The burden of low expectations

In case you can’t tell, I’m going off the beaten path today with the opening of Georgia’s preseason practice – if you want the questions-that-need-to-be-answered route, you can throw a rock at any number of Dawg and SEC bloggers for some very good analysis on that – by looking at a couple of underlying issues related to team psyche.

Why am I doing that?  Because the thing that’s troubled me most about the program of late is this bizarre habit that’s developed of completely disappearing in a game for a quarter or a half.  I call it a habit because it’s gone on now over the past three seasons with a variety of opponents, so it’s difficult to say it’s the result of injuries or bad personnel match ups.  I’m not close enough to the program to know the underlying cause, but I do have the sense that Richt, from some of his comments and actions this offseason, is aware of it and is determined to do something about it, although that’s admittedly easier said than done sometimes.

Anyway, one of the mantras that’s been adopted for 2009 is that Georgia under Richt is a team that performs better in a year when the expectations for the program are lowered.  Nevermind that the theory has been, if not debunked, at least reasonably questioned over at Team Speed Kills, I’m willing to concede that in this case perception becomes reality.  In other words, if flying low gives the team confidence, then that’s what matters.

But here’s the thing I wonder about after reading College Football News’ post on its preseason top ten.  Specifically after seeing this comment in the preview of number five (!) Georgia:

If the Dawgs beat OSU in Stillwater, then the expectations and the attention will quickly be cranked up.

Based on Georgia’s record in tough opening games, that’s not a farfetched scenario. At all.  So what happens if these guys go out in the opener, take care of business and come back home suddenly with a top ten ranking and all that national attention again?  Aren’t they right back in the same boat they had trouble sailing last season?  Can they handle it any better than they did in ’08, particularly when they’ve told themselves this offseason that they’re better off with a lack of notoriety?

I’m not saying they can’t do it, but it’s certainly worth remembering that things change and you either adapt or lose.

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19 Comments

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19 responses to “The burden of low expectations

  1. dean

    I’d like to believe they would handle it better. As the saying goes “if you don’t learn from your mistakes you’re doomed to repeat them” or something like that. Most of the guys (that were here last year) I’ve seen comments from learned from their mistakes about buying into the hype or are at least saying they have. Plus they haven’t had to deal with the hype during the preseason, which really seemed to do the most damage last year. There’s not as much time during the season to dwell on the hype. Basically from the time the guys walked off the turf in Super Dome the #1 preseason ranking talk started. That’s a long time to hear about how good you’re going to be.

  2. SefDawg

    I agree dean. Once the season starts, a players time is more structured and the schedule is full. Not that they don’t look, but they have less time to dwell on the hype. Also, they’ve got coaches there everyday to bring them down a notch if they start to by it. And even if they handle OSU, I can’t see a huge bandwagon developing while the Gators still wait down the line. The schedule should temper emotions a bit.

  3. RedCrake

    I think the lowered expectations (or as some would say “lack of respects”) is really more/mostly valuable for off season preparation and training.

    And if Georgia beats Oklahoma St. they will still be picked to lose to Florida and have revenge for the Tech game so motivation should continue at a high level.

  4. kckd

    I think they’ll handle it better because they’ve been conditioned in this offseason to handle it better.

    And they are not gonna be the faves in the SEC anyways unless they can get to Jax with one loss or none and win that game.

    And if we can do that, well I don’t see any need to worry.

  5. The Realist

    If Georgia beats oSu in Stillwater, then they will have earned the hype by their play on the field. That’s the difference between any hype they garner this year and last.

    I’ve always believed that people act in a more appropriate manner when they have to earn something as opposed to receiving it for free.

    • D.N. Nation

      If Georgia beats oSu in Stillwater, then they will have earned the hype by their play on the field. That’s the difference between any hype they garner this year and last.

      FWIW, after watching us put it in neutral and still slap Arizona State around on the road, I thought we were the real deal. And I thought we had returned to being the real deal after cruising in Death Valley.

      So who knows. Maybe we beat OSU and maybe they lose 5 games again.

    • The Realist

      Btw, Georgia at 5 is stretching the bounds of reality pretty far.

      • D.N. Nation

        Yes.

      • dudetheplayer

        College Football news is pretty goofy.

        They had Yech as a pre-season #10 going into 2007 and described them as being a possible dark-horse national title contender (sound familiar?)

        They also went on about how Bennett had to be an upgrade over Ball (based off of what, I don’t know) and how it would sting to lose Patrick Nix to Miami (lol!)

        I’ll go with Phil Steele for the pre-season progs.

