Category Archives: SEC
Greg McGarity did the right thing on Sunday morning. Well, I guess technically he and Mark Richt mutually agreed to do the right thing.
“Coach Richt and I met Sunday morning to discuss the status of our football program,” McGarity said per the official university release. “And we mutually agreed that he would step down as head coach and would have the opportunity to accept other duties and responsibilities at UGA following the bowl game.”
I shouldn’t have to tell you how that meeting really went. As recently as Saturday afternoon, following an uninspiring victory over alleged rival Georgia Tech, Richt had an opportunity to discuss his impending resignation. At the post-game press conference, Richt didn’t even seem sure of when he would meet with McGarity. Instead, he offered generally vague timelines like (paraphrased), “We usually meet sometime after the regular season.”
Richt didn’t initiate the mutual decision, and that’s not surprising. And Richt won’t make a big deal out of it, because as he’s said time and time again:
- He believes matters like this are completely in God’s hands.
- He loves Georgia and is grateful for his time there.
- He’s not going anywhere else.
Even the release alluded to the notion that Richt would remain involved with the Athletics Department and the Paul Oliver Network. Richt has, thus far and likely ad infinitum, handled the matter with class. And that’s not a surprise.
What is surprising, at least to me, is that we’re in this position to begin with. McGarity, so it seems, fancies himself a gambler.
As recently as October I found myself defending Mark Richt after Georgia was brutalized by Alabama at home. A few short weeks later, after an equally embarrassing loss to Florida, my story changed for the first time. I was no longer able to defend Mark Richt’s role as the head coach of the Georgia Bulldogs. I cited, among other things, the Dawgs’ inability to compete with elite teams and the generally miserable experience of watching Georgia play football as reasons for my waned support of Richt.
Since sharing those thoughts, Georgia has won four consecutive football games. But even those wins showed just how far “off” this program is.
A 27-3 win over Kentucky means very little given the Wildcats’ 5-7 record this season and failure to make a bowl for the fifth straight season. Had it not followed one of the most disgusting losses to Florida in recent history (and that’s saying something), we would have universally agreed that this game was meaningless. But as it stands, Kentucky was the best conference opponent Georgia beat this season. And that’s pathetic.
Georgia’s second win of this streak came in the form of a narrow 20-13 win over an abysmal Auburn team. Auburn lost six times this year. The Tigers’ closest loss came against Georgia.
And then, of course, you had Georgia’s decisive victory over Georgia Southern. You know, the Georgia Southern team that is in its second year as an FBS program. Georgia needed disastrous game-management by the Eagles in overtime to come away with a home victory.
That brings us to yesterday’s win over Georgia Tech. Yes, it was a win. And that’s infinitely better than a loss. But a 13-7 win over the Yellow Jackets doesn’t count for much as evidenced by today’s announcement. And frankly, it shouldn’t.
At the end of the day, wins matter. There’s no doubt about that. But when losses begin to mount up in such meaningful ways then the way in which you win begins to matter also. Put plainly: finishing the year on a 4-0 run was much better than going 3-1 or 2-2, but Georgia didn’t change anybody’s mind with its play in November. Other things mattered more.
It mattered that Georgia lost to Tennessee, but even more so it mattered that Georgia blew a 21-point lead to a Volunteer team that was known for choking in big games. It mattered that Georgia lost to a Tennessee team that finished third in the extremely weak SEC East.
It mattered that Georgia lost to Alabama and Florida. But even more than that, it mattered that the Crimson Tide and the Gators were the only two Power Five Conference teams Georgia played all year with regular season winning records. And it mattered that Georgia lost to Alabama and Florida by a combined score of 65-13.
So narrow wins against really terrible football teams over the last four weeks didn’t qualify as “turning this thing around” as Richt promised to do after the Florida loss.
And the much broader problem for Richt was that this season is a perfect representation of the trajectory of the program. That point will miss the mark if you compare Georgia now to the Georgia program of 2010. But in the grand scheme of Richt’s tenure, 2010’s 6-7 mark was an anomaly.
