I gotta give Chip Towers for expressing what I’ve been thinking in the time since the loss in Baton Rouge with this:
Whether it’s in life or as a football team, it’s important to be who you are.
I was reminded of that two weeks ago after watching the Georgia Bulldogs lay an egg on the road against LSU. That’s what was most disappointing about what went down in the 36-16 loss in Baton Rouge. I didn’t recognize the Georgia team I watched that day, what with the fake field goals, shanked punts and quick-passing game.
That’s also what made it different from last year’s regular-season loss to Auburn. The Bulldogs’ at least stayed in character that day on The Plains. They lost because they couldn’t run the football against the Tigers’ stout defensive front, not because they quit running it. Sure, once Georgia got down a few scores, it had to throw the football and couldn’t because Jake Fromm was running for his life. But that was never really the case against LSU. I mean, you’re sitting there down 19-9 in the fourth quarter with the ball at the plus-38, then you go jet-sweep with the flanker, handoff to third-string back from the backup quarterback, sack, punt.
Georgia’s been resting on its laurels all year and was talented enough to get away with it for the first six games. LSU exposed the limits of that approach. The $64000 question today is whether the Dawgs are ready to toss those laurels aside and get to work.
Because this year’s Cocktail Party, more than anything else, is a mindset game.
And let’s be clear about this: Florida is coming into this contest with a significant psychological advantage, in my opinion. The Gators are playing with house money, so to speak. Nobody expected them to be in this position, an SEC East elimination game. They should be loose as a goose. They have absolutely nothing to lose. Drop this game and the Bull Gators will say, “oh well, we’re still rebuilding; we’ll get ’em next year.” Win, and they’ll be giggling all the way back on their 60-mile bus ride back to Gainesville, thinking, “Ha, we’ve still got Georgia’s number and just ruined their season.”
Conversely, the pressure’s all on the Bulldogs. They’re the ones who were the runaway SEC Eastern Division favorites and supposed Top 5 team this season. As coach Kirby Smart pronounced at the outset of the season, “pressure is a privilege.” Well, Georgia should consider itself extremely privileged this weekend because all the pressure will be entirely on its sideline Saturday.
This was one of the Bulldogs’ issues heading into that ill-fated LSU game. They hadn’t faced any adversity, hadn’t been tested, hadn’t been challenged.
Saturday’s trappings are the same as they were against LSU. Between Georgia and Florida, the Dawgs are the more talented team and they are the statistically superior team. But those features were rendered irrelevant in the loss because Georgia lacked focus and the Tigers did not.
I don’t see LSU as a defining game in and of itself for this bunch; rather, it was a confirmation of a disturbing trend that’s marked this Georgia team all season.
There’s a lot at stake in this year’s Cocktail Party. It’s time for Georgia to wake up and play.