- David Ching, ESPN Staff Writer
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You’ve no doubt been flooded with online stories, social media jokes and commentary about the Mayan doomsday scenario that supposedly arrives today, 12/21/12.
Let’s hope it’s not the end of the world as we know it. But just for conversation’s sake, let’s imagine that it is.
Caring about Georgia football would seem fairly trivial at that point, wouldn’t it? But that subject is why we gather here at DawgNation. So if the clock stopped on the Bulldogs program tomorrow, what would have been its legacy?
Although there is no shortage of notable achievements in program history, I’d think any discussion of Georgia football would have to begin with the Herschel Walker era of the early 1980s. The three seasons when Walker -- arguably the best running back in college football history and the 1982 Heisman Trophy winner -- was on campus represent Georgia’s all-time high-water mark.
Incidentally, “Herschel’s Famous 34 Pub & Grill” is slated to open in downtown Athens in January, so apparently No. 34 doesn’t buy any of this Mayan apocalypse business.
Getting back to the subject at hand, Vince Dooley’s Bulldogs posted a 33-3 record between 1980 and 1982, with Walker leading the way. They won the SEC title all three seasons and very easily could have won the national title all three seasons. As it stands, the 1980 national title was the last time the Bulldogs hoisted the crystal football -- which is perhaps the biggest statement about the program in the BCS era.
Georgia has been on the cusp of playing for a national title several times since Mark Richt became the Bulldogs’ coach in 2001. And yet the Bulldogs have not successfully kicked in the door, while a number of their SEC counterparts have won national titles.
Since the BCS era began, Florida (twice), LSU (twice), Alabama (twice, with a possible third ahead if it beats Notre Dame on Jan. 7), Auburn and Tennessee have won national titles. Georgia would have played Notre Dame in the final game instead of Alabama if it had only completed its last-minute drive that died at Alabama’s 5-yard line in a 32-28 loss to the Crimson Tide earlier this month in the SEC championship game. The Bulldogs came close in 2002 and 2007, as well, and the 2005 team very well might have been in the discussion if quarterback D.J. Shockley had not gotten injured the week before the Florida game.
With all of that in mind, the legacy of Georgia’s program today with the world about to end is that it was often close, but rarely got over the hump. The Bulldogs' roster is typically loaded with talent. Richt is one of the nation’s winningest active coaches. The program’s history is littered with all-timers such as Walker, Heisman winner Frank Sinkwich, Bill Stanfill and Charley Trippi and legendary coaches such as Pop Warner, Wally Butts and Vince Dooley. But the only two consensus national championships in the program’s 120-year history are the 1980 title and another in 1942.
In fact, only nine FBS programs -- Michigan, Texas, Notre Dame, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Alabama, Ohio State, Tennessee and Southern Cal -- have won more games in their history than Georgia. But all of those programs, as well as several of the teams that sit just behind Georgia on the all-time wins list, have won at least four national titles.
Bulldogs fans were no doubt heartened Dec. 1 when quarterback Aaron Murray and freshman tailback Todd Gurley helped their team trade haymakers with Alabama before barely falling short in the SEC title game -- potentially a sign that Georgia is back among the back among the nation’s best programs.
Let’s hope the Mayan predictions were wrong so we can live long enough to see whether that’s the case, because it seems as if Richt’s staff has built a roster that is poised to elbow its way into the national-championship discussion again -- and soon. If we make it another year or two, maybe the Bulldogs can finally reach their sport's mountaintop again.