The reality is Georgia used a weak SEC East to win the division in 2011. The program was a legitimate national threat in 2012. And in 2013, 2014 and 2015 Georgia beat a lot of bad teams and lost to most of the good teams it faced. Over the past three seasons Georgia was 5-7 against ranked opponents. That’s not atrocious, but for a team that has been ranked seventh or better at some point during each of the past three years, 5-7 vs. ranked foes reflects under-performance.
The SEC East has been embarrassingly weak, and yet Georgia has failed to win the division since 2012. The Bulldogs have done everything they can to mimic programs like Alabama (coaches with Saban ties, commitment to spending on coordinators, strength and conditioning program, commitment to build an indoor facility, ramping up recruiting, etc.), and yet Georgia can’t come close to competing with the Tide on the field. If Alabama is the yardstick by which great programs are measured, Georgia isn’t even on the ruler. Georgia is a protractor drawing tiny little circles around the Georgia Southerns and Georgia Techs of the world. It’s cute, and it’s well-intentioned. But it’s not going anywhere.
The problem with Richt (and the problem that didn’t quite get the best of Les Miles) is that I don’t know how you can defend the status quo. I know how you’ll try to defend it, but I think you’re wrong.
“Mark Richt has the highest winning percentage of any long-tenure Georgia coach in history,” you’ll say. And I agree. But in the present, were you pleased with the wins over Georgia Tech, Georgia Southern and Auburn this year? Because those counted in the win column. Were those games indicative of a future winning in Athens under Richt? I don’t see how Georgia is better than .500 next year against good teams like North Carolina, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Florida and Auburn next year with Richt. Who knows how the other guy will do next year, but I know Georgia loses at least three of those with Richt. And he could win 10 games next year and show a strong winning percentage. But is that all you want?
“But it took Vince Dooley even longer to win a National Championship,” you’ll say. I want a national championship as much as the next Georgia fan, but I don’t think parting ways with Richt was legitimized purely by a void of check marks in the championship column. I’d be on board with Richt if Georgia was even close to competing with programs like Alabama and Florida on the field. Georgia was there in 2012. Georgia was there in 2007. That’s twice out of the last ten years. And as demonstrated by the Bama and Florida games this year, the Dawgs are not close.
“But what about Jacob Eason?” you’ll ask. I’m actually pretty damn pleased that Greg McGarity has not chosen to tie his job security and therefore the prosperity of the Georgia athletics department to the arm of an 18-year old kid. I’m sure Eason is great. But Georgia football was in a better spot in 2006 when Matthew Stafford arrived, and he didn’t take us to the top of the mountain, either. Why does Eason equate to a championship and why does the absence of Richt (who may still work for the University come 2016) equate to the loss of Eason directly? I love Eason and I think he’ll be great and I hope he’s great in Athens. But I think he could still come to town and I think Georgia needs a change at head coach either way.
“But Mark Richt does things the right way,” you’ll point out. He absolutely does. You can’t find anyone who disagrees. But to argue that Georgia can’t find any one as “Christian” as Mark Richt is ludicrous and to imply that this is an either/or scenario is an insult to the very God that Richt believes in. I’m being serious here. To argue that a life dedicated to a walk with Jesus Christ is in conflict with being the very best at one’s calling (be it coaching football, teachings children or putting out fires) is to say that a Christian’s vocational calling and the call to discipline, hard work, preparedness and dedication are unimportant. Richt doesn’t believe that. Why do you? Why can’t a Christian be the best coach in college football? If you can give a legitimate answer to that, then we can have a “Which do you want the Christian or the Winner?” debate as it relates to Mark Richt and his faith. But until then, I’ll just know that I’m right.
“But Georgia was so close,” you’ll assert. Really? By what measure? Was it Georgia’s narrow victories over poor opponents or Georgia’s lopsided defeats to good teams that gave you the impression that Georgia was one [insert missing piece here] away from contending for a national title? Georgia’s special teams are a disaster that Richt has refused to address. Georgia has whiffed on a handful of big-recruit quarterback prospects and there’s no guarantee that won’t happen again. Georgia’s veteran offensive line was terrible this season but will be wrecked by attrition next year. Richt’s answer for replacing Mike Bobo was a dumpster fire. By many accounts Richt has lost control (I needed at least one) of Pruitt, his most valuable assistant.
