TAMPA -- The Georgia football program and today's Outback Bowl have something in common in the opinion of Bulldogs coach Mark Richt.
Each, he believes, is in a good place.
In Sunday's final media session before this afternoon's clash against Michigan State, Richt said the 10 wins attained by the Bulldogs this season have been good and that an 11th would be even better. Then he discussed the potential carryover effect for the 2012 season.
"We're going to be in good shape as far as a bunch of guys who are going to be buying in 100 percent to what we're doing," Richt said. "When you get experienced players coming back and guys who have a taste of playing in the SEC championship game and not being able to finish, I think that gets you hungry for some more. I think we'll be in good shape when we begin our offseason program."
A victory over the Spartans would cap a five-win increase from last season's 6-7 debacle. Richt oversaw a five-win improvement his first two seasons, when the Bulldogs went 8-4 in 2001 and 13-1 in '02, and predecessors Jim Donnan (1996-97) and Ray Goff (1990-91) had five-win increases during their tenures as well.
Today's game at 65,890-seat Raymond James Stadium could have as many as 15,000 empty seats, but Richt said Tampa has proven to be a great reward. He remains a strong proponent of the bowls.
"I think the bowls are great for communities, and they are great for the players and the coaches and the fan bases," he said. "How many fans are going to follow their team around for three or four playoff games? That's not what college is all about.
"College is about bringing the band and the cheerleaders and the fans and all the tradition."
Michigan State counterpart Mark Dantonio admitted that Tampa and neighboring Clearwater Beach have provided opportunities that couldn't be experienced back in East Lansing.
"I saw one of our guys laying motionless on the beach with a piece of bread on his back, and he was trying to get the seagulls to take it off him," Dantonio said. "There were about 300 people sitting around him for about 20 minutes, so that was interesting."
Odds and ends
Richt said redshirt freshman tailback Ken Malcome had good practices in Athens and in Tampa and has earned the right to start. ... Junior inside linebacker Michael Gilliard is expected to be sidelined along with senior defensive end DeAngelo Tyson due to ankle injuries. ... Sophomore guard Dallas Lee, who broke his leg against Florida, will only play if a starter gets injured. ... Georgia will have four players at the Senior Bowl on Jan. 28 -- cornerback Brandon Boykin, punter Drew Butler, tackle Cordy Glenn and center Ben Jones.