Florida in Jax: Big for UGA, it’s even bigger for Mark Richt

"Did you know my team is 6-1?" (AP photo)

"Did you know my darn strong football team is 6-1?" (AP photo)

The surest sign that Mark Richt is miffed: He cites numbers. He did it back in 2006, when Georgia was 5-0 but coming off shaky victories over Colorado and Ole Miss. (Those Bulldogs would lose four of their next five games, FYI.) He did it at the end of the 2008 season, which began with Georgia ranked No. 1 but wound down with Richt trying to make 10-3 sound like a major achievement. He did it again Saturday night.

Responding to a question (mine, actually) about the possibility that the halting performance against Kentucky had been a function of focusing more on the Florida-South Carolina score than the opponent at hand, he stopped in mid-answer. “Know what?” he said, his voice rising. “I’m happy with the victory. We’re 6-1. That’s not bad.”

Know what? He’s right. Georgia is 6-1, and 6-1 isn’t at all bad. (It’s good enough for 10th place in the BCS standings.) But now comes Florida, and this game will do more than define the Bulldogs’ season — it will shape the remainder of Mark Richt’s tenure at Georgia.

Richt has been in place since January 2001. He has — here we cite numbers for him — taken Georgia to two conference championships and four SEC title games. He has presided over seven 10-or-more-win seasons and seen his team finish in the Associated Press top 10 five times. Twice the Bulldogs under Richt have come close (in 2002 and 2007) to playing for the BCS title.

That said, his greatest successes came early, and not since 2007 — Richt’s seventh season — have the Bulldogs given their fans reason to believe the long-sought national championship is within reach. Thus have significant achievements come to be taken with a grain of salt. Winning the SEC East in 2011 was nice, but how nice is a season that features losses to the four best teams on the schedule? Being ranked No. 10 in the BCS is not nothing, but 17 days ago the Bulldogs were ranked No. 5 in the land, and not much good has happened since.

The question for Georgia and Richt is no longer about winning mere games; it’s about winning games of consequence, the games this program has ceased to win. South Carolina has become such a game, and the Bulldogs were embarrassed in Columbia on Oct. 6. Florida is another such game, though technically Georgia beat the Gators last season. But now the repellant reptiles are roaring again, and the Bulldogs under Richt still haven’t whipped a first-rate Florida team. (Richt’s three victories in Jacksonville have come against Gators who would finish 7-5, 9-4 and 7-6.)

If Georgia loses Saturday, it won’t repeat as SEC East champs. Given that the Bulldogs were picked to win the division in preseason, that would be a major disappointment. It would make last year’s return to prominence seem an aberration, not the new normal. Even worse, it would fuel the loaded question: If the 2012 Bulldogs, who came equipped with a bunny schedule and a seasoned quarterback and what seemed a mighty defense, couldn’t play for a conference or a national title, what Georgia team will?

Mark Richt is 52, which is considerably younger than Nick Saban or Les Miles, but a 10-2 season that doesn’t yield at least a division title would not play well among the noisier precincts of his constituency. That doesn’t mean Richt would get fired: There’s no way those in power would move to dislodge a coach who’s again winning 10 games a year. Still, the quality of life for Richt’s remaining seasons as Georgia’s coach would surely be lessened. The emphasis wouldn’t be on the many games Georgia has won but on the magnitude of the games it hasn’t. (No victory over a Top 10 team since 2009, et cetera.)

That the Bulldogs looked awful against South Carolina and awfully unimpressive against Kentucky could benefit the cause. Richt’s biggest victory over Florida — the Gator Stomp of 2007 — came when Georgia wasn’t expected to do anything except its usual Jacksonville flop. Now Florida, picked No. 3 in the SEC East, is ranked No. 2 in the BCS standings. Now this is considered Florida’s game to win.

But make no mistake: This is a game these Bulldogs and their coach need in the worst way. There have been breakthrough victories for Richt over the past 11 1/2 years — Tennessee in 2001, Auburn in 2002, Auburn again when Georgia had lost those four of five in 2006, Florida in 2007, maybe Georgia Tech in 2009 — but none lately. If Georgia wins, Mark Richt won’t need to invoke the record to remind us how good his program is. The record will again speak for itself.

