It seems every football season there is a new term that becomes trendy. This year one is on the lips of every Georgia Bulldogs fan.
That’s what’s happened in Athens since Kirby Smart took over as head coach at Georgia. He’s completely turned the emphasis to winning – and winning big. Now, it’s not just about scoring one more point than the other team. It’s about completely dominating the opposition.
Georgia is 8-0 and only one game – the one-point win over Notre Dame – has been close. Georgia’s average margin of victory has been 26.3 points in eight wins. Take away the Notre Dame win and it’s just under 30 points per game.
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Compare that to the two seasons Mark Richt’s Georgia teams won the SEC championship. In 2002, Georgia’s average margin of victory was 18.8 points, while in 2005 it was 17.9 points. Last season, Smart’s first, Georgia won its eight games by an average of 7.1 points per game.
Gone are the days of Georgia fans saying, “Well, it wasn’t pretty, but it was a win.” Instead, Georgia is beating teams easily.
The mindset has been changed. Winning is no longer just enough at Georgia. They want more.
Late in the fourth quarter Saturday, Georgia was up 42-0. The Bulldogs smelled the shutout, just like they did in Knoxville when they shut out Tennessee 41-0. Then, Florida drove down the field to score a touchdown to get on the board.
If you saw the sideline, you would have thought Georgia had just lost. The coaches were furious the second-team defense, yes, the backups, allowed the Gators to score.
Smart and his defensive coordinator, Mel Tucker, went nuts. Now, privately, they might have not cared much about Florida getting to within 35 points. But they wanted those players to know it was not acceptable to let Florida score any points. They wanted to create that memory that the goal is to keep the other team from scoring, regardless of how big the lead is late in the game.
No game has showed how much the Georgia program has changed than the Florida win. Think of where Georgia was two years ago, when Richt started third-string quarterback Faton Bauta as some sort of gimmick. It didn’t work, as Florida won 27-3 for another embarrassing loss in Jacksonville.
Now, Georgia beat Florida so badly Saturday that the Gators fired their coach the next day. Sure, there were a few other reasons. You can’t lie about death threats, which is obviously what Jim McElwain did last week. But it didn’t help matters that McElwain’s inept offense got stopped cold by the Bulldogs.
Who would have ever thought that Georgia would shut down Florida’s top three receivers. Tyrie Cleveland, Brandon Powell and Josh Hammond caught a combined two passes for four yards. The two Florida quarterbacks combined for 66 passing yards.
Two weeks ago, Missouri’s Drew Lock threw for 312 yards on the Bulldogs. Smart took that and went to work to get the secondary better, and they came out and completely negated any attempt by Florida to have a passing game.
Smart has brought the Alabama blueprint from Tuscaloosa to Athens. Georgia has a stifling defense and runs the ball on offense.
The running game has five talented backs averaging a combined 40 carries per game. They’re spreading it out, as not one back has rushed for more than 16 carries in a game this season. Nick Chubb has rushed 16 times in four games, while Sony Michel has done it just once.
The improvement of the line of scrimmage has been key. It’s completely new, with five players in five new spots. Isaiah Wynn and Lamont Galliard played last season, but they were asked to play new positions with three new starters around them. The offensive line is getting better by the week.
The defense leads the way, however. That’s where the culture change comes in. This defense is mean and dangerous. Smart is making the Bulldogs the Alabama of the SEC East, which is exactly what Georgia fans have been waiting for.
Listen to “The Bill Shanks Show” from 3-7 p.m. weekdays on “Middle Georgia’s ESPN” – 93.1 FM in Macon and 99.5 FM in Warner Robins. Follow Bill at twitter.com/BillShanks and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.