Let me tell you a story. It’s a story about a particular, and particularly noteworthy, recruiting class for the Georgia Bulldogs. I’ll bet you’ll be able to figure out before long which recruiting class I mean.
As freshmen, they suffered through a subpar season, finishing with a losing record for the first time in the tenure of a head coach who previously had led the Red and Black to multiple SEC titles. The season featured a single-score loss to Florida and a double-digit loss to an Auburn team that scored a boatload of points against the Bulldogs. In the end, the Athenians finished the season two games under .500 in conference play and one game under .500 overall.
As sophomores, though, this bunch of Bulldogs rebounded. After an early-season setback against South Carolina, Georgia would not lose a game for the remainder of the regular season. Though the autumn ended with a disappointing three-point loss in a bowl game in which the Red and Black led comfortably at halftime, the Classic City Canines defeated Ole Miss, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Florida, and Georgia Tech to finish ranked in the teens in the final AP poll.
As juniors, these players overcame another loss to the Gamecocks, notched an impressive win in Jacksonville, and fell just short of claiming the SEC championship due to a setback sustained at the hands of an opponent from the Yellowhammer State in the season’s final conference outing, which allowed Alabama to finish first in the league standings in Georgia’s place. That near-miss set the stage for an impressive early-season showing by these Bulldogs as seniors, when they began rising in the rankings after notching some attention-getting victories in the campaign’s opening stanza.
I know what you’re thinking: "Kyle, it’s obvious to whom you’re referring; it’s the current group of Georgia seniors, who struggled as freshmen in 2010, matured as sophomores in 2011, came up just short in the SEC Championship Game as juniors in 2012, and appear poised for greatness as seniors in 2013."
That may well be a fair comparison, but I am afraid you are mistaken. Rather, I am referring to an entirely different Georgia recruiting class.
The year you confused with 2010 was, in fact, 1977, when the Bulldogs stumbled to a 5-6 record in Vince Dooley’s only losing season. The autumn you mistook for 2011 was, instead, 1978, when the "Wonderdogs" went 9-2-1. The campaign you thought was 2012 was actually 1979, a year in which Georgia narrowly missed out on a conference crown.
Finally, the season analogous to 2013 was really 1980, in which, among other achievements, the Red and Black got the ball rolling with a win over Tennessee in Knoxville. Hopefully, the parallels will start, but not end, there.