Richt as solid as LSU

Richt as solid as LSU

December 3rd, 2011 by David Paschall in Sports - College

LSU head football coach Les Miles, left, and Georgia coach Mark Richt pose with the Southeastern Conference Championship trophy during an NCAA college football news conference Friday, Dec. 2, 2011, in Atlanta. The two teams are scheduled to face each other on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2011, in the SEC championship football game.

Photo by (AP Photo by John Bazemore)

LSU's place in the BCS title game appears set regardless how the Tigers fare in today's Southeastern Conference championship.

So does the future of Georgia coach Mark Richt.

Richt led the Bulldogs to three SEC title-game appearances in his first five seasons in Athens, winning the league in 2002 and '05, but he entered this season needing a big year after the 2010 team went 6-7 and lost the Liberty Bowl to Central Florida. When Georgia lost out of the gate to Boise State and South Carolina, it left the Bulldogs 6-9 in their last 15 games and 15-15 in their last 30, but those numbers have been supplanted by 10 straight wins and a shot at the nation's best.

"We love Coach Richt, and I know that's one of the main reasons why I committed here," Bulldogs sophomore quarterback Aaron Murray said. "I wanted him here all four or five years that I was here, and I know everyone on the team feels that same way.

"We were definitely playing hard to be a great team and be SEC champions, but also we wanted to win for Coach Richt and this coaching staff to have them know they have the security of being here for a while."

Georgia finished the 2007 season 11-2 and ranked No. 2 nationally, but the program then went in decline until this season. Richt stressed before this season that there was optimism and no pessimism on the practice fields and in the weight room when he was asked about his job status, and he has emphasized since the opening losses that nothing ever changed.

The No. 12 Bulldogs have a chance today at an 11th consecutive victory within the same season before a bowl, something that has been accomplished at Georgia only by the 1980 SEC and national champions and the '82 SEC champs.

"I just felt very good about this football team, and then all of a sudden we're 0-2 and coming off of a 6-7 season, and all the things that I knew were swirling around, I'm sure, intensified," Richt said. "I didn't pay a lot of attention to it, quite frankly, but I knew it was out there. I'm just real proud of how everybody just stayed the course, kept believing, and we began to win.

"I knew we had the ingredients for a very good football team. Over time we began to prove it."

Richt and LSU counterpart Les Miles met with the media for a final time Friday in preparation for this afternoon's game, which has a 4:10 kickoff on CBS. The Tigers wrapped up their 12-0 regular season last week with a 41-17 trouncing of Arkansas, and their players have answered questions this week as to whether today's game is meaningless.

Considering LSU hasn't played for an SEC title since 2007 and Georgia since 2005, nobody believes that's the case.

"It's all about what we've accomplished to this point," Miles said. "We've put ourselves in position to play a championship game, and it's against a very, very talented Georgia team. I promise you, our football team understands that."

Said Richt: "There is no bigger priority than this game to us."