Random, partially formed, Georgia preview thoughts

With all due respect to the bloggers and the Web media out there who have been busy projecting and predicting what this season holds in store for us for a while now, as I’m a child of the printed media era, this is the weekend that’s always been preview time for me with regard to football, as it’s the traditional point that the papers laid things out for us.

I’ve been working towards my own preview of Georgia’s chances, but I’m having trouble putting together a coherent overview of what to expect in ’09.  So instead, this time around, I’ll explore a few themes that I’ve spent the most time pondering in the offseason leading up ’til now.  Maybe a larger truth will emerge from that, maybe not.

  1. The pessimism, boss, the pessimism. I get that Georgia shows up on most preseason lists as a mid-teens program this year.  It’s easy to see the departure of two first round draft picks and downgrade the team significantly.  And the Dawgs’ disappointing 2008 season (more on that in a second) doesn’t help, either.  But I also get the feeling that a certain amount of overreaction is in play here.  Here’s something that Year2 posted over at Team Speed Kills yesterday that resonates with me:  “This is one of the most misunderstood programs in the country since, despite going through perhaps its most prosperous era ever right now, a lot folks focus more on what it hasn’t done-win a national title or beat rival Florida on a regular basis.” One-fifth of all BCS-conference schools won at least ten games last year; as dysfunctional as Georgia looked at times doing it, that 10-3 record still put the school in the upper crust of D-1.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t things to fix, or that Stafford and Moreno weren’t high quality contributors, just that I’m not sure the cupboard isn’t a good bit better stocked than many pundits surmise.
  2. It’s the line play, stupid. I don’t know that I’m quite at the point of saying you can forget about everything else, but I’m pretty damned close to it.  This team will live and die on how well the offensive and defensive lines perform this year.  A solid offensive line will let Bobo use the playbook to his best advantage, which in this case means giving Cox the time to play an intermediate passing game and keeping some degree of double coverage off of Georgia’s one offensive superstar.  I don’t worry about the situation at defensive tackle, but without some upgraded play from the defensive end position, Martinez will be hearing a lot more of this.
  3. Georgia’s got a puncher’s chance to win the SEC. Look, I’m not insane, nor have I been drinking the Kool-Aid (yet, at least).  I know that Florida deserves to be a prohibitive favorite to play in the SECCG – it’s got the schedule, defensive depth worth drooling over and the best returning quarterback in the conference.  But once you get past the non-conference stuff, their schedules really aren’t too different.  The rest of the East is as weak as we’ve seen it in a while and Georgia, like Florida, only plays one of the powers from the West (Georgia’s the one that gets LSU at home, to boot).  Assuming that the Dawgs hold serve against the rest of their SEC opponents, even if they lose to LSU and Florida wins, they still go into Jax knowing that if they beat the Gators (yeah, yeah, I know), they’re in the driver’s seat on the road to Atlanta.  And don’t forget that this year, it’s Georgia with the open week before the Cocktail Party.
  4. It’s foolish not to give Mark Richt the benefit of the doubt. The man’s won at an 80% clip.  His team’s record in opponents’ stadiums is ridiculous.  His program recruits as well as any other in the country.  Seriously, how much do you want to downgrade him?  No, that doesn’t mean he’s perfect.  His misread what he had to do with his team last year and it cost him.  But every little thing I’ve seen out of Richt in this offseason reinforces my image of a head coach who identified the shortcomings – both in himself and in his program – and has taken them head on.  That’s no guarantee of success, of course, but given Richt’s track record, I’ll take my chances.

No one, including me, has any idea how this will translate onto the field.  For one thing, there’s that team disappearance thing that’s plagued these guys for several seasons now that’ll be the canary in the coal mine as to this year’s chances as far as I’m concerned.   If Richt’s truly got things fixed, that’s where we’ll see it, even if there’s a loss or two on the way.

I’ve seen the resolve and the focus show up in ways that you hope will pan out.  Things feel much more business-like; I don’t think you’ll hear any talk about black outs or endzone celebrations in 2009.  But you can’t account for the impact of injuries and you don’t know how the team will respond to that moment of crisis until it happens.

I’m not going to predict the results of individual games here.  From my not so lofty preseason vantage point, that stuff tends to wash out – a team wins one unexpectedly, and loses one it shouldn’t.  The concern I do have about the schedule is the cumulative effect of Georgia playing seven straight weeks against conference opponents and BCS-conference teams.  I don’t see how the Dawgs emerge from that run without a blemish or two on their record.

If they can get out of that stretch 6-1 or even 5-2, though, things actually set up well for the remainder of the season.  There’s the bye week leading into the Florida game to allow for recharging the batteries, followed by Tennessee Tech, the one true breather game of the year.  And after that, the team doesn’t leave the state.

Right now, I don’t think it adds up to any worse than a 9-3 regular season mark.  And with a little luck on the injury front (and surely they deserve that, at least), I think 10-2 is the likely result.

Now you can pass me that tasty beverage.

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17 Comments

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17 responses to “Random, partially formed, Georgia preview thoughts

  1. Frank M. Davis, Jr.

    the most clinical synthesis yet…….damn good evaluation…..damn good.

    • Bryan Carver Dawg97

      Here, here. This is why this site is the first link in my “favorites” list.

