HOOVER, Ala. – Nick Chubb does not say much, but he also doesn’t duck questions. So when he was asked this week if Georgia not winning the East this year would be a disappointment, he was direct.
“I mean it’s a disappointment whenever you don’t get to Atlanta. So I guess so,” Chubb said.
That makes four straight seasons of disappointment for the Bulldogs, and counting. It’s why Kirby Smart is now the coach, and not Mark Richt. And it’s why, above all else, the question of expectations kept coming up during Georgia’s appearance at SEC Media Days.
The SEC on Friday will announce the results of its annual preseason media poll. Georgia could be labeled the favorite to be the favorite, so to speak, in the SEC East. Florida, the two-time defending East champion, also could get the nod.
Really at this point, it’s not interesting that Georgia will have high expectations this season. It always does, especially in the weaker of the SEC’s two divisions. It’s how the Bulldogs handle them.
Smart has been careful not to set expectations. But he does acknowledge them, mentioning it near the end of his 1,365-word opening statement on Tuesday.
“As far as expectations, I know everybody wants to talk about it and ask questions about it,” Smart said. “For me it’s important that you understand as the head coach of the University of Georgia, I’m proud to be there, but we embrace those as the coaching staff, we embrace those as our players. When you come to the University of Georgia, the expectation is to win championships. That’s what we expect to do at the University of Georgia, and that’s the standard we’ll be held to.”
Georgia has been picked to win the East three of the past five years, but has only won it in one of those seasons, 2012. The other years as the favorites were 2013 and 2015.
Last year, Georgia was picked to finish third in the East, with 45 media members picking the Bulldogs to win the division in Smart’s first season. Tennessee was first with 225 votes, and Florida was next with 57. (Two wayward souls each gave first-place votes to Vanderbilt and South Carolina.)
The result: Georgia finished in a three-way tie for second place, with Tennessee and Kentucky also finishing behind Florida.
Two years ago, in what would prove to be Richt’s final season, Georgia was the runaway pick to win the East, earning 166 first-place votes, with Tennessee coming in second with 36 first-place votes.
“You know at Georgia that we expect to win each and every game that we go into, so we don’t really listen to all the hype and what-not,” junior linebacker Roquan Smith said. “But actually I’ve heard, the actual favorites haven’t won the SEC the last couple years. So we just have to be confident in ourselves and just come to work each and every day.”
At this point, it seems fair to say that winning the division for the first time in five years would at least mean a satisfying season.
“Things haven’t gone as our team planned the last couple years,” Chubb said. “So knowing it’s our last chance, for me personally a last chance to get it done, is going to motivate me to get it done.”