Category Archives: Georgia Football

I like driving in my truck

No posts in a long time.  Been lots of changes in my life this year, but this is one week that I feel like crawling out of the cave and sharing a few thoughts.  We’ll start of the week by kicking it up to Early.

The BCS, Crystal Footballs, and Mark Richt

Earlier today, I responded to this comment by commenter PuffDawg over at the esteemed Senator’s blog about how I’ve grown to hate my own fanbase more and more as each day passes.  Whether it’s the inability to experience any semblance of joy in being a Dawg fan or the sense of entitlement regarding the overall status of our program that many Dawg fans seem to hold (considering our trophy case ain’t exactly Bama’s, this amuses me to no end) I’ve really begun to loathe a portion of the fanbase.

After my original comment, I was going to respond to commenter Charles, but quickly realized that my response was growing so lengthy that it would take away from the legitimate conversation at the Senator’s site.  As such, I’ve decided to post my response to Charles below so I don’t take up too much window space over there.  Apologies ahead for some of the language I use as this is something I feel strongly about and feel that it is necessary to get my point across.  I’d also like to clarify that while the tone of this post will take a defensive stance of Mark Richt as the UGA head coach, it is not an endorsement in any sense.  It’s merely my perspective that those who use the lack of a crystal football as an argument to run him out-of-town are evaluating the situation incorrectly and how the BCS has caused this problem.  Without further ado, here goes:

In my opinion, the total obsession with the national title these days is one of the unfortunate consequences of the BCS.  The BCS took what was a highly regional sport and made a national success.  In doing so, it has brought many millions of dollars to its members schools as well as the non-AQ schools that otherwise they never would have accessed.  For that reason, the BCS has been a highly successful endeavor for the conferences.  Unfortunately, along with the many millions of dollars, the sport has now become a national phenomenon and as such attracted the casual fan that couldn’t give two shits about the things that attracted most of us to college football in the beginning.  All they care about is whether their adopted school is competing for national titles or not and see the two team playoff currently held in the BCS as an atrocity because it only allows those two teams to have a post-season chance at the ultimate glory.

It’s the fans like these that want Mark Richt run out on a rail because he hasn’t delivered a crystal football to Athens during his tenure.  I honestly can say that I sympathize with these folks to an extent as I have a nagging feeling deep down that as long as Mark Richt is the head coach in Athens, Georgia football will always be a just above average program with an occasional 2002 or 2007 sprinkled in.  I just don’t believe he’s on the level of  a Nick Saban as a head coach (honestly, who is?) nor will he use the same tactics (you can argue the ethics of Saban’s tactics however you want, that’s not the point of this post) regarding roster management and whatnot that is required to keep up with him.

My main question to these types of fans is this: Why does the God-damned crystal football have to matter so much?  There are 120+ fucking teams in the highest division of college football and only one can win it every year.  The BCS has caused us to place so much importance on that crystal football that requires many moving parts to achieve, many of which are out of the control of the head coach of the football program.  Here’s my list of things that are most important to ME when evaluating the head football  coach at my alma mater:

  1. Don’t cheapen my degrees in any shape, manner, or form.
  2. Consistently contend for the division, and inherently, the conference championship.
  3. Consistently defeat our biggest rivals.
  4. Seriously, you better fucking not cheapen my degrees.

On numbers 1 and 4, there can be no doubt.  We know what the man is all about and he’s never going to do anything that will bring tarnish to my alma mater’s academic reputation (This is where the obligatory “Jim Harrick can go fuck himself” comment goes).

Numbers 2 and 3 are the only two variables that a head coach can control in the grand scheme of whether he is or isn’t competing for a national championship.  I’d say Coach Richt is doing a pretty bang-up job on #2.  The 4 trips to Atlanta in his tenure speaks for itself and he’s won 2 of those times.  While undoubtedly it was a low period with zero trips from 2006-2010, Coach Richt has finished no worse than second in the East Division 7 of his 11 years on campus.  Asides from the series with Florida (look at the rest of the East Division against Florida during his tenure and you’ll see a similar record), his record against anybody that could be considered a major rival (yes, that even includes those silly Gamecock fans) is pretty immaculate.  He has a winning record against every school in the SEC sans Florida and LSU (3-4).

