Raining on Jerry Hinnen’s parade (not that I want to)

I enjoyed reading Jerry Hinnen’s SEC preview which he posted today – for one thing, he’s been struggling over many of the same issues that I’ve batted around in my head the last four weeks and I’ve always been a big fan of letting somebody else do the heavy lifting if possible – but, try as I might and with as much as I find in what he writes that I agree with, I can’t quite bring myself across the finish line that he erects:

I’m predicting that either Georgia or Auburn will make it to Atlanta at one of the Big Two’s expense.

I like that (especially because I agree with Jerry that Georgia’s a more likely bet to win the East than Auburn to win the West), but I don’t think it’s gonna happen this season, for more than a couple of reasons.

  • Der Gap. Unfortunately, as Jerry notes, the story in the SEC last season was the two teams at the top and the yawning divide between them and the rest of the conference.  I also agree that the margin is likely to shrink in both divisions.  It’s just that I don’t expect it to shrink enough.  Think about it for a minute:  both divisions were won by four game margins last season, so to erase that completely this year,  a school would have to engineer a three-game swing against either Alabama or Florida (or a two-game swing with a win in the head-to-head match).  I don’t see it in either division.  It looks much more like a two-season project to me.
  • The Tigers have to claw. Auburn has the kind of schedule in 2010 that would make Houston Nutt envious, but it still has a tougher row to hoe than Georgia in that it has to fight its way to the top with two other schools also looking to catch Alabama (and Arkansas, as Jerry notes, with its offense has a puncher’s chance to win any game on its schedule).  On paper, Georgia looks to have only South Carolina to duke it out with to run down the Gators.
  • 3-17. Lose the Cocktail Party and Georgia has to play the rest of its conference schedule two games better than Florida.  How likely is that to happen?
  • Auburn’s defensive depth. Yes, the Tigers enjoyed a terrific recruiting class this season.  But it’s a stretch to think that you can count on a bunch of true freshmen to step in and be major contributors on defense.  And starting out, Auburn looks thin on the front seven.
  • Georgia’s defensive changes. Count me as somebody who believes that Aaron Murray is going to absorb all the turnover direction he’s been receiving from his coaches and take it to heart.  Georgia’s offense should be good enough.  But it’s just not realistic to expect a smooth defensive transition with three new coaches and a new scheme, if for no other reason than some old habits die hard.  It’ll get better as the season progresses, but somebody’s going to catch Georgia early on, and as I’ve already noted, the Dawgs don’t exactly have a big margin for error with the Gators this season.
  • Gary Crowton really can’t be that bad an offensive coordinator, can he? Okay, maybe he can.  But, damn, LSU is a talented squad that’s been no worse than third in the conference in recruiting over the past three or four seasons.  There are certainly more highly ranked players suiting up in Baton Rouge than in either Auburn or Fayetteville.

Bottom line – I hope he’s right, but I expect that Jerry’s a year early here.

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28 Comments

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28 responses to “Raining on Jerry Hinnen’s parade (not that I want to)

  1. Mayor of Dawgtown

    I agree with you, Senator, that UGA is more likely to win the East than Auburn is to win the West. I disagree with you on 2 points however: (1) The 4 game “gap” was last season. Each season (as you are so fond of saying) is a different team and a different year. UGA starts out 0-0 same as FLA. If you look at the conference schedule one can certainly see that whoever wins the WLOCP game would probably win the East if you give UGA its likely wins and FLA its likely wins in the other SEC games. In other words, “Last year don’t mean sh!t.” (2) Look at the schedules for FLA and UGA. FLA could very easily lose to both Bama and LSU. If UGA wins all its other SEC games the Dawgs can still win the East even if they lose to FLA.

    • Mayor, I get your point, but you could say Vandy starts out 0-0, same as Florida, too. I doubt you’re ready to crown them as contenders in the SEC East.

      • Will (the other one)

        While this is true, Florida had far more talent, based on recruiting rankings and later NFL draft results, in 2007 than UGA as well.
        We just need to remember (hope) that they’ve got a lot of youth, especially on defense, as well as new coordinators on that side of the ball.

        But you’re right about getting caught early…youth at key positions on both sides has me afraid that even if we win in the cocktail party, we could still start 1-2 (and potentially hit a wall at Auburn, as that will be game 10 without a break). But I think 9-3 with wins against the NATS, UT and the Gators would still be a good season even if it doesn’t result in a trip to the SECCG.

        • My point about the gap is, while each season is a new one, there’s still a certain baseline established by the previous one.

          • The General

            I agree there certainly was a gap last year between us in the pack and the top two, but the talent gap is not nearly as large as final records make it appear. And don’t forget, so many games last year could very easily have swung the other way. See, e.g., the Green celebration against LSU; the Ealey fumble against Kentucky. I also think we win at Stillwater if the refs had kept the hankies in their pants on Reshad. That was a huge momentum swing that perhaps we never recovered from all season. People were so down about the Dawgs last year, but we were honestly about 3 plays away from 11-2 [/blatantly disregarding the fact that our close call wins could have gone the other way as well].

