• 54°

Ken’s Column: Georgia should take the Sugar Bowl seriously

Last Saturday’s result in the SEC Championship Game was not the result any of us Georgia fans wanted. The Dawgs were thoroughly dismantled by LSU 37-10 and their dreams of going to the College Football Playoff and winning a national championship also died with that loss. However, with the lackluster performance of Georgia’s offense this year, coupled with LSU’s dominating performance all year long, I don’t think any Georgia fan was surprised by the outcome.

As a result of their loss in the SEC Championship Game, the Dawgs have once again been shipped to the Sugar Bowl, just as they were a year ago. This year, they will be facing another Texas team, but this time, it won’t be the Longhorns. It will be the Bears of Baylor University.

We all remember what happened last year. After Georgia suffered a hard-fought 35-28 defeat to Alabama in the 2018 SEC Championship Game, the Dawgs followed that up with a lackluster performance against Texas in the Sugar Bowl. It could be clearly seen by anyone watching that most of the Georgia players were disinterested and didn’t want to be there and it showed in their play. The Dawgs lost to the 12-point underdog Longhorns 28-21.

The question now is will there be a repeat of last year’s disappointing Sugar Bowl performance by Georgia. I, along with every other Georgia fan, am hopeful that history won’t repeat itself.

Before the current CFP format began in 2014, bowl games such as the Sugar Bowl, Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl were extremely prestigious bowls, even if they didn’t decide the national championship. During the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) era (1998-2013), the Dawgs played in at least three Sugar Bowl games and won two of them. During the era of Herschel Walker (1980-1982), Georgia played in three consecutive Sugar Bowls, the first being against Notre Dame, when they won the program’s only national championship. I’ll stop the history lesson, but my point is that getting to play in the Sugar Bowl was no small accomplishment and it still shouldn’t be.

While I’m in favor of the current CFP four-team format, one of the unintended consequences that has come about is that unless a bowl game is one of the CFP semifinal games, that bowl game, now matter how historically prestigious it is, is viewed as meaningless. Being that last year’s Sugar Bowl was not part of the CFP, the Georgia players (at least many of them) played as if they weren’t interested in winning. Let’s hope this doesn’t happen again this year. The Dawgs need to take this year’s Sugar Bowl seriously. Their opponents, the Baylor Bears, most certainly will. In two years, Baylor head coach Matt Rhule has taken a program that was in disarray and turned it into a perennial power. Had they defeated Oklahoma in the Big XII Championship Game, they would have probably made the CFP. Baylor hasn’t played in a prestigious bowl game in many years. The Bears will be more than ready and motivated to beat Georgia on the Sugar Bowl stage.

In summary, Georgia needs to win this game. The players owe it to themselves, their families, the football program, the university and all of Dawg Nation. They need to take this game seriously and leave it all on the field. Should they win this game, it will help in recruiting and it will be a nice springboard for next year. That’s my opinion. I welcome yours.

Ken Gustafson is the sports editor for the Americus Times-Recorder. To contact him, email him at Ken.gustafson@americustimesrecorder.com or call 229-924-2751.