Georgia Football: Underachieving or unlucky program?


The Georgia football program has been tagged as an underachieving one by both local fans and the national media, but is it truly a fair assessment?

Georgia Bulldogs
Georgia Bulldogs /

Georgia Bulldogs

It’s been 10 years since Georgia won their last SEC football championship under head coach Mark Richt, despite having some stellar recruiting classes and fives seasons of 10 or more wins. The Bulldogs have come up short in a couple of SEC championship games since then, and have been stung by division tiebreakers.

The perception from many, both within the Georgia fan base and outside in the national view, is that Georgia underachieves, and doesn’t live up to their potential.

There is some validity in that tired and visceral statement, but to say that Georgia simply underachieves is a lazy way of looking at things, without truly digging in to all the circumstances surrounding each season that “could have been”. Have there been shortfalls? Of course. But not every disappointment can be squarely laid on the team or coaches.

Certain seasons were clearly not what they could have been; 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2013 were simply seasons where Georgia did not play their best football, or had an unbelievable number of injuries that derailed the entire campaign.

But outside of those four seasons, let’s examine what was really underachieving, as opposed to perhaps just…unlucky.

The truth is, Georgia could have (maybe even should have) played for two national championships under Mark Richt, and third opportunity slipped away in what may have been the best SEC Championship game ever played to date.

The 2002 Bulldogs finished the season with one loss, that being to a ranked Florida team. Outside of that, Georgia dispatched of five other ranked teams that season, but was left out of the championship game in favor of an undefeated Miami team coming out of the Big East.

Was Georgia the better team? In the opinion of many, yes. The Bulldogs played a much tougher schedule than Miami, but the fact that the Hurricanes beat Florida (who Georgia lost to) weighed heavy with the voters and with the computers.

In 2007, the Bulldogs finished the season with an 11-2 record and ended up being ranked No. 2 in the AP poll. The big problem, both Georgia’s losses were conference losses. Georgia dropped what was typically at that time a low-scoring game to South Carolina early in the season, and then completely let a road game against Tennessee get away from them.

They finished the season tied atop the SEC East with the Vols, but were unable to play in the SEC Championship game due to losing the tiebreaker. By all accounts, Georgia was a much better team than 4-loss Tennessee, who lost to LSU in the SECCG. The Tigers ended the season ranked No. 1

The Bulldogs could have just as easily been playing Ohio State in the BCS National Championship that game, but the loss to Tennessee completely demolished their chances. The 2-loss season and Sugar Bowl destruction of Hawaii was of little consequence. But due to the system in place, Georgia was not going to be included.

Nobody in the nation finished with less than two losses, so it was hardly underachieving on the part of the Dawgs. If 2007 is a playoff season, the Bulldogs are clearly in it.

Nov 22, 2014; Athens, GA, USA; Georgia Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt reacts to the action against the Charleston Southern Buccaneers during the second half at Sanford Stadium. Georgia defeated Charleston Southern 55-9. Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

In 2012, Georgia came as close as they’d ever been to the big prize, but it was an incredibly talented Alabama team — the eventual national champion — who withstood the late Aaron Murray charge and obliterated Notre Dame in the BCS Championship game.

Has Georgia had some top recruiting classes during Mark Richt’s tenure? Certainly. They’ve been in the top 10-15 classes each season, sometimes as high as top five. So let’s assume for a moment that the recruiting rankings are entirely accurate and that the players all live up to the hope.

Who has Georgia lost to in their best seasons? Florida, Alabama, LSU, South Carolina, Tennessee…all teams who recruited just as well, usually better, than the Bulldogs. So is it underachieving to lose to talented teams who gather just as many top recruits as you?

The mindset of “anything less than undefeated is underachieving” has to be changed. 2010 was underachieving. 2009 was underachieving, 2013 was underachieving (compounded with injuries beyond belief), but on the whole the program has run into some bad luck based on the system of choosing a champion, or simply been beaten by better teams.

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