“But Richt was here for so long,” you’ll ponder aloud. Why does that matter? I don’t know that we’ll ever see another SEC coach at one school for 15 years. I think those days are over. I don’t think I like the extinction of long coaching tenures, but nobody asked me.
I love Mark Richt. I loved watching his teams play (prior to this season). I love what he did for the program, the university, the city, the state and the sport. There’s not a “but” here. I’m truly grateful for all that he accomplished and I know he will continue to do great things.
And now, more than ever, I know that Greg McGarity and the University of Georgia is committed to doing whatever it takes to be the very best football program in the nation. And as a fan, how can I not be excited about that? That doesn’t mean that I’m happy Richt was pushed out. It doesn’t mean that I’m glad the Richt Era is over.
It means that being a Georgia fan is no longer to about Mark Richt.
That’s a weird thing to think about and there’s no way to say it without sounding bitter. But this is not a bad thing in and of itself. At worst, it’s a very curious sentiment and at best it’s one defined by rampant optimism. So enjoy this for a little while.
In a few days we’ll know who will be the next head coach at the University of Georgia. Along with that announcement will come support and opposition and comparisons to Mark Richt. And before that guy even coaches a single game for the red and black part of his story will be written. But for now, we don’t know who that guy is. He could be absolutely anyone.
And anyone could become the best head coach in the country. And for McGarity and the rest of the higher-ups at Georgia, that’s a gamble worth taking.
I’m all in for that bet. This sounds kind of fun.
That’s all I got/
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Plenty of Richt commentary coming your way over the next few days. In the meantime, let’s take a look at potential hires for what is now a vacant head coaching position in Athens.
Kirby Smart – The conventional pick became even conventional-er when word spread that Smart was interested in the South Carolina job. Why does that matter? Because apparently Smart, long the hottest assistant in the country, is willing to consider a move away from his post as defensive coordinator at Alabama. Smart, a former Bulldog and longtime Nick Saban disciple is perfect on paper except for two things: 1. He has no head coaching experience. Ask Florida how hiring a big-name defensive coordinator with no experience as the head man paid off. 2. He’s a defensive mind. That’s not a bad thing in and of itself. But if there’s any part of Georgia that’s not currently broken, it’s the defense. That doesn’t mean Pruitt will stick around for the new guy (in fact, I doubt he will), but fans may clamor for a more offensive-minded coach and a recruit like Jacob Eason may prefer a passing artist.
Tom Herman – Herman is the man behind two of the more intriguing plot lines in college football this year. 1. He’s to blame/credit for Ohio State’s offensive slow from 45 points per game last year to 35 points per game. 2. He’s the man behind Houston’s 11-1 season. If you’re not connecting the dots, Herman was the offensive coordinator at Ohio State in 2014 and then left to be the head man at Houston. He knows how to move the ball on offense and he knows how to run a program. And he’s been around enough big programs to understand the high-and-getting-higher standard at Georgia.
Dan Mullen – Hear me out here, because this is personally who I want. There are a slew of big-time jobs open right now. Virginia Tech is filled and LSU isn’t dumping Les Miles, but Southern Cal, South Carolina and Miami remain open. Georgia is a better job than any of those gigs. So what’s to stop Georgia, a program with tons of resources and a very tiny payout due to Richt, from poaching a head coach from a major school? Why wouldn’t that be an option? And if it is an option, why wouldn’t Mullen be intriguing? He’s basically got the same story as Herman, but the major difference is he’s found success in the nation’s best football conference and has been a head coach for much longer. If a complaint regarding Richt was that he didn’t do enough with the loads of talent he attracted, than Mullen is certainly the opposite. Nobody has done more with less than Mullen at Mississippi State. Let’s throw some money at him.
Mike Bobo – Let’s get this out there. I’m so in favor of this that I don’t know how to use my words. Entertainment value on Twitter would be insane. Much-maligned while at Georgia, I think fans now actually appreciate this guy for who he is. And nobody knows Georgia football and its tradition better than Bobo. And as a head coach, Bobo is riding a 4-game winning streak and his Colorado State team is 7-5. The knock: He’s basically Richt Jr.
