It's not an SEC title, but a 10-win season is still pretty good
It seemed innocuous enough. A single quote made amidst the euphoria of a hard-fought SEC road win at Auburn last Saturday.
But nothing is simple anymore for embattled Georgia coach Mark Richt, his every word under more intense scrutiny than ever before from a frustrated fan base that is starved for the school’s first SEC title since 2005.
So the message boards began going crazy following Richt’s assertion following his team’s 20-13 decision over Auburn on Saturday that “10-3 is a glorious thing in our league, and I’ll take 10-3 any year.”
What Richt was clumsily trying to say was that Georgia can still have a good year, assuming it beats Georgia Southern this week, handles rival Georgia Tech to close the regular season and wins whichever bowl game it plays.
And he’s right, too. A 10-win season in the SEC is an excellent one by almost any other standard.
But this is a Georgia program steeped in a rich history, blessed with tremendous resources and strategically ensconced in a state and region brimming with top talent.
Richt was well aware of the high expectations that came with the job when he accepted it 15 years ago. He was OK with it then, and still is now, but that hasn’t been enough.
Bulldogs fans long weary of seeing new SEC and national championship banners hanging up at Alabama, LSU, Florida and other places in recent years came into this season with nothing less than conference title aspirations.
The Dawgs were loaded with talent, and a weak SEC East looked ready to be easily had.
But fate had other ideas as Richt suddenly lost stud tailback Nick Chubb to a season-ending knee injury at Tennessee on Oct. 10, and his team never recovered.
A forgettable October included three losses in four games, the nadir being the 27-3 beatdown at the hands of rival Florida on Oct. 31 in which Georgia looked absolutely lost offensively.
Calls for Richt’s dismissal were loud and came immediately.
So his contention that 10-3 was somehow “glorious” right away served as further proof to his critics that he wasn’t the ideal man for the job in Athens and that his own low expectations were the real culprits behind the Dawgs’ underachieving season.
But let’s take a closer look at what Richt actually said about the much-needed league road win:
“They’re all sweet. They’re so hard to come by. There’s so much work put in, this week obviously, but go back to Aug. 1. There’s so much of our lives invested here. I learned real fast our first year … I learned in a hurry, 10-3 is a glorious thing in our league, and I’ll take 10-3 any year.”
The reality is that a 10-win season despite the loss of a player of Chubb’s magnitude is a heckuva season and warrants a hearty pat on the back rather than ugly calls for your head.
Chubb’s powerful legs had simply masked a lot of deficiencies on this Georgia team, most notably at quarterback, where neither Greyson Lambert nor Brice Ramsey are going to make fans forget Matthew Stafford or Aaron Murray anytime soon.
Without a potent ground game, Georgia’s quarterbacks were quickly exposed as they have been asked to do more than they’ve proven capable. Sony Michel is an excellent back, but he’s not Nick Chubb either.
But it all comes back to one single point.
Like previous seasons, there will only be one SEC champion crowned this year. And we know it won’t be Georgia.
So does that mean the Dawgs, and all of the league’s remaining 12 teams, have endured failed 2015 campaigns?
I don’t think so, and neither should you. It’s not the SEC title, but a 10-win season is still pretty good.