Don't Flinch

ATHENS – When the college football pundits begin discussing Georgia's chances to compete fora national championship last year, they start, rightfully, talking about the schedule.

The Bulldogs play the annual clash against Florida in Jacksonville, Fla., road games against South Carolina, Arizona State, LSU, Kentucky and Auburn and home games against Georgia Southern, Central Michigan Alabama, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech. And that's where Georgia is starting its march toward the 2008 season.

The Bulldogs' annual offseason T-shirt, a tradition since Dave Van Halanger became Georgia's strength and conditioning coach, has the entire schedule printed on the back with the words "Don't Flinch." (The shirt says Man Up on the front.)

In short, the Bulldogs know what is in front of them this year if they plan to live up to the lofty expectations they have established.

"I think our guys are mature enough to know that our league is rough, and our schedule is pretty unbelievable," head coach Mark Richt said after the spring G-Day game.

Richt has long wished that the first polls of the season didn't come out until after the first month of the season, and he's going to particularly wish that this year when Georgia is ranked near the top of every major preseason poll.

"It's obvious that people are expecting big things," he said. "I think Georgia fans always expect big things. It's very premature to start trying to say who's what."

Richt began poor-mouthing his team almost immediately after spring practice was over.

"To me if you're thinking you are a preseason No. 1, you need to be stacked at every position," he said. "I just don't see us there yet. We've got offensive line issues. We don't even know who our kicker is. There are some things going on that have to be settled before the season."

Between now and the start of the season, Richt is sure to tell his players this story dozens of times: Florida State was ranked No. 1 in the country in 1993 preseason. Its first game was a 31-0 loss to Miami.

"Anybody who feels because we are Georgia we're going to win, they are out of their minds," he said. "I think that happened a little in 2006. They were kind of used to winning, maybe expected that to happen and we kind of lost it a little bit. Once you lose a grip on success it's hard to get it back."

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