There’s a chance Georgia and Georgia Tech could finish 6-6, which is the utter definition of mediocrity. Yet not all mediocrities are created equal, and therefore we ask: Of the two, which has had the worse season? (That’s a bit different than deciding which team is less bad.) And the answer, my friends, is — borrowing a famous description from the former Tennessee voice John Ward — not … even … close.
National expectations: Tech, 5-5, was 16th in the Associated Press preseason poll. Georgia, 5-6, was 23rd. Demerit to Tech.
Local expectations: Georgia was picked to finish second in the East by the SEC media and will finish third. Tech was picked to finish third in the Coastal by the ACC media and is fourth with one conference game remaining. Half-demerit to each.
Manpower: Georgia returned 10 of 11 offensive starters and had the highly regarded Aaron Murray ready to step in at quarterback. Tech lost four of its five best players from its 2009 ACC championship team to the NFL a year early. Demerit to Georgia.
Conference competition: The ACC is again no great shakes. But the SEC East was the weakest it has ever been: Florida finished 4-4 in league play and South Carolina won the division with three league losses, and still Georgia was mathematically eliminated from contention on Oct. 30. Tech wasn’t eliminated until Saturday. Demerit to Georgia.
Staff changes: Tech dumped defensive coordinator Dave Wommack and hired Al Groh, who had been fired as Virginia’s head coach. Georgia dumped Willie Martinez and hired Todd Grantham, paying him$750,000 (or more than double Martinez’s salary.) Tech was 54th nationally in total defense last season and is 59th now. Georgia was 38th in total defense last season and is 24th now, but collapsed in its two biggest games. The Bulldogs yielded 34 points in four quarters plus one overtime to a Florida offense that managed 42 points in 16 quarters against Alabama, LSU, Mississippi State and South Carolina. On Saturday Georgia yielded four second-half touchdowns to Auburn, which threw four second-half passes (all on the same drive), and somehow Grantham maintained to reporters: “The biggest issue in the second half was what I call gadget plays.” Demerit to Georgia.
Coaching: Tech is 2-2 in games decided by seven or fewer points. Georgia is 0-3. Demerit to Georgia.
Recruiting: According to Rivals.com, Georgia’s past five signing classes have ranked fourth, ninth, seventh, sixth and 15th nationally. Tech’s highest-rated signing class of that span was in 2007 — at No. 18. Tech’s past three signing classes have been ranked 49th, 49th and 43rd. So why, if Georgia recruits so much better, are we even having this discussion? Demerit to Georgia.
Mitigating factor: Tech has been without Joshua Nesbitt, its best player, the past game and a half. It lost both games. Georgia was without A.J. Green, its best player, for the season’s first four games. It lost three of them. Key difference: Nesbitt was lost to a broken arm suffered on the field of play, Green because he sold his Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000. Demerit to Georgia.
Best win: Tech beat North Carolina, which was without 12 players due to various investigations, in Chapel Hill on Sept. 25. Georgia beat Kentucky, which had just beaten South Carolina, in Lexington on Oct. 23. Carolina is 6-4, Kentucky 6-5. Half-demerit to each.
Worst loss: This wasn’t decided until Colorado faced Kansas on Nov. 6. Tech had lost to the Jayhawks on Sept. 11;, Georgia had fallen to the Buffaloes on Oct. 2. Both Big 12 schools entered their showdown in Lawrence without a conference victory. Colorado led 45-17 in the fourth quarter. Kansas won 52-45. Colorado fired coach Dan Hawkins two days later. Demerit to Georgia.
Embarrassment: Georgia has had 11 players arrested this calendar year and saw Green suspended by the NCAA. Tech has had, so far as we know, one player arrested. And Georgia’s high-salaried defensive coordinator was caught on camera giving the choke sign to Florida’s backup placekicker before he made the kick that beat the Bulldogs in overtime. (Does a field goal by a backup kicker constitute a “gadget play”?) Demerit to Georgia.
Totals: Nine demerits to Georgia, two to Tech. The belief remains that Georgia will beat Tech in Athens on Nov. 27 –Nesbitt won’t play, remember — but that won’t change the bottom line. In this face-off of fizzled seasons, the Bulldogs have been the bigger dud.