Athens, Ga.—Following the Bulldogs’ 38-10 thumping they received from Alabama at Sanford Stadium, and with a road date against Tennessee looming this Saturday, it seemed wherever I turned this week, I heard or read—ad nauseam—a similar statement I recall from last year following Georgia’s 18-point loss to Florida, and maybe even in 2013 after its 15-point setback to Missouri: Beginning in 2006, for 10 years now in a row, Coach Richt has lost at least one game each season by more than 14 points.
Ugh, I say!
The annual-lopsided-loss statement was even directed at Richt this week during one of his press conferences, and the head coach responded rightfully so: a loss is a loss, no matter how big the loss.
“Well, I think that the good news is [the Alabama game] only counted as one loss,” Richt said. “I mean that was enough of a game where it could have counted as two. But, it was one loss.”
I’ll admit I’m one of the first people to point out flaws in the Georgia football program over the last decade—and, there have been plenty of them. However, I believe the big-loss-every-year assertion is just another, convenient way for an unsatisfied fan base to “pile on” its head coach without having enough knowledge to fully support the statement. In other words, by doing a little research, you can find that Richt’s lopsided losing tendency is not all that unique.
What other football coach suffered at least one lopsided loss on an annual basis?
There have been plenty of them, like nearly the entirety of the two coaching regimes at Georgia prior to Richt. Under Ray Goff and Jim Donnan for 11 seasons from 1989 through 1999, the Bulldogs lost at least one game, and more so two games, by more than 14 points every year except one (1992).
For all 22 seasons of the Wally Butts era (1939-1960), besides the undefeated season of 1946, Georgia lost at least one game by at least 13 points. And, Coach Butts is in the College Football Hall of Fame; there’s even a building on campus named after him.
Even Vince Dooley suffered at least one loss by 14 or more points 11 of 12 seasons from 1968 through 1979, including nine in a row (1971-1979). And, Coach Dooley is a legend, regarded as one of the greatest coaches in the history of the SEC.
Speaking of the SEC, from 2006 to the present, other schools in the same boat as Georgia is Auburn, which has won a national championship and played for another the last decade. The Tigers have lost a game by more than 14 points in nine of 10 seasons with the one exception being their undefeated national title team of 2010. South Carolina which, overall, has done rather well since Steve Spurrier’s arrival in 2005, has also endured a lopsided loss every season except one during the same time period. And then, there’s Missouri, a program which has nearly the exact same winning percentage as Georgia since the start of the 2006 season… As far as the Tigers’ consecutive seasons of losing at least one game by at least two touchdowns, I started counting backwards beginning with last year, got to 20 straight seasons, and decided to quit counting.
During his press conference, Richt added that even with a loss—no matter the margin—a lot can be accomplished by his team.
“How many SEC teams have won the league undefeated in the last 10 years?” Richt asked. “I mean, that would be a good stat to check out. Not many. Not many. It’s just hard to go undefeated in our league, for sure.”
I decided to check out that stat as well, and discovered the head coach was indeed correct.
In the previous 10 seasons (2005-2014), only three times did an SEC team win the league undefeated, whereas it resulted on just four occasions the previous 16 years.
Despite the four-touchdown loss to Alabama, Georgia has a lot to play for. The Bulldogs still control their own destiny of possibly winning the SEC, and earning a spot in the four-team College Football Playoff. And, it all begins with a victory over Tennessee in Knoxville.
“We feel like we have to take advantage of this week,” offensive lineman Hunter Long said on Monday. “We have to come out and show that last week [against Alabama] was not us, and we have to show the country what we’re really about.”
What the Bulldogs absolutely cannot be “about” is suffering a defeat to the Volunteers. With another loss, any hope for a conference championship this season is likely dashed, while a possible spot in the playoffs assuredly disappears. And, with another loss, a portion of the Bulldog Nation, many of which are those I described earlier—those that have already began to “pile on” Richt—will simply jump ship.
Therefore, the question arises, considering the magnitude of this Saturday—a game which is actually more significant than last week’s meeting with the Crimson Tide—is Georgia’s preparation this week more intensified than before? Has the coaching staff demonstrated an increased sense of urgency?
“It’s just like every other week,” offensive tackle John Theus claimed. “The guys give it their all, and the coaches have been equally as intense.” Defensive tackle James DeLoach agreed with his fellow senior teammate: “Our coaches come hard each and every day, and I don’t think there was a difference compared to previous weeks,” he said.
With Georgia facing a must-win following a loss—no matter how lopsided—it was evidently business as usual this week in regards to its on-field preparation. However, as far as their off-the-field, or mental preparation for Tennessee, the same cannot necessarily be said; the Bulldogs fully realize back-to-back setbacks would devastate what was a promising 2015 season.
“Although I don’t think [preparation has been] amplified, we do know the importance of this game,” Theus added. “We are fully aware of that.”