Once again, Mark Richt's Georgia Bulldogs stumble on big stage
Georgia coach Mark Richt holds the distinction as SEC’s longest-tenured coach. He also holds the distinction of a coach that can’t win the big one.
Perhaps today’s anticipated matchup between No. 13 Alabama and No. 8 Georgia in Athens could’ve been summed up before it even started. The Bulldogs dashed to the Crimson Tide’s sideline pregame in an attempt to intimidate their players as they ran onto the field for the first time.
Again, the bark was there, but not the bite. And with the loss, Richt falls to 2-5 all-time in his career against Nick Saban-coached teams.
Richt, in his 15th season in Athens, has won two SEC titles with the school, the last seemingly so long ago in 2005. That’s 10 years that have gone by without an SEC title.
It’s not an easy thing to remain relevant, to float among the top teams and always be a danger to rise above them. Richt deserves credit for consistency. After all, how many programs can say they’ve been as consistent as Georgia since Richt arrived in Athens? In his time there, the Bulldogs have been ranked among the AP Top 15 at some point in 14 of 15 seasons, the only exception being 2010.
But that kind of semi-success serves as more of a consistent tease to those in Athens.
The Bulldogs entered this week with a .745 win percentage since Richt arrived in 2001. Only three other Power 5 teams have a better win percentage without winning a national title over that span: Oklahoma, TCU and Oregon. And today’s loss drops the Bulldogs to 38-34 (.528 win pct) against ranked opponents under Richt, going 11-18 against them dating back to 2009.
It doesn’t help that other coaches have stepped in during that time and enjoyed success. Not just the giants like Urban Meyer, Nick Saban and Les Miles, but now also Missouri’s Gary Pinkel, who won the SEC East in just his second and third seasons in the SEC. Coincidentally, his success came immediately after Georgia came up just short against Alabama in the 2012 SEC Championship Game.
Another big game between the hedges. Another game where the fans want to hide behind the hedges. Richt routinely has Georgia in position for an SEC title, but just like a movie sequel may be in position to be great based on its original, it doesn’t quite live up to the hype. Then, each sequel is worse than the last.
In fact, Alabama did almost exactly the same thing at Sanford Stadium in 2008. Georgia, which was the preseason No. 1, and the rest of its fans wore black as part of a “blackout,” but it was the Tide that brought the Bulldogs down to Earth and buried them with a 31-0 halftime lead. Today, it was much of the same as the Tide raced out to a 24-3 lead at the break.
Still, nobody’s questioning Richt’s ability to bounce back. But how long can his fans do the same?