Georgia seizing chance to put problems in distant past

Mark Richt's team has won eight straight after going 20-17 since early in 2008.

Mark Richt's team has won eight straight since going 20-17 from early in 2008. (Brant Sanderlin)

Every win pushes the agony a little further back into history. Every significant moment – the comeback against Florida, the domination of Auburn – quiets the anger just a little bit more.

Georgia has positioned itself to clinch the SEC East on Saturday against Kentucky in Athens. But of greater significance actually is what the program may be starting to show about the future.

The Bulldogs likely have four games remaining: Kentucky, Georgia Tech, the SEC championship and a bowl game. How they perform in those four will say a lot about where things are headed and to what extent the fan base can again become unified, as it was from Mark Richt’s arrival through 2007 – and until the “blackout” game against Alabama in 2008.

If the Dogs defeat Kentucky, it will secure a division title unlike any other under Richt. He won a conference championship in only his second season in 2002. He won the East again in 2003 (losing the SEC title game to LSU) and 2005 (this time beating LSU). But over the past few years, the good feelings had been eroding, losses had been increasing, doubt had been growing.

When Steve Spurrier punctuated his postgame comments following South Carolina’s win over Florida last week with, “We’ll see what Georgia does when they know they have to win,” it wasn’t the nonsensical ramblings from the SEC’s most notorious tweaker. Fact is, Spurrier had a point. The Bulldogs had something to prove.

The danger signs were far more widespread than Georgia coming off its first losing season under Richt (6-7). After a 4-0 start in 2008, the Bulldogs were drilled at home by Alabama — the black jerseys were quickly put back into a box –and went only 20-17 in their next 37 games (0-2 to start this year) and 12-12 in the SEC.

Through this season’s second-week loss at South Carolina, Georgia was 5-10 in its past 15 SEC games. It had lost not only to recent conference powers Alabama and Florida, but LSU, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Mississippi State, Auburn and South Carolina (twice).

The resulting perception: Georgia hadn’t only slipped on the national landscape – losing 10 of 12 to ranked teams — but also was falling dangerously behind the curve in the SEC.

That’s not even addressing losing to Colorado and Central Florida.

Is that all buried now? Maybe. It’s easy for skeptics to point out the East is weak, favored South Carolina imploded and the 2011 schedule lacked the SEC’s three toughest teams: LSU, Alabama and Arkansas. (Georgia plays at Alabama next season.) But an eight-game winning streak is remarkable under any circumstances, let alone in a season that began with losses to Boise State and South Carolina.

The Dogs found themselves trailing 17-3 in the second quarter to Florida. They came back to win 24-20.

They had struggled against ranked teams before last week, even modestly ranked ones like Auburn (No. 24 by AP). But they left no doubt, winning 45-7.

They are showing a toughness and resilience that has been missing in Athens.

Richt was pleasantly surprised this week when a scuffle broke out at practice Tuesday. “We had a very spirited practice,” he said. “We actually had to pull a couple of guys off each other.”

When is the last time you sensed that kind of hunger?

Aaron Murray is coming off his most impressive game of the season. The defense under Todd Grantham seems to get better each week and has risen to No. 4 in the nation. The Bulldogs are second only to LSU in the SEC (tied for eighth nationally) with a plus-9 turnover differential.

I think some folks have even pulled darts out of Mike Bobo’s picture.

When the season opened, Georgia looked disturbingly unprepared against Boise State. But Richt has succeeded in putting out fires, from the 0-2 start to the failed drug tests of three running backs to the postgame mess at Vanderbilt. He has dealt with the immaturity issues of Isaiah Crowell.

Players are responding to him. That’s more than half the battle in coaching.

All are positive signs for the future. This is Georgia’s chance to affirm this hasn’t been an aberration. With up to four remaining games, this is the Dogs’ chance to put all that preceded this winning streak far into the past.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

430 comments Add your comment

NC Dawg

November 18th, 2011
12:54 pm

First! Go Dawgs!!

Go Dawgs !

