Bob Barker Would be Proud; these Dawgs Have been Neutered
Last night’s game felt like the end of an era at Georgia. When Mark Richt was on his game, Georgia played at 3:30 on CBS and they were money on the road. Last night, Georgia just felt marginal. They were on Fox Sports South with Bob Rathbun (if I am reminded of the Hawks, that’s a sure sign that a team is marginal) and Tim Couch (reminder of the Donnan era) calling the game. They were in Starkville (official review from my brother: “the tailgating is fun, but otherwise, it sucks”) getting taken to the woodshed by the Vandy of the West. My least favorite of the Richt problems – struggles in the red zone – made an unwelcome return. The offense put up yards, but not points. The defense couldn’t get stops when they needed them. Altogether, it was one of those games where a less talented team outplays a more skilled opponent and you think to yourself “this talented team sure seems disinterested.”
The most uncomfortable reminder last night was the notion that Mark Richt might get Croom’d. Losses to Mississippi State were the end for Ron Zook in 2004, David Cutcliffe in 2005, and Mike Shula in 2006. When you lose to Mississippi State, especially as a power program, the inevitable conclusion is that you aren’t getting the most out of your talent. When you lose to the other Dawgs a week after Mississippi State lost by 22 at Baton Rouge (and no one is going to confuse the current LSU Tigers with their 2003 or 2007 versions), the impression hits even harder.
At this point, Georgia fans have to be hoping for 2007 all over again. Sadly, the Dawgs have been mostly disappointing since winning the 2005 SEC title. They lost four games in 2006, they lost three despite being preseason #1 in 2008, and they lost five last year. The exception was 2007, when Georgia went 11-2. That Georgia team started the season 4-2 and was a late fumble away from losing at Vandy to drop to 4-3. Georgia somehow survived that game and then was a different team after the bye, winning every game by double-digits en route to finishing #2 in the country. I remain unable to explain what happened to transform that Georgia team, but it does serve as a glimmer of hope that Mark Richt can turn a season around. And for his sake, he needs something like that. If Georgia continues on its current path and finishes 6-6 with losses to Florida, Auburn, and Georgia Tech (and Richt should be thanking his lucky stars that Tech doesn’t look good or else the ribbing that Georgia fans would take at the office would only increase their angst), then Mike Adams is likely to ask the question that ended up ending Jim Donnan’s reign in Athens: does anyone think that if we give him another year, we won’t be back in this same position next year, having this same discussion?
The Myth of the Irreplaceable Quarterback
As I was watching the highlights of Trey Burton’s big night in Gainesville, I was reminded of a point I’ve been wanting to make: there are plenty of guys who can run the Spread 'n' Shred properly. One criticism of the offense is that it is hard to find good quarterbacks who can run, read a defense, and throw with power and accuracy. There is a school of thought that Tim Tebow was a once-in-a-generation talent and that Florida would never replace him. There's no doubt that Tebow was a great college quarterback (his ability to convert in short yardage and not get hurt was especially impressive), but the idea that Florida couldn't find a new quarterback with something approaching his skill-set is silly. Similarly, some Michigan fans claimed in the summer that Rich Rodriguez's resume isn't that good if you remove the Pat White years and they claimed that White is a once-in-a-generation talent, but lo and behold, Rodriguez has found a better version. (Denard is already a better passer than White ever was.) If a coach is a good teacher (and Urban and Rich are both great offensive teachers), then there are plenty of guys who can run their offenses very well. The guys they pick just have to be able to run.
Cue up the DVR for Saturday night at Eight
Assuming that Stanford makes an appearance in the top ten of this week’s polls, we are going to have two top ten match-ups in the same timeslot on Saturday night. I’m not sure if I would have preferred that Stanford-Oregon stay in the 11:15 timeslot so I could focus on it (and then inevitably fall asleep by halftime) or get moved to the 8 p.m. slot so I can watch it in the commercials for Florida-Alabama. I’m wondering if the CBS crew are going to be able to resist taking shots at the game that has stolen a bit of the spotlight from what they must have been thinking of as their big game for months. I am looking forward to those two games especially because the contrast in styles will be entertaining. If the SEC game is played in the 24-17 range and the Pac Ten game is played in the 45-38 range, then the two leagues will live up to their stereotypes and there’ll be something for everyone. Plus, people in our part of the country will get to make dismissive “you can’t win a national title with no defense” statements on the following Sunday.
Speaking of Top Defenses…
Alabama did not look like the best team in the country on Saturday. Arkansas was the better team for the first three quarters. Bobby Petrino and Ryan Mallett had their way with Alabama’s young secondary. It was only last-ditch defending in the red zone that kept the Hogs from putting up a really big number in the first half. That said, Alabama survived because one of two things happened (or maybe both). Either: (1) Nick Saban and Kirby Smart figured out what Arkansas was doing in the passing game and gave the right instructions to their young secondary to turn off the spigot; or (2) Ryan Mallett lost his cool. If #1 is the explanation, then Alabama has turned the corner, survived the biggest threat to their crown, and are well-positioned to make a trip to Glendale. If #2 is the explanation, then Alabama are going to find themselves having to show the “heart of a champion” (HT: Rudy T) again and again this season, with the likely result being a loss or two that keeps them from repeating.
By the way, if the Heisman were decided in anything approaching a rational fashion, then Mark Ingram would be the clear favorite. How is it that when a team wins the national title and returns a ton of starters, they get to be #1 the next year until someone knocks them off their perch, but when a player wins the Heisman and then returns, we immediately look for someone else to win the award?
When Florida State joined the ACC...
I loved listening to Mike Hogwood interview John Swofford during halftime of the Virginia Tech-BC snoozefest. It reminded me of a Ron Popeil infomercial, only in this instance, the softball questions were lobbed to Ron as the Set It And Forget It burned down the kitchen.
The right honourable gentleman from Unincorporated DeKalb has the following queries:
How’s that return to a pro-style offense working out for you, Mack Brown?
Has any program won more games because of opposing kickers missing makeable kicks than Tennessee? Add UAB ‘09 to Florida ‘98, South Carolina ‘07, and a pile of games that my memory tell me exist, but I’m struggling for specifics. It’s good to see that Derek Dooley is taking baby steps to mimic that Phil Fulmer specialty: the bullshit win.
Did you ever think that LSU fans would openly pine for Jarrett Lee?
I’ve asked it before and I’ll ask it again: Auburn fans, if you could have only one, would you rather have Gene Chizik or Gus Malzahn as your head coach.
Mike Lupica, are you still sure that New York City is football nirvana?
Will the commenter who asked before the season why I didn’t have any Big East teams in my preseason top 25 raise his hand? (We could be headed for the worst Orange Bowl in history.)