Georgia football: Controlling destiny just might mean there are more losses to come
They hadn’t played anybody, was the cry. They were overrated, was the other cry. They hadn’t proved a darn thing yet, came the chants from another peanut gallery.
We scoffed at those criticisms after Georgia’s 6-0 start. We said the naysayers were overreacting, that Georgia was indeed the second-best team in the land and that no one was going to beat them until their 12-0 ticket was punched for the SEC Championship Game.
We scoffed. But after LSU pounded the Bulldogs 36-16 on Saturday in Baton Rouge, we could scoff no longer. And, we had to admit the hardest thing:
They were right.
Georgia hadn’t played anyone to prepare them for No. 13 LSU. The Bulldogs were overrated and they still haven’t proved a darn thing. They didn’t look good on offense, defense or special teams and their heralded coaching staff coached scared. It was a terrible day.
And now, they will indeed have something to prove. But they are going to have to fix some things — many, many things — in a hurry. Because if they don’t, there could be trouble ahead.
- If the Bulldogs play like this in two weeks against Florida in Jacksonville, they will lose.
- If the Bulldogs play like this in three weeks at Kentucky, they will lose.
- If they played like this right now against Alabama — anytime or anywhere — they would lose by 40.
That’s how bad they were on Saturday at LSU. Their vaunted defense, which came into the game ranked No. 6 in the country in yards allowed, gave up 475 yards to LSU. They allowed eight — yes, eight! — scoring drives. They looked confused on many plays, they missed tackles and they let LSU quarterback Joe Burrow pick them apart in the passing game. LSU’s 275 yards rushing included big-play breakaways of 47 and 59 yards. It was a mess all around.
And the offense wasn’t any better. Jake Fromm, who’s been one of the most steady and consistent quarterbacks in the nation all season, had his worst day as a Bulldog. He went 1-for-10 passing for 1 yard during a 25-minute stretch in the first half. He missed guys who were wide open, he made poor decisions and sometimes he held the ball too long. It, too, was a mess all around.
Say hello to your real 2018 Georgia Bulldogs. Right? Or no?
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We have to remember that Kirby Smart is still a relatively young head coach and he’s still going to make mistakes. Sure, he was 19-2 in his past 21 games heading to LSU, but there haven’t been a ton of high-pressure tight games during the trek.
He made some mistakes Saturday under pressure.
The biggest mistake was going for a fake field goal in the first quarter. There was absolutely no need to do that. You might argue that three points in a 20-point beatdown is irrelevant, but that’s so not the case. It was a complete game-changer.
Here was the scenario: LSU had scored first, going up 3-0 on a field goal on its second possession. Georgia answered right back with a nice, long 12-play drive where they were pounding the Tigers on the ground. D’Andre Swift had consecutive runs of 12 and 18 yards and then Elijah Holyfield gashed them for 17 yards on the next play.
The Bulldogs were setting the tone. That’s important.
The drive stalled at the 14 and kicker Rodrigo Blankenship trotted out. But instead of kicking the field goal to walk away with points after a drive well done, the Bulldogs tried a fake field. It failed. Miserably. LSU went wild, the crowd went wild.
And everything changed.
Desperate teams do desperate things. Georgia, No. 2 in the country and pounding LSU in the running game, had no need to be desperate. Take the points, keep the momentum and keep LSU thinking they’re going to be in for a long day.
Instead, Smart gave them a reason to think they could actually win this thing. He pulled a Les Miles when it was not necessary. LSU then went out and scored on its next three possessions, a touchdown and two field goals to take a 16-0 lead.
They never looked back, playing with confidence and bravado. That fake field goal turned everything around.
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Despite the loss, it doesn’t change a darn thing for Georgia in regards to the goals it wants to accomplish. The Bulldogs can still win the SEC East because they control their fate with games upcoming against fellow one-loss teams Florida and Kentucky. They win the division, they still get their ticket punched to the SEC title game, where a victory there against likely No. 1 Alabama would surely mean another trip to the College Football Playoff.
But here’s the rub. After what we saw Saturday, there are doubts about whether Georgia can beat Florida or Kentucky, and they are going to have to beat both to attain their goal of winning the division.
We already had doubts about whether they could hang with the Alabama juggernaut, and now we have to think they’d have zero chance against the Crimson Tide. Zero, zero, zero.
The glass half full says that we can tell many stories about very good teams going into Baton Rouge and getting boat-raced by LSU. It’s happened a lot, because it’s such a very hard place to play.
We can write it off as one bad day. If we choose.
Or we can sound the sirens, and hit the panic button. What’s it going to be? We’ll find out in a few weeks, after the bye week, which couldn’t have come at a better time.
Now, there’s doubt. And it college football, that’s a terrible thing.