For the first time in the history of the Misery Index, consideration was actually given to declaring a 127-way tie for the No. 1 spot this week. Because as we reach the halfway point of the season, it is beginning to dawn on the college football universe that the gap between Alabama and everybody else this season has only gotten bigger and that another championship for Nick Saban feels inevitable.
What’s the point anymore of investing such emotion and anger into a sport where the outcome is almost predetermined? Why should other schools spend so much money and time striving to catch up when it’s clear Saban can just kick it into another gear?
That feeling of hopelessness has inflicted so many of Alabama’s rivals over the years, to the point where they feel their only answer to rip it up and try to emulate the Saban machine. You could tell last season, for instance, that the Georgia administration had pretty much had enough of Mark Richt the moment their 38-10 loss to Alabama last season went final.
No matter what Richt did the rest of the way — and he finished 9-3, for the record — it was clear that Georgia could no longer legitimately claim to be a rival and that change was coming at the end of the season.
Of course, the folly in Georgia’s shame and anger over that Alabama game wasn’t necessarily in the decision to fire Richt. It was in the foolish haste to hire a Saban assistant and Georgia alum in Kirby Smart without a real coaching search.
If there’s anything that SEC schools should have learned the last decade, it’s that Saban’s greatness does not transfer by osmosis to his staff members. Until they actually occupy the head coach’s chair, each of them is a roll of the dice.
Georgia was not only willing to make that gamble, it did so aggressively and with great enthusiasm despite the reality that more experienced coaches were quite intrigued by the potential of the Georgia job. Georgia didn’t even so much as bother to pick up the phone and call Houston’s Tom Herman, for instance, even though his representatives had made it abundantly clear that there was interest.
But Georgia only had eyes for Smart, and now halfway into the season fans are wondering whether the Bulldogs have really made a change for the better. Because it's not just that Georgia is 4-3, it’s that Georgia is a bad 4-3 with a home loss to Vanderbilt already on Smart’s ledger.
Look, it’s too early to say whether Smart will be successful. He’s doing a good job recruiting, which is vitally important. But in a league where everybody recruits well, that’s not nearly enough to compete for conference titles.
It’s also true there’s only one Saban, and part of the problem with hiring one of his lieutenants is that their impulse is to build the same kind of structure and organization only without his gravitas or self-discipline or ability to communicate his message.
You just don’t know what you’re getting until they do it day in and day out, and so far the on-field evidence has returned very little at Georgia to indicate that Smart is a carbon copy.
And now, until proven otherwise, Georgia fans will have one thought in the back of their minds: Was handing a top-10 program to a Saban assistant with no head coaching experience a mistake?
(Disclaimer: This isn't a ranking of worst teams, worst losses or coaches whose jobs are in the most jeopardy. This is simply a measurement of a fan base's knee-jerk reaction to what they last saw. The way in which a team won or lost, expectations vis-à-vis program trajectory and traditional inferiority complex of fan base all factor into this ranking.)