I’m actually okay with arguing that the series record against Florida is a fireable offense, but you also have to acknowledge that his 7-4, 11-1, 7-4, 7-4 records against Auburn, Georgia Tech, Tennessee, and South Carolina are also arguments that he’s getting it done against the major rivals.

My perspective is that the lack of crystal football is a warped way to evaluate Mark Richt’s tenure in Athens and whether it should continue.  I’ve laid out some legitimate metrics which I think his tenure should be measured on and one could argue that he’s done pretty well based on those.  However, I also realize that there are some that are just tired of the guy and after 11 years it’s unrealistic to expect everybody to still be in love with the guy.

Ultimately, I think Joe Bulldog would make a stronger argument about why Mark Richt  should be let go by focusing on things like letting fixable problems like defense and special teams lapse to the point where they began to cost games before fixes were implemented rather than the lack of crystal footballs in Butts-Mehre.  The more I see the “lack of crystal football” argument levied against Mark Richt, the more I echo the sentiments of the Wake Forest blogger (h/t: Senator) and how the aspects of college football that we all originally loved about it are being killed because of this laser focus on the crystal football instead of things like conference championships and the records against rivals.  We’re seeing it everyday in Athens as the University and the Athletic Department go out of their way to shit on season ticket holders with crap-tastic home schedules such as this year just because there’s a better chance of getting in the eventual playoff with that model.  Anyways, that’s just me $0.02.  YMMV, of course.

A Few Thoughts in Early March

I’ve really got to get better at this posting regularly around here thing. However, I changed jobs at the beginning of the new year and now have some more time to contribute to the cause around here. Hopefully I’ll be active enough to contribute material that is meaningful to discussion around UGA topics and college football in general. With all that said, here are a few things just bouncing around my head on this Monday morning:

  • Perhaps I’ll save the longer rant on this for another post at a later time, but who in their right mind believes that a playoff without the team that stomped the ever-living crap out of LSU on January 9th (since it seems señor Sam the Eagle and Larry Scott believe that the soon-to-be Plus One should be comprised only of conference champs) would legitimately be considered an effort at crowning the best team in college football?
  • Following up on my first point above. Dude…DUDE…You wrote an entire damned book espousing the idea that a playoff system had to include conference champions as it “maintained the integrity and relevancy of the regular season”. Now you say that a playoff system that includes conference champions over a non-conference champion such as Alabama would make the regular season less relevant? Consistency, thy name is not Dan Wetzel (h/t: Senator).
  • I particularly like the news coming out of Athens regarding Isaiah Crowell from his teammates, and I agree pretty strongly with these words from Artie Lynch:

“The person I’ve been most impressed with — and the person who I think has been wrongly scrutinized the whole year — was Isaiah,” Lynch said. “You ask these high expectations out of a kid who’s 18 years old, it’s such a different game than high school. Let’s face it, he had instant success and people were so demanding of him to be the savior, this idea of `Oh, the next Herschel.’ That was just unfairly [placed on] him. . . .

  • We’ll never know the extent of Crowell’s ankle injury and how much it truly hurt him to try to tough it out. I certainly struggled adjusting to the college life my first semester away from home and I never had to endure everything I did being scrutinized by a million different people. I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been for him. I personally believe his ankle never really was healthy the last half of the season last year and we’ll see a world of difference this fall after a full offseason in the conditioning program and having endured a full season playing big boy football. I expect we’ll see big things from him next season.
  • Losing the Auburn game annually would probably be enough to make me stop caring about college football the same way I don’t really have a passionate interest in the NFL and college basketball anymore. I suppose baseball could get me through the year, but with the new playoff format I’m already having my doubts. Basically, don’t screw this up for us SEC president’s and AD’s. Please step back from seeing all the $$’s in your eyes and try to remember what made your commodity so valuable in the first place. I assure you it has nothing to do with entering the Dallas and St. Louis TV markets.
  • On that same note, the 9 game conference schedule is going to happen at some point. The coaches can go suck on an egg and stop whining about it. They sound just like the Jim Boeheim’s of the world who want the NCAA tournament to expand to 128 teams so that there is little to no chance they would ever miss it ensuring perpetual job security.

