The question was a sincere one from a young reporter who really wanted to know:
What’s missing at Georgia?
His point: The SEC has won four national championships since Mark Richt got to Georgia in 2001. None of them belonged to the Bulldogs. Florida has won two of the last three BCS titles. LSU won national championships in 2003 and 2007 and has won three SEC championships in the past eight years. Georgia was ranked No. 1 prior to the 2008 season and finished with a “disappointing” 10-3 record.
So he wanted to know what those programs have that Georgia doesn’t have.
I didn’t agree with the premise of the question but I wanted to give him an answer backed up with some facts. So I crunched a few numbers and came up with this answer: There is nothing missing at Georgia that a little perspective, and maybe an All-SEC defensive end or two, wouldn’t cure.
I do a weekly radio show out of Nashville (104.5 The Zone) and last Wednesday a caller asked me if Richt would be in trouble if he had another “disappointing” season. He was serious.
Now Mark Richt certainly doesn’t need me to make a case for him. But let’s all take a deep breath here and try to take some of the emotion of last season out of the process.
Here is what the top six football programs in the SEC have accomplished in the eight years that Mark Richt has been at Georgia:
Team————Wins—–SEC wins*—–SEC Champ—-BCS Bowls——-BCS titles
*–Does not count SEC championship game appearances
Here is a look behind those numbers:
Nobody has won more games (82) and more conference games (46) in eight years than Richt. LSU is tied for total wins and Florida is tied for conference wins.
Only seven men in the history of Division I-A football have won 80 games in their first eight seasons as a head coach. Richt is one of those seven.
Only LSU, with three, has won more SEC championships in that span than Richt’s two. He has taken Georgia to the SEC championship game three times in eight seasons. Only LSU has been there more, with four appearances.
What about the national championships won by Florida and LSU while Georgia fans are still waiting for their first since 1980? Okay, that’s fair. But consider this: Winning a national championship is a function of being good but, in the BCS system, it is also a function of luck.
Auburn wasn’t lucky in 2004 despite being undefeated. Southern Cal and Oklahoma started the season ranked 1-2 and both went undefeated. They finished ahead of Auburn and the Tigers didn’t get the chance to play for the title.
In 2006 Florida was ranked No. 4 on championship Saturday but caught a break when No. 2 Southern Cal lost to UCLA. Florida jumped over No. 3 Michigan and into the championship game with Ohio State. If Southern Cal takes care of business, the Gators go to the Sugar Bowl and don’t win Urban Meyer’s first national championship.
In 2007 LSU began championship Saturday ranked No. 7. But losses by No. 1 Missouri and No. 2 West Virginia opened the door and LSU vaulted to No. 2. LSU proved it was the best team in the country when it trounced Ohio State in the BCS championship game. But if either Missouri or West Virginia wins, LSU never gets that chance.
The point is that if a coach with all the resources he needs is not competing at the top of his conference, then he is fair game. Georgia fans should expect their program to play at the highest level and to compete for SEC championships on a regular basis. But if a coach is competing at the top of this conference, then championships become a function of injuries and breaks.
Now, should Georgia fans be concerned that Florida has won two of the last three national championships and will be just about everybody’s preseason No. 1 in 2009?
You bet. Based on what I saw in my two days last week in Gainesville, everybody in this league is going to have to step it up to keep pace with the Gators. And there is the challenge for Richt and every other coach in this league.
Am I missing something here? If so, the floor is yours.