For Mark Richt and Georgia, the moment is finally at hand

Twelve years a Bulldog, Mark Richt's breakthrough moment has finally arrived. (AP photo by David Goldman)

Twelve years a Bulldog, Mark Richt's breakthrough chance comes Saturday. (AP photo by David Goldman)

Mark Richt apprenticed at Florida State when the Seminoles played for five national championships in eight seasons, and he came to Athens expecting more of the same. “That was the plan coming in,” he said Friday, “but it hasn’t happened yet.”

It could well happen Saturday. If Richt’s team wins the SEC championship game, the plan will have come to fruition. Twelve years Georgia’s coach, Richt has never been so close to playing for the BCS title. Twelve years Georgia’s coach, the path finally is clear.

A coach can never know when, or if, his moment will arrive. Richt had great early success – three division titles and two SEC championships in his first five years – and then he had rather less. We began to wonder if a fine career could ever bring the ultimate validation. Well, it’s there to be seized under the off-white roof of the Georgia Dome, there to be seized in the kind of game Richt has waited all his life to coach.

Beat Alabama, and Georgia will play Notre Dame for the national championship. “I don’t want to minimize the importance of the SEC (title),” said Richt, speaking at a media briefing, “but that (the BCS) does add a lot more juice.”

A program that went years without defeating an opponent of true consequence now gets its shot at the opponent of greatest consequence. Alabama is the gold standard of college football, and Bama is favored by a touchdown. But the feeling of those close to the Tide is that this is Nick Saban’s least imposing team of the past four – two of which have won national championships – and that Georgia is at least a match in talent.

There’s also this: A mighty wind has stationed itself at Georgia’s back. On Oct. 6, the Bulldogs lost at South Carolina 35-7, and no national-champion-to-be has ever lost by 28 points. But every week since has brought nothing but glad tidings to Georgia hearts. Consider:

  • Oct. 13: The Bulldogs don’t play, but are buoyed by South Carolina’s loss at LSU.
  • Oct. 20: The Bulldogs barely beat Kentucky, but the bigger news is that South Carolina has lost again, this time at Florida. Georgia has the opening it needs to win the Eastern Division.
  • Oct. 27: The Bulldogs beat the hated Gators to move to the top of the SEC East.
  • Nov. 3: The Bulldogs beat Ole Miss and then see Alabama, which some were suggesting was good enough to handle an NFL team, barely escape at LSU.
  • Nov. 10: The Bulldogs beat Auburn to clinch the East in game that begins an hour after Texas A&M upsets Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
  • Nov. 17: The Bulldogs beat Georgia Southern, and much later they watch as Kansas State, ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings, and Oregon, ranked No. 2, both lose. Georgia ascends to No. 3 the next day, rendering the SEC championship against No. 2 Alabama a BCS play-in.
  • Nov. 24: The Bulldogs pound Georgia Tech like a kettledrum.

Over seven giddy weeks, Georgia grew from a puzzling aggregation into a powerful one. Said Richt: “We have a lot of momentum.”

A month ago, the Bulldogs didn’t figure to stand a chance against mighty Bama. Today they’re seen by most neutral observers as a live underdog with a real chance, and even those picking the Tide are doing it largely because of the Tide’s experience in games of such magnitude. But this is a younger Bama team, and true eminence could be a year away.

For Georgia, both gifted and seasoned, a grand opportunity is at hand – an opportunity denied this program since the Bulldogs faced Penn State on Jan. 1, 1983. It was Herschel Walker’s last night as an amateur, and for 30 years Bulldog Nation has waited, not entirely patiently, for another chance at another national title.

For those long-suffering fans, for a coach who once seemed to have run out of ideas, for a team that was routed in its first real test of 2012 … for everyone involved with Georgia football, the moment has arrived. One massive game against one formidable opponent, one Dawg day of deliverance. Georgia 27, Alabama 20.

By Mark Bradley

381 comments Add your comment

delane

November 30th, 2012
4:44 pm

Alabama in a landslide first

bham dawg

November 30th, 2012
4:50 pm

i have a good feeling about this one. no one is giving us a chance. setting up to be something special. go dawgs.

GTT

November 30th, 2012
4:52 pm

Oh sookie sookie now

November 30th, 2012
4:54 pm

Hell yea Mark!! Lets obliterate those snaggle tooth rednecks over there in rama jama bama land!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

mike addington

November 30th, 2012
4:54 pm

If Murray stay’s composed, we win. If not, we don’t. I think it’s as simple as that, but I don have a good feeling and dare I say “Hope” one more time. If they fall aprt in this game, well. . . let’s just Hope that doesn’t happen again.