  6. D.N. Nation

    Nevermind that the theory has been, if not debunked, at least reasonably questioned over at Team Speed Kills

    Year2′s analysis was a bit off…didn’t really account for the root of the theory, which is feel more than anything. So yeah, I guess ’05 Georgia didn’t really overachieve that much, seeing how they started in the mid-teens and finished a few slots higher than that. But that completely discounts the feel: the Shockley renaissance, beating down a heavily hyped opening-day opponent, getting revenge on UT for ’04 (and sending them down the drain after that), getting to and winning the SECCG after not doing it with a seemingly better team on paper the year before, watching Florida choke against South Carolina, etc.

    Same goes for ’02. Started the year in the single digits, finished #3. No huge deal until you consider the freakin’ 20-year wait for the conference championship. Same goes for ’03. Started the year around #10, finished the year around #10. No huge deal until you consider the OL was absolutely decimated, we had to rebuild after losing our #1 receiver and back, we saw the continuing emergence of David Pollack, the beatdown in Knoxville, etc.

    Anyway.

    Interesting take about what happens if we slap OSU around. The top-loaded schedule certainly means the learning process has to be quick, but it also means there’s potential to be overhyped to the ceiling. All it takes is some big wins on marquee Saturdays and boom: You’re gods, even though you aren’t (see also: Alabama, 2008).

  7. baltimore dawg

    i don’t see national or sec expectations really taking off if we beat osu because a) most people will read that as an obvious outcome of osu being overhyped and not up to snuff against an upper-tier sec team, and b) there’s still uf.

  8. I can’t speak for how the players are handling the lower expectations but as a fan I’m suffering from far less anxiety than this time last year.

    • G.O.B.

      The NC expectations killed my season. Those three losses were bad whether we had started out #1 or number #17, but the higher I was led to believe our team could achieve the more I expected out of them, and the more I was disappointed when they lost so spectacularly. (After the Florida game, I photoshopped a picture of Uga’s head on the Hindenburg and made it my Facebook profile picture).

      As opposed to, say, 2006, when I didn’t really hit rock bottom until Kentucky, since it was a definite rebuilding year, breaking in Stafford, etc. Bumps were expected.

      If last year’s team had started off at #13, I think a bit of the edge would have been taken off. The losses were tough losses, but they would have come in a different context. Personally, I’m happy with a perpetual pre-season ranking of around #15 every year. If I remember correctly we started around #13 in ’06 and ’07 and ended up 9-4 and 11-2. That’s a range I’m okay with. I think last year suggests (if not proves) that when CMR fields a team that wins it all, it’s going to be a darkhorse, not a pre-season favorite.

  9. 69Dawg

    I have been hearing from some that UGA is not as tough as they have been in the pass. One of the unnamed coaches from the preseason rags said as much. We are perceived as soft. Certainly the beat downs and meltdowns we’ve had the last few seasons indicate that. Ala slapped us in the mouth and we were at a loss to respond. UF showed with the tackle and humping of KM that they thought we were weak and we showed them they were right. I think a team reflects the coaches personality and I love Richt but he doesn’t scare me. You have to have a take no prisoners attitude to dominate in football especially on both sides of the line. CSS gives us that on OL I think but I’m not so sure about CRG. I just hope when we get slapped by UT or whomever this year we just knock them on their butts.

  10. HVL Dawg

    Did any of you feel like we had a great team after the SC game last year? We had to cause a fumble against our own goal line to put the game away.

    Beating OSU on the road would be a lot better than beating SC last year.

    • 2002 Georgia, 2005 Georgia, and 2007 Georgia

      Noodling around against South Carolina is just something Georgia does.

  11. Wolfman

    This could be pure ignorance on my part, but I get the same feeling from this game as I did from the Boise game in ’05. A team to play that comes in highly ranked, with not much to back it up but these same lofty predictions we’ve heard from the same people over and over. Why do we distrust preseason polls in other areas, yet give them creedence to make this a make-or-break game? In reality, we have little from this besides the fact that we know they have a good WR and we know how old their head coach is.

    Beating Boise in ’05 is different than beating than anyone else. Why? We beat them as a point of pride, to show that football is done right here. We reify the idea that our conference is still heads above the other, and that flashes in the pan are gone soon. Same with Ok St. here. The reason this will not kill the season with a win is simple. It doesn’t really matter. In fact, I doubt we get boosted up as much as they drop in the rankings.

    Plus, we will have to concentrate on not struggling against the Cocks for the nth year in a row. I dare you to find one player on our team that can find one game we’ve played satisfactorily against them in the past 5 years. If the coaching stuff can’t motivate for that, then who cares about the rankings?

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