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December 18, 2008

Group Hug in the SEC

ATHENS -- Although they're concentrating on their Jan. 1 date with No. 19 Michigan State in the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, Fla., the No. 16 Georgia Bulldogs will take an interest in other postseason games featuring teams from the Southeastern Conference.

"All the Southeastern Conference teams take pride in trying to win the most bowl games," Georgia coach Mark Richt said Wednesday.

"Everybody wants that to happen. I'm a fan like anybody else; when I watch a game, they'll flash who's done what as far as bowl records and those kinds of things, and I want to see the SEC on the top."

The SEC will send eight teams to bowls this year, including No. 1 Florida's showdown with No. 2 Oklahoma in the FedEx BCS Championship Game on Jan. 8 in Miami.

"You always want the SEC to look good," said Georgia fullback Brannan Southerland. "You always see that bowl breakout (on TV) where they have the SEC, the Big 10, the Big 12 and what their record is in the bowls. We definitely want to represent the SEC well."

"You pull for your conference," agreed receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. "You want your conference to do well, whoever it is that's playing because it's a reflection on your conference."

"You can't help but look and see how everybody else is holding up against other teams in different conferences," said linebacker Rennie Curran. "We're ready to go to Orlando and take care of business, but at the same time, you always like to see how Florida and the other teams will do in the big bowls."

A number of players were diplomatic when asked about supporting their conference rival Florida, which manhandled the Bulldogs 49-10 on Nov. 1, but others expressed their continued distaste for the Gators.

"Whenever the SEC plays in a bowl game, you want them to win, although I have to admit I don't want to see Florida win the national championship," said defensive back Andrew Williams. "I know it's Big 12 versus the SEC - come on Oklahoma! I would pull for the Sooners - I can't stand Florida."

Defensive lineman Corvey Irvin is on the fence about Florida and Oklahoma, but he's got no qualms about pulling for Alabama, which defeated Georgia 41-30 on Sept. 27 in Athens.

"I'll be watching the national championship game but I don't know who I'll pull for," said Irvin. "I'll watch Alabama in the Sugar Bowl and I hope they win. I just like college football and want to see who's out there and who's competing and see how they play as opposed to the way we play."

Richt, who didn't say outright he was hoping for a Florida victory (instead commenting, "I always pull for the Southeastern Conference"), added that as hard as SEC teams are on one another during the season, there's an inherent respect that comes when league members battle teams from other conferences.

"One of the greatest examples of .. fans in our league, (was) when I got to watch Alabama play Clemson in their opening game," said Richt, whose son Jon plays for Clemson. "Towards the end of the game when it was inevitable that Alabama was going to win, the fans weren't cheering 'Alabama, Alabama, Alabama;' they were cheering 'SEC, SEC.' There's a lot of pride throughout our league."



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