2012 Review/2013 Preview: Assessing Mark Richt's Place in Georgia Bulldogs Football History (Part I)

USA TODAY Sports

Mark Richt's twelfth season as the Georgia head coach saw the Bulldogs fall just five yards short of an SEC title and a probable national championship. How does the Red and Black skipper compare to Wally Butts and Vince Dooley at the same point in their careers?

As you may have noticed, in the midst of occasional distractions, we here at Dawg Sports have been reviewing the Georgia Bulldogs’ 2012 campaign and projecting ahead to the 2013 college football season, from hailtogeorgia’s look at the Red and Black secondary to Ludakit’s review of the running backs to vineyarddawg’s examination of special teams to RedCrake’s thoughts on coordinator succession. Now, it’s my turn to bring you my annual review of Mark Richt’s tenure, in comparison to those of his predecessors.

Of course, the task of comparing Coach Richt to his coevals becomes increasingly daunting the longer he remains atop the program in Athens, as only two previous coaches have lasted as long in the Classic City as he has: Wally Butts and Vince Dooley. In order to make apples-to-apples comparisons to the greatest (albeit admittedly limited) extent possible, I will line up Coach Richt’s first twelve years as the head coach of the Bulldogs (2001-2012) alongside those of Coach Butts (1939-1950) and Coach Dooley (1964-1975). We will be looking at those 36 seasons only, so please don’t wonder why I fail to make reference to, e.g., the 1959 SEC championship or the 1980 national title. Those seasons simply fall outside the survey period.

The ground rules thus having been established, we begin this three-part examination by looking at how each coach fared against Georgia’s minor or infrequent rivals:

v. Kentucky:
Butts: 5-3-1 (.611)
Dooley: 10-2 (.833)
Richt: 10-2 (.833)

Like all of you, I continue to find the Red and Black’s 2006 and 2009 losses to the Wildcats maddening; Georgia losing to Kentucky in football is as inexplicable and inexcusable as Kentucky losing to Georgia in basketball. Nevertheless, Coach Richt’s 10-2 ledger against the Blue and White matches the best twelve-year record any coach of the Classic City Canines has compiled against the Blue and White. I will confess, however, to being somewhat concerned by the trends in this series: Coach Richt’s first five games against Kentucky produced five victories, all by at least two touchdowns, and three absolute beatdowns; in the seven years since, the ‘Dawgs have lost to the ‘Cats twice, claimed two single-score wins, and failed to card even a single victory by as many as 14 points. I like the wins, but I’d like to get back to beating the snot out of Kentucky.

v. Vanderbilt:
Butts: 0-0 (.000)
Dooley: 9-1 (.900)
Richt: 11-1 (.917)

The Bulldogs and the Commodores took 20 years off from meeting one another on the gridiron between 1932 and 1952, so Coach Butts did not cross paths with Vanderbilt during the first dozen years of his tenure. Coach Dooley, like Coach Richt, lost to the Commies once in his first twelve seasons, but the two Georgia skippers were facing entirely different Vandy incarnations. Between 1964 and 1975, Coach Dooley faced only one Commodore squad that made it to a bowl game. Coach Richt has faced three Vanderbilt teams that made it into postseason play, beating all three of them. Coach Richt has a better record against better Commodore clubs than Coach Dooley could claim.

v. Mississippi State:
Butts: 1-0 (1.000)
Dooley: 4-2 (.667)
Richt: 3-1 (.750)

All right, sure, Coach Butts had never lost to the other Bulldogs at this point in his career, but he’d also only faced them once, and that was during a season in which Mississippi State went 4-5 under the guidance of a head coach named Slick Morton. Coach Dooley faced the Magnolia State Mongrels in half of his first twelve seasons, notching one more win and sustaining one more setback than Coach Richt has in his four meetings with the Western Division Bulldogs. Given the small sample sizes, I’d say Coach Richt’s performance against Mississippi State has been par for the course.

v. Ole Miss:
Butts: 1-1-1 (.500)
Dooley: 6-4 (.600)
Richt: 6-0 (1.000)

Simply stated, no Georgia head coach in history has more thoroughly dominated the Rebels than Coach Richt. He has an unblemished record against Mississippi, and five of his six wins over the Rebs have come by margins of at least two touchdowns, in a series that saw six meetings settled by eight or fewer points in the seven years just prior to Coach Richt’s arrival in Athens.

v. Arkansas:
Butts: 0-0 (.000)
Dooley: 0-2 (.000)
Richt: 5-1 (.833)

My observations regarding Coach Richt and Ole Miss apply equally as well to Arkansas. Neither Coach Butts nor Coach Dooley had beaten the Razorbacks in his first twelve years on the job; Coach Butts never faced the Hogs in his career, and Coach Dooley would not defeat Arkansas until his penultimate season as the Bulldogs’ head coach. Coach Richt, by contrast, has been responsible for more than half of Georgia’s all-time wins over the Razorbacks (5 of 9), but only one-fourth of the Red and Black’s losses to the Hogs (1 of 4).

v. Louisiana State:
Butts: 3-4-1 (.438)
Dooley: 0-0 (.000)
Richt: 3-4 (.429)

There was a significant gap in the Bulldogs’ series with the Bayou Bengals, as the two teams did not meet between the year my father turned ten (1953) and the year I turned ten (1978). Bracketing that extended break were Coach Butts’s and Coach Richt’s similar records against the Tigers. The difference, of course, is that Coach Butts’s first twelve years at the helm in the Classic City coincided with a period during which LSU won more than seven games just twice, whereas Coach Richt’s tenure in Athens has overlapped with a period in which Louisiana State has attended five SEC Championship Games and posted double-digit win tallies eight times. Coach Richt has duplicated Coach Butts’s success against the Bayou Bengals in spite of having a tougher set of Tigers to tame.

On the whole, then, we historically have no cause for offering major complaints regarding Coach Richt’s records against SEC teams the Red and Black face infrequently or do not regard as significant rivals. So far, so good . . . but how has Coach Richt fared against the big boys on the Bulldogs’ slate? Stay tuned!

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