NEW ORLEANS, Dec. 31 (UPI) -- The decline of the Florida State program began with the departure of some of Bobby Bowden's long-time assistants, including current Georgia Coach Mark Richt.
Richt gets his first crack at his mentor Wednesday night when the fourth-ranked Bulldogs take on the 16th-ranked Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl.
The fortunes of the programs have gone in opposite directions since Richt departed Florida State following the 2000 season and took the Georgia job.
Richt has posted a two-year record of 20-5 and this season led the Bulldogs (12-1) to their first Southeastern Conference championship since 1982.
"In my opinion, our players looked up to Florida State," Richt said. "Georgia wants to be where those guys have been. We have all the respect in the world for them."
Georgia also tied a school record for victories. Its only previous 12-win season came in 1980, when the Bulldogs won the national championship.
While a 9-4 record would please many athletic directors, it represents trouble at Florida State, which is down to its third quarterback. Chris Rix, who was benched for four games earlier in the year, was declared ineligible for the Sugar Bowl when he overslept and missed a final exam.
"I feel awful for him," Richt said. "I did recruit him and we did like him enough to offer him a year before his signing date. We really believed he was the guy we wanted."
Adrian McPherson, who led the Seminoles to a 3-1 record, was dismissed from the team last month over allegations he stole a check. McPherson is now the center of a gambling investigation involving the Seminoles.
The absence of Rix and McPherson leaves the team in the hands of third-string quarterback Fabian Walker, who attempted only eight passes all season and completed five.
The Seminoles also will be without defensive tackle Darnell Dockett, who will not be allowed to play for violating a team rule.
Although the Seminoles have four losses, they earned a BCS berth by winning their 10th Atlantic Coast Conference title in 11 years.
After losing at North Carolina State, Florida State ended the regular season with a 31-14 victory over Florida. But the Seminoles need to upset the Bulldogs to avoid their first five-loss season since 1981. They are just 17-8 since Richt left.
Georgia won its final two games in impressive fashion, routing Georgia Tech, 51-7, then dominating Arkansas, 30-3, in the Southeastern Conference championship game.
David Greene was named the MVP of the SEC title game, completing 17 of 29 passes for 237 yards and one touchdowns. He was the SEC's leader in passer efficiency and tossed 22 touchdown passes this year, third on Georgia's single-season list.
With 201 receptions, Terrence Edwards needs eight to break the SEC record set by Kentucky's Craig Yeast from 1995-98. Musa Smith surpassed the 1,000-yard mark, rushing for 1,179 yards and eight touchdowns.
Georgia leads the all-time series, 5-4-1, but the teams have not met since the 1984 Citrus Bowl, when the teams played to a 17-17 tie. In 1959, Georgia handed Florida State its worst loss in school history, 42-0.
Georgia has an all-time bowl mark of 19-15-3, including a 2-4 mark in the Sugar Bowl. Its last appearance in the Sugar Bowl resulted in a 27-23 loss to Penn State in 1983 with the national championship on the line.
Florida State's bowl record stands at 19-10-2. The Seminoles posted a 30-17 victory over Virginia Tech in the Gator Bowl last season.