Last year the Bulldogs were once more firmly entrenched among the predicted also-rans. So Georgia went unbeaten, with two ties, winning the SEC championship. "And now," says Dooley, sadly, "I guess people will be picking us high again. There's no way we can be as good as we were last year."
Dooley's gloomy observations are not, however, shared by rivals. Said one SEC team assistant: "There's nobody in our league who can stay with Georgia. I'll tell you why, but you had better not use my name. It's very simple: Georgia has the best players and the best coaching combination. How do you beat that?"
There is a third factor: the Bulldogs' humiliating Sugar Bowl loss to Arkansas just when the 1968 team was being touted as the school's best of all time. "We have to set some things straight," said All-America end candidate Dennis Hughes. "This team had no business getting beat, and I don't like to get beat."
Georgia's fans, too, have been known to get up tight when the team loses. There was a period just before Dooley when they turned out 1) to cheer the band, and 2) to boo the team. But that is past. Now they are piling in from Athens, of course, and the other big cities within a 100-mile radius of the campus—Atlanta, Macon and Augusta—and buying season tickets at a record rate in happy anticipation of seeing things set straight.
At last count the sale was nearing the 25,000 mark, which is about as many season tickets as can be offered for a 59,000-seat stadium. At least they think it's a 59,000-seat stadium. That's the figure set for a capacity crowd. But no one in Athens is really sure. There are no turnstiles, and to date no one has bothered to count ticket stubs after a game. Instead, they have Joel Eaves, athletic director and crowd guesser.
It is halftime, Georgia leading, of course, and a newspaperman wanders up, pencil and pad at the ready. "I wonder," he wonders, "how many we got today?"
Eaves glances around, studying the crowd, taking in the 200 or so (for free) lining the railroad trestle to the east, taking in the 1,000 or so (for $2) lining the bridge between the two campuses to the west. "I would say," he says, "there are 58,132." And that's the way it goes in the book.
But when it comes to counting quarterbacks, Dooley prefers a more exact tally. This year he counted and got four, not one of whom would embarrass any school. The best may be Mike Cavan, a starter as a sophomore last season and rated by many as the best quarterback in the conference. But he injured a knee in the Sugar Bowl and had a dismal spring, mostly because he had grown fat.
"Sure I was overweight in the spring," said Cavan, who does not suffer from modesty. "But spring practice doesn't really count. When it's time to play, I'll be down to weight and I'll be the quarterback."
Then there is Donnie Hampton, a senior who throws and runs well and makes few mistakes; Paul Gilbert, an excellent passer and runner who was scheduled as last year's No. 1 quarterback until injured; and Jack Montgomery, a sophomore sensation of spring practice. Georgia, it is said in Athens, can lose its first three quarterbacks and still have an All-America contender.