First off, let’s get the easy part of this post out of the way: congrats to Alabama fans. Your team showed up prepared and ready to execute from the opening kick. As a Georgia fan, it was both depressing and impressive to watch the domination that took place in the first half.
As for the rest of this sad story, let’s face it – this is a recurring pattern with these Dawgs under Richt. There’s a game or two every season where for some inexplicable reason the team, coaches and players both, simply fails to show up for a half and looks completely out of its element. That it was last night was unfortunate, both in terms of the timing (hello, GameDay!) and the quality of the opponent, but not unexpected.
And of course we’re offered the “they didn’t quit in the second half” story after the game, which strikes me as the functional equivalent of the game show host handing out the consolation prize of the terrific board game version of the TV show while we watch the winner cavort with the pretty female sidekick and the $100,000 check. Nice, but hardly satisfying.
I’m not going to waste any time breaking down the ginormous sized egg that was laid last night. I’ve no doubt that others will do a more than capable job of doing that. I will simply say that if these Dawgs are consistent with what they’ve shown us in past years, at some point in time Richt will get them rebooted mentally and emotionally and they will play up to the level of their talent. That being said, the catch is that it’s hard to say how long that may take; in both of the last two seasons, it didn’t happen overnight.
At least Florida lost, too.
Here are a few last minute thoughts and quotes that may have fallen through the cracks, or haven’t gotten as much attention as perhaps they deserve:
- Chris Low mentions the “glass half full” aspect to Georgia’s schedule: “Georgia’s the SEC team that’s probably the strongest lock to make the BCS national championship game if the Bulldogs can win the SEC title with no more than one loss. Their brutal schedule would be what puts them over the top with the voters.”
- We all like to knock Herbstreit – and there are certainly times when he deserves it – but he makes a very good point about Alabama that’s been overlooked this week in his Q & A with David Hale: “They’re paper thin. That’s the difference between ‘Bama and Georgia, Florida and LSU. They don’t have the depth. Their margin of error is so slight. If John Parker Wilson gets hurt, they’re in big trouble. If Caldwell gets hurt, they’re in trouble. If any of these crucial ingredients go down, they don’t have anybody. So they have to stay healthy in order to have the kind of year they want to have.” In my mind, that’s not simply something to factor in over the course of the season, but also in the context of what should be a hotly contested, very physical game tonight.
- Yeah, Saban’s gonna mix up his defenses tonight in an attempt to keep Stafford off his game. But didn’t Saban try to do the same thing last year?
- Alabama respects Moreno. Don’t forget that last year, when he wasn’t the featured back, he still managed 96 yards on 19 touches.
- While you’re looking at that box score, don’t forget that Coutu had the chance to win that game in regulation and couldn’t. Yet the Dawgs survived. Walsh, while a freshman, has been a pretty cool customer so far on field goals.
- On a lighter note, this is great. Demented, but great. (h/t Bama Sports Report)
Enough with this already:
… Alabama announced its presence with authority with a 34-10 season-opening victory over then-No. 9 Clemson and continued to impress in a 49-14 rout over Arkansas last week. [Emphasis added.]
Can someone explain to me exactly what is impressive about hammering Arky this year? The NCAA tracks seventeen statistical categories. The Razorbacks are in the bottom three in the SEC in ten of those categories, including last in rushing defense, scoring defense, turnover margin and sacks allowed. They’ve barely beaten 1-AA Western Illinois and Sun Belt mediocrity Louisiana-Monroe.
In short, they suck. This isn’t said to knock ‘Bama, which is clearly the best team that Georgia has faced this year, but I don’t get what the big deal is about beating what may wind up being the worst team in the SEC this season.
No, I’m not talking about your tailgating plans for tomorrow. There are a couple of excellent posts up worth your attention:
By the way, check out this little factoid, courtesy of ESPN.com:
• Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno has been exceptional in the second half. Thanks to a national-best seven second-half runs of 20 yards or more, he’s averaging more than 10 yards per carry after halftime. He also has 20 rushing touchdowns in his past 10 games.
Over at his Dr. Saturday blog, Matt Hinton asks the question of the day:
But if Ohio State deserves to be ridiculed and scorned and run out the mythical championship picture on a rail for its primetime, big game failures, when are we going to hold USC accountable for repeatedly losing the little one?
Gosh, and just think: twenty four hours ago, pundit after pundit was fretting over USC going undefeated and being shut out of the BCS title game if undefeated teams won the Big XII and SEC. When are we going to see these stupid September hypothetical discussions stop?
