Before the season began, the MrSEC.com pick for SEC champion was Georgia. We suspected Alabama was due for a bad break somewhere along the line (it hasn’t happened yet and the Tide shouldn’t be truly tested again until November). We tabbed UGA for its offense in an age when offenses have been taking over college football. OK, so we were right on that part. But another part of our rationale was the fact that Georgia — unlike Alabama — was due for some good luck. Mark Richt was due for a few Les Miles-type breaks.
At this juncture, Richt — a man so well-known for his Christian faith — must feel like Job. Disasters are striking at an alarming rate. One key player after another has been felled by injury. Three stars have been lost to season-enders already.
* The Dawgs’ #1 receiver, Malcolm Mitchell, went down at Clemson in the season-opener. Gone for the year.
* Todd Gurley — UGA’s top running back — was slowed by a quad injury against Clemson. He missed the second half against LSU due to a badly sprained ankle. He missed Saturday’s game with Tennessee and he’s 50/50 to play against Missouri this week with that same ankle injury.
* The Bulldogs lost their #2 rusher when Keith Marshall’s knee buckled in Knoxville Saturday. He’s done for the year.
* So is receiver Justin Scott-Wesley. He, too, blew out a knee versus Tennessee.
* Fellow receiver Michael Bennett — who missed last season with a bum knee — will have arthroscopic surgery this week to determine if/when he can return from a new knee injury suffered on Saturday. That’s three receivers down (possibly for the count) already.
* And don’t expect juco receiver Jonathan Rumph to take anyone’s place. He hasn’t played this season due to a hamstring injury and Richt says he is “very doubtful” for this week’s Missouri game.
That’s just the offense.
* Starting safety Tray Matthews missed the Tennessee game with a hamstring issue, the second time since fall camp that he’s been saddled with a bad hammy. He’s expected to return against Missouri, but how long before he tweaks the same muscle again?
* Fellow safety Connor Norman missed the Tennessee game but could return from a concussion this week versus Mizzou.
* And speaking of concussions, Georgia punter Collin Barber suffered a concussion of his own against the Vols and his availability this week is questionable as well.
So, yeah… Job. But Richt, obviously, is focused foremost on the young men he’s lost:
“It’s sad for our players. You see them work so hard and get into position to play for Georgia and realized their dreams of wanting to play in big games like that and try to win championships and all that. There is so much work put in and they play so hard for you and work and practice and all that. When you want to play like that and it’s taken away from you, it’s just very heartbreaking. I don’t know what hurts more, the pain of the injury or knowing you’re not going to get to play anymore for a while. I just feel bad for them.”
Georgia’s depth chart — especially on its once scary offense — is looking darn well decimated. Some are even suggesting that the season now rides on a young defense that so far has struggled.
The Bulldogs have half a season to play starting with #25 Missouri on Saturday. If they manage to hold on to their lead in the SEC East it will be a major credit to the team’s depth and past recruiting. On paper, the best offense in the SEC is no longer tops in the league. Especially when it comes to Aaron Murray’s receiving targets.
Perhaps the UGA band should shelve Glory, Glory To Old Georgia for a while and pick up the tune below. ‘Cause it’s apparent their good guy coach was indeed…