Monthly Archives: November 2012

Okay, so how did those preseason SEC predictions work out anyway?

With the regular season concluded, title game excepted, it’s time to go back and see how badly I whiffed on my preseason assessments of the SEC programs.  (Schools listed in the same order as they were in the preseason post, with this year’s regular season won-loss totals.)

SEC WEST

LSU (10-2, 6-2)

  • What I said:  Les Miles broke through the two-loss barrier last year.  He looks good for a repeat of that.  Mathieu’s departure will hurt, but not as much as the pundit class would have you believe.  And Mettenberger won’t matter unless he’s a turnover machine.
  • How I did:  It turns out that with regard to Les Miles’ coaching skills, 2011 was an outlier.  This season saw the return of ol’ Two-Loss.  I think the rest of what I had there was pretty accurate.
  • Grade:  B

ALABAMA (11-1, 7-1)

  • What I said:  Neck and neck with LSU.
  • How I did:  I said one loss, and one loss it was.  That being said, this was the easiest prediction to make for any team in the conference.
  • Grade:  A-

ARKANSAS (4-8, 2-6)

  • What I said:  I’m bearish.  Petrino meant more to this team than many admit and is almost impossible to replace as a playcaller.  There’s no way this defense is as good as Alabama’s or LSU’s.  The schedule says the Hogs are a lock to win at least eight; the question is whether the ceiling is nine wins or ten.
  • How I did:  That Arkansas schedule is laughing its ass off at me right now.  My only consolations are that I did point in the right direction and that’s more than a lot of pundits can claim.
  • Grade:  C-

AUBURN (3-9, 0-8)

  • What I said:  Chizik did a decent job last year, all things considered.  But with new coordinators on both sides of the ball, a new quarterback, a power offense that has to find a replacement for its best power running back and a schedule with five of the preseason’s top fourteen teams in the country on it, getting back to eight wins will be a challenge.
  • How I did:  Well, yeah.  But I never thought Auburn would get skunked in the conference.
  • Grade:  C+

MISSISSIPPI STATE (8-4, 4-4)

  • What I said:  MSU should do no worse than come out of the gate 6-1.  Then comes a brutal four-game stretch when the Bulldogs are probably looking at going 1-3, and then a finish against Ole Miss.
  • How I did:  Basically, these guys finished about where I expected.  They just took a slightly different route than I anticipated.
  • Grade:  B+

MISSISSIPPI (6-6, 3-5)

  • What I said:  If Ole Miss doesn’t win a game before September’s out, it likely won’t win a game all year.
  • How I did:  Wrong, bacon breath.
  • Grade:  F

TEXAS A & M (10-2, 6-2)

  • What I said:  Too many new variables for TAMU to challenge the top teams in the SEC West.  If everything clicks, eight wins is doable.  If not, no bowl game for the Aggies.
  • How I did:  “If everything clicks”?  Johnny Football does not think that phrase means what I think it means.
  • Grade:  D+

SEC EAST

GEORGIA (11-1, 7-1)

  • What I said:  If the Dawgs beat Missouri, you can make a reasonable case for an eleven-win season and a return trip to Atlanta.
  • How I did:  Yep.
  • Grade:  A

SOUTH CAROLINA (10-2, 6-2)

  • What I said:  I have a feeling the ‘Cocks get by Arkansas this year, so the season could come down to how they fare against LSU.  Ten wins look likely.
  • How I did:  Much to Steve Spurrier’s chagrin, this proved accurate.
  • Grade:  A

FLORIDA (11-1, 7-1)

  • What I said:  Overall, the trend lines are positive, but it’s hard to get excited about the Gator offense.  Eight or nine wins look about right.
  • How I did:  Behold the power of turnover margin!  Look for regression to the mean to make a triumphant return in next year’s predictions.
  • Grade:  B-

VANDERBILT (8-4, 5-3)

  • What I said:  You’ve probably heard by now that Vanderbilt has never played in bowl games in two successive seasons.  Can the Commodores do it this year?  It’s going to be a close call.  They won’t sneak up on anybody, but they get a few favors from the schedule (no Alabama, Arkansas or LSU from the West, for example).  And they’re experienced.  Depth is the thing to watch.  A couple of key injuries and Vandy’s season could unravel.
  • How I did:  Basically, the Commodores didn’t slide and several of their conference mates did.  Well played, James Franklin.
  • Grade:  C-

KENTUCKY (2-10, 0-8)

  • What I said:  Remember that Seinfeld episode when Elaine is horrified by the realization that she’s turned into George?  Well, Kentucky has turned into Vanderbilt.  It’s hard to see where the ‘Cats get a conference win, or beat Louisville.  Three wins, tops.
  • How I did:  This was the second easiest preseason prediction to make.
  • Grade:  A-

TENNESSEE (5-7, 1-7)

