Georgia Bulldogs: A Recent History of Losing…Not as Bad as it Looks
The score of Saturday’s game against South Carolina was not what fans wanted, but I’ll once again encourage Bulldog fans to keep some perspective. The Bulldogs traveled to Columbia looking to upset a top-6 SEC team on the road. Only once in the last three and a half seasons has a team been able to defeat a top-6 SEC team who was playing at home. That was LSU’s win at Alabama last season. So again, let’s try to be reasonable. As a guy I golfed with once said, “Chicago didn’t burn down in a day.” And neither did Georgia football.
Obviously the loss was the latest in a string of disappointing defeats for the Dawgs. In an effort to depress everyone I decided to take a look at each of those losses.
I went back to 2008 and analyzed each loss utilizing the following data:
- Who did Georgia play?
- What was the opposition’s rank at game time?
- What was Georgia’s rank at game time?
- Where was the game played?
- What was the opposition’s highest ranking of the season?
- What was Georgia’s highest ranking of the season?
Here are some things that I found.
I’m a loser baby.
Ranked UGA vs. Unranked Opposition
The first thing that stands out is something that Richt-bashers will never point out. When Georgia is ranked they have not lost to unranked opposition. In other words, Georgia has avoided massive upsets at the hand of huge underdogs.
That may sound unmeritorious, but consider this: since the start of the 2008 season only Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky and Georgia out of the SEC have avoided being upset by an unranked team while ranked in the top-25. It happened to Florida in 2008, Vanderbilt in 2008, South Carolina just about every year (more on that later*), Tennessee in 2008, LSU in 2008 and 2009, Auburn in 2008, 2009 and 2011, Ole Miss in 2009 and Mississippi State in 2011. Kentucky has avoided such embarrassment by staying out of the top-25 for the entirety of this 4.5 year survey. Arkansas was not ranked at any point during the first two years.
Only Alabama and Georgia have been ranked at some point in each of the past five seasons and avoided a loss to an unranked team while being ranked in the top-25. The last time that happened to the Crimson Tide was November 10, 2007 when the 21st ranked Tide lost to Mississippi State. The last time it happened to the Bulldogs was in an October 6, 2007 loss to Tennessee. So for all the outrage and disgust Mark Richt hasn’t been upset by a decisively inferior opponent over the last 4.5 seasons, and he has the longest current tenure without such an upset.
*For what it’s worth South Carolina has experienced that type of defeat in each of the last five seasons:
- 10/1/2011: #10 South Carolina loses to unranked Auburn at home by a score of 16-13.
- 10/16/2010: #10 South Carolina loses to unranked Kentucky on the road by a score of 31-28.
- 10/31/2009: #22 South Carolina loses to unranked Tennessee on the road by a score of 31-13.
- 9/4/2008: #24 South Carolina loses to unranked Vanderbilt on the road by a score of 24-17.
- 10/20/2007: #6 South Carolina loses to unranked Vanderbilt at home by a score of 17-6.
South Carolina avoided such a debacle in 2006 by not being ranked at all but had a previously established routine of losing such games during Spurrier’s first season and Lou Holtz’s last season in Columbia:
- 11/19/2005: #19 South Carolina loses to unranked Clemson at home by a score of 13-9.
- 10/9/2004: #25 South Carolina loses to unranked Ole Miss at home by a score of 31-28.
So again, there’s hope for the Cocks screwing up.
…but back to the Bulldogs.
Losses Against Unranked Opponents
All of Georgia’s losses to unranked opponents have occurred when the Dawgs themselves were not ranked. Five of Georgia’s losses during this time period (a period that saw a total of 20 losses) came in this type of unranked versus unranked scenario. Interestingly enough, four of those losses (80%) came away from home (in Knoxville in 2009, in Jacksonville in 2010, in Boulder in 2010 and in Starkville in 2010). Only one of the unranked vs. unranked losses came at home and that was the 2009 loss to Kentucky.
I never want to see my team unranked or losing games. But, if my team has to lose to an unranked opponent I’d want it to be during a down period for the program and I’d want it to be on the road. That’s exactly what has happened for the Dawgs. Again, that’s not “how I’d draw it up” by any means, but if my team is going to be unranked then I’m going to have to be OK with four road losses to other bad teams.
Cause I’m a loser.
Losses Against Ranked Opponents
Of Georgia’s 15 losses to ranked opponents nine (Florida, LSU, Oklahoma State in 2009, Arkansas, Auburn, UCF in 2010, Boise State, South Carolina, LSU in 2011) came against teams who were ranked higher than the Georgia Bulldogs. So, one could make the argument that 60% of those losses were directly in line with what expert pollsters expected. Of those nine losses came at times when Georgia was not ranked.
Furthermore, two more of them came on the road in the SEC against ranked opponents (South Carolina twice in 2010 and 2012). Those games are far from “gimmes.”
It should also be noted that only two of Georgia’s losses to ranked opponents came to teams with lower “peak” rankings than Georgia. What I mean by “peak” is the highest ranking achieved at any point during that given season. The 2008 UGA team peaked as the top-rated team in the country (beginning in the preseason) but lost to a Georgia Tech team that was never ranked higher than 14th. The 2010 Georgia squad peaked with a ranking of 22 but lost to a UCF team whose highest recorded ranking was 23. So on 13 of 15 occasions (86.67%) Georgia’s losses to ranked opponents were losses to teams whose upside (according to pollsters) was higher than Georgia’s during the season.
It’s hard to demand any change from column 1, column 2 represents games that are damn hard to win (for anybody) and columns five and six are to be expected when your team isn’t ranked. Click to Enlarge.
Significance of Polls
Georgia has actually performed at a level comparable to their weekly poll position. Unranked teams are supposed to lose to ranked teams or to other unranked teams, and Georgia has done so. Ranked teams are supposed to beat unranked teams and Georgia has done so. Lower ranked teams are supposed to lose to higher ranked teams, and Georgia has done so. Even good teams are often expected to fall on the road against highly ranked teams, and Georgia has done so.
I’d like to see Georgia operate in a manner similar to their poll position – but improve their poll position. And, I think this is happening.
Using the AP Poll each year until the first BCS Poll is released I found the following to be true on the same time frame as previously examined:
- In 2008 Georgia was ranked every week from the preseason to the final poll and had an average ranking of 8.47.
- In 2009 the Bulldogs were only ranked from the preseason through the fifth week and had an average ranking during that period of just 19.2.
- In 2010 Georgia hit rock-bottom and the Dawgs were only ranked during the first two weeks with an average poll position of 22.5.
- Last year the Dawgs rallied to be ranked in each of the last eight polls with an average position of 16.625.
- This year the Dawgs have been ranked every week and maintained an average poll position of 7.
Yes that position is sliding as the Dawgs are currently 14th in the poll, but the Dawgs will move up if they can win. Case in point: last year the Dawgs entered the BCS poll in the 22 slot during week 9. Four weeks later they were ranked 13th.
I still think Georgia is on the right track.
That’s all I got/