Bill Shanks

Can Bulldogs avoid unexpected loss?

Kirby Smart, left, was hired in December as the head coach at Georgia.
Kirby Smart, left, was hired in December as the head coach at Georgia. AP

Predicting a record for a college football team is always dangerous. You think you know a lot in late July, but the truth is we really don’t know much at all — at least not yet.

Practice in August could answer some questions. The seriousness of those issues, or the clarity with which they will be resolved, only truly will be known once the season gets going. But those questions are what we include in determining a potential record for our favorite teams.

The final few seasons of the Mark Richt era at Georgia always came with a caveat when predicting a record. Which game will Georgia lose that it’s not supposed to? It was a fair question, since it happened far too often under Richt.

Last season, it was the Florida game. Sure, the Gators might have been better than the Bulldogs. But Richt didn’t give his team a chance by starting the third-string quarterback. That decision cost Richt his job. Since Richt shouldn’t have started Faton Bauta, you can say Georgia should not have lost to Florida.

Georgia never expects to lose to Georgia Tech, so the overtime loss two years ago in Athens fits. Georgia should have never let Georgia Tech score to tie the game with about a less-than-one-percent chance of it happening with such a short time left in regulation.

Three years ago, Georgia lost to Vanderbilt. That’s all we need to say. It lost to Vanderbilt. Forget the circumstances, that was a game Georgia was not supposed to lose. I bet you didn’t count that loss in your preseason prediction.

Richt is now gone, so will that mean we can forget about adding on a loss that Georgia will have just because the Bulldogs always seem to lose one they shouldn’t? Just because it happened under Richt does not mean it will happen under new head coach Kirby Smart.

A case can be made that Georgia will have trouble in the season opener against North Carolina. The Tar Heels have a fine offense, and we’re not sure if the Bulldogs can survive in a shootout. The road game at Mississippi will not be easy. In fact, if you want to label that a likely loss, no one would fault you.

The Tennessee game Oct. 1 could be one of those games that make us love college football. Both teams could have good records at that point, and the winner might go on to win the SEC East. But the Volunteers are the favorites, and it won’t be an upset if they go to Athens this year and win.

We can say the same thing about the Georgia-Florida game. Both teams might have good records, and the winner might win the division.

Those are four games Georgia could lose. This doesn’t mean I’m predicting an 8-4 record or that Georgia will definitely lose those games. Fact is, we just don’t know right now how good Georgia will be this year. We might not know until after the Tennessee game.

We’re not sure who the quarterback will be. We’re not sure which star running back will be healthy to start the season. We’re not sure how good the offensive line will be. We’re not sure how good the defense will be with a number of new players taking over new positions.

But maybe, just maybe we can be sure about one thing. Maybe under Smart we won’t have to worry about Georgia losing a game it shouldn’t lose. The Bulldogs will lose games. They’ll get upset. But wouldn’t it be nice to not enter every season thinking they’re going to lose one they shouldn’t?

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