So does UGA always fall flat when much is expected? Well …

Sept. 27, 2008: Alabama sneers at the black jerseys, squashes Matthew Stafford. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Sept. 27, 2008: Alabama sneers at Georgia's black jerseys. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

One guy I know — actually, I’m the guy — has picked Georgia to play Southern Cal for the BCS title. That prompted the usual round of carping from those who don’t care for the Bulldogs: “Georgia thinks it’s going to win the national championship every year, and it never does.”

Neither point is technically true — Georgia claims five national titles (two consensus, three iffy), and I don’t recall anyone seriously believing Ray Goff’s last team and Jim Donnan’s first team were bound for glory — but recent history does suggest that the Bulldogs do better when less is expected.

In the three Herschel Walker seasons (1980-82), UGA finished higher in the final Associated Press poll than in the preseason edition. The same was true for the first post-Herschel year, which yielded a giddy run to the Cotton Bowl. But Georgia has been ranked in the top 12 of the AP preseason poll six times since 1983, and only twice has it finished higher than it began.

Since early rankings have slotted the Bulldogs at No. 5 or thereabouts for the coming season, I thought it’d be fun — OK, maybe not fun — to analyze what happened the past half-dozen times much was anticipated. (A word regarding methodology: I used No.-12-in-the-preseason-AP-poll as my cutoff because I wanted to include the 1988 and 2003 seasons. I stopped at 12 because the Bulldogs have been ranked between 13th and 15th so often — eight times since 1983 — with no discernible trend. Four times they finished better than they started; four times they didn’t.)

1988: 12th in preseason, 15th in the final AP poll after going 9-3. Vince Dooley’s final team was picked by one guy — yep, same one — to go undefeated. Those Bulldogs didn’t make it through September unscathed. Early indicators: Troubling. A difficult opening victory against a Tennessee team that would finish 5-6; a 42-35 road win at Mississippi State that foretold issues on defense. First loss: At South Carolina on Sept. 24 as Todd Ellis picked Bill Lewis’ D to pieces. Subsequent losses: At Kentucky (yikes), at Auburn.

2000: 10th in preseason, 20th in the final poll after going 8-4. The team Donnan said he had “waited 55 years to coach” remains the last team he ever coached. He was fired by president Michael Adams after the regular season. Early indicator: Ominous. Linebacker Boss Bailey tore up his knee covering the season-opening kickoff against Georgia Southern. First loss: At South Carolina on Sept. 9. Quincy Carter threw five interceptions. Subsequent losses: Against Florida in Jacksonville, at Auburn in overtime, at home against Georgia Tech on the day George Godsey ran untouched through a host of NFL-caliber Bulldogs defenders.

2002: Ranked No. 8 in preseason, finished No. 3 after going 13-1. In Year 2 under Mark Richt, Georgia won the SEC for the first time in two decades. The division-clinching victory came at Auburn when Greene found Michael Johnson on fourth-and-14. Early indicators: All positive. A come-from-behind opening victory against Clemson; the Pollack snatch-and-grab victory at South Carolina; a last-gasp win at Alabama on Billy Bennett’s field goal. Blemish: A strangely uninspired loss to the Florida Gators of Ron Zook on Nov. 2.

2003: Ranked No. 11 in preseason, finished No. 7 after going 11-3. A second SEC East title was undercut by two losses to LSU, which in hindsight weren’t so awful — the Tigers wound up winning the BCS title. Early indicators: Again, all good. Georgia won 30-0 at Clemson in the opener and hammered South Carolina two weeks later. First loss: At LSU on Sept. 20. Tyson Browning took a screen pass 93 yards to tie matters inside the final two minutes, but a long kickoff return by Devery Henderson triggered the winning touchdown pass to Skyler Green. Subsequent losses: Another inexplicable defeat at the hands of the Zooker, a second loss to a by-then-clearly-superior LSU in the SEC title game.

2004: Ranked No. 3 in preseason; finished No. 7 after going 10-2. Still the biggest missed opportunity of Richt’s career. A senior-laden team didn’t even win its division. Early indicators: Mixed. Georgia rallied from 16 points down to win at South Carolina, but beat reigning champ LSU by 29 points in Athens. First loss: Against Tennessee at Sanford Stadium on Oct. 9, one week after the thrashing of LSU. That victory essentially gave the Vols the SEC East title. “We lost the wrong game,” Richt would say. Subsequent loss: At Auburn on a day when the Tigers — who would finish 13-0 — were dominant.

