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Happy dawgs

The Bulldogs are getting an attitude makeover this season. Paul Abell/AP Images

This story appears in the Dec. 12 "Interview" issue of ESPN The Magazine.

Sure, there are on-field explanations for Georgia's stunning transformation from 0-2 disappointment to SEC East champs. There's the dramatic improvement of the nation's fourth-ranked defense, which has bought into second-year coordinator Todd Grantham's 3-4 scheme. And there's the record-breaking right arm of redshirt sophomore QB Aaron Murray, who has thrown touchdowns -- a team-record 32 of 'em so far -- to 12 different receivers. There's also, let's face it, the mushy midseason schedule. But the cornerstone of Georgia's success has been something much less measurable: positive attitudes.

Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt wanted a way to block out the negativity surrounding the program after a 6-7 record in 2010. So over the summer, he bought copies of a self-help book, The Energy Bus, for every person associated with Georgia football, from the quarterbacks to the custodians. The book's theme: embrace the power of positive energy.

"It took on a lot of meaning," Murray says. Players and coaches adopted the book's mantras, praising positive teammates as "fuel injectors" and calling any Bulldog who ranted or whined an "energy vampire." (A photo of the offender, complete with Photoshopped fangs, went on display in the practice facility.) During practice, Richt handed out bus tickets that reminded the team how everyone needed to "get on the bus." If Georgia can pull off an upset of LSU in Atlanta on Dec. 3, even its biggest critics will be forced to hop on board too.

Alyssa Roenigk is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine. Follow ESPN The Magazine on Twitter, @ESPNmag, and like us on Facebook.