(As a pre-note: When I reference rankings I used the Final AP Poll of the each year as listed at http://preseason.stassen.com/final-ap-poll/ ; for recruiting rankings I relied in Rivals.com; game stats are taken from cfbstats.com and NFL draft data from http://www.nfl.com/draft/history/fulldraft?type=school. I have tried to be as accurate as possible with my numbers, but there may be a few errors along the way. I hope that if there are errors, they are not egregious enough to take away from the meaning of the article)
I have stepped down from the ledge. First off, let me get this out of the way: congratulations to the Gamecocks. UGA was out-coached, out -played, out-hustled, physically out-manned and mentally out-matched from the time the Dawgs got off the bus. The Gamecocks were and are the better team.
Had I tried to put this to interweb paper last night; I would have been calling for every head associated with the UGA coaching staff to roll today. I would have beaten my chest and demanded that the red-shirt be removed from Mason. I would have clamored for the hiring of 10 Special Team Coaches. In other words it would have been nothing but venting and complaining and given no insight to what I believe is the actual state of the University of Georgia Football Program.
Already the internet is full of "Mark Richt is on the hot seat", "UGA Fails to perform again" and other words of encouragement sent straight from the WWL. UGA dropped 9 places in the AP poll today to 14. The same drop FSU suffered from the loss against an un-ranked, 2-loss NCSU. We can see the media circus piling on.
We have seen screams for Saturday’s performance to be blamed on Bobo, Grantham, Richt, the missing ST Coach, and Murray. We have seen it all before. We saw the same thing against Boise State, and the 2nd half of LSU in 2011, Florida in 2009, Florida and Alabama in 2008. There is something that does not get packed onto the bus with the rest of the game gear when it comes to BIG TIME Games.
It is not just that Murray cannot win the big games (and I am painfully aware that he has not really won a marquee game, last year at Florida or this year at Missouri is about as big as it has been for Aaron). He is 0-9 versus ranked opponents and 0-2 in Bowls. But it is not just on Murray’s shoulders.
Last season UGA had a top 10 defense in most aspects, this year it is currently 53rd in scoring, 71st against the rush, 44th against the pass and 53rd overall. That is with 9 starters returning. Yes, UGA has had suspensions, but UGA has suspensions every year. Something is missing from the team.
Over the past decade there are been numerous calls for the head of Mike Bobo. What does he do this year…takes the team through the first 5 games averaging 40+ a game. Even with just a sole touchdown in garbage time against USC’s reserves. UGA is still 13th in scoring offense averaging 41.3 pts/game. Was UGA so shell-shocked by the first quarter that everything the offense did in the first 5 games was doomed to fail?
Read that 3rd sentence in the previous paragraph again…USC played reserves against UGA. To me that speaks volumes. Yes, the game was sealed and there was no fear of USC giving up enough points, but what does that tell you about the state of the program; teams can play reserves against UGA.
Since 2008 (limiting it to this year’s 5th year seniors) UGA is 2-13 against ranked opponents and 2-2 in Bowls. On the national scene they have won 3 games. Against teams in the top 20, they have won 1 game and ZERO against those in the top 10. But the fault does not lie in the players on the field currently.
Is it talent? Is the recruiting process so messed up that UGA cannot adequately rate players? We all know that is not the case. Since 2002 UGA has averaged a recruiting class ranked 8th in the nation, bringing in 248 student-athletes. UGA’s highest ranking during the Richt era was 3rd in 2002 and the worst was 15th in 2010. So there must be something about Athens that destroys the abilities of top rated high school players and allows them to fail on the college level. That is also not the case, in the Richt era UGA has had 65 players drafted by the NFL including 9 first round, 8 second round and 9 third round picks. 26 percent of the players that come to UGA end up in the NFL; 11 percent taken in the first three rounds. And judging by the experts, you could see 6-10 more UGA players taken in the next draft…potentially 2-3 in the first round. Don’t know about you but that does not sound like a talent problem.
So it is not consistently performance on the field, it is not recruiting, it is not talent…what keeps UGA in the less than elite of the SEC?
In the Mark Richt era, UGA has faced 46 ranked opponents. They are 18-28 in those 46 games. Yes Mark Richt has a .740 winning percentage, but against ranked teams he falls to .391. UGA’s last victory over a ranked opponent was 13th ranked Georgia Tech in 2009. The last victory over a top 10 opponent takes us back to 2006 when UGA beat 9th ranked Auburn. It is just not this group of players that have struggled in big games, it has been a trend of the Richt era. The mark Richt era has seen UGA win 10+ games in 7 seasons; but only 2 seasons has UGA enjoyed a winning record over ranked teams. There is something missing in the preparation for ranked opponents, there is an expectation of a loss whenever UGA faces a ranked opponent. The team is defeated before the first play from scrimmage.
Many of us see a lack of commitment as part of the problem. The University, the Board of Regents, the UGAAA, and the staff do not appear to being committed and doing what must be done to break onto the upper echelon of FBS Football. The mentality is not there. Everyone seems to be content with where they currently are. The program has become satisfied. Decent graduation rates, every home game is a sellout, putting players into the NFL, riding the moral victories with the Disciplinary Program, ending up ranked at the end of the year and a bowl game. Why should it change or better yet can it be changed?
We all laughed and made fun of Vanderbilt and the "culture" change that James Franklin was selling, but it worked for a while. People bought into the idea that Vandy was on the rise, there was swagger in the program. Vandy actually has an AD now. Unfortunately Vandy just does not have the talent to climb onto the national scene. UGA has the talent, but there is as much swagger in this program as there is at Idaho State. Everyone from the staff, the administration, the fan base, the media and the public expect UGA to win 8-10 games, fold in the pressure and remain happy with an SEC East crown every few years. That in my opinion is what is wrong with the Bulldogs, everyone is complacent. And as long as complacency is the expectation, this is all we will get.