Last night was a great time to be a Dawg fan. A dominating win over an opponent riding high after its own big win the week before will do that for you.
Today, I find myself thinking of October 3, 2004. That was the day after Georgia eviscerated Nick Saban’s LSU team 45-16. It was a dominating win over the defending national champs and it caused some in the media to write stuff like, “Georgia’s offense finally showed up, and the Bulldogs now truly look like a team that’s capable of challenging for a national championship.”
Georgia was ranked third in the country, on the receiving end of a few first place votes. That all came crashing to a halt six days later when the Dawgs fell to Tennessee. Georgia didn’t even win the SEC East that season, let alone play for a national title.
Fast forward to today. Finebaum is lauding Georgia as “the legitimate threat to Bama.” This SBNation post is similarly breathless: “Georgia’s the SEC’s last best hope to stop Bama.” That’s one helluva 180-degree turn in a couple of short weeks.
Welcome to managing the expectations, Georgia edition. How does Georgia handle the inevitable media narrative? Well, they at least know the right words.
So now begins the “ignore the praise” portion of the season.
“As long as they don’t start believing all the things that y’all say about them, they’ll be OK,” head coach Kirby Smart said of his defense.
Our defense is capable of being one of the best in the country,” sophomore safety J.R. Reed said. “But as a defense, in order to stay (that way) we can’t read the headlines, we can’t let those guys blow up our heads. We’ve got to keep going, keep our head down, pounding.”
Kirby’s been there before, as he reminded us last night.
You know a team played well when its head coach devotes as much time and energy to deflecting praise as he does providing it himself.
“We’ve got to do a good job managing our team,” Kirby Smart said toward the end of his postgame question-and-answer session with reporters. “If you have a mature team, they’ll handle things well. It does concern me because I do worry about those guys reading it and believing it. But I was around a guy for 10 years who did a good job of managing that.”
That’d be Nick Saban, who has patented “the process” at Alabama.
The catch is that none of his current players has ever set foot in Tuscaloosa.
This should make for an interesting week on the intangibles front. Georgia is riding high, being taken seriously as a program for the first time under Kirby Smart. Tennessee, meanwhile, is a mediocre 3-1, with a head coach whose future is the subject of much speculation. On paper… well, as we all realized on October 9, 2004, the Tennessee game isn’t played on paper.
Every week is a new kind of test, right?