Improvement Needed Across Divisions
Han Vance on Georgia football: Looking for key areas of needed improvement by Georgia, the most glaring is in being more successful versus the SEC West and in the postseason.
Georgia handily swept the SEC East over the last two seasons, including victories last year at 10-win Kentucky and in Jacksonville over 10-win Florida. While the division itself was downtrodden in 2017 with South Carolina the second-best team, in 2018 the SEC East had a better head-to-head record than the SEC West and its three top teams averaged out better than the top teams of the West.
Meanwhile, SEC East champ Georgia went 1-2 versus the SEC West to fall to 4-5 under Smart.
In 2016, Georgia was blown out severely at pre-probation Ole Miss then edged Auburn in Athens.
In 2017, Georgia’s SEC opener was a home win over Dan Mullen’s Mississippi State. Again on the road, Georgia was unprepared and unmotivated and took a bad beating at Auburn. Georgia avenged the Auburn loss for the SEC then lost to Bama in overtime in the national championship game, both in Atlanta.
In 2018, an undefeated Georgia was ambushed at LSU. Georgia beat Auburn in Athens and then lost the SEC championship game to Bama. Finishing 1-2 versus the SEC West after two .500 years, where Georgia was 1-1 and then 2-2.
Then, the sUGAr travesty happened. Heavily-favored Georgia, currently on a two-game losing streak, came out beyond flat against Texas (falling to 4-6 in the Sugar Bowl). Georgia went 0-2 postseason.
Fake optimism aside for a perceived top five team, the obvious word for that is downtrending.
Georgia is the only SEC school that gets to play the SEC championship game instate, so that inherent advantage should be maximized. Under Kirby Smart, Georgia is 1-1 in that big game and 1-2 playing in the new dome in the ATL. In the CFP, UGA is 1-1, with an 0-1 mark in the national final.
Continuing to look at the Kirby Smart era alone, Georgia is just 2-2 in bowl games and an unacceptable 3-3 in all postseason games. Both UGA history percentages have gone down since the era began.
Winning half your biggest games is obviously not acceptable to the ambitious head coach and not something simply fixable via strong recruiting classes. In-game adjustments and strategy shifts, coaching execution are what gets a team over the hump when the competition ramps up.
Georgia under Coach Smart is 3-0 when playing Auburn inside the Peach State and a horrendous 1-5 in all other games UGA has played versus the SEC West, including blowouts losses in all three true road games and 0-2 versus Alabama in games Georgia blew leads of 13 or more.
Schedule sets up differently this year with the SEC West’s Texas A&M (my grandpa’s school) visiting Athens AFTER the Auburn game. Here, the league and school have messed with strong traditions again, moving the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry out of its final SEC game for UGA slot.
I’m pro-tradition, of course, but it could work out for Georgia considering other trends. Georgia should be well prepared for the SEC West two-game gauntlet when 11/16 at Auburn and 11/23 Texas A&M hit the schedule. Win those games, after sweeping the SEC East again, maybe, with the Cocktail Party in Florida on 11/2 easily the dicey spot. Tech in Atlanta on 11/30 would be followed by the SEC championship game, also played in the great state of Georgia.
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