ATHENS, Ga. -- All 92,746 tickets to Saturday's Georgia-Tennessee Tech football game at Sanford Stadium have been sold.
How many Bulldogs backers actually show for Homecoming may be more intriguing than the outcome itself.
"Everybody realizes this season hasn't gone the way that we wanted to, and some people are not going to be OK with that," Georgia linebacker Rennie Curran said. "They didn't put in the work that we did, and this doesn't mean as much to them."
The Bulldogs will enter with a 4-4 record, their worst mark through eight games since 1996, and are unranked for a fifth straight week (the record for consecutive unranked weeks in the Mark Richt era is eight). The Golden Eagles are members of the Championship Subdivision and could provide Georgia a needed break from its taxing schedule, but they won't provide the fan base or marquee value as the last purple and gold team to visit Sanford -- LSU on Oct. 3.
There is the hangover effect, as Georgia is coming off its second throttling at the hands of Florida in as many years, and Bulldogs star receiver A.J. Green isn't playing.
"We're not worried about who's in the stands or how many people are watching or which TV station we're on or even if we're on one," quarterback Joe Cox said. "We want to finish up these last four games as strong as we can, and that starts Saturday whether there are 10 people in the stands or 90,000."
Said tight end Aron White: "We play in front of 90,000 most weeks, and if it's only 70,000 or 80,000, I still think we'll be pretty focused when we hit the field. We're not going to let this season go by the wayside."
Saturday's announced attendance of 92,746 will be the largest crowd to watch Tennessee Tech play. The Golden Eagles lost 35-3 before 85,754 at Auburn two years ago and lost 49-7 in front of 48,094 at Kansas State earlier this season.
Golden Eagles leading receiver and former Red Bank standout Tim Benford is only a sophomore, so he did not play in the game at Auburn.
"We can't back down just because it's Georgia," Benford said. "We need to have the confidence to go in there knowing we can win the game."
Tennessee Tech coach Watson Brown knows this will be an experience of a lifetime for his players, regardless of how many empty seats there might be. Brown is in his third season with the Eagles after spending 12 at UAB, where he took a former Division III program from the Championship (then I-AA) ranks to its current home in Conference USA.
Brown's UAB Blazers lost 34-0 at Georgia in 2006 but fell only 16-13 three years earlier against a Bulldogs team on their way to a second straight SEC East title.
"For a lot of the time I was at UAB, we had to play three of those a year to stay alive financially," Brown said. "What our kids learned to do there, and I've carried that straight to here, is that you make it a positive. We averaged 24,000 or 25,000 at UAB, and when we went on the road, I would say, 'Hey boys, this is fun. Go in there and enjoy the moment. Let the crowd and that traditional helmet motivate you and not intimidate you.'
"Our kids loved those games, and I'm trying to teach these kids the same thing here. When you leave, as long as you're not injured all over the place, you know you've played against the best in a venue you're not going to be in again."
Richt isn't about to underestimate what Saturday's venue could look like. He realizes fans are upset with his team, but he also knows a season's worth of weekends is running low and that the weather forecast for Homecoming is impeccable.
"Our fans do love the 'Dogs," he said. "You can tell by the passion. I'm sure they want to support the young men. We want the fans to handle adversity well, too. I can understand their feelings of being upset or being curious, whatever it might be, but we're all still Bulldogs."