Chip Kelly – A disappointing NFL coach who was a master at the collegiate level. That type of resume is going to keep his name on the fans’ short-list for every head coaching vacancy. So consider that box checked – though this hire is not happening.
Larry Fedora – This is mainly to get Chad’s blood moving a bit. But Fedora won at Southern Miss (34-19 there and never had a losing season) and has North Carolina sitting at 11-1 and hoping to play spoiler to Clemson’s dream season next week in the ACC Championship.
Jeremy Pruitt – This is not going to happen. Period. But he’s the only internal hire that could possibly begin to make any sense. So, we’ll just put his name there.
What’s my gut? My gut says it’s Kirby Smart. He’s been so desired for so long, that in some ways it’s the safe pick. But that doesn’t mean it’s not or can’t be the right pick as well. But hiring Harman and letting Smart go to South Carolina (or anywhere else) will get an A.D. canned if it’s not right. Hiring the conventional pick – who is popular for good reason – is safer.
That’s all I got/
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I’ve reached a point in life over the past couple of years where the drive to North Carolina for Thanksgiving has severely inhibited my ability to do the best things done in unison: drink bourbon and watch football.
Leave on Friday? Immediately tick off the family, who feels more time together is warranted. Get stuck in Black Friday chaos traffic in both Charlotte and the Commerce outlets.
Leave on Saturday? Miss out on some great football. Especially with relevant Michigan/Ohio State, scary Georgia/Tech, and a full Rivalry Week slate. Current plan is a 6:30am departure on Saturday.
Leave on Thursday? Out of the question.
Leave on Sunday? Just too damn late. Familial judgment for nonstop guttural yells at the TV for 11 hours on Saturday.
For the rest of you single people who live more than three hours away from your favorite viewing spot, how do you pull it off? Inquiring minds need to know.
The NFL Games Are Over, And Usually Boring Anyway: THURSDAY RUCKUS
Texas Tech at Texas, 7:30, FS1: It’s not Texas/A&M, but the storylines are still fun. Can Texas score enough points to keep up with Tech? Hell naw. Is Charlie Strong going to bolt for Miami? He certainly should. Is this game timed perfectly if you, like me, do the Thanksgiving late lunch? Damn straight.
Friday: Like Saturday, but with Saturday Still to Come
Send the ladies to the mall. There’s more than enough entertainment available. I have to subset a Friday now.
#16 Navy at #19 Houston, ABC: Likely determines which New Years’ Six bowl you don’t watch because of the mid-major involved. Keenan Reynolds is a wizard at the triple option (like, Tech wins 4 more games with him wizard) and Tom Herman is (insert one of 13 vacant FBS jobs here’s) next coach. In two weeks if they lose.
Miami at Pitt, ESPN2: The weirdest ‘Rivalry Week’ rivalry of them all, Pitt is pretty good. All three of their losses are to teams currently ranked in the (AP) top 11. And Miami is probably a loss to Cincinnati away from itself being ranked. GOOD, WEIRD, ACC FOOTBALL! CURING YOUR HANGOVERS SINCE…idk. Today?
Mizzou at Arkansas, CBS, 2:30: Remember last year, when we had a significant rooting interest in an emerging Arkansas team, who was coming off of consecutive shutouts of Ole Miss and LSU? I miss those days. I’d rather have Mizzou play SEC East Patsy in Atlanta than damn Florida. *sigh*
#5 Iowa at Nebraska, ABC, 3:30: Go Huskers. I may watch B1G football on purpose. Dream scenario: Nebraska wins, Iowa beats Michigan State in the B1G championship, we are spared that conference in the Playoff.
#10 Baylor at #18 TCU, ESPN, 7:30: This is just a damn treat. Both teams may be without their starting (in Baylor’s case, second string as well) QB’s, but both will still hang at least 35 points. SEC fan or not, you don’t appreciate football if you don’t watch this.
P.S.: There are other games of note, but most involve eliminated Pac-12 teams. If you stick to the above, you’ll not be cast off by your family.
