So Yeah, Richt Isn’t Going Anywhere
By Paul Myerberg // Nov 13, 2011
The stories were written in September. They came too easily; they rolled off the fingertips, with a little background and an empty space for quotes. There are deadlines to meet, remember, and it seemed like many wanted to get in ahead of the curve in ending Mark Richt’s tenure after an 0-2 start to his 11th season in Athens. Those stories, written in September in advance of December, need to be rewritten — it not deleted altogether. Richt isn’t going anywhere. Not in 2011, not in 2012 and not until he opts to step down on his own volition, in my opinion. His team, written off in September, is in the driver’s seat in the SEC East; his team, after being written off, is firmly in the B.C.S. hunt.
All it will take to win the division is a win next Saturday against Kentucky. A loss, on the other hand, would hand South Carolina the East. Don’t worry: Kentucky doesn’t stand a chance. Looking back, the loss to the Gamecocks was painful but ultimately meaningless.
There is some meaning, actually, and that it exists at all is a testament to the job Richt has done leading the Bulldogs from rock-bottom in September to 8-2 after the first two Saturdays of November. If Georgia had won that game, meaning it would be 9-1 today, looking at 11-1 in the regular season, the Bulldogs might be in line for an at-large B.C.S. bid.
Can you imagine even discussing that possibility after the 0-2 start? The simple truth: reports of Georgia’s demise were greatly exaggerated. One loss came to Boise State, the second to the Gamecocks. Those are two of the top 13 teams in the country, going back to last week’s polls.
Yesterday’s win might have Georgia’s best since knocking off Florida in 2007. Auburn and Georgia have met 115 times since 1892 — it’s not called the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry for nothing, after all. Only once before yesterday had the Bulldogs beat the Tigers by 38 or more points. That was in 1946, when Georgia whitewashed Auburn, 41-0. Georgia was then coached by the legendary Wally Butts. Auburn was led by the decidedly less famous Carl Voyles.
Georgia ripped Auburn to shreds. The Bulldogs dominated. The Bulldogs absolutely, positively threw Auburn around like a rag doll; these sort of losses are not supposed to take place between two strong teams in the SEC. As noted, such a one-sided loss is nearly unprecedented in the long, storied history of the rivalry.
In the short view, this season might be the finest coaching job of Richt’s career. Not that this marks the first time Richt has turned things around after a sour start: Georgia rebounded from an early loss in 2007 to win 11 games, and in 2001, his first season, closed strong to get to eight wins after an uneven first two months. Les Miles will get the votes, as will Bobby Petrino, but Richt needs to be recognized by the SEC for the work he’s done in 2011.
In the big picture, Richt might reach a B.C.S. bowl with a flawed team. The Bulldogs are young; have issues along the offensive line, especially in terms of depth; have had several injuries, not to mention a few suspended players; and are only in the second season in a brand new defensive system, though defensive coordinator Todd Grantham has done an outstanding job.
Georgia is going to be even better in the near future, when Aaron Murray has another year under his belt. When the young offensive skill players learn the college game. When the offensive line has ample depth. When the defense is even more well-versed in Grantham’s 3-4 system. Things are looking up. But today, even with a few issues, the Bulldogs should win 10 games. So yes, Richt isn’t going anywhere.
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Tags: Aaron Murray, Georgia, Mark Richt, Todd Grantham
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