  • What I said:  The schedule alone should make Tennessee bowl eligible.  I can see the Vols winning as many as eight, assuming no more implosions are on the horizon.  You have to wonder how smooth the change to a 3-4 scheme on defense will be, though.
  • How I did:  I should have trusted that first comment less and that last one more.  SOD should have, too.
  • Grade:  D+

MISSOURI (5-7, 2-6)

  • What I said: I want to say eight wins again for the Tigers, but two things hold me back.  One is depth. Missouri has issues keeping key personnel healthy.  The other is the schedule.  There’s only one FCS school and one mid-major on the OOC slate.  And with three preseason top ten teams there, the margin for error isn’t that great.
  • How I did:  Injuries hurt the Tigers more than I expected.  The schedule proved tough, but they shouldn’t have blown a lead at home to Syracuse.
  • Grade:  C

I don’t think I graded myself on a curve, but let me know what you think.

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You say it’s your birthday.

WordPress just reminded me that GTP turns six years old today.  Yay!

A sincere thanks to all who have stuck around for the ride so far.  It’s been a gas and it wouldn’t be the same without you.

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Filed under GTP Stuff

Expanded playoffs’ Trojan Horse

Chase Stuart dials up a scenario that’s guaranteed to raise the volume level.

Winning your division = Bad

We saw this last year, when Alabama ended the year as BCS #2 and therefore had locked up its spot in the national championship game, while LSU still had to go play in the SEC Championship Game. In this particular case, I don’t feel too bad about the fact that Florida would be given a free pass to the four-team playoff while Georgia has to go play Alabama, but only because Florida has faced a much tougher schedule.

But what if instead of what actually happened — Florida beating South Carolina, South Carolina beating Georgia, and Georgia beating Florida — the order was reversed, and Georgia beat South Carolina, South Carolina beat Florida, and Florida beat Georgia? In that case, Florida would likely be #2 or #3 in the BCS, while Georgia would sit pretty at 4. And Florida would go play Alabama for the right to win the SEC… with the loser being left out of the playoffs. That’s patently unfair. Being the third best team in your conference could be preferable to being the second best team. This is a lock to happen at some point during a four-team playoff. This is also going to be a bigger problem generally as conferences get bigger, because conference schedules will become unbalanced. [Emphasis added.]  The Big 12 has a round robin where everyone plays everyone, but in a 14-team conference, you can easily see a better team end up with a worse record than an inferior team due purely to scheduling.

Is there any doubt what will happen in response?  Of course not – they’ll just grow the postseason to make sure injustice is served.  If you’re a brackets fan, this is a feature, not a bug.

The best part of this is that it’s totally unplanned.  It’s like the weird bastard love child of conference expansion and postseason revenue greed.  Which of course makes it hard to figure out where it will stop, because the next fix will just create a new set of problems.  Ah, what the hell… it’ll go on until ESPN tells ‘em to STFU, financially speaking.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs

Some losses are more equal than others.

Shorter Actual Chris Low“No matter how hard you try, it’s difficult to get the version of Georgia that lost by four touchdowns to South Carolina earlier this season out of your mind. There’s no doubt the Bulldogs are playing at a different level right now, but this is also a more dialed-in Alabama team thanks to the loss to Texas A&M a few weeks ago.”

Amazing how those outcomes work.

If this is the quality insight ESPN comes up with, I’m feeling better and better about Georgia’s chances Saturday.

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Filed under Media Punditry/Foibles

Second thoughts on SECCG

Yesterday, I told you what concerned me most.  This time, you get what gives me the most hope.

Offensive diversity.  I don’t want to say that the injuries to Bennett and Brown have been blessings in disguise, but the way Bobo and the offense have taken up the slack in the wake of their departures is impressive.  Here’s what Bill Connelly has to say about that:

… Quietly, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray has put together one of the most impressive, underrated seasons in recent memory. Despite losing two key cogs in his receiving corps — Michael Bennett (71 percent catch rate, 10.1 yards per target) went down after five weeks, Marlon Brown (65 percent catch rate, 11.5 yards per target) after nine — Murray has produced at a high enough level to place Georgia first in the country in Passing S&P+.

With no Bennett or Brown, receiver-turned-cornerback-turned-receiver Malcolm Mitchell has once again stepped up on the offensive side of the ball, and players like tight end Arthur Lynch and sophomore receiver Chris Conley have raised their production in recent weeks. As a result, Murray has developed almost no season-long tendencies whatsoever. Including Mitchell and Brown, four Bulldogs have been targeted between 34 and 56 times (Tavarres King 56, Mitchell 45, Brown 40, Bennett 34), and seven more have been targeted between 12 and 26, or once to twice per game. Murray throws to whoever is open, period…

Georgia is rather conservative on passing downs, running the ball 44 percent of the time (the 15th highest average in the country) but moves with perfect balance between Murray’s right arm and the legs of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall (combined: 24 carries and 155 rushing yards per game) on standard downs. They do whatever you cannot stop, and they are brutally effective.

