Is this the year for Georgia to end Florida-Tennesee stronghold in East?

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 9, 2000

So is this the year the University of Georgia flexes its muscle and ends the Tennessee-Florida stronghold in the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division?

That may be the question everyone loves to ask going into the 2000 SEC&160;football season.

The Bulldogs have certainly convinced a few folks that they will have a big bite to go along with their bark, although on the Southeastern Conference radio show the other night, an SEC&160;writer said he doesn’t believe the Bulldogs have the running game to overtake the Volunteers and Gators.

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Athlon Magazine seems to differ, ranking Georgia No. 7 in the nation. Lindy’s has the Bulldogs at No.9, while The Sporting News ranks the Athens school No. 11.

While Lindy’s has Georgia No. 7, the magazine still has the Bulldogs behind Florida in the SEC Eastern Division. Athon, which has always had a penchant for going out on the limb, picks Georiga to win the East, while The Sporting News has them third, behind you-know-who.

Of course, none of those magazines picked Tennessee to win it all in 1998.

Speaking of Tennessee, the latest SEC&160;news seemed to catch a few folks by surprise as quarterback John Rattay decided to leave the University of Tennessee this week.

If the name if familiar it’s because John is the brother of Tim Rattay, who broke almost every quarterback record possible at Louisiana Tech.

Rattay, an incoming freshman from Phoenix, was most likely going to be redshirted this year. Those signal-callers attempting to fill the shoes left by the graduation of Tee Martin are Joey Mathews, Casey Clausen or A.J. Suggs.

Rattay was a consensus top five high school quarterback. He was a USA Today All-American.

In Tennessee spring scrimmages, Rattay was 16 of 47 for 172 yards. In the spring game he was 2 for 10 for 19 yards.

Maybe Rattay saw the writing on the wall, or maybe he figured Tennessee is not Louisiana Tech and the Volunteer fans are well remembered for booing Peyton Manning his freshman year. That certainly didn’t last long and you won’t find many Vol fans owning up to that these days.

Or maybe Rattay was just not content to wait his turn. He watched what his brother did at Tech and may have figured he could be a big man on campus right away.

Players’ leaving schools like Tennessee or Florida or Georgia is certainly not earth-shattering news. With those schools attracting the cream of the crop all across the nation, the handwriting becomes apparent to a lot of guys who got all the attention in high school.

Greg Barnum, who many had believed was going to be the starting center at Tennessee, went back home to Texas after spring drills saying he missed home.

Running back Onterrio Smith of California was kicked off the team for a violation of team rules, while Sterling Kazee, a defensive back, was kicked off because he missed too many classes.

While Tennessee has no reason to sit in the corner and cry, the Vols do have some holes to fill this year.

All of this has to make Southern Mississippi fans happy. After all, the Golden Eagles kick off their season in Knoxville.

Then again, maybe not. If you call up on the Internet, it has a clock at the top counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until the Southern Miss game.

Hopefully, Tennessee will be looking ahead to its second game two weeks later against Florida. After all, Georgia is not far behind in the chase.

Joey Martin is sports editor of The Democrat. He can be reached by calling 446-5172 ext. 232 or at