Georgia has chance to alter perceptions with one win

Mark Richt and Georgia hope to take control of SEC East with win over Will Muschamp and Florida.

Mark Richt and Georgia hope to take control of SEC East with win over Will Muschamp and Florida.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – There are those rare games that can unify a fan base. This is one of them.

Just for a moment, put aside that Georgia’s defense has underachieved and may have a level of dysfunctionality in the locker room. Put aside that the Bulldogs, in a week where they should’ve been focused and in assault mode, made Kentucky look relevant. Put aside whatever it was that happened in Columbia.

One game changes everything.

Georgia isn’t just playing Florida on Saturday in Jacksonville. It’s playing for a chance to change its season and obliterate perceptions about “big game” performances. That doesn’t mean the Bulldogs haven’t won big games under coach Mark Richt, but the results in recent seasons certainly aren’t something that any coach wants slapped on his resume: 3-11 against Top 25 teams since 2009, 1-9 against top 10 teams since 2008.

One win over Florida, the No. 2 team in the BCS, would act like a bucket of Kilz. Clean wall, fresh start, new season. It would put the Dogs in control in the SEC East and give them a chance to return to the SEC title game. All of their goals, save an undefeated season, would be restored.

Is Georgia capable of beating Florida? Of course. The perceived talent on this defense is unequaled by most programs in the nation. The freshmen running backs are solid, and the quarterback, Aaron Murray, is solid and certainly the better of the two in this game.

There’s just all of this baggage. The season hasn’t been nearly what anybody expected. A record of 6-1 looks good in most college towns, but not when it’s owned by a projected top-10 (at least) team with a soft schedule, and that team was absolutely bodyslammed by its only ranked opponent (South Carolina).

“I’m sure it gnaws on Aaron, and it gnaws on everybody — we all want to win the big game,” wide receiver Marlon Brown said. “If we win this game, the fans maybe will stop talking about the South Carolina game.”

Questions about games like this always seem to wind up at the same intersection: What does this mean for Mark Richt?

It’s not a situation exclusive to Athens. It happens at every major college football program, and certainly on every campus in the SEC (save, maybe, Vanderbilt). As many as four conference schools (Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Auburn) may change coaches after this season. Among those who soon could be out of a job: Gene Chizik, who won a national championship at Auburn two years ago.

The sparks around Richt have lingered really since 2008, when lopsided losses to Alabama and Florida derailed SEC and BCS title hopes. Even the 10-game winning streak after the 0-2 start last season didn’t appease all critics because none of the wins came over great teams (Auburn was No. 24, Georgia Tech No. 25 by the Associated Press).

So what would it mean to Richt if the Bulldogs lost? I’m not sure anything.

Richt obviously needs this to alter perceptions by some that his program has hit a ceiling. But if the Dogs lose in Jacksonville and then win the remainder of their games, they will finish the season 10-2 (pre-bowl).

I can’t claim to know what’s going on inside the head of athletic director Greg McGarity. But canning a head coach with a 10-2 record just doesn’t seem plausible – especially if the second loss came to the No. 2 team in the country.

That said, Richt will have to do as good a coaching job as he ever has to pull off a win. He will have to unify his players. One of the team’s co-captains, safety Shawn Williams, vented earlier in the week about the defense playing soft. He might’ve been right. But the bigger issue came when Williams suggested lineup changes, which effectively threw two of his teammates, linebackers Michael Gilliard and Christian Robinson, under the bus.

Gilliard said he “felt disrespected.” Robinson said, “I’m not mad at (Williams),” but disputed his comments and said, “I’ve got to go back to work with him and we’ve got a big game to win.”

A bigger game than we’ve seen for some time.

By Jeff Schultz

What you may have missed:

Weekend Predictions: Sorry Doggies, Gators look too good

Georgia has one edge on Florida — it’s Aaron Murray

Pessimism reigns by Georgia fans on Twitter

Georgia Tech stops the bleeding but assumes nothing

Larry Drew is prepared to work without a parachute

Weekend Predictions: Bulldogs, Jackets rise from the dead

Falcons are NFL’s last unbeaten team: Here’s fate of others (with video)

Falcons 6-0 but Turner is frustrated with running game

Fan revolts out of control, one even wanted to fight UGA player

Weekend Predictions: No sacrifices, but Falcons, LSU win

Radakovich says Johnson is ‘right person for job’


399 comments Add your comment

@DanWeiner

October 26th, 2012
11:10 am

Florida 28
Georgia 7

Buckeye

October 26th, 2012
11:13 am

Nope. Still delusional.