Further reading: If you missed today’s Heat Check, it can be found here. (Georgia is mentioned.)

By Mark Bradley

608 comments Add your comment

Dr. Lou

October 22nd, 2012
1:03 pm

Mark – are you trying once again to campaign to have Richt fired?

Oh, and FIRST!

Leroy

October 22nd, 2012
1:06 pm

Bad Dawg

October 22nd, 2012
1:06 pm

Transcript from this week’s UGA-UF Game-planning meeting with CMR, CMB and CTG:

CMR: Sorry I’m late. This whole singing-to-recruits thing is getting out of hand. I just finished singing “Call Me Maybe” to A. Kamara and “Forget You” to D. Henry. I’ve got 16 more requests today alone! Let me ask; do you guys see me as more of a Casey Kasem or a Cousin Brucey? Personally, I love the long-distance dedication….

CMB: Excuse me coach, can we talk about the WLOCP? What’s in the sack anyway?

CMR: Oh that…well, it’s my special “WLOCP Bag O Tricks”. It’s got stuff like end-zone choreography and Halloween-themed uniform gimmicks. I was thinking that this year we could go with the Invisible Man theme because the pollsters clearly don’t appreciate how good we are. What do you think?

CMB: I’ve got 2 names for you: Worley & Henderson!

CMR: Awesome! Who the heck are they?

CMB: 2 dynamic freshmen running backs who, many, many years ago, ran roughshod on then #1 UF, spoiling the Gators’ season.

CMR: Jackpot!! Are they available this weekend?

CMB: No, well, uh, I was drawing a parallel between them and Gurley/Marshall…

CMR: Gotta tell ya’ CMB, I don’t know what you’re talking about half the time, but I love That Thing You Do (CMR stands with air-microphone, begins singing, pointing at CMB) “You…Doing That Thing You Do….”

CTG: Excuse me! Can we talk defense now?

CMR: Oh, of course big fella, sorry bout that! I didn’t see you sitting there behind the Independence Bowl trophy. Fire away…

CTG: I’ve decided that this week, we’re going to just play our base defense, but with a wrinkle! Here’s the really big part…you ready??…I’m going to direct choking gestures at Jeff Driskel the entire game! He will become so un-nerved he will eventually wet himself!

CMR: Fantastic idea! I love Psy-ops, mind-games type stuff! I’ll add that to my “WLOCP Bag O Tricks”! (CMR grabs air-mic again, points at CTG, begins singing AC/DC’s Whole Lotta Rosie) “Let me tell you a story, ‘bout a DC I know, comes to coaching, he steals the show, he ain’t exactly pretty, ain’t exactly small. 35-7! You can’t say we’ve won ‘em all”……..

CTG: We done here??

CMR: Yes, sorry, got carried away. Gotta get to my weekly press briefing anyway. Instead of the usual boring Q&A, I’m going to sing, “Walking on Sunshine”! I’m thinking a little Katrina and the Waves will soothe those fourth-estate savages! See ya’ in Jax fellas!

Mark Bradley

October 22nd, 2012
1:09 pm

Kudos, Dr. Lou. And no, I’m not.

[...] Further reading: Why Florida in Jax is a big game for Georgia — and an even bigger one for Georgia’s coac…. [...]

Jeffro Bodeen

October 22nd, 2012
1:23 pm

I can’t remember a win of consequence since CMR turned the play calling over to Bobo. I don’t forsee one this week either.

The Grinch

October 22nd, 2012
1:27 pm

I really like coach Richt, but I’m beginning to wonder if 10-2 in the regular season and a Capitol One/Outback bowl loss to an inferior team is our ceiling under him. That’s certainly nothing to sneeze at, and I don’t see any coach available at the moment that would be guaranteed to do better, but it just seems like we always slightly (and sometimes vastly) underachieve these days given the consistently excellent recruiting.