This is what a good pro-style offense is supposed to offer as a challenge to a good defense.  In its own fashion, it may be more difficult for Alabama to defend than what TAMU threw at it.  (Assuming Georgia’s offensive line can hold up its end of the deal.  And, yes, I know that’s a big if.)

Tight end production.  Sure, some of that’s a factor of the aforementioned injuries, but give the Dawgs credit for making lemonade out of lemons.  10 of Lynch’s 18 catches this season have come in the last four weeks.  For Rome, it’s a similar story, with 8 of his 10 coming in that same period.  Even better, both are averaging higher yards per catch than Orson Charles did last year.  The flexibility this gives Bobo with his formations and playcalling shouldn’t be underestimated.

Jarvis Jones isn’t ‘da man anymore on defense.  Don’t get your hackles up.  That’s a good thing, as Bill C. explains.

… Since Williams spoke out, Georgia has allowed 8.6 points per game and 4.6 yards per play. The Georgia defense has improved, incredibly, from 71st in Def. F/+ to 25th.

This is the unit we expected to see all year, with Jarvis Jones wreaking havoc (19.5 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles, three passes defensed, and if you believe the Georgia stat-keeper — and having seen Jones play live, I think I do — 30 quarterback hurries), linebacker Alec Ogletree flying from sideline to sideline (Ogletree leads Georgia in tackles despite playing only eight games), and safety Bacarri Rambo playing the role of Ball Hawk Extraordinaire (against Georgia Tech last week, Rambo forced two fumbles, recovered and returned one for 49 yards, and returned an interception for 27 yards while also logging 6.0 tackles). After single-handedly accounting for a good portion of Georgia’s big defensive plays against teams like Missouri and Florida, Jones has gone from the country’s most valuable player (at least a co-MVP with Kansas State’s Collin Klein) to simply a cog in a destructive, physical defense.

It took a little while, but the pieces have come together for defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and the Georgia defense like we thought it might at the beginning of the year.

Make no mistake: Alabama’s defense is still possibly the best in college football. But Georgia’s might be the hottest.

Next up – do Georgia’s plusses outweigh its minuses?

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Filed under Georgia Football

Sometimes, you don’t need to spell anything with UT.

This made me laugh out loud.

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange

Coach of the year

Ron Higgins writes, “Mark Richt might be the best football coach in SEC history that has spent the most time on the hot seat.”

I’m of a generation that recalls a time when fifteen and twenty-year head coaching careers at the same school weren’t rare, so on one level, that Mark Richt has survived at Georgia for twelve seasons doesn’t make me sit back and go wow.  But when you measure his tenure in Athens by other coaches, as Seth Emerson does here, it’s rather remarkable.

As he summarizes, since Richt’s hire, “the rest of the (pre-expansion) SEC schools have churned through a combined 33 coaches, not counting the four new ones to be hired, or interim coaches.”  Thirty three!  (Soon to be thirty seven.)  Holy moly.  The longevity, while remarkable, isn’t what impresses me most about Richt today, though.  It’s what he’s done in the last three seasons that does.

As Dan Wetzel puts it,

There are only three coaches still in the hunt for a national title, and Richt is the only one who had significant parts of his fan base either crying for his firing or expecting it to be inevitable just two years ago.

That was December 2010, at the completion of a dreadful 6-7 season, complete with a loss to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl where the Bulldogs managed a pathetic two field goals against a Conference USA defense. The team was hampered by the suspension of three players, and the program’s first losing season since 1996 came on the heels of an already worrisome 8-5 campaign. Even worse Auburn, coached by Gene Chizik of all people, was about to win a national title starting a superman quarterback from outside Atlanta.

Hey, I plead guilty.  And the reality is that you can point to a moment more recent than two years ago if you want.  But, perhaps improbably, Richt’s picked himself up, dusted his team off and has the program on the brink of something every Dawg fan has hoped for – maybe even expected – since the 2002 season.  That is something to celebrate.

And it’s worth acknowledging how difficult a task it’s been.  I’ve written before that I’m a believer in the battleship theory of big college football programs like Georgia’s.  They’re hard to turn around quickly.  That’s especially true when you’re asking a coach who’s steered the battleship into troubled waters in the first place to be the one to make the course correction.  Inertia is a bitch.  Yet here we are.  Richt’s made an effort to reinvent his approach, often at the cost of affecting personal relationships that matter greatly to him, and it’s made a difference.  We can all argue about the timing, but the truth is that there are plenty of coaches who wouldn’t have the humility to admit that what once worked no longer did.

Yes, the header is facetious in a way.  The preseason expectations surrounding Georgia were high enough that this 11-win season isn’t as special as what’s gone on at places like Florida, Ole Miss and Texas A&M (although there is this).  But as a fan who’s watched this program’s one step forward, two steps back dance for more years than he’s liked, this has turned out to be an exceptional year, one to savor.  And that’s why from my selfish standpoint, Mark Richt is my COTY.

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