Buckeye

October 26th, 2012
11:14 am

How bout the Honey Badger, dogs?

SEC! SEC! SEC!

Buckeye

October 26th, 2012
11:18 am

Winds at 27 MPH will not help the dogs cause.

I see 4 picks coming Murray’s way. The dogs will have to play catch up and throw it.

I think the term we’ll hear is……………beat down.

ARdawg

October 26th, 2012
11:23 am

Threw them under the bus? Not really, he called them out Jeff. Yeah, it should have done it in the lockerroom first. Did he? I guess we’ll never know but, something has to spark that defense. It’s pretty obvious Richt and Grantham are not going to do it

ARdawg

October 26th, 2012
11:24 am

Poor bitter Bugeye. You should be a Tech fan

robodawg

October 26th, 2012
11:27 am

We can’t lose the big games forever. This is as big a must win for the program as we’ve faced in some time.

2 keys to this game:
1. Shut down Gators rushing game and make them one dimensional.
2. Don’t give up cheap points off turnovers or special teams.

Both those goals are within reach. If defense shows up and offense stays patient, we’ll pull out the win.

It’s time for Richt to break the Florida curse by winning two in a row over them. That’s been his biggest hurdle as a coach.

Dawg Fud

October 26th, 2012
11:28 am

We are going to get mud stomped. End of story.

Gtanner

October 26th, 2012
11:32 am

Ask the Question

October 26th, 2012
11:34 am

Florida will run for around 300 yards, pass for around 200 yards,
and run a punt or a kickoff back for a touchdown.

We will throw 2 interceptions and fumble once, losing by at least 3 touchdowns. And nothing will change.

ARdawg

October 26th, 2012
11:35 am

Jeff

Where’s the W/E predictions?

ARdawg

October 26th, 2012
11:36 am

I think we win this game FYI

TallaDawg

October 26th, 2012
11:41 am

@Ask- What’s worse is that Fla. may NOT run for 300 or pass for 200, and they still may win by 17-24 points.

Dunwoody Tailgater

October 26th, 2012
11:42 am

Nice article, great optimistic stance. Now answer this: How many times has it been UGA’s opportunity to “alter perceptions with one win” in the last 4 seasons?

While pondering that question, here’s some more: What made the Gators go from unranked (and barely beatable for UGA last season) to #2 in the country this week? Did they get a bumper crop of experiened players? Did their talent level rise considerably since the last GA/FL game? Has UGA’s talent level dropped so low that we may be lucky to score against a ranked SEC East foe again this week?

My answers: (1) Too many, or every ranked team, (2) COACHING, (3) No, (4) No, (5) No.

banshee29

October 26th, 2012
11:43 am

Think Williams called he coaching staff out more than his fellow Dawgs. GA will win this game, and get trounced by Bama. Same swan song for Richt…good but not great. FL is average..caught SC on a bad nigh, just as SC caught us on a bad night. Their offense reaks. Dawgs will win 18-13

ARdawg

October 26th, 2012
11:44 am

Talla

I ain’t buying it. Even the mismatch last year was decided less than a TD. Likely this year too. Richt badly needs a face saving game. It’s this one or there won’t be anymore

ARdawg

October 26th, 2012
11:46 am

banshee

I agree and they needed calling out

Mark Richt 4 Life

October 26th, 2012
11:47 am

What does UGA have in common with Auburn, Alabama, Florida, LSU and Tennessee? Nothing. Those schools all have National Championships since 1996. UGA has dream recruiting that turns into a nightmare each season.

