The following article is by Loran Smith and appears courtesy of the Athens Banner-Herald:
If Georgia ended last season as the best team in the nation, as some suggested, that naturally dictates the high preseason ranking that the Bulldogs enjoy today.
Championships, however, are not won in the preseason.
All analyses and forecasts regarding a bowl berth in Miami, where the national champion will be determined, hinge on one key development – representing the SEC East in the conference title game.
Had Georgia achieved that objective last year, it would have given the Bulldogs the opportunity to play LSU. Victory in the Georgia Dome would have enabled the Bulldogs to play for the national championship.
When last season is reviewed after the Bulldogs escaped disaster at Vanderbilt – the public became acutely aware that on the swing of one play in three games in which Georgia did not compete, there was the likelihood that the stars might have aligned just right for the Bulldogs.
One play, going the other way, in Tennessee’s games with South Carolina, Vanderbilt and Kentucky and the Bulldogs would have returned to the Georgia Dome.
Before anybody makes reservations in Miami, reservations should first be made for Atlanta. To get there, the preseason’s No. 1 team must win road games at South Carolina, LSU, Florida (in Jacksonville), Kentucky and Auburn.
Most observers felt that Georgia was a better team than Tennessee at season’s end, but by winning in Knoxville, the Volunteers received the title game berth.
Georgia’s team and coaches were savoring an opportunity to play LSU last year. They were confident that they could match up favorably with any team. There was criticism of the BCS that dropped the Bulldogs in the standings when the bowl matchups were decided.
LSU had no prayer of playing for a national title with two losses had the Tigers not won their division and advanced to the Georgia Dome – which is why a team that doesn’t figure the division title to be the most important title of all, is a team likely to get blindsided. To win any championship, a team must maintain a hungry attitude and win the close games – like Georgia’s last national championship team in 1980.
Those players were hungry for success after the embarrassment of failure in 1979. They had something to prove. The current Georgia team does not have that same motivation. This team’s motivation is that it deserves its preseason ranking and will set out to prove it, by winning early and gaining momentum.
In 1980, six of Georgia’s games were decided by a touchdown or less. The Bulldogs won every one. The current Bulldogs must not only develop that habit, it must avoid becoming complacent with all the attention and preseason hype.
How hungry is this highly ranked bunch? Only time will tell.
– Courtesy of Athens Banner-Herald
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