OK, folks, Week 5 is upon us, which means it’s time to get a handle on what we’re up to with the Mumme Poll.
Beginning this Sunday at 9:00 AM until Monday at 9:00 PM, you are asked to cast your first ballot if you want to participate in voting this season. Keep in mind that while this is a dry run in the sense that I’m not tallying the votes this week, you must send me your ballot this week if you want to participate the rest of the year.
The reason for this is that it’s tied to how I’m going to keep track of making sure we have the same people participating each week. I expect somewhere between 60-80 of you to vote and I simply don’t have the time to check each e-mail address every week to verify that we don’t have people trying to jump in and change the mix of voters. The mechanism I intend to use to track the voters is to rely upon a reply chain in our e-mails: you’ll e-mail me your ballots and I’ll reply with an OK if the format of your ballot is correct, or a suggested correction if it isn’t. In turn, you’ll reply to my e-mail and we’ll play it out that way each week of the season. That way, all I’ll have to do to confirm the validity of your participation is to see that you sent me a ballot this week.
So don’t forget to vote. I’ll post reminders on Sunday and Monday. Send your ballots to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Just a brief reminder about the ballot format. Here are the rules:
- Vote for twelve teams, no more, no less. Any ballot that doesn’t contain the names of exactly twelve different schools will be bounced back to you for one shot at correction. If you can’t get this right, your ballot won’t be counted. Oh, D-1 schools only, please.
- Clearly indicate which five of the twelve schools are the ones that you think are the five best in the nation. I would suggest putting their names in all caps, or with asterisks. If I can’t figure out your designation, I’ll bounce your ballot back and ask you to clarify. Again, if you can’t get this right, you won’t see your vote counted.
- Other than the top five group as a whole, don’t rank your teams in your vote. The whole point to this exercise is to get away from trying to split hairs between the sixth and seventh best teams in America when you cast your ballot.
One more thing I would ask you to do only with this first vote is to tell me in your e-mail what your school affiliation is. I won’t post that information on an individual basis, but I do think it would be useful to let anyone know what the overall breakdown of our group looks like.
If you have any questions about this, please raise them in the comments and I’ll respond. Again, thanks to all of you who are going to participate in this little experiment of mine. I hope it’s a blast for one and all.
If you’re looking for some detailed breakdowns on the Alabama-Georgia game, here you go:
- Jody does his usual thorough job here.
- Doug gives you his thoughts here.
- Michael shows us five steps to beating Georgia here.
- Bama Sports Report reciprocates with five steps to beating ‘Bama here.
- Third Saturday in Blogtober calls for the ‘Bama win, based on the statistical story and Mark Richt’s recent viewing habits.
Me, I’m just going with my gut feelings on this one. And what my gut’s telling me is this:
- The more I think about it, the more I believe the running games for both teams are going to be a wash. Both teams run the ball well and both teams defense the run well; I don’t see either Georgia or Alabama having an advantage. But if the running games play out evenly, that’s a net plus for Georgia, because as Elkon notes, when you compare positions, the biggest talent gap in this game is at quarterback.
- Making matters worse for Alabama in the passing game is the emergence of A. J. Green as a legitimate pass receiving threat. I guarantee you that Saban’s had to rethink how he’ll deploy his safeties after watching the ASU game tape. Massaquoi should benefit greatly from that. (For that matter, if you assume that Moreno manages to elude the ‘Bama front seven now and then, it should be an occasional plus for the Georgia running game.)
- Surprisingly enough, at least from a statistical standpoint, the kicking games for both schools are fairly even. That being said, Alabama was able to rely on its return game to get a win against Tulane; Georgia has yet to be in a position where it’s needed to lean on its special teams to win – although Mimbs’ punting against South Carolina was a factor in how the fourth quarter played out. And I’m still going to hold my breath every time the Dawgs tee it up Saturday night.
- This is a game where Georgia needs to get its penalty problems under control. Yes, I know the five most penalized teams in the country have a combined 19-0 record right now, but I also know that there’s almost a 60-yard spread between the penalty yardage per game that Georgia and Alabama have yielded this season. Essentially, that’s enough yardage to negate the three points attributed to home field advantage.
