ATHENS — How will the 2017 Georgia football team be remembered? That’s what we are going to address today.
Limited on time, I, in turn, would like to pass on that question to you. I’ll share my thoughts, but I really think it’s the fans that define such things.
Specifically, that question was posed to me as a comparison to the 1982 Georgia Bulldogs with the assertion, will it be overlooked like the 1982 team?
That leads to a couple of discussions, starting with how that 1982 team is remembered. I don’t know that the 1982 Bulldogs of Herschel Walker, Terry Hoage, Freddie Gilbert and Kevin Butler are overlooked, per se. I believe they are largely forgotten about, as tends to happen over the course of time for any team that doesn’t win it all.
But that was a great team, for sure. It went 11-1, lost a heartbreaker to Penn State 27-23 in the Sugar Bowl and won a third straight SEC championship. I think it has suffered some historically just because the fan base had become somewhat jaded to success at that point and was disappointed to come up short again for the national championship. But there is no denying that team belongs among the greats in Georgia history.
And so does the 2017 squad. This was a totally different season. It was a special year. I’d equate along the lines of the 2002 season, which was also magical and unexpected. That 1982 team was expected to contend for the national championship, never mind the SEC title. Nobody expected anything of the sort for the 2017 team.
And magical is the only way to describe the ride the Bulldogs took us on last season. There was excited anticipation, mainly because of that historic date with Notre Dame in Week 2. And that 20-19 victory set the tone for everything thereafter. Not only did Georgia wrest away the hard-fought victory in the most dramatic of fashions, but the Bulldogs fan base also made a statement by completely taking over Notre Dame Stadium, in spirit if not in number.
There was also a signature play cast there, with Terry Godwin making what was termed the play of the year with his miraculous one-handed touchdown catch. You may recall David Pollack making a similar, jaw-dropping play in Week 2 against South Carolina in 2002, with his one-handed deflection/interception for a touchdown in a 13-7 victory. Plays like that can define a season.
Then there was Georgia’s SEC Championship Game win over Auburn and incredible double-overtime victory over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl. I’m on record stating that game goes down to this point as the greatest I’ve personally witnessed in 32 years of covering college football.
— Seth Emerson (@SethWEmerson) January 2, 2018
And that’s what sets this season and this team apart from so many other great ones of the past. When else are we going to see the Bulldogs play in South Bend, Ind., and Pasadena and in Atlanta twice? When else might we see Georgia avenge five defeats with five victories? Has there been another time where 2 blocked field goals meant so much?
Yes, knocking down that last pass and beating Alabama for the national championship probably would’ve made 2017 the greatest season ever. But even without the accomplishment of a national title, I see 2017 as an unforgettable season for Georgia.
I’m old enough to remember the 1980 season, but I wasn’t there to witness it every step of the way the way as I was for this one. I know there are a lot of you out there who followed both of these seasons up close and personal. Does the lack of a national championship taint it for you in any way?
For me, it was perfect in its own way.