Will A.J. Green's return halt Bulldogs' slide?

ATHENS -- Three consecutive losses for the first time in 20 years. An 0-3 record in the SEC for the first time in 17 years. Ten players arrested in the past seven months. Rampant speculation about the coach's future.

"There's no doubt," said Mark Richt, the embattled coach, "that it's the toughest bit of adversity that we've faced since I've been here."

It might not be a bad time for Georgia's football team to get, say, 1,500 miles away from the eye of the storm.

That's the distance from Athens to Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo., where Georgia (1-3) will play Colorado (2-1) on Saturday night in a nonconference game that will bring either a respite from or a deepening of the Bulldogs' distress.

There is one break in the clouds: Georgia will have its most talented player, wide receiver A.J. Green, on the field against Colorado -- his first action this season after serving a four-game NCAA suspension for selling his Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000.

"That does spark a little bit of hope," receiver Tavarres King said. "One player is not going to change the outcome of a game, but he can sure as heck make some noise. I'm interested to see what his presence does."

Green has averaged about five catches for about 80 yards per game in his Georgia career, and the Bulldogs expect him to make other players more effective, too. King said Green's return will "open things up for me on the back side of him," open up the middle of the field for the tight ends and "do a heck of a lot for the confidence of that guy over there," pointing to quarterback Aaron Murray.

"I think A.J. is going to help a lot of issues," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. "He's a guy that when he touches the ball, he's got a chance to go to the house every time.

"He's going to open up things not only in the passing game but … in the running game. When you got a guy out there that defenses are concerned about, there tend to be less people in the box. But we've still got to execute."

Green vows to make up for lost time.

“Oh, man, I’m going to get loose out there,” he said. “I worked so hard, and I had to miss four games. This offseason was probably one of my best offseasons. I felt like, in just getting better and stronger and faster. ... I'm going to have a lot of catching up to do."

The Bulldogs are catching a lot of heat for their performance on the field and off. On the field, last week's loss was the seventh in their past nine SEC games. Off the field, the early Sunday DUI arrest -- and subsequent dismissal from the team -- of freshman linebacker Demetre Baker came just weeks after UGA President Michael Adams called on the athletic department to deal with the issue of player arrests.

Richt hasn't shied from the team's problems this week -- "I understand why everyone's bent out of shape," he said at one point -- but he has stressed to the players that the season is long and redeemable.

"He told us ... the team is like a big train, and it's been hard to get it moving early on," linebacker Christian Robinson said. "But once you get it going, it's easier to keep the momentum."

The Dogs will try to build momentum against a Colorado team that has two home wins (24-3 over Colorado State and 31-13 over Hawaii) and one big loss (52-7 at California). Georgia is a 4 1/2-point favorite, perhaps because of the Green effect.

Murray smiled at the thought of Green in the game. For the first four weeks of the season, the young quarterback has been able to throw to the star receiver only in practice.

"It got a little sad sometimes," Murray said. "I didn't even want to throw to him sometimes because I would be upset that I couldn't throw to him on Saturdays. It will be nice to have him back."

But Murray realizes the team's problems have run deeper than one missing player. "All of us," he said, "need to step up our game."