The Bulldogs (3-2, 2-1 SEC) continue Southeastern Conference action Saturday when they travel to Knoxville to face Tennessee (2-3, 0-2 SEC). After falling 20-13 to fourth-ranked LSU, Georgia dropped out of the Top 25 polls for the first time since Dec. 3, 2006. The Bulldogs finished 9-4 that season after beating 14th-ranked Virginia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl and ended the year ranked 23rd in the final Associated Press poll.
Richt said he wasn’t surprised the Bulldogs fell out of the top 25 Sunday.
“I’m a voter too, and you want to honor teams that are undefeated and maybe not in it the week before, or there’s a one-loss team that had a big win,” said Richt. “It’s hard to rank the teams. I knew if we were in, we’d be at 23,24 or 25, but I knew we’d go down. I’m just glad it’s not the final poll.”
For the first time since 1937, Georgia and Tennessee will meet when neither team is ranked in the AP or USA Today Coaches top 25. The Bulldogs and Volunteers have met 38 times (25 times since the 1937 game) and only started meeting annually since 1992. UT leads the series 20-16-2, but the Bulldogs have won three out of the last four games at Neyland Stadium. Georgia posted a 26-14 win over the Volunteers in Athens last year while Tennessee defeated Georgia 35-14 in Knoxville in 2007 that included a 28-0 halftime lead by the Volunteers.
The Bulldogs were limited to 45 rushing yards on 24 attempts against the fourth-ranked Tigers this past Saturday. Georgia tallied 229 passing yards and did not surrender a sack but was held scoreless until the fourth quarter. Richt said he is looking for more production from the offensive line, running backs and as always, an overall balanced attack.
“We absolutely need to block better and run better too, said Richt. “We need our backs to get more than what’s provided too. That’s why the running back at LSU is such a great player; he can bounce off a tackle and take it to the house. Also, we need to have enough of a good mix of run and pass to keep people off balance.”
Richt added the staff was pleased with the debut of freshman tailback Washaun Ealey who finished with a team-high 33 yards on eight carries against LSU.
“Washaun will definitely play and play more than he did Saturday,” said Richt. “I’m not ready to go farther than that. He’s a true freshman, and we’ve got to see how he progresses. We’ve been getting him ready and will continue to do that. He missed some practice time during camp with an elbow injury, but when he got healthy, we felt like we we’re going to give him an opportunity. He gave us a spark and he’s learning our system. We watched the film, and we were encouraged by what we saw. We’re not ready to change up the depth chart this second, we may tomorrow or later in the week.”
The Volunteers are searching for their first conference win under new head coach Lane Kiffin after falling 26-22 to Auburn last Saturday at home. Tennessee has five of its first six games this season in Knoxville. Meanwhile, the Bulldogs are making their third road trip of the year including second in the SEC. This month, Georgia will play at Tennessee, then Vanderbilt in Nashville and Florida in Jacksonville.
Richt was asked several questions regarding the celebration penalties from the LSU game, and he said he is looking for more education on the matter.
“First of all, whatever was on camera may or may not have covered everything, and I need to be educated on what constitutes a flag for excessive celebration,” said Richt. “I want to educate our players for the future. That’s all I want to say. I want to play within the rules, but I want our players to have some spirit and enjoy some success, and they need to understand what the rules are for this too.”