Georgia Bulldogs Finish Season Exactly How It Began, in Mediocrity

Nick R. BrownContributor IIIJanuary 3, 2012

Wide right. Something Richt is familiar with from his days at Florida State.
Wide right. Something Richt is familiar with from his days at Florida State.Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

The University of Georgia Bulldogs season ended Monday evening exactly how it began in early September, with back-to-back losses. The similarities between the bookend set of games is striking.

Boise State, after struggling early, picked apart Georgia in much the same fashion that the SEC Championship Game played out against LSU. That was of course followed by a loss to USC due to self-destructing decision-making, turnovers and special teams play.

The Outback Bowl against Michigan State played out in much the same way.

It would be silly to try to take anything away from the Spartans. They played an excellent game and managed to pull out a victory against a Georgia team that essentially had the win squarely in their hands three separate times. MSU managed to send the game to overtime after an exhausted UGA defense that was on the field most of the game couldn't manage to stop the Spartans' final drive.

Not to mention the fact that UGA still would have won by three here had coach Mark Richt gone for the easy field-goal attempt rather than a try at 4th-and-1 during the second drive of the game. After initially sending Blair Walsh on the field, haunting memories of last season's bowl game against Central Florida sent Richt scurrying to send the offense back onto the field.

That failed.

Georgia's final clutch at victory was pulled from its grasp when the struggling Walsh missed a game-winning field goal in overtime. The team's fate was sealed when Walsh missed a game-tying field goal in the third OT period.

Speaking of the 4th-and-1, it's obvious that Richt still doesn't get why kicking the field goal against UCF last year was such a big deal to fans. Last year UGA was one yard from the end zone against a team that should have far less talent and should be outweighed at the line of scrimmage by 150lbs. In that situation, dominance should be applied over an inferior opponent to set the tone of the game.

In the Outback Bowl against the Big Ten runner-up, respect should be applied and points should be taken where they can be acquired. Richt, though, was obviously more worried about the backlash from fans than making sound football decisions.

As much as I would like to cherish the 10-win UGA season, I can't. Georgia did not manage to beat anyone of consequence this year. Wins against bitter rivals, Tennessee, Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech are sweet, but when the best team that Georgia beat this year was a flailing Yellow Jackets squad, there's not much to brag about.

Georgia has had an amazing run in the past decade with big wins, BCS victories and several SEC titles. During the early portion of the decade, only Southern Cal had as many top-five and top-ten finishes as UGA. But outside of a true title run in 2002, the team has been mired in mediocrity and it seems that many fans simply care to settle for second- or third-best in the SEC.

Some of us would like to stop watching other SEC teams celebrate national championships. LSU is looking at a potential third in 10 years, Tennessee has won one in the last 13. Auburn should be sitting on two in 10 years. Florida has 3 in the last 15, Alabama has one, possibly on the verge of a second and likely would have had one of UF's if they had not lost the SEC in 2008.

Every top-tier team in the SEC has won a national championship in the last 13 years except UGA. When will people get it in their heads that there is a problem?

Georgia has had top-10 talent in Athens for a decade, but they have no crystal trophies. Georgia has put the third-most players in the country into the NFL in the last 10 years only behind OSU and OU and right in front of USC—all of whom have won championships in the last 10 years.

Many in Dawg Nation have decided to sit back in their chairs and say, "Yay 10 wins, we're doing fine guys." Those are certainly great seasons for middle- and upper-middle-tier teams, but UGA's talent level, head coach, facilities, location and so forth place it in the top echelon of football and Georgia can't get it done.

The Bulldogs replaced a mediocre defensive coordinator that couldn't even get another job at a D2 school with a great one in coach Todd Grantham, who turned the defense around in two years. Grantham could now get a job anywhere in the country.

In two years time, Georgia's DC is being lured back to the NFL and is requesting a $1 million salary to stay at UGA.

I haven't heard anything about schools asking for permission to speak to offensive coordinator Mike Bobo. If no one is going after your coordinators, then they aren't that good. Georgia now has a national championship defense and an FBS offense. This seems backwards considering Richt was brought in from Florida State as an offensive whiz.