One additional thought

Georgia scored more points against Auburn and held them to less points than both LSU and Alabama.  While I’m not expecting a Georgia win next week, there’s a chance.

So you're telling me there's a chance!

It’s been awhile

First time that Georgia has defeated Tennessee, Florida, Auburn, and Tech since 1981.  Great job this year by Mark Richt, despite the early misgivings.

Quick Thought

I know it’s been a weird season and I haven’t posted much since the Boise game.  However, here’s some food for thought:

Andrew Luck: 2,937 passing yards, 31 TD’s, 8 INT’s

Aaron Murray: 2,698 passing yards, 32 TD’s, 10 INT’s

Who’s really the Heisman contender here?  I ain’t sayin’, I’m just sayin’…

Talking With the Enemy: 2011 South Carolina Version

Similar to last year, Gamecock Man from the great South Carolina blog, Garnet and Black Attack, has been kind enough to exchange a few questions and answers with me related to the game.  Check out my responses to his questions here.

1. Was the rough showing against East Carolina to start the game just early game jitters or did it expose some chinks in the South Carolina armor?  I know East Carolina piled up its lead based on turnovers, but the same could be said for South Carolina’s comeback being largely aided by East Carolina turnovers.  Did the first game performance take some wind out of the sails of the South Carolina fans or are you guys just brushing it off and still expecting big things this year?

It both did and didn’t expose weaknesses in Carolina’s armor. A lot of our problems could be chalked up to early game jitters. The turnovers were all fumbles, most of them from players who either aren’t likely to fumble often (Marcus Lattimore) or players who won’t get many special-teams touches from here on out (Stephon Gilmore, Kenny Miles). If they had been Stephen Garcia interceptions, it would be a different story, but I don’t think these turnovers were very predictive of what’s going to happen this year for Carolina.

Of course, you could say that our comeback was just as much a product of turnovers as our early deficit, but I’m not sure that really says much about how this game played out as most people think. At the end of the day, Carolina won by almost three TDs. That’s right about what Vegas thought would happen. People look at the score and the early deficit and say Carolina struggled, but I’m not sure they’d be saying that if Carolina had marched to a more conventional 19-point victory. I kind of see it as being that the TOs made the game more interesting than it might otherwise have been, but at the end of the day they evened out and the scoreboard reflected the difference between the two teams.

You also have to note that the turnovers weren’t the only anomaly; Shaw starting was the other. Does the first quarter go as badly with Garcia under center? Probably not.

All of this said, I do think Carolina showed some chinks, particularly in the secondary. East Carolina moved the ball well through the air at times, both due to poor schematics from the coaches and our players’–particularly Stephon Gilmore’s–inability to make key plays. Carolina has some depth returning in the secondary this weekend, but I still think UGA has the potential to hurt Carolina with Aaron Murray’s arm.

2. There’s been lots of sentiment that if you lined up the talent that South Carolina has this year in a Florida or Texas uniform, they’d be widely considered a top five team.  Do you believe that South Carolina is being underrated this year (if being a pre-season top 15 team is really grounds to be underrated) or the perception is accurate that they are good, but largely aided by the fact that the traditional three big powers in their division all seem to be in a down cycle right now?

South Carolina’s talent level has obviously risen a good bit since Spurrier arrived. Never before has South Carolina had quite this many All-American and All-SEC-type players. That said, I still think South Carolina’s depth is a bit worse than your Oklahoma’s, Alabama’s, etc. Carolina is a few OL and DB injuries away from having serious problems. However, the top-level talent is as good as anyone in the nation. I really don’t think that anyone has as good of a RB-WR combo as Lattimore and Alshon Jeffery. And the defensive line is chock full of NFL talent.

