Of their 10 losses over the past five seasons, four came against Alabama. Two were against LSU. One was against a Top 10 Auburn at Auburn, one in Jacksonville against the best Florida team of the past decade, one in a Sugar Bowl that meant way more to Texas.
The exception – an exceptional exception – was against a 2-3 South Carolina team between the hedges on Oct. 12, 2019. Ranked No. 3, Georgia was favored by 24.5 points. The Gamecocks, then coached by Will Muschamp, had lost to Alabama by 24 points and to Missouri by 20. Quarterback Jake Bentley was hurt in an opening loss to North Carolina. Ryan Hilinski would be injured in the third quarter in Athens.
Jake Fromm hadn’t thrown an interception that season; he threw three – all to Israel Mukuamu, who returned the first for a touchdown – against South Carolina. Rodrigo Blankenship, who hadn’t missed a field goal, missed twice that day. From the start of the second half through the first overtime, the Gamecocks went scoreless on seven possessions. They won 20-17. The Bulldogs failed in both OTs, first on a tipped Fromm INT, then on a game-ending Blankenship miss from 42 yards.
Georgia plays in Columbia, S.C., on Saturday. It’s a noon start, as was the case three years ago. The Bulldogs are favored by 24 points, which sounds familiar. There aren’t many easy SEC road games, though South Carolina doesn’t enter on a high. It lost 44-30 at Arkansas after trailing by 12 at halftime and by 19 with seven minutes remaining. Georgia probably won’t win 49-3. It almost certainly will win.
Among the reasons Kirby Smart is a championship coach is that he ticks the first box on every coaching checklist: He has his teams ready to play. The South Carolina game of 2019 is the exception that proves the rule. Since Georgia got good in 2017, it’s the only horrid loss.
Georgia’s next five games are against South Carolina, Kent State, Missouri, Auburn and Vanderbilt. Given that Georgia’s No. 1 and none of those is ranked, any loss would qualify as horrid.
As we saw again Saturday, strange things happen in college football. Still, it’s remarkable how, in the grand scheme, form holds. This week’s AP Top 5 includes Georgia, Alabama, Ohio State and Clemson, all champions in the playoff era. It would be a surprise if this playoff doesn’t include three of those four. It would be a shock if Georgia isn’t among them.