- Speaking of home field advantage, it seems to me that the intangibles favor Georgia in a big way for this game. All the pooh-pooing that we’ve seen from ‘Bama bloggers with regard to the Blackout misses one essential point: sure, the jersey color won’t make much difference to the kids on the field once they line up and start knocking heads, but if the Auburn game from last year is any indication, it definitely electrifies the crowd. And that’s a plus for Georgia in two ways. First, the players will feed off of that energy and second, it will interfere at some point in time with ‘Bama’s ability to call plays and signals. Which is why the biggest key for Alabama in this game is to get out to an early lead in order to take the crowd out of the game. Oh, and another thing about those intangibles? This certainly can’t hurt.
If Georgia can stay away from turnover troubles in this game, something that the Dawgs have done well so far, it should come away with the win. One thing I like about this team is that its best days still seem to be ahead of it, especially on offense, where the line needs time to jell and where it’ll get Southerland back for the Tennessee game (he’ll only play on special teams against ‘Bama, per Richt). If it plays better than last week, I don’t think Alabama’s best will be good enough.
Chris has a post up at Smart Football worth reading (just like anything else he posts there) about how we’re entering the next era of the spread option, or, as he calls it, the “rise of the terrible spread team“.
I forecast this day some time ago, but this year’s college football season has wowed me with the number of just awful spread teams. Now, there’s some good ones: Florida has great talent, and just about every top team has some kind of “spread” element to their gameplan. But there’s a ton of just awful spread teams. This topic deserves a much more in depth treatment, but the basic gist is what I forecast a few years ago: the offense just isn’t an equalizer anymore, but instead more of an amplifier. If you have great athletes you can isolate them in space, but if you don’t then you’re just giving them one-on-one matchups they can’t win and asking your quarterback to play perfect or you can’t win.
But the biggest reason is simply that everybody is doing it and there’s just not much novelty to it. And it’s not like you can fool a defense with some dizzying array of spread formations when each guy on defense played against spread teams for four years in high school and every week in college. That said, this also makes the cries from these teams and their coaches that there’s a “steep learning curve” with their spread offense ring rather hollow. How much different is it to tell guys to line up differently and read the defensive end on the zone-read? There’s lots of teams who successfully do that who use it only sparingly; it’s unconvincing when teams that rely heavily on the zone-read and zone options claim that they need more time to teach it.
That gets back to something I posted before. LIke him or not, Urban Meyer is a smart guy. He’s already anticipated this. That’s why he’s put such a heavy emphasis on speed guys. The coaches in the SEC and elsewhere that are just now jumping on the spread bandwagon as it mainstreams are still a step behind.
The Quad has its preview of the game posted and it hits most of the highlights, but I’m not sure I agree with the main point:
This is going to be some match-up Saturday night. Knowshon Moreno of Georgia vs. Bama’s defense. The issue is going to be the youth of the Bulldogs’ offensive line vs. Cody and the rest of the Bama defense.
Don’t get me wrong. Cody is going to be somebody to watch, as will how the Georgia offensive line holds up for the ground game. But I think the key to the game is going to come from the two quarterbacks.
Which is why I really like this post from cocknfire over at Garnet and Black Attack.
… It’s also, though, fair to say that the running games could essentially cancel each other out. If Alabama plays to its rankings on run offense and defense, and Georgia plays to its rankings on run offense and defense, both of these teams will pile up impressive but not slobber-inducing ground yardage on the run. It shouldn’t shock us to see, for example, 125-150 yards and a touchdown or two on the ground for both teams.
I think this one is going to boil down to which playmakers in the passing game step up. And that’s why it may very well turn out that all the hype over the Julio Jones-A. J. Green showdown is justified when the dust settles.
UPDATE: ESPN’s Bruce Feldman thinks shutting down Moreno is the key to watch.
This is a story that should be eerily reminiscent of an unhappy evening for Georgia fans.
The news is not getting any better for Tennessee’s beleaguered football program. Top quarterback prospect Josh Nunes of Upland, Calif., has opened up his recruitment and is no longer solidly committed to the Vols.
Nunes is rated as the sixth best quarterback prospect in the country by ESPN.com. He cited travel concerns as the chief reason for opening up his recruitment and plans to take more visits before making a decision.
Nunes was in Neyland Stadium last Saturday for Tennessee’s 30-6 loss to Florida. The Vols were roundly booed several times by their fans…
I can see how traveling more than half way across the country to hear fans boo the team you committed to might be grounds for second thoughts.
It takes me back to the worst half of football I’ve ever witnessed in Sanford Stadium.
Legend has it that Jason Campbell decided on the spot that he wasn’t going to Georgia because of how our fans booed as the teams left the field at halftime.
But look at the bright side, UT supporters: Georgia wound up with David Greene as a consolation prize.