Ahhh. It is good to be back. I have been on a brief sabbatical, but after nearly driving 2,000 miles in 10 days, I have had a lot of time to ponder and think about good blog topics. It is not that I haven’t had time to actually blog, it is I haven’t had time to think about topics which aren’t being covered elsewhere.
But driving through scenic Northwest Georgia last week, I had a thought. When I was in college, I saw several upstart teams come to Athens to play Georgia and try to make a name for themselves. The idea, from their point of view was, if they could come in and beat (at that time) an elite, traditional SEC program like Georgia that will put them on the national stage.
Georgia, at one time, stopped the smaller schools and the “let’s try and beat Georgia to make a name for ourselves” meme. Boise State in 2005 and Oklahoma State in 2007 are two good examples. The Bulldogs have sent some of these upstarts back home with their tail between their legs, but overall, it seems that if a school wants to make a name for themselves and beat an SEC school, or beat a team to give them momentum as they begin their rise to national relevance, then a trip to Athens or a game against the Dawgs is exactly what the doctor ordered.
I can’t attribute the source, but you always hear people saying to “protect your name and reputation, it is the only thing you have.” UGA has got to protect its name better.
Let’s take a painful walk down memory lane, shall we?
*West Virginia showed they could play with the big boys and was ready for national respect when they beat Georgia 38-35 in the 2006 Sugar Bowl in Atlanta.
*Tennessee had cut ties with OC Randy Shannon and brought back David Cutcliffe, and the Volunteers put a whipping on the Dawgs in front of a raucous Sanford Stadium crowd at a night game, and ended up being on the cover of Sports Illustrated the next week.
*The following week on homecoming, Georgia was upset against Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt had been dangerously close to pulling off upsets of many SEC schools. Under Coach Bobby Johnson, the Commodores had moderate success and were a well-coached, discipline football team. Vandy came into Athens on Homecoming and beat the overrated defending SEC Champion Bulldogs with a last second field goal, finally giving them the marquee win that had eluded them for so long under the Johnson regime.
*Kentucky this season was the same way. Sure, Georgia was breaking in a true freshman Quarterback. Sure, Georgia didn’t have a kicker. But Kentucky beat Georgia in Lexington for the first time ever and celebrated by tearing their goal posts down.
*The Nick Saban era at Alabama didn’t get off the fast start fans in Tuscaloosa had hoped for, but in his second year things got rolling and the Crimson Tide hasn’t looked back. The game that got Alabama kicked started? The 2008 Blackout against Georgia.
*Against Oklahoma State in the return game from the 2007 encounter, it was the same verse. The Cowboys were seeking relevancy on the national stage. After several years of “this will be Oklahoma State’s year”, the cowpokes finally came to national prominence after beating a big time opponent in their stadium, and this big time opponent was the, you guessed it, Georgia Bulldogs.
*In year 3 of the Bobby Petrino era at Arkansas, the Hogs were desperately seeking a win against an SEC school on the road and to take the proverbial “next step”. The previous year in 2009, the Hogs went 0-4 on the road in SEC play, so a trip to Athens to face a hapless Georgia team was just what the 12th ranked Razorbacks needed.
*This time around, the Boise State Broncos had beaten Oklahoma and Oregon, and were sheik favorites to be National Title contenders. They had all but proven themselves to the ESPN pundits, but what they have not done was play and beat an SEC team. That was the feather missing from their cap. The redemption seeking Bulldogs hosted the Broncos in the Georgia Dome and were beaten in a game that was never really in any doubt.
*The Michigan State Spartans were embarrassed by Alabama in the Capital One Bowl in 2011, and on the first day in 2012, the Spartans were playing for conference pride and wanted to show that the Big 10 was worthy and deserved to play on the same field with SEC speed. After being the laughingstock of major college football below the Mason Dixon Line, the Big 10’s second best team finally beat a team from the superior SEC.
Why do I open up these painful wounds? Why do I subject myself, and you the reader, to such torture? Well, there is another game coming up in just a little over 3 months. The Missouri Tigers will play their inaugural SEC game, and it won’t be hosting against Vanderbilt or the Mississippi schools. It will be against the reigning SEC East Champions. It will be against a team that brings back 10 starters on defense, and a team that should be a National Title Contender. And it will be against a team, that when tested over the last several years, has crumbled and has let the upstarts defeat them.
I have previewed what Missouri brings to the table. I think, even with a depleted secondary, Georgia is capable of beating the Tigers. But can the Dawgs handle the adversity that comes with playing a team that wants it bad? Can they handle the pressure of playing a team that wants to make a statement at their expense?
Can the Georgia Bulldogs protect its name? Recent history has shown it cannot.