Steve

October 22nd, 2012
1:27 pm

“Bad Dawg” get a life! Why have you posted the same stupid thing on three different blogs? Wow what a loser.

KBP

October 22nd, 2012
1:28 pm

It takes a lot of testosterone to fire a coach who averages almost 10 wins a year and runs a clean program, but if we want to compete for championships we must win games like this as you have stated, Mark. Winning 10 games a year and losing the biggest games is not what a championship program does. Hopefully we win this week because if we don’t, I think McGarrity just may have enough testosterone to pull the trigger. And by the way, I like Richt but I am no longer convinced he and his staff can get supremely talented kids really to play when it matters most. Ugh, hate admitting that.

Jax Dawg

October 22nd, 2012
1:28 pm

Can’t blame this mess on Bobo.

Jax Dawg

October 22nd, 2012
1:29 pm

I don’t get the defense.

Jax Dawg

October 22nd, 2012
1:29 pm

Enter your comments here

Northwoods Dawg

October 22nd, 2012
1:30 pm

Win in J-ville and it returns to the potential of a special season. Lose and the wheels will fall off. Bottom line, do the players want it bad enough because the last time I checked CMR doesn’t take the snaps and CTG doesn’t rush the opposing QB. It’s up to the players.

some sense

October 22nd, 2012
1:31 pm

Lose this one and it’s Muschamp/Smart time.

Jax Dawg

October 22nd, 2012
1:31 pm

Ditto KBP.” I like Richt but I am no longer convinced he and his staff can get supremely talented kids really to play when it matters most.”

scott

October 22nd, 2012
1:32 pm

I love the dawgs but I have come to believe that we simply don’t win games like this any more. I would love to see them play sound football free of horrible turnovers, inept special teams, and ill-timed penallties. These things have become the hallmark of UGA football and unfortunately they fall at the feet of the coaching staff. I hope I’m wring about this on Saturday, but I would be suprised to be celebrating a win.

GatorsforRicht

October 22nd, 2012
1:33 pm

It would be a mistake to let Richt go, just because you can’t beat the Gators is no reason to fire a coach who will probably go 10-2 for the second straight year. Keep Richt dogs, it ain’t that bad, there is always that CapitalOne bowl for you to look forward to. :)

red colored h2o

October 22nd, 2012
1:35 pm

when the past is all you have, brag on brother, brag on…the present says otherwise.

Flat Tire On I-95 in Jacksonville

October 22nd, 2012
1:36 pm

Havent beaten a top 20 team in 4 yrs

Boy UGA football has been heading in the right direction for years now

Mark Bradley Jr.

October 22nd, 2012
1:36 pm

I never agree with Mark Bradley. But he is soooo spot on with this article. Mark Richt needs a meaningful win and he needs it this Saturday.

Vols for Richt

October 22nd, 2012
1:36 pm

Keep him in Athens, dawgs…it’ll make it alot easier for us to rebuild…

Vampire Bill

October 22nd, 2012
1:40 pm

That’s about as nice as you can tell someone they stink.

nate from detroit

October 22nd, 2012
1:40 pm

We have too many (more that one is too many) players on the D worried about draft status and not about the importance of showing up every Sat and giving it all they have. I still don’t think UF is all that. They have 2 big wins (LSU and USCjr) both at home and one good road win (Texas A&M). They have struggled against some lesser opponents (Bowling Green and Vandy) I believe which team wins the turnover battle wins this game.
I am concerned though with how little “fire in the belly” our kids seem to have. At SC and at UK they looked like they didn’t give a rats butt.

Vampire Bill

October 22nd, 2012
1:42 pm

BAD DAWG, It was funny ONCE.

muleshoe

October 22nd, 2012
1:43 pm

Nate, forget the Vandy/BG comparison..LSU/SC/Tamu are three teams that Georgia couldn’t beat this coming weekend on a neutral field…much less Florida.

dale

October 22nd, 2012
1:44 pm

Those were the good old days, when CMR was calling the offense.