As far as the East being on a down cycle, I certainly think the East being down had something to do with Carolina’s East title. Can you imagine that Carolina team winning the East in one of the years that Florida won the national title? Probably not. That said, Carolina won the games it had to, and it did beat a top-ranked Alabama team. It’s not like last year’s Carolina team was comparable to past 6-6 and 7-5 Carolina outfits. It was certainly an improved team.

As far as the East this year goes, I’ll wait until the end of the season to comment.

3. Jadeveon Clowney.  We’ve all seen the high school videos of him looking like an NFL player in a pee wee football league.  How do you feel about his performance in the East Carolina game and how do you think he will be utilized against the Dawgs?

He looked fantastic in the ECU game. He was all over the field, got at the QB a few times, and made some nice plays tackling runners and receivers. He did overpursue a couple of times, showing some freshman inexperience. Those mistakes may take some time to weed out. However, other than that he looked very good. Granted, that was against a bad ECU offensive line, but I expect an impact from him this year, including his first career sack against UGA. It’s hard to say whether he’ll be on the field quite as much this weekend, though. Against ECU, he played almost every significant down, but we were running a small, coverage-oriented defensive line because ECU never runs the ball and likes the short pass. That won’t be the case against Georgia, and I expect that–other than on obvious passing downs–you’ll see Clowney rotate with Devin Taylor and Melvin Ingram (Ingram played DT against ECU but is likely to play more DE against UGA) more so than be on the field with both of them at the same time.

4. To echo your question to me; if you had to take one player from Georgia’s roster, who would it be and why?

I’d go with Brandon Boykin. We could use a player like him at CB, and obviously he’s a playmaker in other phases of the game, too. Can’t have enough players like him.

Plan B might be Drew Butler. Seriously. Carolina may struggle punting this year, so we could use Butler.

5.  What will it take for Georgia to pull the upset (that’s right, Vegas has South Carolina as a three point favorite – never thought I’d ever live to see a South Carolina team favored in Sanford Stadium) this Saturday?  Should Mark Richt start polishing up his resume or do you think the man will prove us all wrong and show that Georgia just ran into a buzzsaw last week against Boise State?

I think the key for Georgia in this game is improved offensive line play. Based on the performance against Boise, I really, really like the way our DL matches up against your OL, and if Crowell can’t find room to run and particularly if Clowney, Taylor, and Ingram are all over Murray on every pass, this game will likely be over quickly. However, if UGA’s OL play improves and gives Murray some room to work, I think UGA can gain some yards in the air. Defensively, UGA needs to force turnovers. USC has lots of offensive talent this year and should be able to move the ball well, but the potential for forcing some TOs is always there with Garcia at QB.

In sum, I think the matchups favor Carolina in this game, even more than the line indicates. I’ll go ahead and say that if Richt loses this game, he’s probably done. He and his staff screwed the pooch on the Boise game. To say nothing of winning, UGA should have at least been able to play closely with Boise if the Dawgs are really a Top-25 team. Instead, UGA got ran off the field more or less as soundly as many of Boise’s more respectable conference opponents. That falls on the coaching staff; there’s no excuse for such underwhelming play from a program with such obvious advantages. There’s still time to right the ship if Richt can rally the troops this weekend, but if he doesn’t do it now, he’ll likely need to do something drastic, like win out, to save his job. And if he loses this game, I doubt his team will be able to go on that kind of run.

Much thanks again to Gamecock Man for taking the time to exchange Q&A’s with me.

Post-mortem/Time to move on

I don’t want to beat a dead horse (no pun intended) as this thing has been covered pretty much everywhere in the Dawg-o-sphere. I’m not here to break down the multiple failures. We all know what we saw on Saturday night and it wasn’t pretty. Despite all the happy talk of changes in S&C, cancers being rooted out of the team, and a head coach that was now fully devoted to the game of football after the AD took a lot of responsibilities of his shoulders, we saw a team that displayed all the bad habits that have been so prevalent in the last two years in Athens that looked like nothing had changed from the awfulness that was 2010.

At this point, I’m not screaming for anybody’s heads to roll or anything like that, but I’ve finally been pushed to the point that I don’t have the faith anymore in the current regime in Athens to succeed and that this boat of bad habits is just too dang big for them to turn around. They very may well surprise me and go on a run this year that we all hoped for, but for the first time since Mark Richt was announced as the head coach at Georgia in December of 2000 I don’t have any confidence that it will happen.

