Georgia Bulldogs poised for historic - and stunningly easy - SEC sweep

Georgia is listed as a 20-point favorite over Tennessee in its final conference game of the regular season Saturday. That’s on the road. That’s against a neighbor and rival that traditionally has made these meetings coin-flip propositions (the Bulldogs lead the series 25-23-2). That’s borderline absurd.

And, yes, despite all that, I’d give the points. Freely and gladly.

This weekend the Bulldogs are poised to make a little bit of history, becoming the first Georgia team to finish 8-0 over its conference schedule. Previous unbeatens played fewer conference games. Playing more in the conference that is supposed to mean more should be harder than this.

It’s not just the winning that has marked 2021. It’s the ease with which the victories have been stacked.

For the Bulldogs this year, the SEC meat-grinder has been instead a series of relative spa days. Rather than running a gauntlet, playing the conference schedule has been more like strolling the white sands of Destin.

With Tennessee pending, the Bulldogs have beaten their seven SEC little brothers by an average margin of 33 points – substantial even when factoring in the usual Vanderbilt skewing (make that 62-nil Georgia this season).

Never before has Georgia made its conference schedule appear so soft. It has been in a different league than the rest – and figures to maintain that image at least until the Dec. 4 SEC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. This is how Alabama must feel with Nick Saban at the height of his merciless powers, every game a boot-heel-meets-little-black-ant kind of mismatch. So, this is what it has been like for the average Bama fan, having to pretend to sweat for 12 weeks, heeding your coach’s call to stay to the end of each ritual sacrifice, cheering your fool lungs out for three-plus hours lest you get another scolding from the dear leader. Who knew dominance could be such a chore?

As the only one-loss bunch on the other side of the SEC, the Crimson Tide will yet try these Bulldogs in Atlanta. But that is a fret for another day.

For now, celebrate the singularly impressive way this Georgia team has marched through its SEC itinerary. Currently, the G stands for Godzilla.

No other season quite like it. Granted, the SEC East is in general disrepair, with Florida and Tennessee underperforming. The Bulldogs all but clinched their half of the conference during their spring game. But don’t hold it against them that the neighbors can’t keep up.

Why, during that sainted 1980 Georgia national championship campaign, the Bulldogs experienced a series of narrow escapes, winning three of their SEC games by a touchdown or less.

Beginning with first game of that season, that same Tennessee was leading 9-0 at the half before Vince Dooley decided it really would be OK to hand the ball regularly to a freshman – if that freshman was named Herschel.

That game will be remembered forever as the one when Herschel Walker trucked Tennessee’s Bill Bates on the way to the end zone. Listen to the late Larry Munson’s call once more inside your head: “Oh, you Herschel Walker. My God almighty, he ran right through two men. Herschel ran right over two men. ... He drove right over orange shirts, just driving and running with those big thighs. My God, a freshman.”

Years later, Bates would tell ESPN, “I looked into Herschel’s eyes and realized he wasn’t going to make a move. The next thing I knew I had footprints on my chest.”

Yet for all that noise, Georgia walked away that day with only a 16-15 victory.

This Tennessee mashing – should it occur – will be more of a collective one. And a less momentous one, accomplished as a matter of routine. And led by a defense that just happens to hit like Herschel.

The following two seasons, the Bulldogs also went unbeaten in conference (six games) but put up nothing like the current 33-point average margin. For those keeping score at home, those margins would be 23.8 points in 1981 and 17.7 in ‘82.

The closest the Bulldogs have come to running the table in this fashion was Kirby Smart’s 2017 national championship runner-up team. That one handled seven conference opponents by an average of 31 points. But that season also included a rather ugly loss to Auburn – Alabama-based teams being particularly obstructionist back then.

For the sake of comparison, consider two of Alabama’s legendary championship teams of the past dozen years. The unbeatens of 2009 won by an average of 15.4 points over conference opponents. And during the coronavirus warped, all-SEC dance card of 2020, the Tide won by an average of 32.7 points. That’s the kind of company these Bulldogs keep.

Anyway, you get the point. If the Bulldogs can pocket one more comfortable win, this one in Knoxville, they will have earned themselves a thin slice of historical distinction. They might take in for just a moment what unique bone-crushers they have been this season, before moving on to presumably more demanding opposition beyond the regular schedule.