Saturday, Where I May Attempt to Leave NC at 6AM
Jon Gruden has nothing on my footballgasm for this day. LEGGO
Obviously, there’s Georgia at Georgia Tech, ESPN2. I want to cut that off after Georgia goes up 35-0 on 4 Tech fumbles in the first 8 minutes of action.
#3 (YES THESE ARE LAST WEEK’S CFP RANKINGS) Ohio State at #12 Michigan (ABC): I mean…Harbaugh vs. Meyer has a TON of appeal. OSU’s offense, which should be patently unstoppable, against Michigan’s defense, which has not dominated like it did early on…this is just going to be an incredible game. Get a two TV setup like the one I plan to walk into just after noon on Saturday.
#1 Clemson at South Carolina, ESPN: Clemson’s last chance to Clemson before they Clemson against UNC.
Virginia Tech at Virginia, ESPNU: Perfect world for UNC fan: UVA wins to preserve Mike London’s job, and in so doing keeps Tech out of a bowl for the first time since like, the 80’s.
Louisville at Kentucky, SECN: Getting the ACC/SEC challenge out of the way early, huh? Kentucky can still meet my ‘they’ll make a bowl’ prediction with a win. Or Bobby Petrino is in attendance, which is fun anyway.
3:30, Also Loaded:
Iron Bowl, CBS: Go Tigers. I said it.
#17 UNC at N.C. State, ABC/ESPN2: Shit, we’re going to crap the bed. (Remembers State’s 7 wins are against the following: Troy, Eastern Kentucky, Old Dominion, South Alabama, Wake Forest, Boston College, Syracuse.) Nope, still not comfortable.
Penn State at #9 Michigan State, ESPN: I don’t know if Christian Hackenburg is good. I tried to watch some of their game against Michigan, and I saw him get sacked twice, throw 4-yard outs on 3rd and 8, and the offense punt from the Michigan 34. James Franklin brought 2015 Vanderbilt offense to 2015 Penn State, and the fact that he coaches two mediocre teams is amazing.
UCLA at #24 USC, ABC/ESPN2: Literally cannot NOT be fun. Jim Mora is going for his fourth straight different USC head coach’s scalp, which is amazing on so many levels.
The Night Slate: On One Hand, Year’s Best Combination. On The Other, Hell on Your ‘Prev CH’ Button:
The three highlights are simple: Bedlam (ABC, 8) pits #7 Oklahoma and #6 Oklahoma State. ESPN gets #14 Florida State at #8 Florida (ESPN, 7:30). Oh, and #4 Notre Dame at #11 Stanford is on FOX at 8 just to sufficiently blow our collective minds with overrated football.
But the undercard may be more intriguing.
Les Miles 200% deserves to keep his job. His record over the last five years trumps Saban’s last five at LSU. He would be a saint even in Athens. Yet, he’s coaching for his job as Texas A&M visits #15 LSU (7:30, SECN). Unreal.
Additionally, there’s the small matter of the Egg Bowl, which I’ve counted on for hilarity for my whole adult life. 7:15, ESPN2, Mississippi State at (randomly) #22 Ole Miss. Thank me later.
I hate myself for writing this.
Georgia travels to Atlanta on Saturday to play the worst Georgia Tech team in about 20 years. Given the fact that that timeframe includes the Chan Gailey/Reggie Ball era, that’s saying something. The Yellow Jackets finished 1-7 in the (hey, its really not that bad) ACC, and have just one win since the second week of September.
Having said that, this is a team that should very well give our Georgia Bulldogs a game on Saturday.
They’ve Had Nothing to Play For Since September
Yeah, intangible factors like emotion and motivation are silly in that they’re impossible to quantitatively evaluate in the game of football. But seriously, this is an above-average football team that simply fell apart once they failed to meet expectations. Given their performance against Florida State, and losses closer than one would expect from a 3-8 team, they haven’t laid down quite yet.
Quite simply, a win over Georgia makes their season. They won on dumb luck last year, and had the Dawgs on the ropes the year prior before Todd Gurley did ridiculous Todd Gurley things. One could argue that they’ve been (again intangible) ‘saving up’ for the Georgia game, and that’s a scary proposition for the Dawgs.
