Friday, October 21, 2011

Going Back to Jacksonville

This time next Friday I will be on my way to city on the St. John's river. And while many Bulldog fans make the annual trek to Jacksonville, this will be my first time going since 2004. It was my final year of college (5th year overall!) and we had a senior loaded team led by David Greene, Fred Gibson, and David Pollack. Florida was struggling and had already announced Ron Zook would not return as coach. It was my fourth consecutive trip to Jacksonville, and the Dawgs had lost everyone of them. But with two touchdowns from Leonard Pope and just enough defense, the Dawgs were able to hold on for a 31-24 victory.

I was finally content. Georgia had ended the misery that was Jacksonville for me. As I graduated from Georgia the next spring, I thought it would be a while before I returned to northern Florida in late October. I was right. Now, 7 years later, I prepare to go back to Jacksonville. The Dawgs have gone 1-5 in the last six years, but just as it was in 2004, it appears we are playing better football than the Gators. Can Coach Richt and the boys finally put together a complete game and make me 2 for 2 (2 for 5 overall)? We shall soon find out.



Tuesday, October 18, 2011

World Series: Someone to Root For

I know we are in the middle of football season and you probably don't care much about baseball, but the World Series begins in St. Louis tonight. If you are looking for a team to root for, I recommend pulling for the Texas Rangers. The Texas Rangers not only drafted Georgia outfielder Zach Cone in the first round of the draft this year, but they also used a 33rd round pick on injured outfielder Jonathan Taylor. Besides, the Cardinals stole the Braves playoff spot.


Hate Week 2011: The Warm Up

Florida Hate Week doesn't officially begin until Sunday but with both teams on a bye this weekend, it is never too early to start hating the Gators. We all know Georgia's lack of success against Florida over the last 20 years, but for the first time in a long time, I can honestly say that the past should have little affect on this year's game. Here is why:

  • This is not the typical match up of ranked teams. Yes, this game means a great deal to the SEC East race, and specifically to Georgia . But both teams are coming off disappointing seasons in 2010 and have seen South Carolina pass them as the top team in the east. There's no national championship implications, no Heisman trophies, just two historic rivals meeting on the field.
  • Urban Meyer is gone. So if Tim Tebow. Florida may have been struggling last year coming into the game, but they still had Urban on the sideline. There is no more curse of Tim Tebow or Urban's crazy spread offense.
  • Muschamp was a Dawg. Yes, he may be burning bridges fast, but he still played football at Georgia and that will not be forgotten. As much as he claims to be all in at Florida, I can't see Muschamp pulling any of the tricks Spurrier or Meyer would have against Georgia.
  • We both have byes this week. No one has the advantage in the rest department. After all these years of Georgia coming in beat up while Florida is healthy, Georgia actually looks like the healthier team right now. Florida will get Brantley and rested Demps back, but the Dawgs get Alec Ogletree, Malcolm Mitchell, and (hopefully) a revived Isaiah Crowell back.
  • Georgia has a lot more on the line than Florida. Muschamp's job is not in jeopardy, it is his first year with a new offensive scheme. But Mark Richt (despite 5 straight wins) still has to be a little uneasy about his position. Georgia has not been to the SEC Championship game since 2005. Florida has won two NCs in that time.
None of these factors mean Georgia is going to win or that the team will forget their shortcomings in Jacksonville. What it does mean is that I am going to try and remove the past from my analysis of the game. Just as I won't talk about Tim Tebow, neither will I talk about Knowshon Moreno. Florida's dominance over the last 20 years won't be discussed, nor will Georgia's dominance for the first 90 years or so of the 20th century. This game is the dawn of a new decade and hopefully this will all just become a thing of the past.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Vandy Wrap Up: A Needed Ugly Win

Let me get this out of the way, first thing. I have mixed feelings on the Grantham situation. Coaches should not act like idiots dropping F bombs after game. There is no excuse for that. However, no head coach should ever go and start yelling at another team's player after the game, and that is what James Franklin did. From the camera angle, we don't know how much Franklin was yelling. The media has tried to make Grantham the complete bad guy in the situation, but maybe Franklin should get more blame as well. While Grantham could have gone about it with a few less F bombs, I am still glad he let Franklin know his place. I am glad Coach Grantham is passionate and will stick up for his players, but he needs to tone it down.

