Here's what happened the past 5 times Georgia was picked to win the SEC East
Missouri and Florida have represented the SEC East in Atlanta the past four years, but the official media prediction is that Georgia’s division title drought ends this season.
Bulldogs fans are familiar with the being SEC East favorites. This year makes the sixth time the media has picked UGA to win the division since 2003. Here’s what happened the previous five times:
Coming off an SEC championship in 2002, the media liked the Bulldogs’ chances of making it back to Atlanta. Junior QB David Greene passed for 3,307 yards in the 2003 campaign, the most of his four-year career, and a perfect home record carried Mark Richt’s squad back to the conference title game despite regular-season losses to LSU and Florida. Unfortunately, the rematch with LSU didn’t go so well either, as the Tigers won 34-13. Nick Saban’s squad went on to win the BCS national title.
Georgia’s season (11-3) ended on a high note, a 34-27 overtime win over Purdue in the Capital One Bowl. UGA’s final rankings were No. 6 in the Coaches Poll and No. 7 in the Associated Press poll.
The media thought Georgia could make it three division titles in a row. Greene and company came close, as the senior quarterback posted a 20-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio. The Bulldogs got revenge against LSU and Florida in 2004, but a home loss to Tennessee cost Mark Richt’s squad a trip to the conference title game despite a 6-2 record in SEC play, the same as the previous season.
Much like UGA the year before, Tennessee lost to the SEC West champ, Auburn, in the regular season and in a rematch in Atlanta. Despite winning the SEC Championship, the undefeated Tigers were the odd team out of the 2004 BCS picture.
The Bulldogs rebounded from the late loss to Auburn with wins over Georgia Tech in the season finale and Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl to end the season 10-2 and ranked No. 6/7 again.
After a seven-year drought, Georgia was finally the SEC East’s media pick again in the SEC East. What a painful year for the Bulldogs faithful to look back on. You can’t talk about 2012 without asking “what if?”
Behind the ground game of freshmen running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall and passing game of junior QB Aaron Murray, the Dawgs put up 30 or more points on all but three occasions in the regular season. Georgia was perfect at home and swept its four biggest rivals (Auburn, Florida, Georgia Tech and Tennessee) on the way to a 12-win season.
Heading into Atlanta, the only blemish on Georgia’s record was an ugly road loss (35-7) to then-No. 6 South Carolina in Week 5. By time the SEC Championship Game rolled around, UGA had climbed all the way to No. 3, making the clash with No. 2 Alabama a de facto playoff game for a spot in the BCS championship game.
More than four years later, Bulldogs everywhere still wonder what might have been if the clock had not run out and Murray had gotten to throw one more pass deep in Crimson Tide territory. A win over Nebraska in the Capital One Bowl helped 12-win UGA finish at No. 4/5 in the final polls.
Another instance of Georgia being picked to repeat in the SEC East, but much like 2004, the repeat bid failed.
With Murray back for his senior season, Georgia started the year ranked No. 5 in the AP poll, with one vote for No. 1. That ranking fell after a Week 1 loss at No. 8 Clemson. Georgia recovered to win its next four games, including knocking off then-No. 6 twice (South Carolina and LSU).
A home loss to Missouri on Oct. 12 spoiled UGA’s conference championship hopes. Mizzou won the SEC East with a 7-1 record in conference play. Not that it had any real effect on the race, but UGA also lost to Vanderbilt and Auburn, finishing third in the division.
The year ended on a down note, a Gator Bowl loss to Nebraska. The 8-5 Bulldogs were not ranked in the final polls.
Expectations were high in what turned out to be Mark Richt’s final season.
UGA was ranked No. 9 in the preseason and started 4-0. Back-to-back losses to No. 13 Alabama and unranked Tennessee in Weeks 5 and 6 bounced the Bulldogs from the rankings. Nick Chubb suffered a season-ending knee injury on his first carry against the Vols, but a trip to Atlanta was still in play heading into the Cocktail Party as division leader Florida had already dropped a conference game to LSU.
Without two weeks to prepare for UF, Richt decided to go with Faton Bauta at quarterback instead of Greyson Lambert. The move did not work out, as Bauta threw four interceptions in a 27-3 loss.
Out of SEC East contention, the Bulldogs won their final four games, including rivalry wins over Auburn and Georgia Tech, with Richt as head coach. UGA finished third in the division, behind Florida and Tennessee. For the TaxSlayer Bowl, interim coach Bryan McLendon led the Bulldogs to a victory over Penn State, giving Georgia a 10-win season.
The Bulldogs ranked No. 24 in the final Coaches Poll.