It is probably the most important since the 2012 SEC Championship.
That’s a strange statement to make about a bowl game that’s played in North Carolina. That’s a strange statement to make about a bowl game that’s not played on New Year’s. That’s a strange statement to make in general, but I do think it is true.
I’m not sure I understand totally why I feel that way, either. I don’t enjoy stirring the pot - it’s not for me. I may be accused (and guilty) of being arrogant and a know it all, but a pot stirrer… that’s not me.
Still, I can tell that Georgia’s appearance in the Belk Bowl isn’t anything like last year’s appearance in the Gator Bowl; or the game against UCF in Memphis in 2010. This one is different to me. The feel is different.
Why? Georgia’s hardly embarrassed itself over the last three seasons. In that time, Georgia has been thoroughly beaten twice. Of their ten losses in the last three years Georgia has lost on the last play of the game four times (2012 Alabama, 2013 Vanderbilt, 2013 Auburn and 2014 Georgia Tech). Three times in the last three years Georgia has lost on the last possession of the game (2013 Clemson, 2013 Nebraska and 2014 South Carolina).
Georgia isn’t exactly getting the doors blown off them on the regular. On the other hand, the seniors leaving on Tuesday are going for their 40th win in four years, which would be 3rd all-time in program history in a four-year span.
That Georgia has lost isn’t really the issue - its that it has been so close to winning or has won nearly every game it has played the last three years.
And yet there is no national title to hold up.
And yet there is no SEC title to hold up.
And that, indeed, might be the hold up - no banners and no trophies. That can’t change on Tuesday, but a win is alway better than a loss.
I don’t think Mark Richt will be anywhere other than the sideline at Sanford Stadium in 2015 - I want to make that clear. But I do think the game with Louisville - and the Cards are equipped with Todd Grantham and Bobby Petrino - will tell a lot about where the mindset of this program is going into the future.
That’s a future, mind you, that comes without the hard-charging Todd Gurley and undervalued Mike Bobo. That’s a future, like all futures, that come fraught with doubt, optimism and another challenging 2015 schedule.
David Andrews told me today Monday “the future is bright for Georgia.”
He should know what dark times are like - he was one of the few players that committed to Mark Richt and the Bulldogs just after the misery that was Georgia’s 6-7 season. From Andrews’ perspective, things could get really good… and soon.
“For the first time we’ve seen Georgia really putting some complete games together,” he said. “Offensively, defensively, special teams - there are a lot of things going right. Coach Richt is bringing in great kids - great talent - and bringing in good people.”
But trophies and banners are something that need to come. That’s true. I’m not sure who would argue that Georgia had a “good” season losing to two of its three rivals and without winning the SEC East.
The future is what Richt and the Dawgs make of it. Tuesday won’t determine that fate - not at all. But it will go a long way to setting the tone for the season(s) to come.