ATHENS, Ga. - In case Mark Richt is not the only one who missed this bit of news, Louisiana State will play at Arkansas Friday in a game that will determine Georgia’s opponent in the Dec. 7 SEC championship game.
As if supplying convincing evidence that his focus is on Saturday’s game against Georgia Tech instead of his team’s Southeastern Conference championship hopes, Richt looked stumped when asked earlier this week if he planned to watch the LSU-Arkansas game.
Asked Richt: "When is it?”
Told of the day and the 2:30 p.m. ET kickoff time, Richt said: "I’ve got to look at our schedules. (Watching the game on TV) might work out just by accident.”
For this week, it is only by accident, or when prompted by reporters, that Richt thinks of any game than Georgia Tech. Many fans might believe that the big game in fifth-ranked Georgia’s future is the SEC championship game or possibly the Sugar Bowl, but Richt is having none of that talk.
In fact, on Richt’s list of things to be thankful for today, he might include the fact that Georgia’s SEC championship game opponent from the Western Division has not been determined.
"It might be good that we don’t even know who we’re playing,” Richt said. "We might take a sneak peak ahead.”
Georgia (11-1 overall, 7-1 in the SEC) has many reasons to think only of Tech (7-4 overall, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) this week. Of most importance is the fact that Saturday’s nationally televised game (3:30 p.m., CBS) is for state bragging rights.
For added incentive, Georgia is No. 4 in this week’s Bowl Championship Series standings and still holds slim hopes of moving up into a national championship game in the Fiesta Bowl. Those hopes would end with a loss to the Yellow Jackets.
For Georgia seniors, Saturday will be the last game played at Sanford Stadium.
Georgia’s spot in the SEC championship game won’t be affected by the outcome of Saturday’s game. Similarly, if it wins the SEC title game, Georgia would be a near lock to play in the Sugar Bowl; even if it lost to Tech.
Even so, there is no doubt that losing to Tech would take some shine off the Bulldogs’ season.
"It would hurt,” said quarterback David Greene. "Anytime you lose to Tech, I don’t think you can sit there and say we had a great season. There’s a lot of pride going into that game.”
Another strong reason for Georgia players to have good focus this week is the fact Tech had won three straight games in the series before the Bulldogs’ 31-17 win last year in Atlanta.
Richt has two graduate assistant coaches dissecting game film of Arkansas and LSU, but players won’t see those reviews until Sunday or Monday.
"I think they understand,” said Richt of his players. "This group of guys has won one game against Tech. If there ever was a group of Georgia football players who shouldn’t be thinking anything other than this is the biggest game of the year, they’re sadly mistaken.”
Added Richt: "They know first-hand it’s a big game. Tech is going to be ready to play.”
Senior offensive tackle Jon Stinchcomb said Georgia players have the message. Bragging rights are waiting to be won, and for Georgia there is much that can be lost. "It would definitely tarnish something that is pretty special right now,” said Stinchcomb of the prospect of losing to Tech.
"We’re going to do everything we can to prevent that from happening.”
Added Stinchcomb: "With (the BCS), there’s still an opportunity for us, but right now we need to concentrate on what we can control. "Taking care of business, that ‘ s where our focus is. “