Sure, most of us came up with our personal scenarios this week that gave us hope for the upset. There were the meaningless points of trivia – Georgia’s record against defending champs or record after a bye week – but most of us had in mind something like this: Georgia would have to play at a high level, avoid turnovers and things like blown coverages or missed tackles, and we’d have to get or create some of the same breaks that went the way of Arkansas and Mississippi State. But there was no mistaking that a Georgia win would be an upset. The Dawgs were 16-point underdogs, and teams are usually big underdogs for a reason.
The 2008 blowout loss to Florida could be considered a surprise. The Dawgs were highly-ranked and riding high off a big win at LSU. There were some concerns on defense, but the star-studded offense and the fact that Georgia had been competitive in recent years in Jacksonville caused the lopsided loss to come as a bit of a shock. We knew better this year.
What we got instead should be very familiar to anyone who’s watched Georgia in 2009. The first half was a story of penalties; the second half was a story of turnovers. Georgia got very little pressure on Tim Tebow and created no takeaways of their own. Again, we could be talking about most any other game from 2009. A struggling quarterback found something that worked and used it to have a very efficient game.
Even Mark Richt’s attempts at manufacturing motivation – the uniform changes and the sideline huddle following Georgia’ first touchdown – all were well-worn tactics that seemed more like a coach with few better ideas going back to the well for things that had worked at some point in the past. The uniform thing can work – just ask Tennessee. But Rashad Jones had it right in hindsight: “It’s not the black helmets; it’s what’s behind the black helmets. It’s the players.” Tried on this underperforming team those tactics that had worked so well in the past came across as contrived.
Just as Alabama’s strength coach provided the epitaph for last season’s Blackout, the black helmets are going to be a reminder of a team who came off a bye week with nothing to show for it but a wardrobe change. Everything else looked the same from the end result to how we got there, and no one should be able to say that they are really all that surprised by it.