With all that said, we’ve got a huge game coming up this Saturday that will go a long ways to determining whether last week was merely a blip on the radar and Boise is truly a buzzsaw that we were unfortunate to run into or if it was truly the beginning of the last season in the Mark Richt era. Despite the negativity I’ve displayed openly and internally the past week, I will be in Sanford Stadium on Saturday wearing my red and black and screaming my head off for the young men that represent my alma mater out there. No matter how bad it’s been or will get, that will never change.

Now, for five things I liked and disliked about the game last week:

I liked

  1. Malcolm Mitchell – That kid is a talent.  I hope we figure out a way to get him the ball more.
  2. I-formation – Only successful drive of the night was run from this formation and we looked comfortable in it.
  3. Orson Charles – Same comment as Mitchell above.  Have got to figure out a way to get the ball in his hands as much as possible.
  4. Run defense – Good job by Grantham to scheme to effectively shut down Boise’s running game.  We’re going to need that this weekend.
  5. Bradon Boykin – Most explosive guy in the open field at UGA since Fred Gibson.

What I didn’t like

  1. O-line – Looked like they were on roller skates all night.  Not sure if there’s going to be a quick fix to this thing outside of developing and recruiting some young talent or scouring the JUCO ranks for some ready to play guys.
  2. Lack of offensive identity – I’m not even sure how to begin on this one.  It just looks like Bobo tries too hard to outsmart everybody else and all that he ends up doing in the end is outsmarting himself and his players.  If we want any chance for success he’s going to have to be able to recognize early on in games what is and isn’t working and make sure to focus on the former.  Whether I think he’s capable of doing that is  a half hour conversation that would only make me mad.
  3. Fans booing and blasting players in social media – All the Georgia fans that booed and then got behind their computers to blast players on Twitter and Facebook can go fornicate themselves with a rusty nail.  We don’t want or need you in our fanbase.
  4. Crossing patterns – For the health of my heart, I’d really appreciate it if the UGA defense would defend the middle of the field this weekend.  It’s a strategy that has not been seen in Athens since sometime mid-2005.
  5. ‘Tree going down – ILB and OL are the two areas we could least afford an injury and we got hit hard by losing Alec Ogletree for half the season.

More to come on the South Carolina game later today and tomorrow.

Final Thoughts

No posts for awhile, but these are my final thoughts heading into the Boise game tomorrow evening.

1. Is the front seven as improved as we’ve been lead to believe?

If so, this could be exactly what we’re looking for in being able to contain Kellen Moore and Doug Martin.

2. Can the Dawgs handle a quick sucker punch and mount a comeback?

This is the biggest question facing this team, in my opinion. Boise likes to play the Indianapolis Colts game of shock and awe at the beginning of a game and putting a team behind. This makes the opponent one dimensional (i.e. lots of passes) and allows their defense to pin its ears back and come after the QB. Can Georgia withstand an early onslaught and make a comeback?

3. What is the psyche of this team?

After the last few years, the only thing this team has going for it is a culture of losing. Has this team shed that mentality or will it tuck tail if the going gets tough early on?

I’d like to believe this team can hang with Boise State, but right now there are just too many questions for me to honestly answer this. Right now, I believe we won’t know what the 2011 version of the Georgia Bulldogs are all about until halftime of this first game. I’m firmly in the “wait and see” camp when it comes to this team.

My prediction:

UGA 31, Boise 27.

I don’t know why I feel this way, but whoever scores 30 first is going to win this game.

