- Edward Aschoff, ESPN Staff Writer
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Let's not sit here and act like 2014 wasn't a disappointment for the Georgia Bulldogs. There's a reason head coach Mark Richt sat so comfortably in a hotel meeting room in Hoover, Alabama, and delivered a confident decree about having the SEC East's best team.
And by all accounts, he was right ... well, for the most part. Talent-wise, no other team really should have touched the Bulldogs in a year in which the East was more of a punchline than anything else. But that's why they play the games, and Georgia didn't take advantage of the rest of the league's misfortunes, losing to South Carolina and Florida. Those teams finished the regular season with a combined record of 12-11, and Florida will have a new head coach in 2015. The regular season then culminated with a face-palming overtime loss to rival Georgia Tech.
The Bulldogs then watched as third-year SEC darling Missouri -- a team Georgia housed 34-0 on the road -- waltz into Atlanta and lost to Alabama.
So the SEC fell out of the Bulldogs' paws and the College Football Playoff became an afterthought once November got going. Nobody around the Georgia program will say that the 2014 season worked out the way it should have, and 9-3 isn't a record this program envisioned back in August.
But that doesn't mean that getting to 10 wins isn't important, and this team has a lot of pride to play for, especially with their chips down at the moment. A victory in the Belk Bowl over Louisville, which just happens to have old defensive coordinator Todd Grantham on its payroll, on Tuesday would be a big win for a program that has seen more positive days.
It's almost as if the Bulldogs are dealing with a handful of issues all at once. The season ended in tumultuous fashion, but then Georgia lost longtime offensive coordinator Mike Bobo, who is now the head coach at Colorado State. Offensive line coach Will Friend will also leave for CSU after the bowl game.
The Internet is also ablaze with rumors concerning the idea of defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt leaving after just one year. Oh, and dynamic freshman Isaiah McKenzie has been suspended for the bowl game.
In a season that featured the unceremonious end of stud running back Todd Gurley's career in Athens, getting to 10 wins would be considered a major accomplishment at this point. And it's an accomplishment that should be an important goal for the Bulldogs.
Getting to 10 wins would give Richt nine 10-win seasons during his 14-year tenure in Athens. It would also give the Dawgs at least 10 wins for the third time in the last four years. Ten wins is a feat that rivals Florida, South Carolina and Tennessee didn't even come close to sniffing this season. Ten wins would help in recruiting, and it would inject some momentum into this team heading into the offseason and spring.
There should be plenty of motivation on the Dawgs' sideline this week. Quarterback Hutson Mason, who had the tall task of replacing record-setting starter Aaron Murray, wants to erase some of the pain of that Georgia Tech loss with a win over a solid Louisville squad. There's no doubt that Pruitt would love to win the defensive battle over Grantham, who is no doubt licking his chops at the opportunity to face Georgia's offense. And then there's just the simple fact that Georgia is a program that should enter the 10-win realm because it's, well, Georgia.
Athletic director Greg McGarity has already talked about the importance of 10 wins for the Bulldogs and Richt. What's coming down the tracks in Athens is unknown, but this program needs some momentum going into 2015. There will be a new offensive coordinator and a new quarterback taking over. With enough solid talent coming back on both sides, the expectations will continue to be high, but entering 2015 with a more positive outlook internally wouldn't be so bad.
Talent-wise, no other team really should have touched the Bulldogs in a year in which the SEC East was weak.