On That Note, Their Offense Still Scores Points
And that is something we certainly shouldn’t be taking for granted. Georgia Tech runs a
unique annoying high school triple option, despite Paul Johnson’s ridiculous claim that it’s some kind of spread attack. They’re going to go for every fourth and less than 4, and pretty much play balls to the wall on the offensive side of the ball.
Despite eight losses and said triple option attack straight from 1958, Tech has scored at least 20 in every game this season. For those keeping track, that is a number Georgia has eclipsed in regulation just once since Tennessee. Said another way, Georgia is averaging well below 20 points outside of the South Carolina and Vandy wins when there was a healthy Nick Chubb. The possibility that the Jackets control tempo while the Dawg offense flounders is a very real threat. Time of possession, ball control, and converting opportunities into points are going to be crucial.
Am I Trolling You?
A little bit. Georgia has the far superior talent and should (should) win this game handily. As with every game against Tech, two critical factors will decide this game: ball control on offense, and assignment discipline on defense. With this iteration of the Georgia offense, the latter is key.
The ‘boring’ way to beat Tech is simple: tackles handle dive, ends force the pitch, linebackers and corners win 1-on-1’s on the outside and stop the outside run.
Georgia needs to focus on winning the boring game, or we could have a little bit of a mess on our hands.
Georgia Football: When Backed Into Corner, Richt Responds with Career-Defining and Season-Saving Victory
Georgia entered Saturday’s game with more questions than answers.
Could the Bulldogs find a way to move the ball against a better-than-average Sun Belt Conference defense? Could the home team contain an explosive offense designed to mimic some of the most popular middle school schemes in the nation? Could the Dawgs seize victory from an opponent with a winning record in FBS play – something previously undone this season?
The answers to those questions were, in order: yes, hell yes and definitively yes.
But Georgia did more than answer questions in Saturday’s overtime victory over Georgia Southern. The Bulldogs and head coach Mark Richt made a statement. And in the process, Richt picked up a career defining victory and saved Georgia’s dream season and hopes for a state championship.
In fairness to the highly-touted Eagles from Statesboro, things weren’t always easy for Georgia on senior night.
Cool scene. Entire UGA student section using flashlight app up on phones. Cool display of unity. Thousands of kids searching for an offense.
— Andrew Hall (@DudeYouCrazy) November 22, 2015
The victory required a masterful performance from Greyson Lambert, who inches closer and closer to securing the quarterback job every week. Lambert needed just 25 pass attempts to rack up nearly 185 passing yards, and his two carries for a loss of twenty yards were notably better than losing more than 20 yards on the ground.
Isaiah McKenzie, Mr. Do-Everything, was masterful once again, accounting for 37 all-purpose yards on six touches while fumbling for a TD return only once.
Even the offensive line was selective in its timing allowing running back Sony Michel to save his energy with only three runs in excess of six yards. Michel finished the game with 132 yards on 25 carries. He racked up 68 on those three potent touches.
Defensively, Georgia was decisively dominant against the option attack of Georgia Southern. Only three Eagles finished the game with more than five yards rushing per attempt and only four pick up runs in excess of 10 yards. When all was said and done, the Junkyard Dawgs held Southern to just 233 rushing yards and only a five-minute advantage in time of possession.
And as coaches across the country (most notable Ohio State’s Urban Meyer) collapsed in the palms of rivals, Richt rose to the occasion.
— Andrew Hall (@DudeYouCrazy) November 22, 2015
Rather than force the issue of a 7-7 ball game late in the first half, Richt held onto his timeouts and let Georgia Southern flounder about for nearly two minutes while going absolutely nowhere. Not wanting to appear desperate late in the game, he again refused to use timeouts during a Georgia Southern possession and opted to play it cool with short passes on offense.
Georgia now owns a victory over a bitter in-state rival. Georgia now owns a victory (and just one this season) over an opponent with a winning record in FBS play. Georgia now owns a legitimate shot at an elusive State Championship.
That’s all I got/