The Georgia effort reeked of desperation from the beginning.
On the Bulldogs’ second possession, a bespectacled 190-pound kicker who looks like he runs the 40-yard dash somewhere between 5 seconds and sun dial, was trusted to run a fake field goal.
Who knew a part of Georgia’s fate would rest on Rodrigo Blankenship’s feet? Predictably, his first career carry resulted in a fumble. The showdown with LSU went downhill from there.
on Saturday, eventually losing its identity too. Quarterback Jake Fromm was already playing behind two freshmen in the offensive line. His backup, Justin Fields, came in too late and not often enough.
Meanwhile, the legend that is becoming LSU’s Joe Burrow might as well have been posing for the statue they’re going to carve for him someday.
Outplayed, outcoached and outed as a big-time disappointment at this point, the worst part was on their way out the door at Tiger Stadium. The Bulldogs had to admit they were bullied.
They were spanked and sent on their way before a giddy, field-rushing crowd. A Georgia program that prides itself on physicality must figure out how to smack people in the mouth before it win games again.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. From the moment Tua Tagovailoa threw that miracle pass against the Bulldogs nine months ago in Atlanta, the feeling was Kirby Smart and Georgia were just getting started.
Given the quality of the rebuilding efforts at Florida and Tennessee, winning the division was projected to be a mere formality in 2018.
Now the SEC East is wide open.
Those are seven words you hadn’t read this season until now. Admit it. It’s not just that Florida is back among the living two weeks before the Cocktail Party. Or that Kentucky is more than a factor in the division too. (Don’t forget the transitive property of these developments: The Wildcats have beaten Florida which has beaten LSU.)
It’s that Georgia has played down to expectations. Seven games into the season, it has yet to beat a currently ranked team. LSU came to play. Georgia left looking for just who it is.
Is it the team that has had no problem with, well, anyone the first six weeks or the group that gave up three quarterback sneaks to Burrow, two of them for touchdowns?
Like we said, from the beginning the Dawgs acted like they’d never seen Death Valley before. Actually, they hadn’t. The teams hadn’t played at LSU since 2008.
But Smart’s teams usually don’t melt this easily. The implications are clear. Oh so quietly, the SEC’s chances of getting two in the College Football Playoff for a second straight year took a monumental hit.
The team you watched lose 36-16 Saturday most likely would have to beat No. 1 Alabama for that to happen. To get there, Georgia would first have to win the SEC East before even thinking about the Tide.
At this moment, what self-respecting committee member would reward Georgia with a playoff spot after what they watched Saturday?
That’s ignoring the possibility that Florida might be the highest-ranked SEC East team on Sunday after rallying past Vanderbilt.
All of it can change, of course. Auburn remade itself last season by beating No. 2 Georgia and No. 1 Alabama in November to get to the SEC Championship Game.
LSU beat No. 2 on Saturday. It has No. 1 Alabama coming to Tiger Stadium in three weeks.
Maybe it’s time to turn our attention to what figures to be that epic Cocktail Party in two weeks. Georgia and Florida both have byes before what figures to be a loser-leave-town match for the East Division.
But what was once a formality now could be the end of Georgia’s playoff, SEC and division hopes.
It wasn’t supposed to be like this: Halfway through the season the Bulldogs didn’t just play desperate at Tiger Stadium, now they are desperate.