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September 5, 2011

A Must-Win

The last time Georgia started a football season with an 0-2 record, it
wound up being a long, losing year for Mike Bobo and the Bulldogs.

As I watched Boise State dink-and-dunk Georgia's defense to death Saturday night, my primary thought was the exact same as one I had last November when it was first announced the Broncos were replacing Louisville as the Bulldogs' season opener: a loss to Boise wouldn't be too bad, but then to follow it up with a setback to South Carolina would be disastrous. 

Including this very morning, I continue to hear those who declare that even if Georgia was to lose to the Gamecocks, dropping to 0 and 2, the way the schedule is laid out, it could still be a respectable season for the Bulldogs in 2011. 

I couldn't disagree more.  Instead, in my opinion, Georgia must do something this Saturday it has only achieved once in its last eight attempts - defeat an AP-ranked opponent - and just one time in its previous seven  tries - win a game in an underdog role.

In the previous 117 seasons of UGA football, 11 of them began with losses in the first two games, including two in recent memory (1993 and 1996). Of those 11 seasons, only one ended in a winning season for Georgia, and even that was just a sub-par 6-5 record in 1979.

I strongly believe if Georgia was to start 0-2 for the 12th time in its history this Saturday, the best the Bulldogs would do this season (and I mean the very best) is a 7-5 record.  And a mere seven-win campaign likely translates to the program seeking out a new head coach come December...

In the wake of the Broncos handling of the Bulldogs, I tried to recall other schools that had started a college football season 0-2 but finished in fine fashion.  I came up with several off the top of my head, interestingly, all coming within a few-season span: Michigan in 1988 (finished ranked 4th in nation), Florida State the next season (10 consecutive wins to end year), Alabama in 1990 (started 0-3 but won seven of last eight regular-season games to reach Fiesta Bowl), and Penn State the same season (nine straight wins to close regular season).

What did the aforementioned football programs from 20+ years ago have in common?  Prominent head coaches Bo Schembechler, Bobby Bowden, Gene Stallings, and Joe Paterno were all supported by top-notch assistants, whose players were disciplined, fundamentally sound, and filled with intensity, or features evidently missing from the Bulldog teams the last few years and apparently the other night in the Georgia Dome.

In a season of supposed change, Georgia looked like the same old Bulldogs against the Broncos as, among other things, the offense couldn't stay on the field while the defense couldn't stay off of it.  Boise State ran 71 plays to the Bulldogs' 60 and possessed the football for more than seven-and-a-half minutes longer.

In Georgia's last six games against FBS opponents, beginning with Kentucky a year ago through last Saturday (excludes Idaho State), the Bulldogs averaged just 59 plays to the opposition's 75 and a time of possession of roughly only 27 minutes to the opponents' 33.

Like Georgia's previous 0 and 2 seasons of the past, there would be no rebound this year if the Bulldogs were to also lose their first two games, but a continuation of a program crumbling.  Although, this deterioration can be halted, at least for the moment, with a victory in a must-win situation this Saturday.

The Boise State meeting may have been one of Georgia's biggest season openers in its football history; however, South Carolina is the biggest game period during the Coach Richt era and for the Bulldogs in a long time, considering a loss would result in possibly another losing campaign and a long, long season...


Anonymous said...

People are already saying that if the Dawgs don't beat SC, CMR will be fired. I really don't think so. However I do think another lackluster effort will make his hot seat much hotter. I believe the Ole Miss and the Miss St games will be more important when deciding the future of this coaching staff.

Anonymous said...

Patrick, good piece as always but i think even if we beat SC, we'll go 7-5 at best. Richt needs to start looking for a new team or a third world country he can build huts for.

Holla said...

Virginia Tech just last season opened 0-2, then won out and won the ACC.

I'm not sure I buy into this "must win" argument, though. (Of course, I want to win, and I'm even strangely optimistic that we will.) If we are better than 8 of our next 9 opponents after Saturday, then we're better than 8 of our next 9 opponents after Saturday. Starting 0-2 doesn't magically make us suddenly worse than those other teams, does it?

Is it a psychology thing? That starting off 0-2 just puts too much pressure on the team and coaches and makes it harder to win the winnable games going forward? It just seems to me that sometimes a team might be pretty darn good, but start with a nasty two-game combo. Losing those two games doesn't make them stop being pretty darn good. Of course, us being pretty darn good is entirely hypothetical, you understand.

Just trying to think it through.

Anonymous said...

first anonymous-i'd like to hear what "people" are saying that Richt will get fired if we don't beat the 'Cocks. i hear we're predicted to lose this Sat., so it looks like there is a very good chance we'll have an interim head coach this time next week? i hope it's Bobo...maybe we can bring in Donnan to fill in if he's not in jail.

it'll be a cold day in hell when Richt gets fired within the first month of a season. you've been reading too many articles on the bleacher report.

Patrick Garbin said...

Thanks for reading and your comments.

VA Tech from a year ago had slipped my mind, but in making my point, I could throw them in as well with the other four teams...

You're right: it is a "psychology thing." If the Bulldogs start 0-2, they could very well be better than 8 of the next 9 opponents. However, unlike the other teams I mentioned, Georgia has demonstrated the last 2-3 years that the team is too mentally fragile to survive such adversity.

As a friend of mine recently mentioned, if Georgia starts 2-1, the Ole Miss, Miss. State, and Tennessee games will seem certainly manageable to the players. If it's 1-2 instead (lone win coming over Coastal Carolina), Ole Miss, Miss. State, and Tennessee will seem like a very tough road.

I'm afraid if Georgia starts 0-2, the coaches could possibly "lose the team," as they say, and a 7-3 mark the rest of the way would be the very best possibility.

AC Repair Orlando said...

Let hope Crowell can stay healthy and maybe we can mention him in the same breathe has Hershel Walker!