SEC East Champions Ready to Burn ATL?
If there is a such thing as an ugly win for a championship, this was certainly it. UGA had no running game in the first half, and the lowly Kentucky Wildcats had a slim lead and threatened to win a football game in Athens for only the second time since the 1970s. Their last win Between the Hedges? On their last trip to the Classic City just two seasons ago. That was a bad loss near the end of Georgia’s first down year under Richt, a five-loss campaign which prefaced a program-defacing awful season last year, an actual losing season of UGA football. Unacceptable at the nation’s oldest public university.
The most-tenured coach in the SEC in his eleventh season, Mark Richt has the fifth-best winning percentage of any active division one head football coach. He is 7-3 in bowls, 2-1 in BCS games, 2-1 in SEC Championship games. He has a #2 and a #3 national finish. And he was this close to being fired. At 0-2, a gloom set over the Dawg Nation rarely recognizable outside of Jacksonville. This was the great coach, the coach with the best winning percentage in school history, the great man. Shunned. Nearly fired. Any loss could have resulted in it, could have eventually led to it. Even in this game after eight straight wins including big wins over Tennessee, Florida and Auburn. None came and Mark Richt will get a contract extension and will probably retire someday from football as the head coach at the University of Georgia. Fact: He will go down in history as one of the greatest coaches ever.
Carlton Thomas was suspended again. Isaiah Crowell was hurt on the game’s second play. We had no running game. But we had enough heart to find one. Our fourth string running back, a tiny little former walk-on receiver named Brandon Harton, ran for 101 yards Saturday (89 in the second half) to overcome three ugly UGA turnovers. Our defense gave up no yardage in the second half and extended the conference lead in sacks. In one game today, we essentially accomplished the maximum that the University of South Carolina has ever accomplished in the history of their program. We won the SEC East. For the first time since the Dawgs beat LSU for the title in 2005, Georgia will play for the SEC Championship in the Georgia Dome. First up is another ATL contest, this against a hungry and talented GA Tech program we have beaten nine of ten times for the Peach State Governor’s Cup.
Georgia has the #2 offense in the SEC and the #4 defense in the NCAA; we are statistically-speaking the most complete team in the SEC. Playing as favorites at Tech this coming Saturday at noon and as underdogs in the Dome the following Saturday at 4:00 p.m., we will have a great chance to win both of these huge contests and be champions again and again.
Regardless of what happens, make no mistake about it: We are champions!