Faithful Dawg

October 22nd, 2012
1:44 pm

I do like CMR as a coach but also sometimes a coach can run his course with a program. I feel that CMR has had the tools to bring home a National Championship but hasnt delivered. He has had a top 10 recruiting class every year since he has been at UGA. We cant continue to blame Bobo or Grantham for the team because the Head Dawg always takes the blame. I see poor angles on defense, unfinished blocks on offense, and undisciplined players on both sides of the ball. You can only blame that on the attitude that the head coach brings to a program.

dick whiskey

October 22nd, 2012
1:44 pm

fatboy grantham needs to be taking some heat also,the fatboy and his agent managed to get the big raise(825,000)because D was so good last yeart(only against lousy teams) now D is woefully underperforming,yeah the fatboy needs to take some heat

dean

October 22nd, 2012
1:45 pm

I don’t recall ever being this un-excited (Yeah, I know un-excited is not word.) for a GA/FL game. Hopefully, the dawgs will surprise us with a win.

SKB

October 22nd, 2012
1:46 pm

Richt is a great man. Even though we will probably lose to Florida. I think he will make big improvements next year. He just has to correct the mistakes on defense.

muleshoe

October 22nd, 2012
1:46 pm

Mr. Whiskey, wait until next years defense, with new starters and a much tougher schedule. Gonna be sweet!

After further review...

October 22nd, 2012
1:46 pm

It would be good to think that the Bulldogs might whip the Gators, run the table, and make it back to the SEC Champpionship game again this year. Beating Alabama in that would be even better, although that’s an even bigger stretch than beating the Gators at this point.

Infant Dawg

October 22nd, 2012
1:48 pm

But it was very funny that once Mr. Bad Dawg. You are more enjoyable these days than Pulpwood.

Wet Willie...keep on smiling

October 22nd, 2012
1:49 pm

When was the last time another college program tried to hire away your coach?
When was the last time another college program tried to hire away any assistant coach?
Name a HC in the SEC that couldn’t win 10 games with the current UGA roster.

Richt is an average coach at best in a state with major talent.

There is no doubt the Admin at UGA don’t care ENOUGH to fix the HC position at UGA. Hell, Bama pays our strength coach more than UGA pays your OC.

No Auburn joke today folks…Coach Chizik’s Mom passed today.

Dawg Dawg Dawg

October 22nd, 2012
1:50 pm

We should have hired Muschamp when we had the chance.

I hope we don’t lose out on Kirby Smart.

Both are UGA alumni and have coached in premiere college programs. We need swift, effective leadership from the AD.

Let Richt go.

Mr. Hankey

October 22nd, 2012
1:50 pm

Bad Dawg: You sure wasted a lot of time with your tiresome, if not juvenile, attempt and humor with the Richt/Bobo conversation. Are you freaking serious? You’re not a bad dawg, you’re just a doosh.

King Gator

October 22nd, 2012
1:50 pm

30th!!

Looking forward to the game on Saturday in Jax. If Florida can continue to play dominating defense and special teams it’s not even going to be close. Go Gators!

WinderDawg

October 22nd, 2012
1:52 pm

I am starting to believe that is all about the mighty dollar! We all know UGA is ranked at the top of athletic programs bringing in the most revenue every season. I think they sell “hope”! Let’s see how high we can be ranked at the beginning of the season, that will sell tickets and t-shirts. Next, let’s schedule teams at home that are worthless and know the “Wal-mart” dog fans will attend, then we can build up huge games before we lose (0-10 vs ranked teams) and hope for next year.

The fan base is not going anywhere. UGA will have money. The fans are ready for championships. 10-2 is great, but 10 meaningless wins and loses to ranked teams is getting old. I want an AD that demands championships, not making money.