2008: Ranked No. 1 in preseason, finished No. 13 after going 10-3. Georgia was a hot item after the 2007 team finished No. 2 after a surprising 11-2 season. Early indicators: Awful. The offseason was marked by a flurry of Bulldogs arrests, and Georgia barely survived its first road test against middling South Carolina. First loss: Against Alabama on Sept. 27. The Tide led 31-0 at the half. It was Nick Saban’s first signature win as Bama’s coach. Subsequent losses: By 39 points to a Florida team that would take the BCS title, to Georgia Tech in Athens after leading by 16 at the half.

Conclusion: If you’re going to outperform high expectations, don’t lose early. Five of the past nine BCS champs have carried a loss, but only one of the five — Florida in 2008 — lost in September. Only twice in the six cases cited above did Georgia exit September undefeated. By way of contrast, Richt’s breakthrough season of 2002 featured an 8-0 start. All the more reason to underscore that Sept. 8 date in Columbia, Mo.

By Mark Bradley

532 comments Add your comment

tonyb

June 21st, 2012
12:40 pm

First and GO DAWGS

I dropped my fried twinkie

June 21st, 2012
12:48 pm

Who is #24 with his hands on his hips just watching Stafford get sacked. NoShow Moerno? LOL Nice whiff Pass blocking.

DAWG FAN

June 21st, 2012
12:49 pm

Mark, it really bugs me for the Dawgs to be rated so high preseason. It seems to be a real prediction of doom. Bloggers forget that the Dawgs aren’t the ones who do the rating, but they can sure blame them.

I think it will be a good year, but I will reserve my prediction until the season is OVER!

bucket

June 21st, 2012
12:50 pm

Interesting read MB. I know how this will be interpreted by the Dawg haters, but an interesting take I got from it is that at least 2 of CMR’s teams would have qualified for the playoffs under the new proposed playoff system.

DERP

June 21st, 2012
12:51 pm

The name says it all…….Can’t believe it till it’s post UF with no losses.

Joey

June 21st, 2012
12:52 pm

“Skew the process” or not, MB, there are a bunch of programs who would like to have been rated in the AP Top 15, fourteen times since ‘83. A few of them are geographically close . . . Tech, SC, Clemson, etc.

DERP

June 21st, 2012
12:53 pm

I like that pic of Cody there. Did he stay in the NFL? I thought he tried to eat Goodell after the draft and they kicked him out.

LESD

June 21st, 2012
12:55 pm

>>>Conclusion: If you’re going to outperform high expectations, don’t lose early.

For a higher final ranking, isn’t it better to lose early than to lose late? And are there other circumstances in which losing early is really smart strategy?

I think the real conclusion should be that losing will harm your rankings and it’s therefore better to win.

Joey

June 21st, 2012
12:57 pm

twinkie pants, bet you would like to switch paychecks with Knowshon.

He must have a pretty good pass blocker to get drafted in the top 10 in the NFL draft.

GTBob

June 21st, 2012
12:59 pm

The only problem with this article is that you are equating the expectations of UGA fans and preseason rankings. It doesn’t quite work that way. Voters usually have some small sense of reality when they fill out their polls. UGA fans do not. They don’t know or even care how good any other teams are, they think their team is by far the best every single year.

WDE

June 21st, 2012
1:02 pm

In all of those years they ended in the top 20…

"The Georgia Way"

June 21st, 2012
1:02 pm

In 5 years, Knowshon will be painting houses for $10 an hour.

I dropped my fried twinkie

June 21st, 2012
1:02 pm

88 all you had to say was BILL LEWIS……..I can Only say his name on here because it refers to UGa and not Tech.
2000…….did I read Quincy Carter? Got to love that guy!
2002…..Donnan’s recruits. D. Greene was the best Ball Fake QB I ever saw. That kid had MORE Guts than ANY QB I know. He would stand with the ball and his back turned(blind) to the D-line for 3-5 seconds then turn and throw.
2003……..Zook had UGa’s Number for some reason.
2004……..Proof mounting Richt can get players but can’t win the BIG GAMES.
2008…….. Proof Bobo is no better than Richt at calling plays and the Fulmer Cup run is in full force at UGa.

