By the Numbers: Plenty of reasons for UGA fans to be excited about the Sugar Bowl
Georgia football fans can get their statistical fix each week with By the Numbers — a stats-based look at how UGA coach Kirby Smart is doing in his attempt to keep the Bulldogs on top of the SEC and continue the program’s pursuit of a national championship. Today’s edition of By the Numbers looks at the significance of Georgia’s Sugar Bowl matchup with Texas.
Let’s face it: The Sugar Bowl is a bit of a letdown for most Georgia fans given how close the Bulldogs came to returning to the College Football Playoff. UGA’s loss to Alabama will sting for a while, but hopefully DawgNation will soon come to realize that earning a trip to New Orleans to take on Texas is far more than just a consolation prize.
First of all, the Sugar Bowl is by any definition a major bowl. Over the years, the games included in that category have shifted, but the Sugar Bowl has always been one of them.
With that in mind, this will be the first time UGA’s made trips to so-called “major” bowls in consecutive seasons since the 1980-83 seasons when it went to three-straight Sugar Bowls and a Cotton Bowl.
That feat shouldn’t be disregarded. It’s another example of the transformation the program has undertaken since Kirby Smart became coach.
After UGA’s major bowl streak in the early 80s, the program went 19 seasons without making it back to the Sugar Bowl — the postseason destination traditionally awarded to the SEC champion.
Former coach Mark Richt led the Bulldogs to three Sugar Bowls — in 2002, 2005 and 2007. However, his teams averaged more than three losses per season in each of the years following the Sugar Bowl appearance.
Smart’s consistency over the last two years has set a new standard for the program.
Another intriguing facet of the upcoming Sugar Bowl is the matchup with Texas, one of the most well-known programs in the sport.
According to Winsipedia, Texas has the seventh-highest all-time winning percentage. This will be UGA’s fifth game in the last two seasons against teams in the top 10 of all-time winning percentage. UGA — which is 13th — has played Notre Dame, Oklahoma and twice against Alabama over that span.
UGA’s Sugar Bowl date with the Longhorns will also end a 34-year drought of games against Texas — which it last played in the 1984 Cotton Bowl.
The Bulldogs’ longest-remaining stretches without playing all-time top 10 programs will then be: 26 years since playing Ohio State, 53 years since playing Michigan and 58 years since playing USC.
Of course, the significance of UGA vs. Texas isn’t all about the past.
The game could also make a major statement about Georgia’s future too. The last time the Bulldogs played in the Sugar Bowl it beat Hawaii 41-10 in 2008. UGA returned most of its major contributors for the following season and was rewarded with a preseason No. 1 ranking.
Georgia didn’t handle the hype of that designation particularly well then, but as recent history indicates: Smart has made the Bulldogs a completely different program.
Given the talent UGA returns for 2019, the Sugar Bowl could once again prove to be a springboard to a lofty preseason ranking for Georgia next season, and it could set in motion a series of events that lead to another major postseason destination as well.
It could use the momentum of the Sugar Bowl to propel the program back into the Playoff and a long way away from any kind of bowl that could be described as a “letdown.”