Beat Nebraska, recruit great. make a run in ’13 ...
by Jeff Dantzler
photo by Rob Saye
There was the 1927 Tech game. There
was Auburn in 1942, 1971 and 1983. There
were the back-to-back Sugar Bowls with Pitt
and Penn State following the 1981 and ’82
seasons. There was Florida in 2002.
But the 32-28 Southeastern Conference
Championship Game loss to Alabama goes
down as the most devastating in Georgia annals.
It was a shot to play for the national title.
It was for the SEC crown. It was the defending
national champion. It was the Bulldogs
biggest game in 30 years. It was five yards
short and the clock ran out.
So where does Georgia go from here?
Alabama lost its biggest game in 16 years
in 2008. With a berth in the BCS Championship
Game on the line, in a winner-take-all
showdown with Florida, the Crimson Tide
lost. It goes down as one of the biggest losses
in Alabama history. But Bama got back the
next year and won. Then won it all. And they
haven’t looked back.
So how to move on.
Sign a great class.
Get back in another game of this magnitude.
And next time win.
All of the resources are available for Georgia
to do what Alabama has done for the last
five years and what LSU has done in the 21st
century – that is being outstanding almost
every year and in the conversation for the SEC
and national championships.
Georgia has the history. Georgia has the
tradition. Georgia has the alumni. Georgia
has the fan base. Georgia is the alpha king in
one of the most talent rich states for prep
prospects in all of America.
The Bulldogs were on the verge of playing
for college football’s biggest prize. Alabama
will be striving for it for a third time in four
years. This despite losing four first round
picks in each of the last two drafts. But Alabama
has recruited GREAT every year for the
last five years. That’s what Georgia must do.
Two of the last three classes have yielded 17
players for Georgia. That’s eight shy of the
NCAA maximum. Combined with attrition,
the Bulldogs headed into this season with 69
players signed out of high school or junior college
plus the great transfer Jarvis Jones. The
NCAA allows 85.
Georgia’s run defense was crippled by Alabama’s
powerful run offense. The Bulldogs
defense simply didn’t have the depth.
Clearly the Bulldogs have been getting a
lot of outstanding players. Jones, sensational
freshman tailback Todd Gurley and electric
wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell are amongst
the elite players in college football. Tackle
John Theus, outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins
and Gurley are amongst the top freshmen in
But to do what Alabama and LSU have
done, it takes great recruiting EVERY year.
The Bulldogs have the nucleus for what
should be another strong class for 2013.
There are some elite, elite, elite players sitting
out there that Georgia is in the mix for. A win
over the Cornhuskers and landing the big
ones heading into signing day could set the
course for the Bulldogs to be back in this position
in the near future.
There are six SEC teams in the top ten
this season. Astounding. Those six teams –
Alabama, Florida, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina
and Texas A&M – lost a total of 10
games, all going at least 10-2. All 10 of those
losses were to one another.
Well check out the various recruiting
rankings come February. There will be at least
five or six SEC teams in that top ten as well. So
when someone says that their school had a top
ten class, it’s all relative.
The beauty of Georgia is that it can live
and thrive almost exclusively on in-state talent,
and then cherry-pick elite out-of-state
prospects like Gurley, Theus and Keith Marshall
from this past class, and Matthew Stafford
and Knowshon Moreno from six years ago.
Want to make the SEC shiver? Get 20 of
the best players from Georgia every year and
five elite out-of-staters. No, you are not going
to get them all at Georgia, but every year the
Bulldogs should get at least, if not more than,
their fair share.
That’s how you reload. That’s heir apparent
stars in waiting for veteran standouts.
Dare to be great Georgia. It’s right there
for the taking, especially with the struggles and
coaching changes at Auburn and Tennessee.
The Bulldogs were right there, right there.
That’s what makes that loss so excruciating.
Now it is up to the powers that be to keep
pushing the program up so that it is not another
30 years until Georgia plays in another
game of this magnitude.
The playoffs are coming. The 2013 campaign
will be the last one where the regular
season still means everything. Then the fourteam
format comes about. That will likely last
for a year or two, assuming that those powers
that be, figure out just who and how the four
are. The cries will double. Within a year or
two, the playoffs will double in size. That’s a
pretty safe bet. Well whether it stays four for
a while, or immediately jumps to eight, the expectations
should be for Georgia to be a regular.
The Dogs were so close. The Dogs got a
taste. The Dogs got a lot of national respect.
Despite the loss, a lot of people are still talking
about Georgia and what was college football’s
game of the year in 2012 and the greatest SEC
Championship Game ever.
As bad as the Georgia people are hurting,
the Bulldogs are a hot team, “trending upward.”
To reiterate, the best medicine – beat Nebraska,
recruit great, have another excellent
season, recruit great again, rinse and repeat.
In this league, with six top ten programs
here in 2012, if you are not moving forward
and winning in the fall and February every
year, someone is passing you.
For two years straight, the Bulldogs have
beaten Tech, Florida, Auburn and Tennessee.
Even though Georgia loses a lot of talent off of
this year’s squad, that is within reach again
next year. Of course it will take a lot more
wins – and the schedule is much tougher with
a trip to Clemson to start the season followed
by visits from South Carolina and soon after
LSU – to get back into a spot like the Bulldogs
were in this year. But there’s no reason the
Bulldogs shouldn’t have a chance. And then
again the year after, the first year of the playoff.
Georgia coach Mark Richt said last
month that he felt Georgia was on the verge
of greatness. He was right. It is there for the
taking. It starts with Nebraska, a 12th win and
the drive and hunger to some season soon be
college football’s very best.