      One “disagreement” – I tend to think that by virtue of having Owens back, the DE position (regardless of who’s there) will see improved results. The ends do have to prove themselves over the course of the season, but based on the end of last year, I think Justin Houston will enjoy a Marcus Howard type season this year.

      Over the last few weeks, my head kept saying play it safe – 8-4 – but, that’s it. Mark me down for the 10 win season (with a win in Jax). Not saying we win the East because I do think that the schedule just sets up too well for UF. But I do think the media/country is sleeping a bit on the Dawgs (which is natural because they don’t follow the details as we do and just take general views). Chris Low is a good voice of reason when he says we are the team that will surprise.

      Awesome job, Senator. Keep up the good work.

  2. Macallanlover

    +1 Senator. Exactly the feelings I have about this season, even the same rationale. UF deserves to start the season at the top, but they will have to earn the trip to Atlanta. 10-2/9-3 most likely, 8-4 worst case, and 11-1 best case.

    Feeling more optimistic about Stillwater due to the match-up of UGA’s running game behind a solid OL versus OSU’s defensive front. I am under no illusion about that game though, their team and fans will be stoked for this game and we will have a 4 Qtr. battle on our hands.

  3. Chuck

    I think we are going to know a lot more very early. Go to Stillwater and win and I agree with everything you said. Lose, and, well, not so much. A loss in Stillwater could be overcome, but the odds are slim. If we can there – even closely – then barring injury, we should be fine, and because of the open date before Jax, the part of the schedule that worries me the most is the LSU-UT away back-to-back sequence. If we can win both of those games, we might win out (again, assuming no rash of crippling injuries).

  4. D.N. Nation

    I smell 8-4. Me of little faith, I know, but until Orson and Richard and Marlon and pals are tearing it up against teams that aren’t in my head, that’s that. 9-3 and I’ll be very happy. 10-2 and I’ll fire up the ol’ MNC bandwagon for ’10, even knowing that I shouldn’t.

    Know what sucks? Picture this team with Florida’s schedule. Or Bama’s. Or, hee hee, Ole Miss’. 10-2 at a minimum.

    Not really worried about OSU. Hype and expectations are all on the 42-year-old’s shoulders. They’re the ones who, if they don’t win this year, will be hard-pressed to find a similar chance in the near future. Not us.

  5. OSU is important but not everything

    1983 – Miami lost to Florida in the opener and won the whole thing against Turner Gill and Mike Rozier at Nebraska.

    Not winning at OSU would taste bad, but wouldn’t ruin the season.

    • Paul

      I agree but we can’t lose like Va Tech did in 2007 to LSU. They still won their conference but had no real shot at the NC because of what happened in Week 1.

      • That was actually Week 2. I remember Week 1 strongly because it was an opening Thursday night game at Miss St for LSU where the weather was just miserable.

        • Paul

          I actually looked up VaTech’s 2007 season right after I hit post (Who actually needs facts to reply, anyways?) and realized my error. Good catch though.

    • JasonC

      Speaking of Va Tech & Ok State… while I was reading some links from the Senator, I ended up at this page: http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/blog/dr_saturday/post/Deconstructing-How-the-Hokie-D-becomes-deadlier?urn=ncaaf,178348
      that discusses the Cover 4 or quarters defense.

      I remembered Richt saying that he thought Ok State would run a quarters defense, just like the Dogs. I thought we ran more cover 2, but maybe there has been a change of the years (as Brown notes when breaking down the Hokies). Anyway it’s a pretty good read to understand the Hokies, the Cover 4 and why the Dogs have to get solid tackling out of their safeties.

  6. Russman

    Great Job as we’ve come to expect on a daily basis. I think we win in Stillwater even with a few first game miscues. Also preparation for South Carolina becomes paramount upon return to Athens because Spurrier gets a few extra days of prep as they play on Thurs night to open ’09. It is not quite like an open date but any extra days are precious. 30-4 and white jerseys speak for themselves.

  7. dawgfish

    I think we are forgetting just how bad the defense was at times last year, even in victory. Would we have won the Kentucky or LSU games last year with this year’s offense? You can expect improvement with Owens back, but how much? the only bright spot is that this is how I felt about Florida’s chances last year after 2007′s gator d was so crappy. I guess if they can improve that much maybe so can we.

  8. Pingback: I guess it’s finally that time of year again! « The Hobnail Boot

  9. thomas

    FANTASTIC – COULDN’T AGREE MORE! http://www.wedgeorgia.com

  10. That’s what I’m sayin’. Good word squeezin’ Senator.

  11. I am putting all my chips on #2 (line talent, depth and experience) and #35 – Rennie Curran. Barring another injury-plagued season, we will win no less than 10 games because it’s what we do.

    Re. the game in Jacksonville, it may be meaningless… but I like our record against teams in years following their NC seasons!

  12. ugajeff91

    Well said, SB. I think you’ve caught the general mood of us dawg fans: why not us? why not now? I don’t think you’re stretching it either. If we can get to J’ville with the SEC East on the line, I firmly believe all the pressure shifts to Fla. Anything short of 12-0, SECC, MNC, and another Heisman will be a letdown as far as they are concerned. BTW, thank you very much, media! Enjoy the pressure, lizards! I see 9-3, with OKst as the swing game. Win it, and we’re 10-2, 11-1. Let’s tee it up!