As for the game itself, it was ugly (to say the least) and not the outcome I expected. But a lot of people were expecting a tough game for Georgia, including Herbstreit and Corso on college Game Day, so I am not mad like a lot of people are. And for those who say this games shows that we are still horrible and are not headed in the right direction, I ask you this: Would Georgia have won that game in 2010? If you said yes, I would ask you to watch the Colorado game or the 2009 Kentucky game. Both losses to inferior teams where Georgia had leads in the second half only to give the game away.

And maybe this was just the type of game the Dawgs needed. The last time the Dawgs won an SEC game by less than 7 points was the 2009 game against South Carolina. And the time in the last few years that Georgia was able to stop a team driving in the closing minutes for a potential game winning (not game tying) score was Georgia Tech in 2009. All most of the players on Georgia know is losing close games. Finally, they got a chance to win one. Think back to 2007. An up and down Georgia team with a sophomore quarterback, a flashy freshman running back, and some up and coming play makers at linebacker won a close game at Vandy and used that to propel them to 7 straight wins and a Sugar Bowl. I'm not saying that is going to happen again, but remember that that game also ended with coaches yelling near midfield (albeit at our own players instead of the opposing coaches).

The biggest gripe I have about the entire game is the failure to cover the fake punt. At that point, Georgia had a 23-7 lead and had forced Vandy to kick them the ball back. Vandy had not scored a single point at offense and looked like they were about to get blown out. When the formation shifted, I jokingly yelled fake to the group of friends we had watching the game at my house. And, holy crap, I was right. From that point on, Vandy was back in the game and they had all the momentum. It was like that single play, followed immediately by the trick play, sucked all the life out of the defense. Vandy still could not pass the ball, but the defense's inability to wrap up on tackles nearly cost us the game. And don't get me started on the fake punt. There were multiple Vandy players who had a shot to block it, and when it happened I thought they were going to scoop and score. Our kickers are talented but they will be gone next year and if we don't improve, our freshman kicker and punter could be in for long seasons in 2012.

But the silver lining to this whole game was there were some definite positives from Saturday night. While the defense was certainly not stellar in the second half, they managed to only give up 160 yards passing and 65 of those came on a fake punt and a trick play. Vandy quarterbacks were forced into three interceptions, including a key one early in the game in the Georgia end zone. Ray Drew had a great game, including his first career sack, and looks ready to contribute down the line. And just think, when we play Florida we get Cornelius Washington and Alec Ogletree back. It may not be perfect people, but I feel a lot better about our chances with this defense taking on an injured John Brantley than I did about our defense that took on a healthy Brantley last year.

On the offensive side of the ball, Crowell's benching combined with his injuries clearly impacted the Georgia offensive attack. Despite this (an the poor defensive showing) Georgia still out gained Vanderbilt by over 100 yards of offense. Aaron Murray was still not flawless, bet his passes looked much better than they had in recent weeks. Marlon Brown and Michael Bennett both stepped up and had the best days of their career. And even though a couple of negative rushes near the end of the game hurt his average per carry, Richard Samuel looked better than I have seen in a long time. No doubt we need a healthy Crowell back there to keep our offensive successful, but hopefully this shows we can still move the ball some even if he isn't around. Keep in mind, at one point Georgia scored on 6 consecutive drives and it would have been 8 if Walsh had not missed the 42 yard field goal.

In the end, there are a lot of things to work on. Thank god the Dawgs have two weeks to rest and get healthy for Florida. The loss of Lattimore at South Carolina makes me think South Carolina will lose at least 2 of their 3 remaining tougher SEC games (Arkansas, Florida, Tennessee). Once again the Cocktail Party will most likely decide the fate of the SEC East. Hopefully, Georgia can get it together and get Richt victory 3 over the Gators.