DawginLex

June 21st, 2012
1:05 pm

You could expand your list for the Richt era

2001-about as expected
2002-over
2003-over
2004-under
2005-over
2006-as expected
2007-over
2008-under
2009-as expected
2010-under
2011-over

That makes Richt 5-3-3(over,under,as expected)

Lately is the problem except for last year.

Time to win big. No more excuses

Big Albany Dawg

June 21st, 2012
1:06 pm

Mark, Couldn’t we find another picture somewhere?

Joey

June 21st, 2012
1:07 pm

The last time we were highly rated in the preseason (’08), we had a gruesome schedule – Bama (BCS Champ ‘09), LSU (BCS Champ ‘07), UF (BCS Champ ‘06, ‘08), not to mention AU, Arizona and Tech.

Maybe we will have some good karma this year with the easy schedule. I think we will be better, if for no other reason than Grantham’s D.

DawginLex

June 21st, 2012
1:07 pm

Yeah why couldn’t you post the pictures of the 2 Bama QB’s being carted off the field between the hedges in 2003?

Really?

June 21st, 2012
1:08 pm

I don’t think I’ve ever seen this many typos on a major publication’s website, individual blog or not.

I dropped my fried twinkie

June 21st, 2012
1:09 pm

JOEY…………..Well you don’t have to worry about that this year. IF Richt & Bobo can’t do it this year it probably NEVER happen.

Jamaaliver

June 21st, 2012
1:12 pm

Herschel Walker played from 1990 – 1982??? Tht seems…difficult.

How many years of eligibility did they have back then?

Joey

June 21st, 2012
1:12 pm

Nerds! Nerds! Nerds!

10-1

NCAA Probation

“New sheriff in town”

“Bigger fish to fry”

Punch em right in the face”

Haha!

Joey

June 21st, 2012
1:13 pm

You’re right, twinkie pants.

It’s almost as easy as a acc schedule . . .

SSIgator

June 21st, 2012
1:15 pm

“So does UGA always fall flat when much is expected?”

I don’t know for sure Mark, but one would probably have better luck seeing Halley’s Comet again or winning the lottery than the reverse being true.

Marvin Mangrum

June 21st, 2012
1:16 pm

Right now, schedule unseen, 7-4 record. Back to tha stink bowl in Shreveport. Either they are no good or they are coached downward. I do not get how you can sign 25 champs a year then in 4 years you have nobody.

Abnerish

June 21st, 2012
1:17 pm

4 out of the last 6 is worthy of the reputation, and I’m a Georgia fan and alum. Perhaps it’s just the Munson in me, but I always hate coming into a game as the heavy favorite or a season as highly ranked. It doesn’t seem to go well for us (about 2/3s of the time!). Thanks for doing the research Mark, that was an interesting read.

I dropped my fried twinkie

June 21st, 2012
1:18 pm

JOEY…………..you feel better and more like a man after you got that off your chest.

wolfman

June 21st, 2012
1:18 pm

The Dawgs have an easy SEC schedule Get past MO (as they should do) and SC and its on to the SEC championship game. That will be the true test.

SSIgator

June 21st, 2012
1:23 pm

Joey -

Take Bill King’s advice from yesterday:

Bill King -

Joey: Just read the Blawg itself and skip the comments

Joey

June 21st, 2012
1:24 pm

We’re all gonna see what UF can do without Myer and Tebow, SSIgator. So far, not very promising, huh?

You really think Muschamp is gonna give Gator fans something to brag about?

Joey

June 21st, 2012
1:25 pm

This ain’t the “Blawg” SSIgator. MB kicks off morons.

Be verrry careful . . .

Joey

June 21st, 2012
1:29 pm

twinkie pants, just the facts. Other than the ‘08 loss to Tech, it’s hard to remember the last time UGA lost to the acc.

Not to mention, UGA alone has as many BCS Bowl wins as the entire acc. Hard to take, huh?

SSIgator

June 21st, 2012
1:30 pm

Joey -

I take it then that Mark Bradley has already issued you a warning?

