Next Year’s Clemson?
My Tech buddy Bubba, who guest appeared on my radio show two seasons ago with Wayne Gandy (a former Auburn all-American who had an undefeated senior season) and me, was texting yesterday talking about how bad Tech and Georgia were. I threw Auburn in that poison stew, too. I also threw a kudos to Clemson as the only true Atlanta area local team playing well. South Carolina is also bad and teams like FSU (one loss) and BAMA (one loss) are a bit more geographically removed from the capital of the only major urban forest in the United States.
How far in different directions have our nearest geographic rival (which to Athens is actually Clemson, not Tech) and the nation’s oldest public university diverged since GEORGIA (1785) blew Clemson out 45-21 to open last season?
Certainly not as far as would appear on the surface when you look at Clemson being named #1 in the College Football Playoff opening rankings last night and the so-called faithful of UGA seriously contemplating a head coaching change. Here’s the thing, y’all. A three-loss team is nowhere near a bad team historically. Win out and Georgia simply has no precedent to fire Mark Richt, save one and only one glaring and simple fact: the Dawgs have not won the SEC league title in ten years.
Richt has just two SEC titles in what will be his fifteenth full season at UGA. Vince Dooley, by comparison, won six during his twenty-five coaching years at UGA, at worst going seven seasons without one. The margin for error was actually less in those days: less games and no title tilt. An often forgotten fact is that only half of those league titles were with Herschel. We need an SEC ring!
While 0-for-10 is pretty unacceptable, let’s look closer at #1 CLEM & SON incorporated and their fighting Dabo’s: They played in and won a marginal bowl last year. Georgia played in and won a marginal bowl. They had three losses last season, same as (Top 10!) Georgia did and currently does.
They played in three dicey situations and lost all three games. At a GEORGIA featuring now NFL-great Todd Gurley supplemented by a new addition named Nick Chubb, who they have a terrible series record against (Dawgs 42-18-4). At the Orange Bowl and state of Georgia champion Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. At the then-defending national champions and what would eventually be an inaugural playoff team, FSU. They lost those big road games. Nothing else on their schedule pops out at all, and they won ten games (10-3).
Now they are #1.
Georgia has lost to a team that has the best winning percentage in recent history and in two other dicey situations. Reeling and having lost all offensive faith and facing a surging now Top 10 Florida team that will win the SEC East going away in a stadium formerly called the Gator Bowl, where we have won just 5-of-15. At a desperate and WAY past due for a close win Tennessee. These were each highly losable football games, y’all, and we lost all three, with the only home loss being to current #4 Bama. Nothing else on our schedule pops out at all, and we may win ten games (10-3).
Since the Clemson win, we have beaten bad, mediocre and decent teams and an 11-win Missouri on the road and lost to some good teams and this year’s Tennessee and last year’s Florida. We lost our most successful offensive coordinator in school history after last season. Todd Gurley, twice. Nick Chubb, once. Had we simply won that toss-up Tennessee game this year, we would be one of the seven ranked-for-the-playoff SEC teams and the sky would not have fallen. That’s my point here: the sky didn’t fall.
But, it will if we lose again. Georgia fans won’t be able to stomach any loss to Georgia Southern or another to three-win Georgia Tech, would hate to drop one to four-win oldest rival Aubie and best not lose a home game to a basketball school. Any bowl would lengthen the SEC’s longest bowl appearance streak and would be an opportunity to win or lose another game.
When the dust settles, nine or more wins will equate to Richt controlling his own destiny and eight or less may signal an unceremonious end. At the beginning of the season, I said I wanted to write a book about the many ups-and-downs of the GEORGIA football program during Mark Richt’s tenure. Could it be over so soon?
Could we see an Eason quarterbacked squad undefeated or with only one loss and battling Florida for the SEC East on October 29, 2016? He said he and Richt are a package deal yesterday, and he has all the high school credentials and tools to be great. That said, 70% of highly-rated recruits are busts.