The day after Georgia squeaked by Georgia Tech to end a disappointing regular season in 2015, the Bulldogs parted ways with coach Mark Richt. It was a very difficult decision for Georgia to move on from someone who had been a vital part of their history over the previous 15 seasons. Richt did a very good job at Georgia, but the administration and the fanbase yearned for more.
Miami scooped up Richt in very short order after he was dumped by Georgia. Would a return to his alma mater be just what he needed?
At Georgia, Richt was a first-time head coach who came in and made an immediate impact. Through the years, he had many highs, but just like any coach he also made some key mistakes. After learning how to be a head coach at Georgia, Miami would be the first chance for him to try being a head coach for a second time.
After a 9-4 first season of highs (four- and five-game winning streaks) and lows (four-game losing streak), Richt has started off quickly after a 31-6 destruction of Duke last weekend.
During Richt’s time at Georgia, Miami went through three different head coaches and two interim coaches. Richt was hired to provide stability to the Hurricanes program. A big step in that direction would be a win next weekend over rival Florida State as the Seminoles currently hold a seven-game win streak in the rivalry.
In order to come out of the Mark Richt firing in a good light, Georgia needed a home run hire. The Dawgs picked Kirby Smart. After his debut season finished at 8-5, there were a lot of doubters in Bulldog nation.
So far in 2017, the Dawgs are one of the surprise teams in the nation. They went on the road and beat a tough Notre Dame team, they destroyed Mississippi State at home and this past weekend, they embarrassed Tennessee in Knoxville.
Georgia has been serviceable on offense with their true freshman quarterback but the real story has been Kirby and Mel Tucker’s defense. The front seven of the Georgia defense has been as good as anybody in the country so far this season. They rank 11th in the nation in rushing defense and are allowing opponents just 2.86 yards per carry (ypc). As a comparison, they held Notre Dame to 1.49 ypc. In all other games, the Irish have averaged 8.34 ypc. Georgia is also second in the nation in scoring defense. In the last eight quarters, against two SEC teams, they have given up a total of three points.
Kirby Smart has Georgia clicking on all cylinders. With Vanderbilt and Missouri on the horizon, Smart must now navigate waters that Richt struggled in. He must keep the team grounded against lesser opponents.
So far Georgia, Mark Richt, Miami and Kirby Smart have all been winners in the divorce between Richt and Georgia. The season is still young and many games will still be played in Smart and Richt’s tenures at their new homes but right now this appears to be a win-win for everybody involved.