The Georgia Bulldogs are headed to a bowl game today. How important is today’s game for the Dawgs?
The Georgia Bulldogs are headed to a bowl game. Much ink has been spilled about whether NCAA College football Bowl games really “matter”. They certainly do for the player, seniors, especially as they most likely play their last competitive football game. Bowl games certainly matter for coaches who may, or may not, be relocating after the game. Whether of their own volition, or not.
Bowl games matter for the institutions and the cash infusion that competing in one can offer. Bowl games also matter for teams that need the extra practice time afforded it isincredibly important for a young, but burgeoning, team. But, sometimes…it’s more than that. This 2016 AutoZone Liberty Bowl is such a time for the Kirby Smart led 2016 University of Georgia Bulldogs.
After the very post-Thanksgiving removal of beloved and venerated Coach Mark Richt in 2015, fans were expectant with joy when prodigal son, Kirby Smart, was named Head Coach. Coach Smart very quietly and methodically went about his business of helping the University of Alabama win yet another, National Championship while at the same time, saving the vaunted recruiting class that Coach Richt and staff had cobbled.
Move to spring and it was a showcase the giant Freshman QB with a cannon, the other Freshmen who showed skill and poise, the coaches with an established record of recruiting and winning, and the fans showed for a “spring” game more than ever recorded for a spring game. The Dawgs put on a performance. Expectations, while tempered, were high.
This however, is the Southeastern Football Conference and as the leaves began to fall, so did fan expectations when they met reality. The reality is that the SEC is an incredibly difficult league in which to win. The reality is that new coaching staffs have to learn how to coach together, manage time, and communicate. The reality was that a freshman QB, with RBs coming off of serious injury, with transfers on the Offensive Line, with true Freshmen and Sophomores all over the field in all three phases of the game, however talented they may be it’s not easy to win and make the college playoffs it is close to impossible. Still knowing this and recognizing this fans sat dismayed by losses that are not “normal”. Losing to Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech will induce agitation regardless of circumstance.
Here is where the Liberty Bowl presents itself to “Dawg Nation”. There has been some attrition with young men deciding to leave and pursue dreams elsewhere. There have been a few more injuries. There is the promise of, by all accounts, a recruiting class coming in like never seen before at UGA. Yet here sits the game one final chance for Coach Kirby and company to show improvement and to show advancement to show that they have begun to learn how to coach together and most importantly that they are learning to win.
Most Bowl games won’t matter to the arch of direction for most programs. The University of Georgia is different. The Liberty Bowl is a chance to help wipe away the Georgia Tech game and to set the future alight. To give a win to all the Dawg fans who have stuck with the team through another long season. The AutoZone Liberty Bowl in December 2016 is a statement game. Hello, Memphis.