With the most complete roster of any SEC East team, Georgia has a great shot to get to Atlanta in early December. The Bulldogs are the division's favorite and, quite honestly, Georgia had every opportunity to reach Atlanta year ago, though that's not exactly breaking news. A tough loss to South Carolina and a perplexing performance against Florida squashed those chances.
It's been 10 years since the Bulldogs won an SEC title, something that's certainly on the mind of head coach Mark Richt. He's had some solid teams since that 2005 team — 2007 and 2012 are the years that stick out the most — but a conference title has eluded him in that span. With a fan base clamoring for a conference championship, Richt said he understands how important it is to win one.
“Oh yeah, we do. But that’s our goal every year," Richt said. "It’s a great league and we’ve been in Atlanta a few times. It’s just the time we won it last was 2005. We’ll keep banging away and get there.”
The schedule is favorable to Georgia outside of two games — a home game against Alabama on Oct. 3 and a road trip to Auburn on Nov. 14. Those, at least at the moment based on what we know, are the two toughest on the schedule. Those kind of games are usually easy for Georgia to get up for. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, there have been plenty of games in years past against lesser opponents where it seemed like they failed to show up.
Last year's game against Florida was one in particular. The Gators attempted only six passes -- completing three -- and won decisively 38-20. Georgia has earned that reputation of having a game like that once per year. In 2013, it was a shocking 41-26 loss to Missouri. In 2012, it was a 35-7 drubbing to South Carolina. In 2011, the Bulldogs let Boise State seize control of the game in the second and third quarters.
Even in 2002, arguably Richt's best team, Georgia inexplicably lost to a Ron Zook-coached Florida team, its lone defeat of the year.
At SEC Media Days on Thursday, outside linebacker Jordan Jenkins was asked about last year's Florida game in particular. Jenkins was brutally honest. The players' focus was elsewhere, he said. They allowed outside components to creep in, which contributed to a sloppy game on the defensive side of the ball.
To be a championship team, those kind of games can't happen. Jenkins talked specifically about last year's Florida loss as being a great example of the aforementioned. The Bulldogs took Florida lightly due to the Gators' disappointing season, all while anticipating the return of Todd Gurley a week later. Jenkins said he'll do his part to make sure that kind of play doesn't happen in 2015.
"We let the clutter get to us," Jenkins said. "We had the Todd situation. Our games immediately went to two games down the road, three games down the road. We get Todd back (a week later). We don't have to worry about this (Florida) game. When we get Todd back he'll be so great in that game. I feel that's what led to our downfall in that game."
Jenkins also mentioned the 2013 Missouri game and the mentality that went into that one.
"We won the 2012 game and thought this is the same team from that season," Jenkins said. "They're the little brothers of the SEC, we'll come in and dominate. Clock in, clock out. As that game went on we quickly realized that was a mistake we shouldn't have made."
Cliches sportswriters hate are when coaches and players say they are taking it one game at a time and that they can't let themselves underestimate an opponent on any given game day. In Georgia's case, those two items have proved true.
Hitting the links
The AJC's Michael Carvell reports that prized class of 2016 commit Jacob Eason will stick around in Georgia after Saturday's Dawg Night. Eason may even visit some fellow recruits in the state to coax them into committing with him.
No, Richt's hair isn't falling out at a rapid rate. He got it buzzed, writes the Athens Banner-Herald's Mark Weiszer.
DawgPost's Dean Legge writes that Richt and the Bulldogs are in their best position to win a national title than ever before.
Richt cracked a joke about getting criticism, which drew laughter from the Media Days crowd, writes UGASports.com's Anthony Dasher.
Versatile receiver Isaiah McKenzie should be a big factor with what Brian Schottenheimer wants to do on offense, writes The Red & Black's Connor Riley.
Oh, an introduction
Having been thrown into the fire of SEC Media Days on my first week, I didn't exactly have time to introduce myself. As you can tell by my byline, my name is Jason Butt. Most I grew up with called me Jason. Some called me Butt, usually as a term of endearment ... I think. When I moved to the Washington, D.C. area in 2011, folks started calling me various nicknames -- J, J.B. J-Butt, and so forth. Hey, whatever you want to call me, I'm good with.
I grew up in Watkinsville, Ga. and went to Oconee County High School. I attended the University of Georgia and graduated in 2009 on the super-senior, five-year plan. While in school, I wrote for The Red & Black and got to cover the 2007 and 2008 Georgia football teams before spending my last semester in 2009 as the sports editor. From there, I worked with CBSSports.com covering the Falcons before moving to the Mid-Atlantic to cover the Ravens. I spent the past two years covering high school sports for The Washington Post.
I'm happy to be back in the South, especially on the Georgia beat. I grew up around a bunch of college football nuts and became one myself. This job carries a lot of weight for me, knowing that David Hale and Seth Emerson are the last two to have it. I became great friends with David while I was in college at The Red & Black and have always admired his work from The Telegraph to The News Journal to ESPN. In particular, he made this blog what it is today. I definitely read and followed Seth's coverage from afar and became an instant fan. I got a chance to finally meet Seth at SEC Media Days and was happy to learn how nice of a guy he is. He's going to do a great job at the AJC.
Outside of sports, I'm a huge music fan. All types, really. I'm a huge Jack White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, The Dead Weather) fan and subscribe to his Third Man Records Vault. I collect records, because, for some odd reason, buying big and bulky outdated pieces of technology, that (in my most hipster, music-snob voice) sound better, to take up additional space in a home makes sense to me. I love going to concerts and am thrilled to be able to be back near the Athens music scene.
I just got married this past May. (Wait, what? Someone wanted to marry me?) It's been a great two months of marriage and I'm looking forward to an exciting lifetime with my wife.
You can hit me up on Twitter at @jasonhbutt. You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Malcolm and compliance
One of the great things about the Georgia beat is that you meet a ton of interesting personalities. In my first week back, receiver Malcolm Mitchell proved to be the latest example. Of course I'd seen the CBS interview with him on the book club. But on day four of the job, to get a firsthand look at Malcolm Mitchell the author was quite the treat.
Though I was able to write this story on Mitchell's first published work, he talked a little bit about the compliance issues he had to navigate through to make it happen as an NCAA student-athlete.
“One big thing is that I thought I’d be able to take advantage of would be UGA social media for publicity," he said. "That’s not the case.”
Mitchell and Georgia's compliance office teamed up to ensure he wouldn't be in violation of any NCAA rules. For instance, Mitchell said he can't mention being a Georgia football player on his website readwithmalcolm.com, which promotes the book as well as his community work. He can say he's a student-athlete at the university but that's it. Mitchell can't use any photos wearing a Georgia jersey to promote his book either.
A reporter asked if it was strange that he couldn't use a picture of himself in a jersey to promote his work since, at the end of the day, it is a picture of him.
“Yeah but it’s not my jersey," Mitchell said. "It’s little stuff like that. I would think it would be fine but rules are rules. I’m just trying to make sure I can play this fall.”
Sure, Mitchell acknowledged some of the things he's been forced to adhere to seem a bit odd and counterintuitive. All things considered, he's happy the NCAA has worked with him so that he can release his book.
"To credit the NCAA, they could have looked at this project, realized the potential for it and then immediately shut it down," Mitchell said. "But they didn’t do that.”
Song of the day
Since I mentioned I was a Jack White fan in my introductory, the first one you get is his song "Lazaretto."