Once again the SEC East is the weaker of the two divisions in the SEC, and for the second consecutive year the Florida Gators are the champions of the East.
That’s what Mark Richt couldn’t do.
To Richt’s credit, he went 145-51 in his 15 years as the head coach at Georgia, including an 83-37 conference record, but it was his inability to win the SEC East on a consistent basis that got him fired in Athens.
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In 2013, Georgia started 4-1 with wins over South Carolina and LSU, looking to be on their way to a third straight SEC championship.
But the injury bug hit Athens hard that year, losing Todd Gurley for a few games and season-ending injuries to Malcolm Mitchell, Keith Marshall, Michael Bennett, and Justin Scott-Wesley.
But unfortunately, injuries happen to everyone, and that wasn’t a good enough reason for Georgia to collapse the way they did. They went 4-4 down the stretch and watched Missouri win the East in just their second year in the conference.
2014 was the reason Richt was fired. While there was a large part of the fan base that gave Richt a pass for the injury-plagued 2013 season, there was another large chunk of the fan base that wanted him gone after 2010 and still hadn’t changed their minds.
Georgia had a few good wins that season. They blew out Clemson 45-21 in the opener, shut out Missouri on the road 34-0, and dominated a dynamic Auburn offense 34-7.
But the losses hurt.
Against South Carolina there was the infamous decision to not give the ball to Todd Gurley on first and goal from the 4-yard line late in the game. Marshall Morgan eventually missed a 28-yard field goal and the Dawgs lost 38-35 to South Carolina for third time in four years.
The 38-20 loss to Florida was mind-boggling. The Gators went 7-5 that season and somehow managed to run for 418 yards and five touchdown on the Dawgs, despite Treon Harris completing just three passes.
Then in the season finale the Dawgs lost to Georgia Tech 30-24 in overtime, but what most fans remember is Richt’s decision to squib kick in the game’s final seconds, which allowed Tech to get in position for a 53-yard field goal at the end of regulation.
In typical Richt-fashion, the Dawgs finshed 10-3 in 2014, but once again they were sitting at home watching Missouri play in the SEC Championship in the first weekend of December.
Mandatory Credit: Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
In 2015, Georgia might’ve been the worst 10-win team in the history of college football. In fact, they were the only team from a power conference to win 10 games and not be ranked in the top 25.
The only win Georgia had over an FBS team with a winning record was their 23-17 overtime victory over Georgia Southern.
The Dawgs lost to the only three ranked teams they played, and were embarrassed by Alabama and Florida. Richt’s decision to start Faton Bauta in the loss to Florida was the final straw in what was a frustrating final couple years in Athens.
In 2015 and 2016 the Florida Gators have been a flawed team in an even more flawed SEC East.
The Gators rank 13th in the SEC in total offense and 11th in the SEC in points per game.
But while they might not play a pretty brand of football, they’ve still found a way to win enough games to put them in Atlanta, which is more than can be said for Richt.