NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Boston College coach Tom O'Brien figures it must be nice to be Georgia.
"I think we're striving to get to where Georgia is,'' O'Brien said Thursday in the last press conference before today's 5 p.m. Music City Bowl at Adelphia Stadium.
Added O'Brien: "Georgia has had five straight eight-win seasons. They have won four straight bowl games. They've been ranked in those years.''
Sounds good to O'Brien, but Georgia coach Mark Richt knows better. If eight-win seasons, a No.16 ranking and just playing in any bowl game were enough to satisfy the demands of the Georgia faithful, then he would still be Florida State's offensive coordinator and Jim Donnan would still be coaching the Bulldogs.
This 8-3 season can be called a success because, in the first year under Richt, Georgia was expected to struggle after heavy graduation losses in 2000. That's why Richt — who scored big with Georgia fans by taking road wins over Tennessee and Georgia Tech — calls this only a qualified success, giving himself a B- or C+ on his first-year grade.
No doubt, at this time next year, Richt expects to have Georgia in a bigger bowl, and Georgia fans expect to be in a bigger bowl.
First comes today's test. If Richt is to reach nine wins for his debut season, Georgia will have to one of its better games of the year.
Richt said Thursday that Boston College (7-4) compares with Auburn, Arkansas, South Carolina and Mississippi of the Southeastern Conference.
"We won two of those and lost two,'' Richt noted. "I think it's a very evenly matched thing.''
Richt began his first season as a head coach by wowing Georgia fans with his no-huddle Florida State offense, directed by the surprisingly calm hand of redshirt freshman quarterback David Greene.
As the competition stiffened, however, Richt discovered that a running game led by senior Verron Haynes was a better plan.
Haynes rushed for 523 yards in the last three games of the regular season to push himself among the top backs in the 2002 NFL draft.
Another name expected to rest near the top of the list of running backs in the next NFL draft is Boston College junior William Green, who says he will make his decision soon after the bowl game. Green rushed for 1,559 yards with 15 touchdowns in 10 games this season.
As the sun sets behind Adelphia Stadium and the temperatures fall into the 30s, expect Green and Haynes to settle into a showdown of running backs, even though Georgia's Greene and Boston College's Brian St. Pierre accomplished quarterbacks.
"I would think that the defense that can stop the other team's running game and force it into a passing game would have the advantage,'' O'Brien said.
While Georgia is looking to win five straight bowl games for the first time, Boston College wants to end a streak of 20 straight losses to ranked teams.
Richt puts more emphasis on the Eagles' near-upset of No. 1 Miami on Nov. 10.
Trailing 12-7, Boston College was at the Miami 9-yard line with less than a minute to play when a pass from St. Pierre bounced off Miami cornerback Ed Rumph's left knee and into the hands of defensive tackle Matt Walters, who ran 10 yards before teammate Ed Reed took the ball at the 20 and raced 80 yards for a touchdown and an 18-7 win.
Still, Boston College had moved into the rankings at No. 25 and hoped to be playing for a spot in the Gator Bowl when it lost 39-28 at Syracuse to end its regular season at 7-4.
Georgia had hoped to land in the Florida sun with an Outback Bowl bid that was lost with Tennessee's upset loss to Louisiana State in the SEC Championship game. That pushed Tennessee from the BCS to the Citrus and pushed South Carolina from the Citrus to the Outback.
Today's cold reality for both teams is that it takes more than seven or eight wins to be sure of a better bowl reward.
Regardless of the outcome of the bowl game, Richt knows a B- or C+ won't be good enough next year by any Georgia grading system.
"It was a good year,'' said Richt, before adding, "A good start.''
Charles Odum can be reached at CEOdum@aol.com.