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The First Game Curveball

ATHENS - There’s a reason to not get so excited about one game - the start of the 2014 season.

If you remember that’s when No. 12 Georgia punked No. 16 Clemson 45-21. It was a game that got away from the Tigers as the game wore on in the fourth quarter (much like the UNC game on Saturday). The Tigers were lucky the final score wasn’t 52-21 - only a procedure penalty kept Nick Chubb out of the end zone in the final moments of the game. North Carolina couldn't stop Chubb. His 55-yard TD ended the game. 

At the end of that night in 2014 all was right with the world - the lousy ACC tried its best, but lost again on the big stage to the mighty SEC. Things looked up for the Dawgs. 

Kirk Herbstreit had the Bulldogs as one of his top four teams in the country. The Dawgs jumped up to No. 6 in national rankings. The SEC East, which saw No. 9 South Carolina get pummeled by No. 21 Texas A&M in week one, looked wide open for the taking. In the off week that followed, Tennessee struggled with Arkansas State, USC continued to struggle - this time against East Carolina. A week later the Mighty Gators needed three overtimes to beat Kentucky. 

It all looked favorable for UGA. And it was, but a slew of things happened along the way - enough so that we shouldn’t make snap judgements about who should be where at the end of the season based on one contest in early September.

But is a fun exercise. 

Watching Florida struggle to score against UMass brought a smile to most dressed in red and black. Seeing lowly Vanderbilt snatch a loss from the jaws of victory against Carolina seemed about right - neither team looks like much trouble for UGA. Missouri? They couldn’t score against a Big 12 defense, which is about like not being able to score a “friend” at the Bunny Ranch in Nevada. 

And then there’s Tennessee. The Vols, nearly perfected the most perfect Vall on your face of the Butch Jones Era… an overtime win against Appalachian State that looked like it was headed to a loss.

The path seems so clear for the Dawgs - EVEN WITH GEORGIA’S FLAWS. But we know that’s not how this thing works.

In 2014, after jumping up in the rankings UGA lost the very next game it played - against the struggling South Carolina team that was 1-1 on the season and went on do to nothing the rest of the year. Then, with the SEC East in firm grasp after drilling Missouri and launching Nick Chubb into stardom, Georgia lost to the Gators in one of the most lackluster and puzzling Cocktail Parties in recent memory. 

That’s why looking at results from one particular point in time is always an unpredictable way of looking at what will happen the rest of the year. Trips to Ole Miss, South Carolina and Jacksonville will go a long way in deciding it this program winds up back at the Dome. But the game of the year will likely still take place in Athens when the Vols come to town on Oct. 1.

The loser of that game will have a challenging time getting back to Atlanta. In fact, the Bulldogs have never reach the SEC Championship Game without first beating the Vols (2002, 2003, 2005, 2011 and 2012). Only once (2001) has Tennessee lost to the Dawgs and still wound up in Atlanta. UGA stole an undefeated season from the Vols in 2001, but it was Nick Saban's LSU squad that ended their national title hopes. 

Judging on this weekend alone it would be hard not to go with Georgia over the Vols considering the game is in Athens and the way both teams played over this weekend. But a lot can and will change between now and that game - 2014 proves that.

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