Georgia enters Saturday's game against South Carolina ranked No. 21 in the country by those who vote on the Associated Press Top 25 poll after last week's loss to Oklahoma State.
Not bad. But for a program used to Top 10 rankings and one that hasn't started 0-1 since dropping an 11-6 decision to Southern Miss in 1996, that's certainly not a position the Bulldogs are used to being in.
Unfortunately for head coach Mark Richt, that's reality.
That reality also puts an added emphasis on Saturday night's game against South Carolina (7 p.m., ESPN2). Even under normal circumstances the annual SEC opener would be huge for both teams.
Granted, it still is. Whichever team comes out with a victory gains a welcomed leg up in the SEC East Standings. But in the case of Georgia, a loss to Steve Spurrier's Gamecocks could hurt in other ways, particularly how the Bulldogs are perceived by those outside the program.
However, Richt said he isn't worried about that.
Neither is he concerned with some of the negative comments many are saying and writing about his squad.
"I'm not worried about perception. I'm worried about winning right now. We played a top-10 team and lost. That's what happened. We're playing game two and we're focused on what it takes to win the next game," Richt said. "We're not focused on what people say about us. You just can't do that; it's counterproductive. We're much more concerned about studying film, getting a plan, implementing the plan and practicing it to the point where our players understand it well and can play full speed and get after it."
Free safety Bryan Evans agreed.
Losing never feels good, especially the first game, and Evans said he's interested in seeing how the Bulldogs respond.
"I think our morale is good but we just want to see what our identity is and how we're going to come back after the loss," Evans said. "We can't let Oklahoma State beat us twice. We can't go out and lack around in practice feeling sorry for ourselves."
Quarterback Joe Cox knows a lot of eyes will be on the Bulldogs to see what happens.
"It's big. Everybody wants to see how we rebound to start conference play," Cox said. "We know we have to play well. I think everybody understands that."
Richt certainly does.
After the game against Oklahoma State, Richt lamented the fact that his offense wasn't showing the type of intensity that it needed it order to be successful.
That's something he said has to change against the Gamecocks.
"We definitely need a strong intensity level. I don't know if we weren't intense as much as we didn't play with the speed and we didn't finish blocks like we should," Richt said. "By no means were we horrible; we were close, but we just need that extra effort on each play to block a little bit longer or where if you block a little bit better you are going to create a little more space."
A little more on-the-field attitude wouldn't hurt, either.
"I don't want to cause any panic or anything; it' not that at all, but we want to see a little more fire come out of there. I think they played with good effort, but I think they could give greater effort," Richt said. "By no means did they play with any intensity. They played pretty hard, but they need to play harder."
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