We (did) Run The East

November 30th, 2012
4:54 pm

All comes crashing down. No NC has ever been routed the way SC routed UGA and end up #1. Oct 6th showed how vunerable Dawgs are. Good D will shut them .

Brian

November 30th, 2012
4:55 pm

Go Dawgs!!!!! Cant’ wait for kickoff!!!

GTT

November 30th, 2012
4:56 pm

I think your predicted score is a pretty good one.

delane

November 30th, 2012
4:57 pm

UGA will self-destruct. Alabama will stop the run. Murrey will fumble and crumble as always.

UGA benefitted by a great schedule and a Florida hiccup. The always overrated Dogs go down.
40-10 Alabama

PRESSURE

November 30th, 2012
4:57 pm

Oh sookie sookie now

November 30th, 2012
4:58 pm

Nov. 24: The Bulldogs pound Georgia Tech like a kettledrum. Hell yea we did Mark!

Another Mr. Bradley

November 30th, 2012
5:00 pm

Best article you’ve ever written!

Joey

November 30th, 2012
5:01 pm

Mark, from this UGA fan, who made 3 straight trips to New Orleans back in Dooley’s big years, and who made close to 70 trips from south Georgia to Athens from ‘78 on, thanks for some good writing this week about the Bulldogs and their big game tomorrow.

I’ve always called Mark Richt a great man, and a good coach – and have often wished the reverse – but I have written since last winter, “I hope he collects every single bonus in his new contract.”

And right now, there’s nothing more I’d rather see than that.

Good luck Coach Richt and Staff.

Go Dawgs!

Taco Meat

November 30th, 2012
5:01 pm

Dawgs on top!

Jimmy Crack

November 30th, 2012
5:05 pm

Holy Moly!!! His-toh-ree!!

P-U-M-P-E-D-!

Good article Mark!

zamboni_racer

November 30th, 2012
5:06 pm

I would like to see Dogs win this one, Richt deserves it along with the team. But I think it’ll be tough to beat Bama, they will be up for this game and have the experience winning on the national stage.

ROLL TIDE

November 30th, 2012
5:06 pm

Thanks Mark Bradley,

This is great bulletin board material for Alabama. I’m going to go post this on all the Alabama boards right now and email it to Saban!

You’re awesome!

KOOL

November 30th, 2012
5:10 pm

JoeDAWGSFan

November 30th, 2012
5:12 pm

If the Georgia defense that showed up against Florida shows up against ‘Bama, the DAWGS have a real shot at this game. Hopefully Murray will keep his composure and use his receivers to slice and dice ‘Bama’s secondary. Time to feast on some elephant! LET’S GO DAWGS!!!

mike addington

November 30th, 2012
5:13 pm

To your point about Fl ST Mark. think how many NC games FL St would have played had it not been “wide right” or “wide left” vs Miami & others. Wow. Bobby Bowden would have gone down as playing in or winning more NCs than anyone had that not been the case. Should be on his toombstone. what a great coach and guy! I just hope the coach Richt who came from FL State shows up this week and not the one we’ve seen the last few years. Has 2 B the most perplexing situations I’ve seen in all sports.

markie mark

November 30th, 2012
5:13 pm

Delane, show me where Alabama’s schedule was so tough – just as we played none of the power teams of the west, they played none of the power teams from the east…..the schedule crap is….crap

Patched Tire On I-95 in Jacksonville

November 30th, 2012
5:15 pm

Yep the moment is at hand!!!!!!

Weve heard about Dream Team I and II

Weve heard about Knocking on the Door to Greatness

Weve heard about Cutting Edge Football

Well enough of the talking its time show it

I hope the coaches have come up with a great game plan and have the players ready to play

demhairydwags

November 30th, 2012
5:15 pm

Predciting UGA 38-24 SIC EM! FIRE MARK RICHT!

Joey

November 30th, 2012
5:16 pm

ROLL TIDE, how can you possibly do all that where you reside?

Paul Johnson’s hind-end has free Wi-Fi?

NC Dawg

November 30th, 2012
5:18 pm

Great year for Dawgs win or lose. Should be a very interesting game. GoDawgs!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

LakeDawg

November 30th, 2012
5:18 pm

Oh hell yeah!

