Richt wary of FSU underdog role

NEW ORLEANS — Bobby Bowden boasts the best bowl winning percentage in history, and in many years his Florida State team carries a top-five ranking and a favorite's role into the bowl game.

For Wednesday night's Sugar Bowl,  Georgia is favored by 7 1/2 points over the Seminoles, and that worries Georgia coach Mark Richt.  

Richt, who was on Bobby Bowden's staff  for 15 years, saw the veteran coach work his magic in mostly good times. Bowden is 18-6-1 in bowl games for a .740 winning percentage.

But Richt also took notes when Bowden managed crisis situations of varying degrees, from a player's death to problems with police to key injuries or a devastating loss.  

In a 2002 season of adversity, Florida State has lost key players to injuries and to off-the-field troubles this year.  

Just this month, Florida State quarterback Chris Rix was declared ineligible after missing two final exams. Then top defensive lineman Darnell Dockett was suspended for his alleged involvement in an incident at a Tallahassee mall.  

Richt knows his former boss is in crisis management mode, and he also knows Georgia players probably have heard too many stories about Florida State's troubles. The combination makes for  Richt's biggest concern about the Sugar Bowl.  

"I'm very concerned about the psychology of the game,'' Richt said Friday after Georgia's second practice in the Superdome.  "I hope our players understand and are ready for a 60-minute fight, because if they're not, it will be too late.''  

Noting that Florida State "has guys on their bench who could probably start for us,'' Richt scolded members of the media who have cast the Seminoles as heavy underdogs.  

"No one in the media seems to want to give Florida State a chance,'' Richt said. "It's just ridiculous.''  Added Richt: "I've been (at Florida State) when there were some bumps in the road and have seen how Bobby Bowden responds and how the players respond. It's going to be a fired-up, well-coached, extremely talented bunch of guys who will try to bury us.''  

Georgia players maintained focus when cast as favorites while rolling to lopsided 51-7 and 30-3 routs of Georgia Tech and Arkansas, respectively, in their last two games.  

For most of the season, Georgia won close games against such teams as Clemson, South Carolina, Auburn and Alabama, and so there was little reason for overconfidence.  

Now that the players have had two recent breaks — one for fall semester final exams and another for Christmas — Richt worries they may have had too much time to relish the quick knockout wins in the last two games.  

That concern is heightened by the hunger Richt expects to see in a 9-4 Florida State team.  

"I am very concerned about what we are going to walk into,'' Richt said. "I don't know if we will be able to match the emotion.''  

Bowden, meanwhile, is making the most of the underdog role.  

Addressing media Friday at an earlier press conference, Bowden noted that when Richt left Florida State to become Georgia's head coach two years ago,

"(Richt) said they were trying to get to where Florida State is.''  Added Bowden, in reference to Georgia's No. 4 ranking and Florida State's No. 16 spot in the AP poll: "Now we're trying to get to where Georgia is.''  Earlier in the week, Bowden said Georgia's performances against Tech and Arkansas "get your attention right quick.''  Added Bowden of the Bulldogs: "You hope they are not peaking, but that's what it looks like. That scares you.''

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