Before Georgia went to Auburn, Ala. this past Saturday to encounter the 10th-ranked Tigers, I thought I had a good gauge on the 2017 Bulldogs.
Because, through the nine games, Kirby Smart’s team had played to that point, Georgia looked to me every bit as good as any team in UGA’s proud football history. En route to their 9-0 record and SEC East Division title, the Bulldogs had blown out nearly every opponent with the exception of Notre Dame and that thrilling 20-19 win in South Bend, Ind. came over a team that would occupy the No. 3 spot in the national rankings for most of this fall. Only South Carolina had played Georgia within two touchdowns, at 24-10, since the Notre Dame game back on Sept. 9.
And the first College Football Playoff rankings clearly illustrated what the rest of the country thought about the Bulldogs as for two weeks in the CFP poll, it was Georgia holding down the No. 1 spot in the land.
But then came that trip to the Plains of Auburn this past weekend. A Bulldogs team that had looked so dominant all season was simply taken out behind the woodshed by the sky-high Tigers, to the tune of 40-17 before the stunned eyes of the Bulldawg Nation. Georgia couldn’t block Auburn, couldn’t stop Auburn and also fed into the Tigers’ momentum the entire game by committing one costly mistake and penalty after another. Folks, I didn’t think any opponent could do that to this Georgia football team … but Auburn did!
Now, the debacle at Jordan-Hare Stadium brings up the question: Was the Bulldogs’ SEC East slate so weak this season that the one-sided victories over Tennessee, Vanderbilt, Missouri, Florida and South Carolina lulled us all into believing Georgia was a better football team than it actually was? Of course, countering that sort of thought was a 31-3 stomping of a West Division team, Mississippi State, which continues to reside in the nation’s top 20 rankings, currently holding down the No. 16 slot.
And, too, Notre Dame, after the one-point loss to Georgia, proceeded to rout all its opponents going forward, that is, until the Fighting Irish went to Miami this past weekend and were blown out themselves 41-8 by Mark Richt’s undefeated Hurricanes. So after that the thought again creeps in … is Notre Dame after all not the team we thought the Irish were several weeks ago?
Indeed, are the Auburn Tigers the first top 10-worthy opponent Georgia has faced this season?
All that said, I think we will get the answers to my questions over the Bulldogs’ next three contests, against Kentucky this Saturday, against Georgia Tech in Atlanta Thanksgiving weekend and, most certainly in the SEC championship game — against either Alabama or Auburn again — on Dec. 2 in the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
So, as we go forward, will the real Bulldogs please stand up? Will it be the Georgia team that looked all powerful over its first nine games or will it be the Georgia team that didn’t seem to have a clue at Auburn?
I’m thinking, and hoping, it will be the first Georgia team we’ve seen this year. And here’s saying the now No. 7-ranked Dawgs take the first step toward being that team again with a 31-17 whipping of a good Kentucky team Saturday afternoon!
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