Two weeks ago we wondered if Georgia would win another game. (I was pretty confident about Vanderbilt and Idaho State, but the way the Bulldogs were fumbling and getting arrested you couldn’t know.) Now we wonder if they can win the SEC Least. (It’s suddenly possible.) And we also wonder if their coach isn’t again the most stable guy in his division.
Mark Richt has gone from losing four in a row, a personal nadir, to beating two division brethren by the aggregate score of 84-14. In the SEC East, where every team has lost at least two league games, this qualifies as a surge.
How uninspiring has this division, once the class of the collegiate game, become? Consider: Should it beat Kentucky in Lexington on Saturday night, there’s a chance Georgia, which not so long ago was 1-4, would go to Jacksonville favored over Florida.
Because the Gators are awful. And South Carolina looks eminently capable of doing the South Carolina thing, meaning build up hopes only to send them crashing. And the other three East teams are a combined 2-8 in conference play. A closer look at the Least;
South Carolina: Even by Poultry standards, the past three weeks have been dizzying. The Gamecocks blew a lead at Auburn, beat No. 1 Alabama by two touchdowns and blew an even bigger lead at Kentucky. Steve Spurrier botched the endgame in Lexington and was summarily demoted from Evil Genius to the New Les Miles. And Marcus Lattimore, the great freshman runner, got hurt against the Wildcats.
Florida: Watching the Gators lose to Mississippi State and erstwhile lieutenant Dan Mullen, it really did seem as if the Urban Crier was about to cry. (Given that the last Florida coach who lost to MSU got fired the next week, Meyer might have had reason.) His famous offense had managed six points against Alabama and now seven versus State. In between he’d managed to get outsmarted by Les Miles. Retirement looks better with every week, wouldn’t you say?
Kentucky: Joker Phillips, the new coach, has a new slogan: Operation Win. This marks an improvement on the old UK mission: Operation Lose In The Most Painful Way Imaginable. And the Joker did just beat Spurrier — would that make the Ol’ Ball Coach the Riddler? — in a game of national significance. But the Wildcats have also accomplished two things that required real effort: They made Florida’s offense look good for one night, and they lost to Ole Miss, which had lost to Jacksonville State.
Vanderbilt: It was believed new coach Robbie Caldwell wouldn’t win an SEC game this season. Hah. He has beaten Ole Miss and might beat Tennessee. He also lost to Georgia by 43 points. It’s still Vandy, I’m afraid.
Tennessee: As ever, the Vols’ schedule eases toward the end. By then, however, they figure to be 2-6 overall and 0-5 in SEC play. And the hiring of Derek Dooley, which went over well enough at the time, has begun to be regarded as another in the series of Mike Hamilton whiffs. (Athletic directors never look good when their choice messes up worse than Les Miles, who has become the most interesting man in the Western Hemisphere.)
And then there’s Richt: Calm, cool — if Georgia’s coach is nothing else, he’s calm and cool — and managing to collect his thoughts. The offense looks good. The defense looks better. After starting 0-3 in the conference, the Bulldogs are on the move.
To win the division, Georgia needs to finish a game ahead of South Carolina, which holds the tiebreaker edge because it beat the Bulldogs. (A three-way tie could reset the tiebreaker.) But the Gamecocks still must play Arkansas in Columbia and Florida in Gainesville; it’s possible they could finish 4-4 in the league.
To get to 5-3, Georgia cannot lose again. It must win at Kentucky, in Jacksonville and at Auburn on Nov. 13. I’m not sure about that last game — Auburn’s pretty stinkin’ good, to borrow a Richt-ism — but neither the Wildcats or the Gators are any better than the Bulldogs. This could still happen, people.