By RYAN BLACK
For the AJC
Multiple times during his teleconference with the media Sunday, the Georgia coach was asked about what Saturday’s events — top-ranked Kansas State and No. 2 Oregon both losing — meant to his team. With the losses by the top pair, it is assumed that if the No. 3 Bulldogs can win out, they will clinch a spot in the BCS National Championship game on Jan. 7 in Miami.
Richt didn’t want to hear any of it.
“Right this minute, all I can think about is Georgia Tech,” he said. “Does anybody want to talk about Georgia Tech?”
Avoiding distractions this week shouldn’t be a problem, Richt said. His team is well aware of what the Tech game means for the program. Richt went on to list the various stakes riding on Saturday’s outcome, such as the Governor’s Cup, which goes to the game’s victor. Another benefit is being able to use a win for recruiting leverage over the state’s top prospects. And plain, old-fashioned bragging rights are on the line, too.
But Richt felt it was most important to win for Georgia’s seniors, who will be playing their last game between Sanford Stadium’s hedges.
“The winning team gets a trophy and I know our guys would love to have that,” he said. “I know as a head coach, I’d love to have one myself, because it has all the names of our seniors on it. It’s something we take a lot of pride in and I know Georgia Tech does as well.”
One aspect of the Yellow Jackets’ offense that has become more worrisome to Richt compared to previous years is the improvement he’s seen in their passing game. Every time Richt has watched or read about Georgia Tech this season, the uptick in its aerial proficiency seems apparent.
“I usually try to see how they did every week throughout the year and you hear that they’re throwing touchdown passes and that type of thing,” he said. “They’ve always had a tremendously high yards-per-completion coming into this game and it (seems) they’re throwing it a little bit more and better than they have the past couple of years. So that’s just one more thing to deal with.”
Georgia has an advantage of spending more time fine-tuning its game plan with school out for the Thanksgiving holiday. That means the NCAA’s 20-hour practice limit will not be in effect. The Bulldogs could practice as long as they want or stay in the film room all day.
Neither scenario is likely, of course. Richt cautioned “more isn’t always better.”
“We’ll at least not have to worry about counting every minute and if a player like (quarterback Aaron) Murray or whoever wants to spend a little more time with Coach (Mike) Bobo watching film, that’s not a problem,” he said. “That’s going to be real helpful.”
After Tennessee fired coach Derek Dooley Sunday, Richt expressed sympathy for Dooley, given his relationship with Vince and Barbara Dooley, Derek’s parents. Though Richt said the dismissal was “part of the business,” he believed Dooley wouldn’t be out of a job for long. “He’s a highly intelligent person and a tremendous coach and I know he’s going to land on his feet and have something great happen in the future.” . . . Richt was informed the Bulldogs received one first-place vote in the USA Today Coaches Poll. He said he didn’t cast the vote. “I guess somebody thought we were No. 1, so I guess that’s good,” he said. “But right this minute, it’s not all that important.” . . . There were no major injuries reported following Saturday’s 45-14 victory over Georgia Southern. “Usually if it was something big, I’d know about it by now,” Richt said. “So I doubt there will be anything that will show up before (Saturday’s) game.”