Top teams not playing well

ATHENS – A quick look at the top teams in college football reveals a trend: good teams are not playing well, or at least not as well as expected. <p> In the first three weeks of the season several teams, including Georgia, have had to come from behind to win at least one game.

Southern Cal needed a comeback to beat Virginia Tech; Georgia had to come from behind to win at South Carolina and struggled against Marshall; Miami came from behind to beat Florida State; Texas struggled to beat Arkansas after trailing 17-16 at the half; and Ohio State needed a 55-yard field goal to beat Marshall.

Even when top ten teams win, they struggle to do it. West Virginia needed overtime to beat Maryland; Auburn needed some help against LSU; and Tennessee beat Florida with a very long field goal. But those teams beat ranked teams in their first real tests of the season. Southern Cal, Georgia, Texas, and Ohio State (three of the top six ranked teams in ESPN's Coaches Poll) struggled with unranked teams.

"It's been an interesting year; most games are sloppy over all," said Georgia Head Coach Mark Richt. "I wonder if the new rules on the number of practices if having an effect on how teams are starting out."

New NCAA guidelines got rid of consecutive two-a-days practice, and limited the overall number of practices before the first game.

"They say there were 29 practices, we actually went down to 25, and I don't know if that made a big difference," Richt said. "A lot of people look sloppy – no one looks like they are in midseason form."

The Bulldogs, like many other teams in the South, have also been affected by the hurricane season. Georgia has been forced to move, reschedule, or cut short at least four practices so far this year.

With or without the disruption in the Bulldogs' practice routine, Georgia never seems to blow out teams early in the season as is often expected of top ranked teams. Since Richt arrived in Athens the Bulldogs have won by more than 30 points in September only three times (2001 Arkansas State, 2002 Northwestern State, 2002 New Mexico State).

"The good news is that we are a still undefeated. We are very fortunate to be unbeaten," he said. The same can't be said for Georgia's rival Florida, or the Bulldogs' next opponent LSU.

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