Bob

October 26th, 2012
11:48 am

Jeff, thanks for this article. I’m thinking that CMR normally coaches one or two excellent games a season and this may be his second (Vandy was first). If we can score first and our defense holds UF the next series, then we’ll probably win. Unfortunately if we do win, you can almost certainly predict an upset loss to Ole Miss the next Saturday. Hope I’m wrong. Go Dawgs!

bruce benedict

October 26th, 2012
11:49 am

The idea of UGA handling the defensive issues “in house” is laughable- they’ve had 7 games to do so, and obviously neither the coaches or players have had any positive effect. If we don’t get ahead early and show some passion, it will be a major butt whipping. UGA falls apart in big games once the other team gets ahead early.

DP

October 26th, 2012
11:58 am

Of course Georgia’s perceived talent on defense is almost unequaled, with the key word being “perceived”. At some point, particularly with experienced players and coaches, you have to look at actual performance and stop talking about recruiting ratings, potential, etc.

SouthGaDawg

October 26th, 2012
12:01 pm

After the dust clears and CMR and the ‘dawgs come away with the win, I hope everyone who has been crying like a bi@#h comes back on here and apologizes like a REAL man. Fair weathered fans suck!

SC Old Dawg

October 26th, 2012
12:04 pm

Kum-ba-ya – Can’t we all just be friends……

Russ, the Temporary Mascot

October 26th, 2012
12:05 pm

Enter your comments here

jvillebil

October 26th, 2012
12:06 pm

Thank you SouthGaDawg, couldn’t have said it any better!!

Needle Dick

October 26th, 2012
12:09 pm

Shut down Mike Gillislee, DO NOT turn the ball over, and we WILL win the game!

Russ, the Temporary Mascot aka Uga

October 26th, 2012
12:10 pm

Whoa! A blank post. This thing is fast! It’s hard typing when you are a dog. I heard Coach Grantham on the radio this morning and I think we need to take up a collection to get him some new interview cliches. That man is one big, walking sports cliche and he’s playing ‘em one at a time and leaving it all on the field with every interview. I can say that I am astounded he can make more than $750,000 a year and talk like a 13-year old boy. No wonder Coach Richt isn’t worried about losing his job to Coach Grantham.

ARdawg

October 26th, 2012
12:10 pm

I like the fact most pundits are picking the Dawgs to lose

Loser Dawg

October 26th, 2012
12:11 pm

Oh Schultzie you dont have to write a feel good piece for the Doggies because you picked them to lose this weekend! They will understand.

DIT

October 26th, 2012
12:11 pm

It’s not so much CAN they. The question is WILL they. This team needs to find some heart!

Vain Jangling

October 26th, 2012
12:11 pm

Georgia’s failure in recent (that is, relevant) memory to win big games is no perception, it’s a big and nasty fact. (And BTW, pointing that out and commenting on it doesn’t make anyone any less of a fan.) You change that fact by winning Saturday’s game, and the next one after that against a top 10 team, and 4 of the next 6 against top 20 teams, and on and on. But, until that happens, the prognosis remains, “Even a blind pig finds an acorn every now and then.”

SC Old Dawg

October 26th, 2012
12:14 pm

I hope UGA wins, and it would be fun to watch them beat Florida – but they don’t act like a team that win these games. The act like the bully on the playground that picks on the little kids and thinks they are tuff. I am sure they are very good guys and the coaches are good coaches; but, when it is on the line they don’t get it done. They seem to play scared to lose and become mistake prone. They make crazy plays in tuff situations. Mike Bobo is a good guy – but they just don’t get it done. It ain’t talent, they got lots of that. gold stars to all for a great effort. maybe next year….

gordonguy1969

October 26th, 2012
12:16 pm

UGA 37
UF 34

DIT

October 26th, 2012
12:17 pm

What’s the sttus on Jarvis Jones? I know that he is playing, but at what percent? Anyone heard?

MontanaDawg

October 26th, 2012
12:17 pm

Jeff,

Yes, beating Florida is a BIG first step in gaining back some belief in the direction of our football program. But, is is only one step. We then need to keep our focus and beat the remaining teams (all of them should be a cake walk) on the schedule in order to go to Atlanta. Many fans, including myself, won’t be satisfied in this season unless we, AT THE VERY LEAST, make a respectable showing and play a good, complete game at the Georgia Dome. In my opinion, if we play it close and even if we lose I will have a lot more respect for the current coaching staff. Right now, I don’t have any respect for those coaching clowns. They haven’t proven anything substantial in years for what they are being paid.