Bob LaBlah

June 21st, 2012
1:33 pm

Joey – any national titles over there in Athens since 83? Didn’t think so. There was on on North Avenue however.

GTBob

June 21st, 2012
1:37 pm

It really just depends on what you expect of them. I don’t think preseason rankings accurately reflect the yearly unrealistic expectations of UGA fans. They truly believe they have one of the best teams in the country every year. The fact that you think they may actually make the championship game is a pretty good representation of that.

Bob LaBlah

June 21st, 2012
1:42 pm

Joey, the little dweeb, is another Walmart fleabag. He didn’t play football, he’s about the size of a teacup chihuahua and never attended college except when he took a shorcut through Perimeter College’s campus.

Rickster (channeling his inner Horshack)

June 21st, 2012
1:42 pm

Jamaaliver, Herschel was so fast… he time traveled. Every preceding year he still had his full number of years of eligibility left.

Red Stick

June 21st, 2012
1:44 pm

Georgia could go 9-3, 10-2, 11-1 or 12-0 depending on how the O line comes along and replacing both kickers. Special teams can win or lose games, especially in close games.

I expect South Carolina, Missouri, Florida and yes, Tennessee to all be close games. I think Auburn will be improved over last season but not improved enough to beat the Dogs.

Geaux Tigers
Go SEC

mark

June 21st, 2012
1:45 pm

Common denominator when Georgia over-achieves – David Green. Common denominator when they under-achieve – Richt/Bobo. Everything else changes, but Richt couldn’t win with Murray or Stafford and countless future NFL players. Green was the difference – he overcame even Richt and Bobo.

DawginLex

June 21st, 2012
1:45 pm

Joey

SIMPLE STUPID IGNORANT GATOR(aka Elvira, mistress of the dark) giving blog etiquette advice is equivalent to the following:

Jerry Sandusky becoming a Boy Scout troop leader and taking a group of boys deep in the woods on a camping trip

or

Auburn University hiring Harvey Updyke as the groundskeeper at Jordan Hare Stadium

BONELESS KNIGHTS

June 21st, 2012
1:47 pm

DURRRRRRRRRRRR GEORGIA

I dropped my fried twinkie

June 21st, 2012
1:47 pm

DiLex…….that was funny.

DawginLex

June 21st, 2012
1:47 pm

mark

Common denominator 2005?? Greene was with the Seahawks.

DawginLex

June 21st, 2012
1:51 pm

Bottom line is Richt is not as good as the totally blind Richt loyalists will tell you he is. He also is not anywhere near as bad as the Dawg haters will tell you he is.

I give him credit for what he has done and how he has gone about it but in my book, 2012 is his time to really win big.

No more excuses. He has his DC and the D is loaded. Returning QB with enough weapons to score a lot. Easy schedule.

It’s time

82DAWG

June 21st, 2012
1:52 pm

@Bob LaBlah…That one on North Avenue happens to have an asterisk beside it….as in
“co- champions” if you are going to brag make sure nobody else can claim the same thing.

Gary

June 21st, 2012
2:00 pm

2008 – Injuries injuries injuries… Never showed up to a game with a healthy line. Half the linemen spent the summer on ice instead of the field. They were not ready physically for 2008. That being said, that was a really good Florida team, and Bama was finally back. Healthy or not, doubt it could have been the year of the dawg.

2012 – We will be better but so will a lot of teams. We finish in the top 20 with 3 losses.

Joe Cox

June 21st, 2012
2:01 pm

“we’re 8 and O. what are we doing?” Larry Munson 2002

I dropped my fried twinkie

June 21st, 2012
2:01 pm

82dwag……….you put an asterisk maybe.
The Asterisk is on the Colorado side not the Tech side.
Colorado lost a game and was given 5 downs to avoid losing 2 games to go with their tie.
TECH 11-0-1
Colorado 11-1-1 should have been 10-2-1

Nice TRY. Show where TECH’s 1990 Championship has an ASTERISK by it!

Dawg Fud

June 21st, 2012
2:02 pm

We are only good on paper, supposedly. Let’s see the results. LSU looks mighty formidable this year.

Tech Rules

June 21st, 2012
2:02 pm

Actually Mark, this was fun!

Bill

June 21st, 2012
2:02 pm

4 National Titles?How many of those were before indoor plumbing was commonplace?