            On the other hand, UF bit its nails against LSU and had an even closer call against Arkansas. Alabama had extremely close calls against Tennessee and Auburn.

            Bottom line is luck is a major factor in big time college football. And it seems like the better the coaches you have, the better your luck may be. I think we have improved our coaches. Not sure that I can say the same for the DC situation at UF, and while I hope Meyer’s health is under control, his new lifestyle may not produce the same results on the field. Gotta think the pendulum will swing back our way, particularly in the turnover category. No team is without question marks this year. I’m not saying we’ll definitely close and/or overcome the “gap” this year, but it’s certainly within the realm of possibility.

  2. Biggus Rickus

    The key component in Alabama’s and Florida’s dominance of the league the last two years was defense. They were markedly better than everyone else defensively. If we can assume they fall off the 11 to 14 points per game they’ve managed in conference the last two seasons (and I think it is highly likely that they’ll fall closer to 18-20 this year), and Georgia can merely improve to a 2007 level of defensive adequacy (and I may be stretching the definition of adequacy), I see no reason Georgia can’t win the East and take Bama out in the Championship Game. I’ll add the caveat that it will all depend on when the teams have their defensive lapses. I also think Auburn and Arkansas have personnel issues on defense that will prevent them from taking the next step, while Georgia should have the talent to improve pretty dramatically. Though that could be wishful thinking on my part.

    God, I want the season to start NOW!

  3. Gen. Stoopnagle

    Methinks it’s Mississippi State.

  4. hailtogeorgia

    Senator, can you explain what you mean about the Cocktail Party? It seems to me that even if Georgia loses to Florida, they only have to play their conference schedule one game better than the Gators, not two. Perhaps we’re just looking at the semantics differently. To me, if we lose to Florida but win the rest, then Florida only has to lose two games for us to go to Atlanta. Florida is 6-2, we’re 7-1…one game better, no?

    • Take the CP out of the equation. Using your example, Georgia has to go 7-0 and Florida 5-2 in the remaining SEC games for Georgia to play in the SECCG.

      • Mayor of Dawgtown

        My point exactly. See above. I not only think that is a possibility, I think that scenario is likely even if the Dawgs lose the WLOCP. I see FLA losing to Bama (probably) and LSU (less likely than Bama but still at least 50/50). UGA has to do its part by getting past South Carolina, Arkansas and Auburn, as well as beating the other usual suspects.

      • hailtogeorgia

        Capiche.

        I like to view it from the season including that game, as it sounds a little less daunting, but I understand your point (and if we lose the CP, it’s a very valid one).

        If Florida loses the CP, then I could see them having two or three losses easily. I think Alabama will beat them (it’s in Tuscaloosa, right?) and I think LSU has a good chance of beating them. As for Mississippi State…it’s doubtful, but Mullen is somewhat of an x-factor in that game, as he surely still knows some of Brantley’s strengths/weaknesses.

        • MSU and LSU both have to travel to the Swamp (although LSU gets Florida the week after the Alabama game), so I’m not too high on upsets with either.

          I will say that I feel pretty confident that if Georgia pulls out the win in Jax, then the Dawgs will be in Atlanta.

          • Derek

            Why is it that people forget that the 3 times we made it to Atlanta, we lost to UF and the 3 times we beat them we didn’t? While it seems unlikely for that to happen either way, in the pre-season, that’s how it’s worked out.

            Also, don’t discount the possibility that Auburn goes into the Iron Bowl with the West clinched. I think UF beats Bama in T-Town and there is a reasonable chance that Bama drops another along the way. In the East I think that you can almost always count on UF to crap the bed in some conference game along the way during a transition year and add that to a possible LSU loss and the CP could be irrelevant yet again in the SEC race as it has been in 5 of the last 9 seasons.

            The chatter is starting late but while real early pre-season chatter was about Arky and USC challenging in their divisions, its starting to turn where it ought to have been all along: UGA and Auburn. If there is no UF/Bama III in the SEECG, it will because one of these teams broke through.

  5. Bryant Denny

    As a Bama fan, I think it’s unrealistic to expect an undefeated conference record three years running. I think we’re loaded with talent, but the secondary and special teams do cause me some heart burn.

    Despite the Ryan Mallett and Cam Newton memes, I still rank LSU higher. I just don’t see Arkansas or Auburn fighting through Alabama and LSU.

    Therefore, I think UGA has a better shot at making it to Atlanta.

    • Objective Bama Fan

      Agreed, I think LSU, with all their talent, has a better possibility to unseat Bama than Auburn. Georgia has a very real possibility to unseat Florida. Georgia has so much returning, that they will be the team that surprises everyone and wins 10+ games.

      I also agree that it is too much to ask for a third undefeated regular season. Bama should make it back to Atlanta with one loss (hopefully not more).

  6. MT

    A lot has been mentioned about the personnel turnover at UF, but not enough has been made about the D coordinator turnover there.