He's handed off the reins to a man annually stuck in the land of on-the-job training, and it seems Richt's loyalty to Mike Bobo has overtaken what is obvious to anyone who watches Georgia.

Kirk Herbstreit noted this season on a call to Chuck and Chernoff of the local Atlanta radio station 680 The Fan that Georgia's offense was amazing in Richt's early career, but had just become stagnant recently and was no longer fun to watch. It seems like everyone sees it but the head ball coach, who simply points to higher stats since Bobo arrived.

What's not mentioned is that until this season, Georgia was forced to score more points and produce higher offensive stats because of ex-DC Willie Martinez's paltry defense.

In the days of Brian Van Gorder, Georgia was holding opponents to an average of under 20 points, which allowed the offense to shut down an appropriate and timely manner.

Shutting down early these days has become a problem rather than a result of having a big lead in which the team can use to cruise to victory. Bobo tends to play as if football games end at the half, reining in the attack with seven-point leads and moving to a stagnant and obvious running game highlighted by the draw play that cannot move the ball when the other team knows you've stopped passing. This has time and time again forced the team into a high-adrenaline shootout late in games.

One thing you will notice about national championship offenses is that they do not step off the gas until 60 minutes have passed.

UGA had a good season, not a great season. If the schedule was slightly altered, Georgia would likely be an 8-4 team in the regular season at best and wouldn't have even played in the SEC title game or the Outback Bowl. It basically took USC blowing it against Auburn and having a tougher schedule having to play Arkansas for UGA to even get to the Georgia Dome.

Am I glad my beloved Bulldogs went? Absolutely, it gives the players some good experience. But Georgia refuses to put back into the program what it takes to win a title and I'm sick of it.

Georgia has one of the most subpar OC's in the country. The only reason he is there is because Richt is attempting to groom him. He was doing fine as the quarterbacks coach and Richt handed over playcalling duties when his wife got sick.

Those things happen. Family is obviously more important than football, but Richt got rid of a lot of the hands-on duties and convenience led him to just keep Bobo on when he got more involved again after his wife's recovery.

Which happens to be about the same time athletic director Greg McGarity showed up and likely asked what he was actually doing.

At the end of last season, according to multiple sources (including Chuck Oliver and Chuck Dowdle on the Chuck and Chernoff show), Richt reportedly asked Todd Grantham what Florida was doing differently and why they were beating Georgia. Grantham's direct response? "They're outworking your players and outworking your coaching staff."

All season there was concern about the kicking game and it resulted in losses for the Bulldogs.

Why is this a surprise? Georgia doesn't even have a budget for a special teams coach and couldn't hire one if they wanted to because they have filled out the quota on coaches. No other team would be curious why their running game was terrible if they didn't have a running backs coach.

I like Richt. I think he's a great head coach and for the most part brought Georgia back to prominence. I think programs should be very cautious to get involved in revolving door coaching hires. The practice destroys programs. One can simply point to Miami, Tennessee and Nebraska as examples.

The bottom line, though, is that Georgia has not won a national title in 31 years. There is not a major college football program in the country that has the history and regular success as Georgia does that has to hang their head and admit to that fact (though Penn State is getting close).

Georgia can simply not win a national title with Mike Bobo. Georgia will not win a national title with Mike Bobo and that was proven to fans once again during the Outback Bowl. If Richt can not recognize that, then when a better head coach is available, he needs to go.

I really hope McGarity will make this clear to Richt. Maybe even Grantham will give Richt an ultimatum; it's him or Bobo, as it's apparent he wants to win and win big.

If Georgia wants to bring home a crystal trophy, it's time to do the things necessary to win. I'm so sick of hearing about 1980 and Herschel Walker it makes me want to punch a baby.

If you're happy with a 31-year-old title, that's great. The rest of us want to stop talking about 31 years ago and start talking about BCS Championships in the modern era of college football.


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