Yet again, Mark Richt finds himself needing to win a crucial SEC game

Saturday evening as the Notre Dame/Michigan tilt prepares to get started, we will know who the perceived front-runner in the SEC East will be. Can you imagine living around Athens, Ga. if Georgia were to lose a second-straight game?

Georgia head coach Mark Richt is not on the hot seat, but he once again finds himself needing to win a critical game. His Bulldogs welcome South Carolina to Sanford Stadium Saturday in a game that will have a direct impact on the SEC Championship Game.

Richt’s team opened with a loss at eighth-ranked Clemson. It was a hard-fought game that experienced several lead changes. Understandably, the Bulldog program is probably a bit demoralized this week. Usually, it will take a top team several days to recover from an epic game, win or lose. But losing a big game sometimes takes even more time to get over. Unfortunately for Georgia, they have to get over it quickly.

In contrast, South Carolina won a very bland game against North Carolina on college football’s opening night, last Thursday. So while Georgia has had seven days to get over a loss in a very significant game, South Carolina has had nine days to recover from a game that didn’t even seem to be a challenge.

If Georgia loses Saturday, it will mirror the start Mark Richt’s team had two years ago, when it lost to Boise State and South Carolina to start the year. They proceeded to win 10 straight in 2011 and appear in the SEC Championship Game. The difference this year is that Georgia hosts LSU and travels to Auburn in addition to its regular SEC East opponents. That’s not get-well-soon recipe for a team look to run the table.

Mark Richt’s job security is high enough to get him to 2014, no matter what happens. Let’s not forget that Georgia was playing for an SEC Championship eight months ago this week. However, he can’t afford for his program to slip back toward mediocrity.

Richt is in an interesting position. Entering his 13th season in Athens, he is the dean of SEC head football coaches. He has also accumulated a very solid winning percentage (74.2), and done so in the SEC. But I don’t think there are too many Dawg fans who are bursting with enthusiasm at the thought of him coaching going forward. He’s had success; he just hasn’t won the big one.

I did not expect Georgia to be a true national title contender this year, but I also did not expect the Bulldogs to lose to Clemson. If they can’t turn things around with a win this weekend, I think things could go even further south this year. Richt’s job is not in jeopardy, but his team needs to win this game badly.

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