CFN Bowl Analysis ... Liberty
UCF 10 ... Georgia 6
Hi. My name is Pete, and I thought before the season that Georgia was going to be special.
(Everyone) – "Hiiii, Peeeete."
Yeah, I'm the doorknob who went on every national show championing the idea that the Bulldogs were going to be the sleeper team to emerge out of the sad SEC East. Of course, South Carolina turned out to be the shocker, and Auburn turned out to be the star, but I really did think all the pieces were there for Georgia to come up with a big season. Unfortunately for the Dawgs, the offense never clicked, the defense wasn't clutch, and the result was the first losing season under Mark Richt.
The story and the focus should be on UCF, with its first bowl win and its stunning victory over an SEC team, but with this loss the bigger deal is Georgia and what's next for the stale and stagnant program. It seems like everyone else is having fun, with Florida, LSU, Alabama, and soon Auburn, winning national titles, and Georgia can't even get past a Conference USA team. Granted, it's the league champion, but still, try selling that to the alumni and recruits over the next several months.
At a time when so many SEC teams are being revitalized or are hitting their stride, where's Georgia? The offense only came up with 280 yards, the defense failed to come through on the one drive it needed to stop in the fourth quarter, and coming away with two field goals was unacceptable.
It'll be interesting to see the reaction after this clunker. Everyone likes Mark Richt, but was this the backbreaking straw, or is this the nadir before the program comes back rocking? At the very least, it's mirror-checking time on an offense that needs far more from the ground game and needs QB Aaron Murray to become a star while A.J. Green is off toiling for the Seattle Seahawks.
Georgia is supposed to be playing for national championships; it's not supposed to be fighting to score in the Liberty.
- UCF, the time is now to make a full-pitched, full-court press on the Big East to join the fun. The natural rivalry with USF is there, and all the Big East teams would love to make the trip to Orlando on a regular basis.
- 82 rushing yards. 82. Georgia, that's inexcusable against Florida, much less Central Florida.
- Josh Robinson and the UCF secondary are special. A.J. Green had an extremely quiet eight catches for 77 yards.
- Three sacks to zero. Georgia didn't register a sack, but Justin Houston still had a magnificent game. He made several nice plays, but he didn't do anything as a pass rusher, while UCF's star, Bruce Miller, came up big when he needed to.
Conference USA holding on to UCF will be like Auburn keeping Gus Malzahn on the Plains for the long term.
Fresh off its biggest victory in school history, an upset of Georgia, and their first 11-win season, the Knights are going to end 2010 ranked. And on the short list of bigger leagues looking to expand. On so many levels, UCF is a great fit for a promotion. It has terrific facilities, a recent history of success, and calls Orlando home, one of the 10 largest television markets in America. It's actually a mild surprise that someone hasn't already scooped these guys up and made them a new member. The program didn't necessarily need to win the Liberty Bowl in order to become an attractive target for, say, the Big East, but, boy, did it ever boost its profile. The Jeffersons of Conference USA, UCF should be movin' on up before too long.
- Let's all ease up on the Mark Richt talk. Sure, this game and this season are disasters, but he's going to get one more year to make things right. That said, "one year" is a literal time frame that he's going to get to guide the Dawgs back to prominence.
- You think this victory was especially sweet for UCF DE Bruce Miller? A Georgia native, he was snubbed by the Bulldogs, yet went on to become one of the most prolific sackers in NCAA history. In the pivotal fourth quarter, he was a beast, chasing Aaron Murray all over the field.
- So long, A.J. Green. It was fun watching you at this level. The Georgia receiver was kept under wraps by a terrific UCF secondary, but don't expect that to be the norm on Sundays. He's an enormous talent who'll only get better over time.
By Matt Zemek
This wasn't an upset in and of itself. The way Central Florida toppled Georgia, on the other hand, certainly rated as a considerable surprise.
It was one thing for Central Florida's secondary to put the clamps on Southern Methodist's three 57-catch receivers (at the time, at least) in the Conference USA Championship Game on Dec. 4. When SMU's flotilla of flankers got smothered by Army's back line of defense in Thursday's Armed Forces Bowl, there was even more reason to believe that UCF, the champion of a league that went 1-4 in its first five bowl games this season, would get steamrolled by Georgia in the Liberty Bowl. At the very least, it was hard to conceive of a scenario in which the Golden Knights, the kings of C-USA, would shut down the Bulldogs' offense and put A.J. Green in saran wrap.
A full 60 minutes later, UCF won one of college football's more venerable non-BCS bowl games by doing exactly that.
The full-circle nature of this game is striking: Just when a lot of people were ready to write off Conference USA, George O'Leary – who lost to Mark Richt in 2001 when at Georgia Tech – got back at Georgia's decade-long coach and evened up the head-to-head tally at one win apiece. Given the fact that O'Leary had his own freshman quarterback, Jeff Godfrey, to counter UGA freshman Aaron Murray, it was quite logical to think UCF could win a high-scoring game against Georgia's appallingly awful defense. A triumph by the Golden Knights wasn't a ludicrous idea; a 10-6 game? That was ludicrous.
Welcome to the latest edition of bowl-season insanity.
Quite plainly, UCF's defense – especially its secondary – showed that its performance against SMU was much more than a one-day fluke. The Knights - who lost the Liberty Bowl in 2007 to a Mississippi State team that was roughly as mediocre as this Georgia crew – were inspired to an extent that many observers weren't prepared to accept. Perhaps motivated by the desire to join the Big East, or maybe fueled by a hatred of the big-brother SEC in Orlando, UCF outclassed Georgia not with guile or finesse, but with blue-collar resilience and determination. Even on a day when Georgia defensive coordinator Todd Grantham coaxed a solid outing from his charges, the Bulldogs fell short. That tells you a lot about the depths of UCF's competitive fury.
--Mark Richt should get 2011 to fix things in Athens. With that said, it's entirely fair at this point to hand out a pink slip if the Dawgs drift through a six- or seven-win season. Richt should not be fired, however; that would constitute a clear and severe overreaction.
--Tulsa and Central Florida will make a mighty fine C-USA title tilt in 2011. If any other matchup emerges, it will rate as a definite surprise (SMU must go to Tulsa next season).
By: Barrett Sallee
It was a fitting end to one of the most disappointing seasons in recent Georgia history. SEC teams aren't supposed to lose to teams from Conference USA. Period.
When quarterback Aaron Murray's Hail Mary attempt landed in the Liberty Bowl end zone, it solidified Georgia's first losing season in 14 years, and firmly implanted head coach Mark Richt at the top of next season's hot seat list.
Before the season, a vocal minority in the media loudly and proudly proclaimed that Mark Richt was on the hot seat in 2009. Obviously, those claims were a year too early. But Richt is going to have his work cut out for him next season, and that doesn't bode well for his future employment. Demarcus Dobbs, Darryl Gamble, Akeem Dent are all gone off of the Bulldog defense that will probably also be losing linebacker Justin Houston early to the NFL draft. Don't forget, in addition to the grueling SEC schedule, the Bulldogs open up with Boise State next season in the Chick-Fil-A kickoff classic at the Georgia Dome. Whoops.
I said before this game that the game itself should be an afterthought, and that the fact that Georgia got bowl practices was the most important thing. I was wrong. Losing to UCF will make for a tumultuous off-season in Athens, and rightfully so. Richt has let the program get to this point, and it's up to him whether he wants to fight to bring it back or fade away into oblivion. Judging from Georgia's effort Friday afternoon in Memphis, it's the latter.