Watching the replay as I write to you. The 5-0 University of Georgia Bulldogs are ranked fifth in the latest AP poll, released Sunday, after a 41-0 smashing of SEC East rival Tennessee at Rocky Top. A historically strong program, UT had gone 290 games without being shutout and suffered their worst home one in Neyland Stadium history.
On the fives: our best modern era teams were five years ago, the 2012 SEC East Champs who were less than five yards short of facing Notre Dame for it all; 10 years ago, the 2007 #2 team in the country who won the Sugar Bowl over Hawaii and would have been favored by five over National Champion LSU (according to Vegas); and 15 years ago, the 2002 (#3) SEC Champs who’d have been in a playoff with Miami, Ohio State, and USC, had it existed.
Georgia is 19-of-19 in the red zone this season, with 14 of those scores being touchdowns and is platooning many guys to build game-experienced depth, with big wins in each game except a 20-19 escape at Notre Dame. The only program to truly rival Alabama in competition for greatest college football program of all-time, ND has not only bounced back big time from a poor season last year but from the tough early home loss to the Dawgs. The competition outside that game looks so inferior to Georgia that I don’t feel our team has been tested much.
The schedule to-date and for the next few weeks won’t impress any CFP committee members, and keep in mind, the system in place is in no way close to fair. Example, Penn State beat Ohio State and won the Big 10 last year, but was passed over for the Buckeyes – who went and got totally blown out. While Georgia may not have the media reputation it takes to pass a Bama or Notre Dame – if we win the SEC with a loss or two – if all other things were then deemed equal by the national media. Hard to imagine going 15-0, with the best win total in school history being that 13-1 team from Mark Richt’s second season. Second years are often a sweet spot for head coaches at a traditional football power, like Georgia; win the SEC this season and we tie UT for the second most SEC titles. Top current programs Clemson and Alabama each went 14-1 the past two years, splitting a pair of national championships. Look at the power in this immediate geographic area, y’all: Those two teams and old sister schools Georgia and Auburn could challenge any.
The Irish have been blowing everybody else out and covering the spread in doing so, while their national reputation makes for a quality win of lasting significance. For now, we would be wise to wish for them to keep doing so well, but a sad 1946-like scenario is potentially out there. That season, an undefeated Georgia failed to get the votes over a blemished Notre Dame, who were voted the national champions. I could foresee Bama losing the SEC and still getting the vote over Georgia, too. The system is broken, with a one-round play-in to the title game based on a popularity contest. It’s a playoff, not the playoffs. Oklahoma, Clemson, Miami, Penn State, Washington, Ohio State, Alabama, Auburn, TCU, Notre Dame, Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia all look like strong candidates to be CFP teams to me so far. Four get in and somebody from the SEC gets relegated to the Peach Bowl. Considering our what-some-call luck…we may have to win out to get to the Rose or Sugar Bowl of the CFP. I would absolutely hate to end up fifth, looking in on TV from my home in Atlanta where the national championship is played.
The best regular season SEC teams have recently failed to win the national championship, often. Alabama beat nine ranked teams last year and went 14-0, then choked at the end to the better team with more will to win. That was the most wins over ranked teams for any school since 1936. The undefeated SEC Champion LSU team that lost the national title to Bama was considered the greatest regular season team of all-time, at the time. They’d won at Alabama and beaten Oregon and a hot Georgia and had the dynamism of the Honey Badger. Then they were blown out. A powerful Auburn ran out of miracles as the long league steak was stopped by FSU. Ohio State won it all after they stopped a favored #1 Alabama in the opening round.
In one respect, mighty Bama has actually been a bit overrated late in the year, of late, winning one crown in four years, after a much more dominant national run (where they won 3-of-4). While the league has actually taken a big step back nationally, finishing just 6-7 in bowls last year and second fiddle regionally to the ACC. The days of it being harder to win the SEC than the national championship look long gone.
At 5-0, we don’t want just the SEC so badly anymore unless we make the CFP, and we definitely don’t want to settle for the little SEC East crown. Sure, the Cocktail Party (Dawgs 6-21) still looms and back-to-back SEC East Champion Florida is still in first place, undefeated in the SEC.
We want it all and don’t look to be better next year.
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