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October 17, 2010In the wacky world of the SEC East, nothing is ever as it seems.
After South Carolina bumped off defending national champ Alabama last week in Columbia, the Gamecocks' road to Atlanta seemed to be paved with golden feathers.
That is, until Kentucky stunned Steve Spurrier's squad Saturday night in Lexington, giving any number of teams renewed life in a division that seemingly nobody wants to win.
Amazingly, that list includes Georgia (3-4, 2-3), which despite three straight conference losses to start the year, is mathematically still alive for the SEC East crown, one game behind South Carolina (4-2, 2-2).
For those keeping score, here's what needs to happen. The Bulldogs need to win their remaining three SEC games against Kentucky, Florid and Auburn and hope that the Gamecocks drop two of their next four (at Vanderbilt, Tennessee, Arkansas and at Florida).
Of course, the Bulldogs aren't the only ones. Mathematically speaking, all six East teams are still alive for the division's top spot, including the afore-mentioned Kentucky (4-1, 1-3), which hosts Georgia Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. in a game both teams must win if they want to keep their dream of a Eastern Division title alive.
"I don't know if I have to say anything. I think they are keeping an eye on it, but I think the one thing that we had to do to win these last couple of games is just to focus on the process of becoming a better football team rather than worry about where we were in league play and who we are playing, that kind of thing. We just needed to get better," head coach Mark Richt said during his Sunday teleconference. "I think that was the big motivation for everybody. There was other things we needed to do - block better, tackle better, play harder, play more disciplined, that was the focus and it was very good for us. We've got some momentum, certainly by how we've played the past two weeks, but I don't want to forget what got us into this mode. I want to keep focusing in on that."
Approximately one hour earlier, Kentucky coach Joker Phillips uttered basically those same words.
Not many people gave his Wildcats a chance against the nation's 10th-ranked team before Saturday's 31-28 shocker.
Now, he's warning his players not to let overconfidence seep into their system against the Bulldogs.
"Every week, every game you've got to fight, scratch and claw if you want to win," Phillips said. "We won one of those games this week and hopefully that's going to make it easier to get our point across that you've got to always play hard and you can never relax. You can't just show up if you want to beat a team like Georgia, you just can't do it."
Richt laughed when asked how he would evaluate the SEC.
"People always say year in and year out that anybody can win on any given weekend, and that's about what is happening now. Everybody's got ability, everybody's got good coaches, everybody's got great fans, everybody has the ingredients to win on any given Saturday," Richt said. "No one has proven to be a truly unbeatable team in our Eastern Division, or our league for that matter. There are some undefeated teams (in the West), but even the teams who are undefeated have had some extremely close calls and they know every week they better hook it up. It's an exciting SEC year, no doubt."
NOTES: Richt said that cornerback Branden Smith (concussion) is doubtful for Saturday's game.
Safety Nick Williams (hamstring) who injured his hamstring against Tennessee and sat out the contest against Vanderbilt is improving, but Richt is not sure of his status for Kentucky.