Todd Gurley Suspended. Is Georgia Done? Or Could they Channel 1998 Tennessee?


In 1998, the Tennessee Volunteers were replacing Peyton Manning. In 2014, the Georgia Bulldogs were replacing Aaron Murray. Both quarterbacks were four-year starters who may not have won a national championship but are revered by their schools. Their replacements, Tee Martin and Hutson Mason respectively, had been in the program for at least two years each.

In 1998, Tennessee was going to lean on the legs of a superstar All-American running back in Jamal Lewis. In 2014 Georgia has been leaning on the legs of superstar-everything running back Todd Gurley.

In 1998, after four games, Martin had looked terrible at quarterback, but the Vols were still in the national title picture. Then Lewis was lost for the year. The season seemed lost, but Martin turned into a superstar after that and led the Vols to the national title.

In 2014, after five games, Mason has looked terrible at quarterback. Now, with Todd Gurley suspended indefinitely due to possible NCAA violations detailed here, the season is up to him. Can he channel the 1998 Tennessee Volunteers?

Up to this point, the outlook for those two teams are very similar. Georgia does have a loss already while Tennessee went undefeated in 1998, but they are still in the national title picture. And both Tennessee and Georgia, had to play a ranked team on the road after they lost their star.

If you need any more proof of an omen that Georgia could be the Tennessee of 1998, then remember one thing: Tennessee’s first game without Lewis was at Georgia.

That makes these similarities eerie.

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On paper, the Georgia Bulldogs are in trouble. They were already hanging by a thread in the national title picture. Barely beating Tennessee (completely different from the 1998 Vols) and losing to South Carolina was not a great look, but they were still in the picture.

With Gurley suspended, that might not be the case.

The all-everything running back has been the best player in college football so far. He single-handedly carried Georgia to their victories over Tennessee and Clemson at the start of the year. How can they win without him?

Well, for one reason. As Martin showed in 1998, when you keep the harness on an inexperienced quarterback, he may never get into a rhythm. Tennessee was forced to turn Martin loose and let him play due to Lewis’s injury, and after that they began blowing people out.

Mark Richt, who has many similarities to Phil Fulmer, by the way, needs to do that at Georgia. It’s time to turn Mason loose. He has looked terrible this year, to be fair. But if you let him fling the football around, maybe he’ll get into a rhythm. Maybe, just maybe, they’ll realize they can win without Gurley.

Yes, they tried to put the ball in Mason’s hands to beat South Carolina and he failed. But he played well up to that last drive in the game. Maybe, if Richt turns to him, he’ll be able to start taking control of this team. The guy was, after all, highly recruited out of high school. After four years in a program, he can’t be this bad. Can he?

There’s only one way to truly find out. Missouri is a very tough team to try to start doing this against, but Georgia doesn’t have a choice.

Tennessee didn’t have a choice going into Athens in 1998 when the Dawgs were undefeated. But they closed their eyes, turned to Martin, and he led them to a blowout victory. Maybe Mason can do the same for Georgia.

It should at least be noted, though, that Travis Henry and Travis Stephens were Jamal Lewis’s back-ups. So Martin didn’t have it all on him.