DIT

October 26th, 2012
12:17 pm

Sorry, “Status”

SC Old Dawg

October 26th, 2012
12:17 pm

UGA is a very good second level team along with Tenn, Miss State, Ark, Auburn etc. They were good for a while and will be again someday. right now, they just don’t get it done.

BigJim

October 26th, 2012
12:20 pm

Mark Richt: 2-15 against ranked teams, since 2009! PATHETIC!!!!! He ain’t gonna be Florida! And if he does, it ain’t gonna change that pathetic record much!

bham dawg

October 26th, 2012
12:21 pm

If we don’t turn the ball over which is a big if this game will come down to the very end. If we start to turn the ball over it could get ugly quick. Florida reminds me of lsu last year. They make plays on defense and special teams. Driskell isn’t asked to do very much if we can win the turnover battle and hold them under 200 yds rushing i think we win the game. Florida only had 180 yds of offense vs SC and scored 44 pts. Sustain drives force them to drive the length of the field and stack the box. Dawgs 24-13 defense is going to be ready to play.

ARdawg

October 26th, 2012
12:21 pm

DIT

My understanding is JJ is at 100%

Upset!

October 26th, 2012
12:22 pm

Mark this down–the Dogs will shock the world and upset Fla on Saturday! Murray will light up the scoreboard against fla’s overrated DBs! The Dog D will rise up and shut down driskel—Dogs win by 8!

DIT

October 26th, 2012
12:23 pm

Thanks ARdawg – That gives us a fighting chance. He needs to take the game over. I know, I’m not asking for much.

ARdawg

October 26th, 2012
12:24 pm

The Gators have beaten LSU and SC in the Swamp. LSU was a surprise to even them. SC wasn’t. True, Jax is the Swamp II but not as hostile for a decent UGA team. If they can leave the bipolar team in Athens, Georgia wins this game. Despite the coaching

gdawginkalamzoo

October 26th, 2012
12:24 pm

If we score one more point than Florida then I feel confident that we will come away with the win.

BigJim

October 26th, 2012
12:24 pm

Hey SouthGaDawg…what are you SMOKING?!!! Are you a Mark Richt apologist? He is 2-15 against ranked teams, since 2009! What part of that pathetic record makes you say…yeah, we’re getting it done, against quality opponents! It doesn’t make you a poor, or fair-weather, fan if you want more for Georgia, than an abysmal, LOSING record!! Maybe you’re just satisfied to beat the Florida Atlantics and the Buffalos and the other DIV II opponents!?! I am not, sir!

Flat Tire On I-95 in Jacksonville

October 26th, 2012
12:25 pm

SouthGaDawg

Lets be clear on one thing; I wont be appologizing if UGA wins by 95 points tomorrow; this coaching staff continues have SC type ballgames every single year and beating 1 top 20 team for the 1st time in 4 seasons isnt going to erase a perception

Go and beat Bama and win out then you will start changing peoples minds not beating an over ranked FL team; a team that doesnt have the same great talent as UGA does

DIT

October 26th, 2012
12:25 pm

“If we score one more point than Florida then I feel confident that we will come away with the win.”
_____________

D’OH!

ARdawg

October 26th, 2012
12:25 pm

DIT

His play should make make an impact but, bigger than that his leadership has been missed the last 3 games. I hope he picks it up a notch or three

DIT

October 26th, 2012
12:27 pm

I just don’t agree with Florida being over ranked. They beat the then #2 team in the nation and what was Carolina ranked 5 or 6?? Just my opinion, but they have earned that #2 ranking. LSU won’t lose again this year and neither will SCe.

avalanche in Aruba

October 26th, 2012
12:27 pm

I like the fact most pundits are picking the Dawgs to lose

_____________________

most pundits are correct…Georgia has a track record..2-15, 4-19 are strong trends…same head coach owns all of that…only an idiot would choose Georgia to win this game!