November 18th, 2011
12:55 pm

I left a few darts in Bobo’s picture for the Ga Tech & SEC Championship game (just in case)…

Go Dawgs !

November 18th, 2011
12:57 pm

LSU’s defense is # 1 after beating Oregon & Alabama. UGA’s is # 4 after beating N.M. State & Ole Pizz…

Oakdale Dawg

November 18th, 2011
12:57 pm

We’ll see where this ride goes, but this year has been a lot more fun than the past two!

WDE

November 18th, 2011
12:59 pm

Nice article Jeff, I agree it looks like we have righted the ship however these next 4 games could do a lot to prove that if we can play like we did the last couple of weeks…

juice sourcer

November 18th, 2011
12:59 pm

They have beaten nobody this year and have had by far the easiest schedule in the SEC.

MonstaRUST

November 18th, 2011
1:01 pm

@ Go Dawgs! – Those Defensive Rankings didn’t come from just 2 games! GATA

MonstaRUST

November 18th, 2011
1:02 pm

LSU HASN’T SEEN ANYTHING LIKE UGA!!! GO DAWGS!!! SIC’EM!! Murray and Mitchell have a field day with any team from the SEC WEST!

Go Dawgs !

November 18th, 2011
1:02 pm

That’s like me (UGA) being an MMA fighter ranked # 4 with wins over a 14 year-old boy & a 11 year-old boy. And LSU being an MMA fighter with wins over Forrest Griffin & Chuck Liddell…

GTBob

November 18th, 2011
1:04 pm

Wow, even Jeff is drinking the kool aid. Their best win is against Auburn, a team that needed an onside kick to beat Utah St. and is going to finish 7-5.

Dbalcer1

November 18th, 2011
1:05 pm

Go Dawgs !

November 18th, 2011
1:05 pm

LSU beat the current # 3 & # 6 teams. We ain’t beat anybody currently ranked over # 20.

SatchelBuzz

November 18th, 2011
1:05 pm

Look at the schedule,…..what a joke.

THWG!!!

BIG-D

November 18th, 2011
1:06 pm

UGA will be first team ever to start season 0-2,to make it to SEC
championship game! GO DAWGS!

Go Dawgs !

November 18th, 2011
1:08 pm

Before everyone exalts King Grantham’s defense let’s see how it plays against Ga. Tech’s running attack,LSU,and whatever bowl team we play. Don’t congratulate him for stopping N.M. State’s offensive juggernaut…

PTC DAWG

November 18th, 2011
1:09 pm

It warms the heart to see how much our rival fans care.

bamaguy

November 18th, 2011
1:11 pm

I certainly hope UGA beats LSU in the SEC Championship game, but I don’t realistically think it will happen. LSU will be the first top quality team UGA has played all year. Turns out Boise was not all that good. We’ll see. Anything can happen (Texas Tech beat Oklahoma).

dallasdawg

November 18th, 2011
1:11 pm

GTbob and Satchelbuzz making fun of our schedule is a joke in itself. Last time I checked boys your team played in a weak high school region. I will trade schedules with you techies any day of the week THWGT!!!!!

zebra

November 18th, 2011
1:12 pm

And Ga. Tech is yet again an afterthought. Go Old Yeller!Hahahahahahahhahahahahhahahahahhahahahhahahhahahahahahh

Gdawg

November 18th, 2011
1:14 pm

GTBob, did your parents turn off your cable in the basement again? Did you just figure out Captain Spock in not real? Read your own articles, no one else does.

Silly Bloggers

November 18th, 2011
1:15 pm

I wonder if GTBob broke a finger rushing to comment on the same old song and dance he always does on a UGA blog. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again…UGA scientists could cure cancer and GTBob would find a way to turn it into a negative. Again, grow up and grow a set.

juice sourcer

November 18th, 2011
1:15 pm

Let’s see…here are the teams GA has beaten…
1) Coastal Carolina (6-4)
2) Ole Miss (2-8)
3) Miss St (5-5)
4) Tenn (4-6)
5) Vanderbuilt (5-5)
6) Florida (5-5)
7) New Mexico St.(4-6)
8) Auburn (6-4) And this is a beat up team that GA played at home after Auburn ran the gauntlet of playing SC, LSU, and Arkansas 3 out of 4 weeks.

