Another season of dashed hopes for the Georgia football team has ended in an eerily similar fashion. For the second year in a row, the Bulldogs will play the vaunted Nebraska Cornhuskers on New Year’s Day. The 2014 version of the Gator Bowl should serve as a perfect venue for two teams derailed by injuries and close losses to vent their frustrations. It will also be another chance for Georgia’s quarterback of the future, Hutson Mason, to give Bulldogs’ fans something to look forward to next year. After a year of near misses and innumerable misfortune, a little hope could give the Bulldogs a great deal of momentum going into the upcoming season.
That’s partly why I’d rather talk about Georgia’s prospects for next season rather than its somewhat disappointing matchup with Nebraska. From an objective point of view, the future seems bright. Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall will be returning for another shot at becoming the best running back tandem in college football. Early progress reports for Hutson Mason are both positive and encouraging–he’s shown poise in the pocket beyond his years, an encouraging penchant for running a quick tempo offense, and the ability to win the close ones (see Ga. Tech.)
The defense should be revamped by what is already an outstanding recruiting class, with Lamont Gaillard looking to make an immediate impact at DT. And barring any unforeseen, decidedly shortsighted changes, Mark Richt should be back at the helm.
Of course, it seems that every year starts out with Georgia as national title hopefuls. It is part of the cross this team must bear as a member of the SEC and a perennial powerhouse. What may come off as a sense of entitlement should instead be viewed as an intense responsibility for the young men who play between the hedges–one that unforeseen circumstances often leave out of their control. With that in mind, there’s a chance that this year might end up just like the last–with injuries and botched field goals and freak plays taking the wind out of their sails in one fell swoop.
And of course, there’s a chance it doesn’t. Hutson Mason already has a better track record in big games than his truly unlucky yet extraordinarily talented predecessor, Aaron Murray. The Bulldogs’ offensive weaponry, when healthy, is one of the most formidable arsenals in the country. And perhaps most importantly, this is the SEC. Teams can make it all the way to the national championship following a 3-9 campaign (see War Damn Eagle).
Every year, new teams make a name for themselves under upstart coaches or talented dual-threat quarterbacks. And sometimes–just sometimes–the same old formula works. A coach known both for his faith and kindness, an offense full of talent and promise, and a ball-hawking, opportunistic defense can take a team all the way. Here’s to hoping 2014 is a year of formulaic good fortune for the Georgia Bulldogs.
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