While we all were glad to see the Georgia Bulldogs emerge from their Capital One Bowl date on New Year’s Day with a win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers, we must ask ourselves one question I neglected to add to my initial list: Was it enough?
Prior to the contest, we discussed the need for a convincing victory like the Sugar Bowl win over the Hawaii Warriors. Far from carding a victory that impressed the pollsters, Georgia notched a triumph that didn’t even impress Taylor Martinez. As had been the case with the Bulldogs’ early-season win over Missouri, the closeness of the contest for the first three quarters prevented there from being a widespread perception that the Red and Black had done anything special in the win, irrespective of the final margin.
Consequently, the South Carolina Gamecocks have gotten much more media attention for their closer triumph over a weaker opponent in their simultaneous Sunshine State bowl game against a Big Ten opponent. This likely changes the math for the ‘Dawgs this offseason; rather than hoping that an attention-getting postseason victory will propel them to a lofty preseason ranking, the Athenians instead ought to expect to find themselves behind the Garnet and Black in next year’s initial Associated Press poll.
This, of course, only heightens the significance of what already figured to be the most mission-critical game on Georgia’s slate. The Bulldogs will open their season by traversing the Palmetto State circuit, arguably facing the autumn’s two toughest opponents in the campaign’s first couple of weeks. The last time the Red and Black opened with such a challenging one-two punch, the result was an 0-2 start to the 2011 campaign.
However, the last time Georgia faced Clemson and South Carolina in the season’s initial pair of games, the Bulldogs claimed close victories over the Tigers and the Gamecocks to move up two spots in the Associated Press poll en route to an SEC championship, a 13-1 season, and a top three finish in 2002. Those, I suppose, are the breaks, but, after a strong but not dominant finish to the 2012 season, the Red and Black may have to climb the ladder in 2013, rather than starting the fall atop it.