston Nutt 99-67
Nick Saban 96-27
Les Miles 67-17
Bobby Petrino 27-16
Gene Chizik 26-6
Dan Mullen 16-14
Derek Dooley 9-8
Joker Phillips 8-10
Will Muschamp 4-1
James Franklin 3-1
He amassed 90 wins in nine seasons, becoming one of just seven in Bowl Subdivision history to accomplish that feat, but the last year and a half has yielded nine wins and nine losses.
"What doesn't kill you will only make you better and stronger," Garner said. "With what we've gone through just in the early part of this season, I think the kids have shown resilience in how they've come out and fought every week. A season is not one or two games. It's going through a process."
A win this week would catapult Georgia to a 3-1 league record and into the favorite role for its first SEC East title since '05. Florida and South Carolina have problems at quarterback, and the Bulldogs don't have to play LSU, Alabama or Arkansas.
Though Georgia got off on the wrong foot in league play, losing 45-42 at home to the Gamecocks, that game increasingly feels like a moral victory that has given the Richt tenure a needed jolt.
"I think the way we played in the South Carolina game really helped everybody believe that we are a pretty good team and that we've got a chance to compete and win the Eastern Division," he said. "We know we didn't win the game, and that hurts. It's hard to start 0-1, and it's hard to lose control of your destiny after the first game of the year in league play.
"But I think everybody left that game feeling like, 'You know, we've got a chance to be a really good football team, so let's keep getting better and keep fighting.'"
Odds and ends
The Bulldogs practiced for two hours Wednesday. ... Bobo said he has talked with Cincinnati co-defensive coordinator and former Bulldogs linebackers coach John Jancek about the Vols. ... Georgia's helmets this week will have "KDF" stickers to recognize Kim Figgins, the mother of tight end Bruce Figgins who is battling breast cancer.