So Georgia has beaten one team with a winning record and all the teams they beat have a combined record of (37-43)…really impressive.

RCB

November 18th, 2011
1:16 pm

Memo to Mr. Schultz and Mr. Bradley: Just exactly why do you think Mr. Richt or UGA have to prove anything to you? And quit moving the goal posts. Before too long they willl have to walk on water to receive your approval.

Still@theKool-aidBAR

November 18th, 2011
1:17 pm

I wouldn’t say UGA plays Bama next year just yet. That is yet to be seen because of Texas A&M and Mizzou. It is looking like Bama goes away and UGA get Mizzou instead. Talk about an easier game on paper. Bama will be losing some good players, but they would be harder than Mizzou more likely than not.

Dap01

November 18th, 2011
1:19 pm

It is rare that a positive article is written about UGA. Articles could be written on the high level of integrity in recruiting (no oversigning like Alabama and South Carolina, no signing bonus’s like Auburn). Or what about the toughest drug policy in the SEC or ACC. Or what about the tremendous fan support (they double GT’s attendance). CMR don’t lash out at recruits for visiting other schools (like Paul Johnson).

I guess negative articles are easier.

Silly Bloggers

November 18th, 2011
1:20 pm

UGA could beat LSU and bloggers like GTBob would come up with the officails being paid, the SEC being weak like the ACC, that if we played again we would lose by 30. Well, I guess it is better thant the altrnative which would be UGA losing to Florida or some of these other teams and allowing their lives to be worth living. Tough times for the GTBob’s of the world.

GTBob

November 18th, 2011
1:21 pm

UGA scientists could cure cancer

Better chance of that then UGA beating LSU.

reebok

November 18th, 2011
1:21 pm

Georgia Tech is a pretty good team, & will be entering the rivalry game at 8-3 and ranked approx 22 after beating Duke tomorrow…If UGA looks past Tech to the SEC Championship, they could easily get updumped…I don’t think Georgia is any better than Clemson (which Tech flattened) or Virginia Tech (who GT led late in the 3rd quarter). That’s just my opinion, obviously…good luck against the Wildcats…I expect the Dogs to win handily, and I hope your guys are able to avoid the injury bug.

Say It Aint So

November 18th, 2011
1:21 pm

GTbob and Satchelbuzz can both hope the weather is warmer in El Paso if they make it there. Damnest thing to worry about what the Dawgs are doing. I guess all that to Hell with GA in the fight song says a lot about those bees.

treekilla

November 18th, 2011
1:21 pm

If UGA scientists cured world hunger, Jeff “Gator” Schultz would write a column accusing Mark Richt of promoting obesity.

Dap01

November 18th, 2011
1:22 pm

If UGA wins out, how will Alabama fans, GT fans and others rip on UGA then? If UGA loses to GT, then they lose, if they lose to LSU, then they lose. But if they were to be FORTUNATE enough to win, how will people still come complain about Georgia?

Still@theKool-aidBAR

November 18th, 2011
1:24 pm

Word is Bobo’s agent/wife is fielding many calls from teams with Head Coaching openings.

brad

November 18th, 2011
1:25 pm

agree cool-aid..with Bama not on the schedule next year..UGA is primed for at worst 11-1 next year

reebok

November 18th, 2011
1:26 pm

Dap01, I’m a Tech fan, and if UGA beats my team and LSU I will congratulate them and their fans on their State and SEC championships.

Whopper Dawg

November 18th, 2011
1:29 pm

With Missouri comes to the east, may not play bama next year. If so, next year’s schedule could be easier then this year’s.

bamaguy

November 18th, 2011
1:30 pm

UGA fans will be only slightly happier than the Bama fans if the Dawgs win the SEC Championship, because that would likely put Bama in the National Championship game.