ARdawg

November 30th, 2012
5:21 pm

Bulletin board material, what a joke. ROLL TIDE if you want real BB material just post on the Bama fan blogs we plan on stealing their trailer axles while they’re in Atlanta

Ronald L. White, JD

November 30th, 2012
5:28 pm

Even though I live in Alabama, I am not opposed to a Georgia victory. Spread the wealth, I say. The winner of this game, will trounce Notre Dame. The luck of the Irish, just ran out.

Ronald L. White, JD

November 30th, 2012
5:29 pm

Excellent job, Mark Bradley!!

sandiegodawg

November 30th, 2012
5:31 pm

Defining moment? I think coming to Christ was his defining moment. This is just football- please keep in perspective ppl whatever the outcome of this game.

BILLY JACK

November 30th, 2012
5:31 pm

BAMA HAD ITS TIME-NOW ITS GEORGIAS TIME-WE HAVE BETTER PLAYERS-NOW LETS PROVE IT-NO REGRETS.

david

November 30th, 2012
5:33 pm

Now thats funny ARdawg! BB material– if anyone needs BB material they should find a new sport. Maybe roll tide is really really scared.

JD Hater

November 30th, 2012
5:33 pm

Probably no better an attorney than prognosticator – don’t give up the day job of eating your young.

Sunbury Ga dawg

November 30th, 2012
5:35 pm

Everyone take notice because you didn’t listen last week. Dawgs early and often, Dawgs are going to show the world what they can do in less that 18 hours. Get ready

Go Dawgs!

Dumpster fire

November 30th, 2012
5:37 pm

Tech fans, please go home, we have bigger fish to fry……pass the hot sauce please!

Silver Fox

November 30th, 2012
5:37 pm

Marie Mark….You are dead right re the strength of schedule BS… GA’s SOS #42. ALA’s SOS#39. UGA haters are just like Democrats…keep repeating a lie often enough and the uninformed will start to believe it.

31 comments and my prediction

November 30th, 2012
5:37 pm

Bama 31. Ga 17 and it is not that close.

Richt Happens!

Dewnsav

November 30th, 2012
5:37 pm

ROLL TIDE, I don’t think bulletin board material is required, on either side…knock yourself out though…I’m sure Nick eagerly awaits your e-mails…not the least bit cocky, but I like our chances…and you USCe whiners, get over yourself…you beat UGA, wore us out, beat us like a rented mule…35-7, 35-7, 35-7…glad it made your season…what will you be doing at 4:00 tomorrow ?? go dogs

C'mon Man

November 30th, 2012
5:40 pm

If Dawgs win, Richt gets a big raise and a lifetime contract.

If Dawgs lose, Richt gets a raise and a 3 year extension.

What a job!

bruce mac

November 30th, 2012
5:44 pm

Less than 18 hours. What are we gonna win the pregame corn hole toss? Too dang funny.

Gator15

November 30th, 2012
5:44 pm

I have NEVER pulled for Georgia but I am going to this weekend and the main reason is your Coach.

bham dawg

November 30th, 2012
5:46 pm

bammers are so funny. mandatory suicide watch for all bammers starting at about 7 pm saturday.

Lee

November 30th, 2012
5:47 pm

Oh Gawd, I’ve heard so much yapping the past few weeks – from both sides – that I’m just ready for the damn game to be over with.

Sorta like the election….

No matter who wins, Ga or AL, I hope they stomp the crap out of Notre Dame.

Did I mention that I really don’t like ND?

UGA Shocks the SEC

November 30th, 2012
5:48 pm

Get ready bammer, we comin’ for ya boy! About time things get back to where they should be. Georgia Bulldogs baby! Believe it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

TampaDawg

November 30th, 2012
5:49 pm

ARDawg, Silver Fox and Sandiegodawg with the comments of the day!

Jimmy Crack

November 30th, 2012
5:51 pm

¡Bobo Believe!

TampaDawg

November 30th, 2012
5:51 pm

Gator15, thanks for the support .. one for the good guys coming

ARdawg

November 30th, 2012
5:51 pm

There is nothing to indicate a blow out by either team. It’s going to be a good game and likely the team with the ball last will win it. Put down the kool aid and be realistic. (Hoping for an easy win) but it ain’t going to happen.

GATA and GO DAWGS!!!

GATA

November 30th, 2012
5:52 pm

Espn said if GA has any chance it’s verrrrry small. I love it they are gonna sh.t their pants when the dogs roll the tide.

Joey

November 30th, 2012
5:53 pm

Not nitpicking a fellow UGA fan, NC Dawg (5:18), but if UGA loses tomorrow, it’s not a “great year.”

Good year – hell yeah!

But 11-2, and going to Tampa or Atlanta for a bowl game is not “great.”