Georgia fans are probably not in the best spirits about the way the season is going. Growing pains were to be expected with a new coach — a first-time head coach to boot — and a new coaching staff.
Still, I doubt anyone saw a loss to SEC doormat Vanderbilt coming.
The Bulldogs’ season has been an exercise in perfecting the art of riding a roller coaster. Georgia opened the season with an impressive win over a North Carolina team that has developed into a legitimate threat in the ACC. The Bulldogs followed that up with a near disastrous loss to FCS Nicholls. The 26-24 win was the first sign UGA was facing an uphill battle this season. A last-second win at Missouri got showed the squad had the guts and grit necessary to survive the rigors of the SEC, but reality would soon kick the Bulldogs in the teeth.
Georgia was run out of the stadium at Ole Miss, suffered a gut-wrenching loss to Tennessee and faltered against a Vandy team with a good defense, but not much offense. The only win in that four-game stretch was a win at a shaky South Carolina team.
Considering how fast the Kirby Smart era began, it seems like the Bulldogs should be better than 4-3 and in fourth place in the mediocre SEC East. But there are reasons to feel good about the future.
It starts at quarterback where true freshman Jacob Eason has the talent and moxie to live up to Georgia’s lineage of great quarterbacks. He’s not Matt Stafford, Aaron Murray or David Greene yet, but the potential is there for Eason to be better than all of them.
What Eason, and UGA, need to take the next step is a talent influx. The Bulldogs’ struggles this season hasn’t hurt recruiting with 247 Sports ranking their current class of verbal commitments third in the nation. Players like Liberty County’s Richard LeCounte III and Brunswick High offensive lineman D’Antne Demery will make the Bulldogs better in 2017 and beyond.
If you need another reason to pull you off the ledge about the Bulldogs, let me throw in some historical comparison.
Nick Saban’s first year at Alabama wasn’t a blaze of dominance the Tide turned into in the following years. The 2007 Alabama team was 7-6 with a bowl win, but it was from a memorable season. The Crimson Tide had big wins (41-17 over Tennessee), soul-crushing losses (26-23 in overtime against Georgia) and losses that boggle the mind (21-14 to Louisiana-Monroe).
Does that formula sound familiar? It should because the Bulldogs are following it to a T this season.
The Tide followed that mediocre first season with a 12-0 regular season in 2008 and its first national championship under Saban the following season. Coaching staff changes, including promoting Smart to defensive coordinator, and an impressive list of future NFL talent helped turn a sleeping giant from 7-6 seasons into a college football dynasty.
The same thing can happen at Georgia with patience. So while a loss to Vanderbilt is no doubt frustrating, it could become just a footnote in history in a year or two.