1. Try though everybody did, nobody could get Georgia coach Mark Richt to admit that Todd Grantham being the opposing defensive coordinator might be a source of motivation for either him or his team in the Belk Bowl.
Richt was answering questions about the Bulldogs’ Dec. 30 matchup against Louisville during a conference call Sunday night.
“Well, I guess you’ll just have to ask them when the time comes,” he said when asked if his defensive players might be fired up about it. “But one thing we’ve done, we’ve competed extremely well every game and we’re going to expect that from our guys and they expect it, too.”
Grantham was Richt’s defensive coordinator for three seasons before he left in the middle of recruiting this past January to accept Bobby Petrino’s offer of a five-year, $5 million contract.
Clearly that left Richt in a bind. But the Georgia coach was careful not offer take any shots at his former No. 2 assistant.
“I think that it’s going to be a great challenge to compete with Louisville, period,” Richt said. “Certainly Todd has done a very good job there and the rest of his defensive staff, too. So we’re looking forward to the game.”
2. Of course, the real competition in the bowl game will be waged between Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo and Grantham. The two coaches had some pretty intense battles on Woodruff Practice Fields the last three years. Now they will be keeping score for real.
“It’s always competitive offense vs. defense; that’s how we structure our practices,” Richt said. “There’s no one else to hook it up against. We believe in competition at Georgia and part of it is competing for a job and part of it is competing offense vs. defense, and obviously part of it is competing for who will play in the game. So we’re always trying to be in a competitive mode, so it’s nothing new.”
If nothing else, the two men should be very familiar with each other’s strategic tendencies.
“Maybe to a certain degree, but we’ve got to be able to watch film to see if there’s been any changes … in what he’s doing,” Richt said. “We’ve just got to start breaking down some film and figure that out.”
Back in October, Bobo was asked about competing against Grantham
“It was a great experience going against Todd and his defense the four years he was here,” he said. “It helped make me a better coach. He’s a good football mind that knows football.”
Louisville is ranked sixth nationally in total defense (293.3) and third in rushing defense (93.7).
3. How well attended the Belk Bowl might be by the Georgia fans is going to be an interesting proposition. There is a lot of disappointment within the Bulldog Nation, from coming up short for the SEC East, to losing to Georgia Tech in the season finale, and now getting passed over by the access and Citrus bowls to land in a non-descript pool of six bowl.
The Louisville angle and being just over three hours away should help. It probably won’t thrill the Charlotte hotel/motel association, but with a 6:30 p.m. kick, Atlantans and certainly people from Northeast Georgia can drive over and back the day of the game.
Bank of America Stadium seats about 73,000 and Georgia and Louisville got only 8,000 tickets each to sale. They are $91.16 and $128.70 apiece and can be ordered right HERE. Other tickets will be available through the Belk Bowl.
Athletic Greg McGarity believes there’s a lot for Bulldog fans to like about the matchup.
“It’s two ranked teams, 13 versus 21, obviously there are a lot of other dynamics working into that game (see Grantham and Petrino), our fans can drive to Charlotte very quickly, it’s in an NFL stadium,” McGarity said. “Proximity was critical for us. So we’re very happy with the matchup with a very talented Louisville team.”
4. Meanwhile, Will Webb, the Belk Bowl’s executive director, insists that the Georgia players are going to really enjoy being in Charlotte. One of the highlights for participants is going to Charlotte Motor Speedway, where the players and coaches get to ride in real NASCAR race cars and take three laps at speeds of up to 170 miles per hour.
“That’s been talked about and written about in the New York Times as one of the best bowl traditions out there,” Webb said.
Asked Richt: “Do they have to?”
“Yes, sir,” Webb replied.
“OK, I’m in, I guess,” Richt said.
Players also receive a $450 gift card to use in Charlotte Belk store, which will offer all its merchandise at 20 percent off. They will also attend a Charlotte Hornets game.
5. In case you missed it, Georgia got relatively good news on the Kenny Gaines front on Sunday. The junior guard injured his right shoulder diving for a ball and getting landed on by a Colorado player. He was in excruciating pain and left the game with just under 12 minutes to play.
But after going to St. Mary’s Hospital, Gaines told The AJC that his shoulder proved to be only sprain and there were not any breaks. The Bulldogs are off for two weeks before resuming play against Seton Hall on Dec. 21.
Gaines said he’s officially out “indefinitely” but indications are that he should be able to come back for the Bulldogs eventually. He’s averaging 12 points a game this season and coach Mark Fox said “it’d be a significant blow” if Gaines was unable to return.