    I know that there was some analysis earlier in the offseason about how Charlie Strong has always had our number… UF, while not full-scale abandoning the 4-3, is changing their alignment enough (and most likely the verbiage associated with their D) that there will be a bit of a learning curve.

  7. jferg

    Senator,
    Could it be argued that there wasn’t as much of a “talent gap” as there was a “coaching gap”?

    Talent v Talent; I think UGA and UF are fairly equal, with a slight nod to UF (but not 4 games worth).

    Our coaching gaps on D have been, assumingly, leveled by the addition by subtraction meme. Subtraction of both Martinez and Strong is addition for UGA. Further addition with Belin and Lakatos= level coaching field.

    Talent+Coaching @ UGA vs Talent+ Coaching @ UF is about as equal this year as any year in recent memory.

    • The fact that Meyer ran special teams all his years versus whatever the hell we were trying to accomplish probably caused that gap to double in a heartbeat.

    • W Cobb Dawg

      Perhaps the equation should be: corch – GPOOE™ + nervous breakdown/Strong = Dawgs 2010 SEC east champs!

    • Derek

      Let’s put this under a little analysis:

      I saw the NFL take at least three Gators in the first round in 2010. How many did we have?

      To suggest that Tim Tebow vs. Joe Cox is a fair fight is just kinda dumb. Have we lost to UF with comparable talent in the past? Probably yes. 2002, 2003, 2005 are good examples. 2009 is not one. 2008 is debatable, but that’s only because of a handful of good offensive players. The rest of our team was not nearly as good as UF’s, especially on D, in ’08.

      In 2010 we match-up pretty good I think. They have an edge at QB, but the rest of the offensive units: OL, RB, WR and TE favor UGA. On D UF is probably slightly better on all three levels (DL, LB and DB’s), but our guys are pretty close talent wise. Should be one hell of a game.

      • Mike

        I am not sure the UGA RBs are better than what Florida has to offer. King and Ealey have similar stats as Demps and Rainey.

        Yes, I realize Rainey has moved to slot back. But Corch would not have made that move had he not been confident of the guys behind Rainey.

        And until it has been demonstrated otherwise, I think Florida’s defense is materially better than UGAs.

  8. Macallanlover

    Senator, I agree that Auburn’s issues are defensive depth, and having two challengers (LSU and Arky) to fend off. I feel Arkansas has a defense as good as Auburn’s, but has more firepower on offense. For some reason I think LSU may be a surprise challenger in the West; things have been quiet in Red Stick but a lot of talent has been waiting their turn. Bama should make it to Atlanta, but it isn’t a slam dunk. The Tide’s offense looks dominating, but there are just a lot of holes to fill on the other side of the ball.

    In the East, the gap appears much closer. I rate UGA and UF pretty equal in overall talent/experience, but feel UF has the tougher draw in the West. Cannot disagree about the CP though, strong chance that will break a tie this year. Difference is, I see us winning that game with a more consistent offense and better kicking game. Even with an early slip-up against either SC or Arky, that should be enough.

    Time to tee it up and see how all these crystal ball predictions shake out. Both divisions will be more competitive than the experts are forcasting, imo. Look for at least one surprise visitor to the Dome in early December this year.

  9. kckd

    A few points I’d like to make.

    1. The five game gap (regular season) is over emphasized. All we have to do is win two to three more and UF lose two to three more. If you don’t think that’s possible check out 2006-2007 for UF and UGA. Winning two more for UGA shouldn’t be a problem if they improve in turnovers.

    2. I agree on the cocktail party. Since Meyer has become coach in Gville, there is no way to go to Atlanta without beating him. No more 2002 and 2005 type years coach Richt. Time to step up to the plate and make this right for a change.

    3. I’ve said since Spring that there would not be a three peat in the SECCG. I still believe that. A lot of people are jumping the gun too quickly in thinking Meyer and Saban are gonna dominate this conference long term. At least one team will rain on that parade this year and I agree with the columnist, UGA and Auburn are the most likely to do just that.

    4. Everything I’m hearing out of practice (and I really fought hard against feeling this way) says our defense will not only be improved but may very well be one of the best in the conference again. I’m not saying we won’t struggle at points in games. But I don’t think TG will get exposed like WM did last year against UTK and UF.

  10. Dawgfan17

    I understand that 8-0 seems a long way from 4-4 but 4-4 is not far from 6-2 and 8-0 is not far from 6-2. The biggest hurdle for UGA in winning the east is not making up a 4 game difference but instead being able to win one game against a team that has won 85% of their games against us in the last 20 years. Turn that game around and I feel great about our chances. A split with USC/AR and a possible loss to AU though I expect a win there which would mean we could actually start out 1-2 but start growing up on D and with Murray at qb and go on a 2007 like run where we looked out of everything for the first 6 games before turning it around and having a second half of the season for the ages.

  11. Schlagdawg

    Hey Senator, dunno if you saw Schlabach’s tweet about UGA hot seat: http://twitter.com/Mark_Schlabach/status/22572456497

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