Georgia Dealing With High Expectations

Georgia's Mark Richt talks about dealing with the hype surrounding his team this season.

Hoover, Ala.--Expectations can be the undoing of a football team heading into a season. It's happened time and time again. Perhaps no team is set up for failure as much as the Georgia Bulldogs heading into the 2008 season. Ranked either first or second in every preseason poll, Georgia has a target on its back the size of Sanford Stadium, but coach Mark Richt said it hasn't changed their approach to the season one little bit.

"Our goal is always set to win the Eastern Division," Richt said. "Our goal is always set to try to win the Southeastern Conference. From that point, you don't know if you'll get in the National Championship game or not, quite frankly. It's hard to set a goal that you can't control. I know that Auburn went through it. Auburn goes undefeated in this league and finds themselves watching the National Championship game.

"We try to set goals that we can control. Those are the things that we talk about. We talk about winning Game 1. We talk about trying to win the East. We talk about, if we get in that championship game, to win it. We know that in order to even get close to that point, you've got to put the work in on a daily basis. Our goal was to try to focus on the moment, not on way down the road. I mean, people started talking National Championship after the Sugar Bowl last year. That's too long to be chewing on that bone, so to speak. We had to break it down into the smallest component, which is today, what can you do today to get better and to prepare yourself for the opportunity."

Perhaps the toughest challenge facing Georgia isn't expectations alone, but also a schedule that features nine coaches that have won championships on some level of football. With road games at South Carolina, Arizona State, LSU, Kentucky and Auburn and a game against Florida in Jacksonville, perhaps no team in the country has a tougher road to the title. Richt said that's something that is readily apparent when he looks at 2008.

"We know everybody on our schedule can beat us," Richt said. "I mean, we know everybody in our division can and has beaten us. We know when we play Alabama, Auburn, LSU in the West, that's rough. We know when we play Arizona State at Arizona State, playing Georgia Tech, you know, when we play Georgia Southern, who has won national championships, Central Michigan, who won their league two years in a row. I mean, everybody we play, they all know how to win.

"We don't sit there and say, Well, we got this one, we got that one. Boy, that will be a tough one. We know they're all gonna be tough. Our state of mind going into the game, every game, is that it's gonna be a 60 minute war. And if you think it's gonna be anything different, and it becomes that, you're in trouble. So, I mean, I'm thinking of what plays we're gonna call in an overtime period before the game even starts. That's kind of how I go into every game (laughter). When we win games, I feel relief. I don't feel like, Well, we should have had that one, just get puffed up about it. You know, I know every victory's a tough one.

"But that's the exciting part about this league. That's the exciting part about this season in particular. It's a great, great challenge, as you said. We've got outstanding coaches. We've got outstanding players. We've got some experience. But so does everybody else. I mean, LSU won the National Championship. Great football team. Not good team; great team. They lost twice. You know, that's just the way college football is. That's the way our league is."

With just over a month until opening the season against Georgia Southern in Athens, the pressure is only going to increase for the Bulldogs as the season draws closer. Richt said the only way to deal with that is to work hard and not believe the hype. That's easier said than done.

"I told the players that this pre season hype could be a blessing or a curse. It's a curse if you think it gives you a sense of entitlement to where you think you don't have to prepare. It could be a blessing if you look at it as one of the greatest opportunities of your life and you put the work in to even be in position to have a chance."

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