Final Blawg of Season

After six-win and eight-win seasons over the past two campaigns, it is nice to see the SEC East Champion Georgia Bulldogs back in the final AP poll at season’s end, finishing in the Top 20 no less at #19. UGA was #20 in the coaches poll.

No doubt, Georgia suffered some tough losses that could have easily been wins: 33-30 to #11 Michigan State in triple overtime in the Outback Bowl and 45-42 to #9 South Carolina in Athens, but those go on record as the best Spartans and the best Gamecocks teams of all-time. #2 LSU handily won the SEC Championship game over UGA after being shutdown on offense and burned with early down passing for a half. #1 Alabama made the field goals and played great coverage special teams in the National Championship rematch of SEC West powers, and it is noteworthy that they used the Mike Bobo first half offensive game plan for the whole game and won.

Two-and-one in the last three meetings of this non-rivalry-because-it-is-so-rarely-played border meeting, Georgia won’t get to face Alabama next season as originally scheduled due to an SEC scheduling decision. Look for the Tide instead to roll back on the SEC schedule in 2013 and for Georgia to potentially face them in the 2012 SEC Championship game, if mighty BAMA can finally muster the strength to actually win their football division for the first time in three years. After yielding only eight points per game and after decimating the only opponent that beat them, they deserve the title. But they may not have deserved to play for it at all, in fairness to one-loss Big 12 Champion Oklahoma State.

The least competitive Georgia loss was the Georgia Dome opener to #8 Boise State, when UGA had sixteen first-time regular players. Since D.J. Shockley shocked highly-ranked LSU for Richt’s second SEC Championship, UGA has not fared well in the Dome in Atlanta: losing to an upset-minded West Virginia in the Hurricane Katrina relocated Sugar Bowl and dropping the two games played there this season (Boise, LSU), while upsetting a highly-ranked Virginia Tech in a nice come from behind win in a Chick-fil-A-Bowl.

Richt has been at Georgia for eleven seasons and coached in four SEC Championships and beaten Florida only three times, so doing the math it has been an East title more than 25% of the time, which is pretty good and a Cocktail Party win less than 25% of the time, which is bad. The only things statistically harder for Georgia have been winning the SEC Championship and finishing in the national Top 3. That has happened twice apiece on three total teams (less than 20% of the time each). It is imperative for the continued prowess of the program that Georgia beats Florida for consecutive times for the first time since the 1980s. The other dicey spots on the 2012 schedule are the trips to the Columbias: Georgia opens at sometimes explosive Mizzou and plays at Cocky in the Border Bash midseason. Auburn just added one-time Georgia great defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder and should be improved. A six-of-seven overall win against Aubie on the Plains would probably land the Dawgs back in Atlanta to face Auburn again or Bama or LSU or #5 Arkansas. Georgia has also struggled to protect the house and annually drops a home game, to the dismay of the red-and-black clad faithful. Improving bowl team Vandy and a potentially resurgent pass happy UT Vols pose the biggest threats this upcoming season. Overall, the schedule suggests at least ten wins.

Thank you for reading this season. Next Blawg will be my annual recruiting rundown after signing day, and I will ramp back up briefly for spring football and then shut it down again for the summer until the season gets close. My theory on covering basketball and baseball here is that I only do it when the teams are playing well and the interest is high. In the meantime, I regularly cover all three top men’s sports as the senior writer at The Georgia Playbook magazine, free online subscriptions at www.thegeorgiaplaybook.com. Big Hairy Blawg now has a Facebook page, too; go to Facebook and search “Big Hairy Blawg” and then click that you “LIKE” it to follow.

As always: GO DAWGS!!!