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Georgia Football

ESPN's Paul Finebaum Gets It Wrong About Expectations at UGA Being "Out of Control"

June 30, 2024

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ATHENS - ESPN's Paul Finebaum was sizing up UGA football and Kirby Smart in the expectation game going into the 2024 season when he had this to say: 

“The expectations are simply out of control.”

I’ll have the full quote down below, but I want to touch on what the expectations really are in Athens, and what they should be. Let’s establish a few things first…

First, Georgia is the betting favorite - by a decent margin - to win the national title heading into 2024 (+300). Ohio State is behind them (+420), which is where the Buckeyes should be. Then Texas (+800), Oregon (+850) and then Alabama (+1500). 

Roughly that means oddsmakers are setting themselves up to say Georgia is five times more likely to win the national title this season than Bama. Is that outlandish? I don’t think it is considering all of the change at Bama, and the lack of change in Athens. Same goes for Ohio State - new QB and offensive coordinator... Texas and Oregon? New conference. You get the point. 

Second, Georgia’s lost exactly two games in three seasons. In those 44 games, UGA football has won only three of them (2021 Clemson, 2022 Missouri, 2022 Ohio State, 2023 Auburn, 2023 Missouri and 2023 Tech by fewer than ten points). That’s pretty well total domination. Could we make the assumption that Georgia is not as dominate as they have been? Yes, you could certainly say that about the 2023 team (don’t tell the Noles that). Does that mean we should expect less domination in the future? Maybe. Perhpas that’s Paul’s point 

Third, there has been a lot of turnover around the Dawgs, but not with the Dawgs. Georgia returns its head coach, starting signal caller and both coordinators. A lot of the Dawgs’ foes on the national landscape - Ohio State, Michigan, Alabama and Washington - have a lot of turnover at those important spots. It should be said that Texas and Ole Miss, specifically, have all four returning like the Dawgs. 

Fourth, Nick Saban isn’t at Alabama any more - pretty simple to be honest. Only two coaches in college football have a win over Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs - UCF’s Gus Malzahn and Auburn’s Hugh Freeze. And Freeze got that win when he was the caoch at Ole Miss eight seasons ago. In addition when I say “a win” that means exactly one each.

All of the other coaches who have a win over Kirby (Jim McElwain, Paul Johnson, Derek Mason, Butch Jones, Ed Orgeron, Tom Herman, Will Muschamp, Dan Mullen are all no longer head coaches). Saban is responsible for 31% of Kirby’s all-time losses. Nick isn’t coaching any more if you’ve not yet heard. 

So, yeah, expectations are high. And they should be. 

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Kirby has asked for and been given everything he’s wanted or needed. The football program is a fortress unto itself - a multi-million dollar program that has recruited a consensus top-three class for years in a row. 

It is all there for Kirby. Does that mean he will win it all? Does that mean that expectations are out of control? 

The answer to both is no. 

That you should do something doesn’t mean you will. Ohio State will be a real challenge for the Dawgs. Games at Ole Miss, Texas and, of course, Alabama will be major tests for the best program in the country. Also, going undefeated for a fourth regular season in a row is asking a lot.

But expectations are not "simply out of control.” Georgia should win national titles in football. UGA didn’t for a long time, and that was failure on a lot of folks, but mainly a failure of imagination and what UGA can and should be doing. And it certainly should win under Kirby. Stating the obvious isn’t out of control. UGA fans didn’t go on a tree-killing spree or riot in the streets because Georgia didn’t win it all in 2023.

Expectations are that Georgia is the favorite to win it all this fall. That’s not outlandish in the least. 

Here’s the full quote from Paul Finebaum:

“(UGA) run(s) into the problem that a lot of programs, including Alabama, have had, which is that the expectations are simply out of control,” he said on McElroy and Cubelic in the Morning. “Let’s say they don’t win this year and maybe next year things go haywire and the quarterback gets hurt or somebody leaves. They have a very pedestrian 9-3 season then fans start to really get edgy. What happens then is the coach goes, ‘What else do I have to do? I’ve won two national championships.'”

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