Georgia is bound for the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl to face the undefeated Cincinnati Bearcats, marking the 24th consecutive campaign that the Bulldogs have played in the postseason. Combined with Virginia Tech’s decision not to go bowling with a 5-6 record here in the surreal season of 2020, Georgia now has the longest active bowl streak in all of college football.
This run began in 1997, when Jim Donnan’s Dogs capped an outstanding 10-2 top ten season with a 33-6 blistering of the Badgers from Wisconsin in Tampa’s Outback Bowl. Robert Edwards ran wild, outshining Wisconsin’s All-American running back Ron Dayne, stymied all day by the gritty Georgia defense. That stop unit was headlined by sophomore cornerback Champ Bailey and junior safety Kirby Smart. Quarterback Mike Bobo had a record setting day through the air in his final game as a Bulldog. His favorite target, none other than Hines Ward.
There are some pretty strong gridiron resumes mentioned above.
It was the first of four straight bowl wins for Georgia, which beat Virginia in the Peach, Drew Brees’ led Purdue in the Outback and Virginia again in the Oahu.
Mark Richt beame the Bulldogs head coach prior to the 2001 season. In his first year at the helm, Georgia had one get away in the Music City Bowl against Boston College, which also upset Georgia in the 1986 Hall of Fame Bowl.
Then in 2002, the Bulldogs capped a 13-1 Southeastern Conference championship campaign with a 26-13 victory over Florida State in the Sugar Bowl. This was the first of three straight bowl wins. Georgia followed by beating Purdue in the Citrus and Wisconsin again in the Outback.
The SEC champions of 2005 played the Sugar Bowl in Atlanta, a one year home due to damage to the Louisiana Superdome from Hurricane Katrina. Georgia fell behind West Virginia 28-0 and lost a 38-35 shootout. The Bulldogs lost three games that year by a total of eight points.
Then came another four game bowl winning streak, highlighted by a 41-10 trouncing of Hawaii in the 2008 Sugar. The 2007 Bulldogs finished No. 2 with an 11-2 record. The season prior, the Bulldogs came back to beat Virginia Tech in the Chick-Fil-A Peach. The two years after, Georgia beat Michigan State in Orlando and Texas A&M in Shreveport. Georgia’s program was in the early stages of a slide to the middle of the SEC pack.
A low point came in 2010 when 6-6 Georgia lost 10-6 to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl. Then came an overtime loss to Michigan State. The Bulldogs of 2011 had a 10-game winning streak, and beat Florida, Auburn, the Jackets and Tennessee. But still lost four times.
Crestfallen by the first of three dream-stealing/program altering heart-piercing losses to you-know-who (Bama) in a domed stadium in Atlanta, the Bulldogs of 2012 rallied to beat Nebraska 38-24 in the Citrus Bowl to finish 12-2 and No. 4.
Then came another bowl letdown in a rainy Jacksonville rematch with Nebraska. The Bulldogs of 2013 beat the Jackets, Florida, LSU, Tennessee and South Carolina. But still lost five times.
It was three bowl losses in four years.
In Mark Richt’s final two seasons at the Georgia helm, the Bulldogs beat Louisville in Charlotte’s Belk Bowl (hello Todd Grantham) and Penn State in the Gator. Bryan McClendon was the acting head coach for that one, as Richt had accepted the Miami job and Smart was finishing up a national championship season across the Chattahoochee. Would have gladly traded that one against Penn State for the other meeting with the Nittany Lions.
Smart’s first season was marred by three numbing losses Between the Hedges. Georgia beat TCU in the Liberty Bowl and set the tone for 2017.
On New Year’s Day 2018, the SEC champion Bulldogs chalked up one of the most significant victories in program history, defeating Oklahoma 54-48 in overtime in the Rose Bowl in a College Football Playoff Semifinal.
The all-time heartbreak came seven days later with the loss to the Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship Game. The next year in Atlanta was Volume III heartbreak in Atlanta. With little wind left in the sails, Georgia fell to Texas in the Sugar Bowl. Smart took a lot of lessons from the loss to the Longhorns.
In 2019, Georgia lost to LSU in the SEC Championship Game, and for a second straight year was ranked fifth, or the first team out, when the College Football Playoff field was announced. That Bulldogs team came out focused and topped highly motivated Baylor in the Sugar Bowl to finish 12-2, and No. 4 in the final polls.
There could certainly be a motivation question for the upcoming Chick Fil-A Bowl. However, Cincinnati’s undefeated record should certainly have the men in Red and Black’s attention.
For Georgia in 2020, an unsettled quarterback situation and rash of injuries proved too much to overcome in losses to Alabama and Florida, the latter of which cost the Bulldogs a fourth straight berth in the SEC Championship Game and shot at the playoff.
But Georgia closed out the regular season with a trio of impressive wins. It likely would’ve been four, but the rudderless ship Commodore twice sank Senior Day.
With another banner recruiting class signed and a great deal of talent returning, especially on offense and the kicking game, the Bulldogs will have high hopes for 2021. A victory over the Bearcats would put the finishing touches on a fine season and further buoy the hope, dreams and expectations of a 2021 campaign that can’t get here soon enough.