That thud you heard coming out of Jacksonville, FL, on Saturday was Georgia’s national championship hopes crashing down. But I am still surprised how much of the media is trying to avoid responsibility for the Bulldogs’ high expectations.
Remember, it was just two months or so ago that many national polls and publications … ESPN The Magazine, the AP media poll, the USA Today coaches’ poll … acclaimed the Bulldogs as college football’s No. 1 team. And Coach Mark Richt embraced the idea, saying that it could motivate his players to great achievements.
And the Bulldogs had to like being back in the national spotlight. It has been 28 years, since Herschel Walker’s auspicious freshman season of 1980, since the Bulldogs won it all. They were No. 1 going into the Sugar Bowl after the 1982 season, but lost to Penn State in what turned out to be Walker’s final college game.
For the rest of the 1980s and in the ’90s, Georgia was generally mediocre, routinely getting whacked by Florida and never able to win consistently against key rivals such as Tennessee, Auburn and Georgia Tech.
But a strong finish to the 2007 season, and a lot of returning talent, had media people flocking over the Bulldogs. Hey, fans didn’t vote them to the top of the polls. And in fact, most fans know how competitive the Southeastern Conference is, and how strong are such traditional powers as Southern Cal and Oklahoma.
Now the Atlanta Journal-Constitution is pointing fingers elsewhere. Just a week ago, one AJC columnist called the Bulldogs “the class of the SEC.” And in today’s opinion on Florida’s 49-10 rout of Georgia, another columnist conveniently says that Richt’s team was always overrated.
Uh, folks, Georgia is not nearly as bad a team as the Gator rout would indicate. Turnovers, sloppy passing and continued costly penalties fueled a very good Gator team. The Bulldogs’ biggest problem this season has been an inability to handle pressure.
In a 41-30 loss to No. 2 Alabama, Georgia let things get out of control in the first half and trailed 31-0 before righting the ship. Much the same was true against Florida. Georgia easily could have led at halftime, or at least been closer than the 14-3 score. But a Stafford interception early in the third quarter sparked another Georgia self-immolation. So the Dogsa easily have the talent to compete with anyone, just not the poise.
But hey, that’s part of winning a title, too, as Georgia’s 1980 team proved. The Bulldogs had close victories that season against South Carolina, Florida and Notre Dame. However, the media had Georgia ranked 16th in preseason that year. And the media had Alabama, now unbeaten, ranked 24th this preseason.
So read the media, and weep for what they don’t tell you.