Where do we go from here

By my calculations, it’s been nearly a full year since I last posted when Gamecock Man at Garnet and Black Attack was so gracious to exchange Q&A’s with me last year just a few days prior to the beginning of the end of the 2010 UGA football season. Since then, we’ve gone through the whole turmoil that was losing four in a row, a heartbreaking loss to Florida, losing to Auburn when Mike Bobo decided to take his foot off the gas, and then the humiliating end to 2010 with the worst lack of effort I’ve seen from a Mark Richt coached team against UCF. The whole time last year, there were many times when I wanted to weigh in and add my thoughts, but I remembered a post by Paul Westerdawg a few years ago:

You want to know why I haven’t blogged much the past few weeks? What’s to say? From mid 2005-2008, the song has remained mostly the same. We got a 6 game reprieve from our problems in late 2007, but it’s been the same problems for most of that period. It gets redundant saying the same things over and over. “If we tackle well, don’t get lots of penalties and score points in the redzone, blah, blah, blah.” It gets old talking about that every week.

This is the mindset I’ve pretty much been in since I got back from the game in Columbia last year and didn’t really feel like talking about UGA football much. Much to commenter Darth’s delight, I’ve decided to finally update something here.

Now we sit here roughly 36 days away from opening kick-off in the Georgia Dome against Boise State and I don’t really know how I should feel about the upcoming season. Normally, this is a time of great excitement and anticipation for me, but frankly I’m not truly feeling it this year. I suppose it’s the old “fool me once – shame on you, fool me twice – shame on me” syndrome”. While I’d love to buy into the offseason hype and believe everything is going to be okay and it’ll be just like 2002-2005 all over again, it’s just too soon for me right now to do that. I’m firmly in the wait-and-see camp.

With all that said, now I have to figure out where I go from here on out to make this blog interesting without getting myself too worked up. I suppose an easy topic this off-season has been the question of how warm the seat on which Mark Richt resides truly is. However, this is a touchy subject and I don’t want to get in a pissing war with these guys who are utterly done with Mark Richt nor do I want to get in a pissing war with these guys who believe that Mark Richt is going to turn this thing around by citing examples such as not giving up on Bear Bryant or Vince Dooley when they went through rough stretches in the middle of their careers and the schools were subsequently rewarded by sticking with their men.

Personally, I believe both are right and wrong to an extent. The “cold blooded sausage makers” are right in that the argument that we can’t get anybody better than Mark Richt is false considering there are a ton of coaches that we could have hired that would have done much better over the last three years than Mark Richt. I also believe that they’re wrong in completely writing off Mark Richt because I genuinely believe he truly realizes how far awry the program had slipped and he’s now reinventing himself and how the program goes about its business in a way that hasn’t been there since DJ Shockley was running the show in Athens.

I believe TKK is right in that given a long enough sample size we are going to see highs and lows and what we’re seeing in Athens the past few years is an inevitable low point that would occur for any coach given enough time in any high profile job (even the great Urban Meyer lost five games last year and Nick Saban lost six games his first year in Tuscaloosa). I also believe he’s wrong in citing the Bryant and Dooley examples, because it’s never as simple as saying that “my belief must be true because everything that has ever happened in the past will happen again”. While Mark Richt very well may turn it around, the idea that he should be held onto by citing the Bryant and Dooley examples is false. Mark Richt should be retained because performance on the field improves this year, not because history says he should.

I suppose the point I’m getting at is that the fanbase is divided right now (however, it’s not in the black and white manner that these guys would have you believe). While there are certainly a few that will defend Richt to the end and some that are truly done with him, I believe the bulk of us rest somewhere in the middle. We know that the program isn’t where it can and should be, but we also don’t believe that we should just keep railing on how much we want Richt gone. The fact of the matter is that Mark Richt is the coach right now and will be for 2011. There’s no need to get worked up about who we could get or when he’s going to get fired. In my mind, the goodwill he’s built up in Athens is all but gone, but the man is still the head coach at my alma mater and me bitching and moaning about him isn’t going to get him fired or retained any time soon. Ultimately what I’m saying is that it’s time to stop debating what will or won’t happen sometime in the next six-eight months and rather we should hope for the best from the young men and coaches that will represent our alma mater this fall. While I will truly never understand the perpetually optimistic UGA fan, I’ll also hold equal contempt for the fan that decides to spend all his/her time railing on how bad the current coaching staff/program is. At some point, you’ve got to get behind your program no matter how bad it gets and trust the people up top (i.e. Greg McGarity) will make the correct decision going forward.