11 23 2004 Notebook

ATHENS — Mark Richt usually can tell what part of the state he's in by which of Georgia's rivals the fans take the most seriously.

In Rome, it's Tennessee. In Valdosta, it's the Gators. And, in Columbus, it's Auburn.

"But they always say Florida and Tech or Auburn and Tech or Tennessee and Tech," Richt said. "Everybody wants Tech. That's very important to our program."

The No. 8 Bulldogs play Georgia Tech on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. in their final regular season game of the year. Georgia has won three straight and 10 of the last 13 in the rivalry.

"I think it does take away from it a little bit beating them three times in a row," offensive guard Nick Jones said, "but I think it's still a big rivalry."

Georgia Tech players would love nothing more than to spice up the annual game for the Bulldogs.

"It's like you're playing the bad guy from across the street," Yellow Jacket quarterback Reggie Ball said. "You want to run the block for at least a year. You want to win this game and have those bragging rights."

TAKING PRECAUTIONS: Georgia will go out of its way to avoid causing any trouble before Saturday's game. If Georgia Tech's players are still warming up when the Bulldogs prepare to leave the field, Georgia probably won't gather on the "G" logo at midfield as it normally does, Richt said.

"We'll huddle up, but we may not huddle up on the ‘G' just to stay further away," he said.

Last week's fight during the Clemson-South Carolina game has coaches around the country keeping a close eye on anything that might cause trouble. Richt said the Bulldogs rarely have any heated words with opponents before home games.

"If we do, it's usually a skinny receiver and a skinny defensive back so I don't really worry about it," he said.

WET WEATHER: Georgia had to move its Tuesday afternoon practice into he Ramsey Student Center due to rain, and the Bulldogs may practice in the Atlanta Falcons' facility in Flowery Branch today if the bad weather sticks around.

Georgia practiced outside Monday night, occasionally in very heavy rain.

"That's as wet as we've been in a long time, I can promise you that," Richt said.

SAD GOODBYE: Georgia fullback Jeremy Thomas thinks he knows which member of the Bulldogs' celebrated senior class the fans are going to miss most -- him.

"I would say that Jeremy Thomas is probably the top name in that class, the one with the most accolades and all," he said in jest. "I think this will be my third year as an All-American at fullback. I was an All-American scout team player, too. Yeah, they'll be raising my number above Sanford Stadium during the game."

SHORT AND SWEET: Richt finally made his first comment about South Carolina's hiring of Steve Spurrier but only after the Gamecocks made it official Tuesday. He had declined several times in the previous days to address the subject, and, when he did, it wasn't headline-making stuff.

"I would just say, ‘Welcome back,'" he said.

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