There are times when a team makes a run at a championship, and falls just shy. They come back with a renewed attitude, a stronger resolve, and looking for some redemption from the shortfall of the previous year. In the case of the University of Georgia football team, it’s more than that–it’s a reckoning.
Georgia was picked as a dark horse in 2011, with the blossoming of QB Aaron Murray, and a top overall RB prospect named Isaiah Crowell. The team underachieved in some respects, and made huge strides in others. Murray continued his tremendous growth as a quarterback, while Crowell became somewhat of a head case and distraction for the team.
The offseason between the 2011 and 2012 seasons was going to be a tell-tale, and thankfully for head coach Mark Richt, it was a tale worth telling.
The rising juniors and seniors of the team met as one and decided as one to all return for a shot at the title–not just the SEC title, but these guys wanted it all. Georgia’s first championship in the BCS era seemed within reach.
It was close…oh so close.
A reminder of why you have to actually play the games came about at Williams-Brice stadium in a 35-7 embarrassment by the South Carolina Gamecocks, and then what was arguably one of the greatest SEC Championship games ever played ended in a heartbreaking last second defeat to the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Throughout the season, Georgia’s once-thought outstanding defense was taken to task by bigger, stronger offensive lines and running backs that knew how to bang runs between the tackles. In the end, it was truly the downfall of the 2012 team.
So now what?
The 2013 season comes around with reasons to feel confident–such as Aaron Murray making the choice to return for a final year–and with reasons to have serious concern–such as graduating 17 seniors, 10 of which had starting experience with the team.
This is a one of those get-it-done-now seasons for Georgia, because the future holds far too many unknowns beyond 2013.
One of the young quarterbacks could grow into being an able replacement for Murray, but then again they could end up with a gap at QB similar to what was experienced after D.J. Shockley left.
The electrifying running back tandem of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall probably wont be long for the college football world if they have seasons like they did in their freshman campaigns, and the young wide receivers the Bulldogs currently field are mostly untested.
The defense might as well be starting from scratch. Practically every known name from the starting 11 is now on their way to playing on Sundays. There is talent coming up in the ranks to be sure, but no one is really sure where the next Jarvis Jones or Bacarri Rambo will be standing when August 31 rolls around.
This is a year of judgement for Richt and Murray, both who–fairly or not–had to field numerous questions at the end of 2012 about the perceived inability to win the big game, or get over that championship hurdle. The entire Bulldog Nation has to be feeling the pressure of this team having to prove that they belong mentioned in the upper echelon of college football programs.
Richt and company couldn’t quite get it done when they had all the talent and all the eyes of the football world looking at them to do it–perhaps they will find the magic with new blood and a knowledge that the cyclical trend of college football is at it’s 359th degree for Georgia, and then things will have to start over again.