Mark Richt was back in the state of Georgia Saturday, and what an interesting study in contrasts it turned out to be for his current team and former one.
Miami defeated Georgia Tech 35-21, benefiting from two Jackets fumbles and touchdown returns on consecutive drives in the second quarter. The game took place on the same field where Richt coached his final game for Georgia (a 13-7 win over Tech last November), and he basked in the moment afterward, holding up "The U" sign to the Miami student section.
The Tech-Miami game didn't nearly have the drama as the one 70 miles down the road in Athens, where Georgia took a 17-0 lead over favored Tennessee, blew it and fell behind 28-24 in the fourth quarter, seemingly won the game on a 47-yard Jacob Eason touchdown pass with 10 seconds left (hello, Missouri), then lost it 34-31 on the game's final spasm -- a Joshua Dobbs' 43-yard, Hail Mary touchdown pass with no time remaining.
It was a mind-numbing ending for Georgia.
When Bulldogs' fans can see and think clearly again, here's something they probably would rather not think about.
Richt, the coach fired last season, is now 4-0 in his first season in Miami and has a realistic shot of making it the ACC championship game.
Kirby Smart, the coach who replaced him, is now 3-2 and is a long shot to make it to the SEC title game.
The Hurricanes have played only one ACC game so it might seem a little early to project anything. Their four wins have come over only Florida A&M, Florida Atlantic, Appalachian State and Georgia Tech. But it's their schedule, and their next two games against Florida State and North Carolina -- both at home -- are their two most difficult conference opponents remaining. (The No. 12 Seminoles entered the week as the only currently ranked opponent left but they lost to North Carolina 37-35, which likely will move the Tar Heels into the rankings.)
Georgia, now 1-2 in the SEC after losses to Ole Miss and Tennessee, and still must play Florida and Auburn, as well as a rivalry game against Georgia Tech.
It might seem unfair to compare Richt and Smart head to head this season for obvious reasons: Georgia and Miami play in different conferences against different opponents and have different players.
But consider the optics. What if Miami goes on to lose only one or two games and possibly plays for a conference title -- which certainly is possible because the Hurricanes are in the Coastal Division, on the other side of the bracket from Louisville and Clemson -- while Georgia possibly loses three or four games and may finishes third in the SEC East (behind Tennessee and Florida).
Here are the remaining schedules for two:
• Miami (4-0): Florida State, North Carolina, at Virginia Tech, at Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, at Virginia, at North Carolina State, Duke.
• Georgia (3-2): South Carolina, Vanderbilt, Florida, at Kentucky, Auburn, Louisiana-Lafayette, Georgia Tech.
For the record, I still believe the Dogs had gone as far as they could under Richt and a change needed to be made. I also believe the Smart hiring made sense on a lot of levels, not so much because he was a former Georgia player but because he was so familiar with the SEC recruiting landscape after jobs at Alabama and LSU and had studied for 11 years (Alabama, LSU, Miami Dolphins) under Nick Saban, arguably the greatest coach in college football history.
We'll see how this plays out. But if you're in the camp that Georgia never should've fired Richt, you're feeling pretty good about things today.
Some recent ramblings
- Mark Richt makes his return and looks right at home again at Georgia Tech
- Best Braves memory at Turner Field: 2010 and Bobby Cox's final season
- Weekend Predictions: And now for something completely different -- Dogs win
- Falcons' Deion Jones runs for glory, not survival, in return home
- Falcons create a new memory for themselves in New Orleans
- Falcons can't create more happy memories for Saints
- LSU just fired Les Miles -- this is what lunacy looks like
- New Georgia looks a lot like the old Georgia
- Jacob Eason wasn't good but this isn't time to blame quarterback
- Weekend Predictions: NCAA over Ole Miss but Ole Miss over Dogs
- Credit Georgia Tech for going after the right choice in Stansbury
- Overreaction Monday: Everybody wins! What can possibly go wrong?
- Falcons' 35 points, 528 yards should quiet criticism of Shanahan
- Falcons put on an offense show -- and, yes, win
- Falcons try to avoid going from 0-1 to off the rails
- Weekend Predictions: Dogs rebound, Jackets win, Falcons fall
- Coppollella acknowledges on Twitter starters have been disappointing
- Politicians need to understand: Sports has a hammer -- get used to it
- Overreaction Monday: Red zone, tackling and can anybody run block?
- As season opens, it's Mike Smith 1, Falcons 0
- Georgia exposed by opponent it should've easily handled
- Smart's limited media access accomplishing nothing
- Weekend Predictions: Falcons over their exes; Dogs, Jackets cover
- Mets sign Tebow but he looks more like 'Sideshow Tim' than player
- If Braves sign Tebow, it's about circus and revenue, not baseball