I will admit it: I am a fan of Mark Richt.
He is a great guy by most all accounts and is a good, solid football coach. Yet, even though he is "only" the fifth-highest paid coach in the Southeastern Conference, I believe the University of Georgia is getting is not getting a good enough return on its investment.
I was not sure that the Georgia Bulldogs were the best team in the Southeastern Conference when the preseason rankings were released, and I certainly did not buy the hype from the polls that the Dawgs were the best in all of college football.
But I did believe, as did many others, that despite a rugged schedule, Georgia would be a BCS team, and would at most lose one game. I never envisioned three losses and nail-biters against Kentucky, South Carolina, and a dreadful Auburn team.
Those three teams should not have stayed within twenty points of a team as supposedly good as the Bulldogs.
This year, Mark Richt's three losses matched what UGA has averaged for the past four seasons under their eighth-year coach. For all the hype about this program, the results are awfully Jim Donnan-like.
Remember, Michael Adams showed Donnan the door for results not too dissimilar from these. And Donnan did not command anywhere near the dollars that Richt does.
Three losses a year will get you a statue in the Grove at Ole Miss but in Athens, the expectations should be a little higher.
The proof of where the problems exist in Athens is not just found in the won-loss column. The trusty statistics show us a poor defense and an undisciplined team.
This 2008 edition of the Bulldogs ranked tenth in the SEC in scoring defense, and seventh in the league in total defense. They were ninth in pass defense, and eleventh in the conference in pass defense efficiency.
SEC rankings show that the Dawgs were tenth in interceptions and were next to last on kickoff coverage. Even worse, they were dead last in the conference in sacks, at only 1.5 per game.
However, the most glaring and biggest cause for concern on this team was that they led the league by a large margin in the penalty department at 105. To put that in perspective, this is 17 more penalties than the next worse team, Florida.
How does this lack of discipline and focus happen on a Mark Richt-coached team?
I do not believe Richt has lost control of his program, but there are clearly some personnel issues on the coaching staff and in talent evaluation that have many of the Georgia faithful scratching their heads.
Coach Richt will be given time to fix these problems, but with a 2-6 record against Florida weighing heavily, and a recent home loss to Georgia Tech, the pressure is on to show improvement in 2009, and not September of 2009.
Bulldog fans are thinking a little earlier, like, say, January 2009, in Orlando.