Ward

October 22nd, 2012
1:53 pm

I am at a crossroads… I love UGA; I was born and raised in Athens. I graduated in 1999 and got my Masters in 2000. I have loved the Dawgs my entire life & I want good things to happen for Richt & this program! The only problem is that I do not believe in him any longer (I wanted him to be hired when Donnan was fired). I think, and have thought since he was hired, that Grantham is a complete idiot; I have nothing nice to say about him… This staff just makes me so angry. I get physically sick when I think about the results they have delivered to us & the amount of money they make. Yet here we are at 6-1 and if my some miracle or miracles we win on Saturday we can make a run at a National Title (I have no faith that happens, but it could)… Yet, if we lose we will most likely go 10-2 with no hope in sight of making staff changes that need to be made; we need a fresh voice! So, I am left to root hard for us to run the table or root hard for us to lose to Auburn/Ole Miss/ or Tech & our bowl game so we finally have the nerve to do what we should have done 3 years ago… Can you see what a miserable situation it is to be a UGA fan? I do not think we can beat Florida, but I also do not think we can lose any other game on our schedule (except the bowl game)… 10-3 won’t get Richt fired even though it should.

The Duke

October 22nd, 2012
1:56 pm

Who says that UGA finishes 10-2. I see a couple more if they lose Saturday. Bye Richt.

gdawginkalamazoo

October 22nd, 2012
1:56 pm

Well, if we lose it will just mean that THREE Florida coaches came in and surpassed Coach Richt in the series.

gdawginkalamazoo

October 22nd, 2012
1:57 pm

King Gator, Special Teams? What’s that?

Scott

October 22nd, 2012
1:58 pm

I am sick of hearing from UGA fans that Richt is a good christian man and that getting rid of him would be going back to the Goff and Donnan years. I don’t care if the coach is Christan, Muslim, Athiest, Satanist just win the big games! Every season under Richt this team loses the big games that it should win. The last two seasons have been the softest schedules ever, I don’t care if they win games against the easy teams, they should win those games. It is the tough games that the Richt teams never seem to be able to compete against anymore. As Spurrier said before, I don’t know what happens to these 5 start recruits that go to UGA, they never seem to develop!

Andy

October 22nd, 2012
1:59 pm

I place any blame for the Bulldogs’ not meeting their goals this season squarely on the defense and Coach Grantham. They were supposed to be the strength of the team and have inexplicably not lived up to expectations for the most part. We knew we would have a young O-line and new kickers this year, but the D was supposed to carry the team. Something is wrong with the D, and Grantham needs to FIX IT!

The Duke

October 22nd, 2012
1:59 pm

Spurrier said 12 years is long enough to be coach of a team. I agree.

Bill Arp

October 22nd, 2012
2:01 pm

Let’s say you have a prized horse. This horse races locally against a bunch of nobodys and continues to kick butt. However, when you take this horse on the road to face another of consequence, he seems to get this ‘deer in the headlight’ look and nuts up. This particular horse hasn’t won a game, er, race, against anybody that is ‘known’ to be good, and is something like 0-9 or 0-10 against good competition.

At what point do you tell yourself, ‘man, this horse ain’t gettin it done. Time to make a change or else I’m going to lose my job’. Or do you simply keep on riding this horse HOPING that one day he’ll come thru for you….

Evidently we know what CMR would do….

At what time

Flat Tire On I-95 in Jacksonville

October 22nd, 2012
2:01 pm

Winder dawg

Dont worry a loss Saturday will send our program back 5 yrs easily if nothing is done about it

Remember we lose 9 on the D this year

Murray will be a senior next year so the following year Mason will be a one year QB with a rebuilding Defense

The next 2 years will bring us another inexperienced qb that this staff cant even manage and experience one

Thats the reality of Saturdays game

Dead Mike

October 22nd, 2012
2:02 pm

Bring back Donnan!

ub

October 22nd, 2012
2:02 pm

Come on DAWGS it is time to go to Jacksonville all the negative talk is not helping anything. You have the whole off season to bitch about things. Real fans will be with this team 100% this weekend.

Here we go

October 22nd, 2012
2:05 pm

@WinderDawg–It has always been about the money!!! When Adams leaves things will change,I hope.Go DAWGS and please put an effort and be motivated for the game this Saturday.