The Georgia Bulldogs did what everyone thought they would by reaching the SEC Championship game for the second consecutive season.
Now, the Bulldogs have to take the next step, which is winning the title game and making a trip to the BCS National Championship game.
Early betting lines show that Alabama, the defending national champion, is a seven-point favorite in the SEC Championship game, so the Bulldogs are facing a tough task next weekend in Atlanta.
But if the Bulldogs lose on Saturday, will their season have been a success?
Yes, they will have won 11 games and the SEC East for the second consecutive year, which is leaps and bounds better than where they were two years ago when they were losing to Colorado and Central Florida. But for this season to be a success, the Bulldogs have to beat Alabama on Saturday.
One reason is that they are playing at a level fans have rarely seen under coach Mark Richt and need to capitalize on that. Georgia played this well in 2002 when it was 13-1, the SEC champion and won the Sugar Bowl, defeating Florida State. The way the Bulldogs have dominated the last four games is reminiscent of that run and shows that they are peaking at the right time.
Another reason the Bulldogs need to win is to cement Aaron Murray’s legacy as one of the best quarterbacks in Georgia and SEC history. Murray has thrown for 3,000 yards this season, becoming the first quarterback in conference history to do so in three consecutive seasons. He also has 89 career touchdown passes, which ties him for second in conference history with Peyton Manning.
But to cement his legacy, Murray has to win an SEC title. If he does that and beats Notre Dame for the national title, he will go down as one of the all-time greats.
But the most important reason the Bulldogs need to win is for Richt. For the last few years, he has been under fire by fans, experts and local media who have questioned whether he’s the right coach to lead this program. A win Saturday would prove all the doubters that he’s still has what it takes to lead to Bulldogs to the top of the conference.
If the Bulldogs lose Saturday, they will likely play Michigan in the Capital One Bowl, which is not a bad matchup. But will the Bulldog Nation want to travel to Orlando, Fla., to see New Year’s Day bowl knowing Georgia was one win away from a national title appearance?
What it comes down to is this. The Bulldogs need to beat Alabama to show they are one of the best teams in the country. If they do that, they have lived up to expectations.
But if the Bulldogs lose Saturday and play in a New Year’s Day bowl, they will be back to where they were last season.
Based on the talent they have and the way they have played toward the end of the season, that is not where this teams wants to be.