JB

November 18th, 2011
1:30 pm

And here ARE the reasons for the turn around:
1. Much improved defensive coaching
2. A physically stronger Georgia team.
3. A head coach who has awaken after almost seeing a 3 mil a year gig slip away
4. Bad apples gone from team
5. Influx of positive, new talent….who are talented
6. Murray getting better every game.
7. OL Coach Will friend is proving he can improve our ailing line
8. Deny all we want to, but Tenn and Fla and AU are awful
9. No LSU,Bama or Arkansas.
10. DRUM ROLL…………… we couldn’t be that bad forever.

bamaguy

November 18th, 2011
1:32 pm

Enter your comments here

82Dawg

November 18th, 2011
1:32 pm

@GT Bob…why do you care so much about UGA? Don’t you have a life other than being on your “schools” rivals blog???

tiger paws

November 18th, 2011
1:32 pm

Sorry for the bad news pups, but you are gonna get beat down in the dome in a few weeks. you may think you are a great team but just who have you played? you dodged us, bama and arkansas this year so far. all 3 teams would wax the floor with your pitiful team and coaches. please extend Richts contract based on the fact that he has beaten 8 big east teams in a row. you guys wouldn’t survive a season playing in the sec west. bowl eligibility would be in question. just face it, your defense is a myth. it got toasted by boise state! let me repeat that… boise state! bring that wannabe behind to the dome and get a real taste of what it is like to be a REAL powerhouse program.

Jimmy Crack

November 18th, 2011
1:33 pm

As usual the no life/no team trolls are all aboard.

Still@theKool-aidBAR

November 18th, 2011
1:33 pm

Bama will not go to the MNC game if LSU loses the SEC espically if UGA actually scores TD against LSU. Bama made 2 of 5 FG’s? Bama should never be allowed in the MNC game with 1 loss over LSU or other unbeaten teams.

aint conVinced

November 18th, 2011
1:33 pm

UGA’s schedule is so laughable. I expect another pedestrian performace out of the dawgs this Saturday. ho hum… UGA will get its clock cleaned in a few weeks at the Dome.

Bill

November 18th, 2011
1:34 pm

Weakest East Division ever.

5150 UOAD

November 18th, 2011
1:35 pm

Bama will not make it to the MNC even if LSU loses. Bama didn’t score a TD against LSU and that means UGA will have scored a TD against LSU. Bama will not get in over an unbeaten team either or a 1 loss LSU.

Dabo and THE REAL DREAM TEAM

November 18th, 2011
1:36 pm

Sammy Watkins could beat UGA single handedly.

dawgfan

November 18th, 2011
1:37 pm

Funny how Tech fans weren’t too keen on talking schedule strength when they were 6-0 after playing a Class AA high school schedule to start the season. They were on top of the world and high as a kite. These clowns are simply unbelievable. I’ve never seen a fan base that talks out of both sides of its mouth as much as Tech fans do.

Sure, our schedule has been light. We wouldn’t be 8-2 if we had played Florida’s schedule. Happy haters? That’s the way the cookie crumbles though. Nobody talks about how South Carolina didn’t have to play Bama or LSU this year either. Its not like we’ve been playing high school teams while they’ve been playing the NFC North. Get off it. Their SEC schedule isn’t much different from ours other than having to play at Arkansas. Big whoop. We didn’t have the luxury of playing a cupcake the 1st week of the season like they did so I’d say we’re even.

If Georgia beats Kentucky they will have won the SEC East fair and square. Accept this before it destroys you.

Thanks.

Techwood Residents

November 18th, 2011
1:38 pm

gtbob,you beat a guy named “Dabo”for God’s sake

Dabo and THE REAL DREAM TEAM

November 18th, 2011
1:39 pm

Who has UGA Beaten ? The answer is here…. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o2oZWpqtNi4

buckheaddawg

November 18th, 2011
1:41 pm

KENTUCKY-GA TECH-LSU-BIG 10/12 TEAM. SEASON AINT NEAR OVER JAWJA FANS