Where I’m at

Some random thoughts and beliefs before the opener on what I expect this season (no doubt I’ll abandon plenty of them as things progress):

  • Mason brings a different skill set to the table than the one his predecessor did.  But I’m pretty confident that Bobo will be very good at scheming around his new QB’s strengths and weaknesses.  So I think Mason will put up numbers that will at least be serviceable.  What I don’t know yet is whether he can match Murray’s will to drive the team against top opponents in crunch time that we finally saw emerge in the 2012 SECCG.
  • Last night demonstrated that there isn’t a complete team in the SEC East this season.  What lessons does Georgia draw from that?
  • As we saw last season, the offensive line doesn’t have to be dominant for the offense to be successful.  But greater consistency would be huge.  I don’t think Theus is going to be a step down at left tackle, because Gates never was suited to play that spot anyway.  But the other tackle spot worries me.  So does Burnette’s departure.
  • I think Floyd, Jenkins and Carter are going to be pass rushing beasts.  And no one will be happier about that than their mates in the secondary.
  • Speaking of the secondary, I assume we’re about to find out that playing fundamentally sound football trumps talent.  What I don’t know is by how much.
  • Outside of Marshall Morgan, you could tell me anything about Georgia’s special teams and I’d probably believe you.  It shouldn’t be hard for the return teams to improve, but that doesn’t mean they will.  And I’m not sure Collin Barber has gotten over the effects of the concussion he suffered last season.
  • The guys I have the most faith in are Gurley and Marshall (duh).  The kid I have the most hope for is McKenzie.
  • The change in scheme from Grantham to Pruitt that I think will have the biggest payoff for the defense is the redefining of the role of the Star defender and the associated removal of a linebacker in obvious passing situations.
  • I’m really intrigued by how well Quayvon Hicks manages to handle his increased responsibilities this season.  I also wonder if we’re about to see the most diminished role for the fullback that we’ve had under Richt.
  • As much as I’d like to see a pass rusher emerge on the d-line, I’ll be happier if those guys can do their jobs as well against the run as they did for much of last year.
  • I hope Mitchell and Scott-Wesley get back soon, but for some reason I feel strangely pessimistic that’s going to happen.  And I’m keeping my fingers crossed as to Jay Rome’s health.
  • There are a lot of ifs you can point to, but the if with the biggest upside for Georgia this season is if this team can swing back from being in the hole with turnover margin.
  • I think there are at least a couple of losses on the schedule, because it’s hard for me to discount the flaws in too many areas early on.  But I agree with Bill Connelly that Georgia has the highest ceiling of any team in the East.  If the coaches manage the rehab job faster than I expect, look out.

Anything you guys want to add?

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Filed under Georgia Football

Friday morning buffet

We’re getting closer.  Hungry yet?

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Filed under Big Ten Football, Georgia Football, Georgia Tech Football, Media Punditry/Foibles, Notre Dame's Faint Echoes, Pac-12 Football, Whoa, oh, Alabama

Last night in the SEC

In descending order of interest…

Texas A&M 52  South Carolina 28

That’s what they pay him the big bucks for, folks.

Many of us were dazzled by the preseason confident Spurrier (“he’s like that when he knows his team is good”).  Kevin Sumlin looked at a green secondary and a defensive line that lost its two best players, one of whom was the number one pick in the NFL draft, and decided he wanted some of that.  Sixty (!) passes and 511 passing yards later, the rest was history.  What’s remarkable is that Sumlin had his own share of first round draft losses on offense to overcome.  And he overcame with a vengeance.

The game somewhat reminded me of South Carolina’s epic 2007 loss to Arkansas, when Spurrier’s team moved the ball and scored on offense, but had no clue on how to stop Darren McFadden, who blew up the SC defense for an SEC record 324 yards.  Last night was more lopsided, but the feeling of defensive helplessness was equally palpable.

The question at this point is whether TAMU is that good on offense, or South Carolina is that overrated on defense.  It’s probably a little of both, but we’ve got too small a sample size to know for sure yet.  One thing is for sure, though:  if the ‘Cocks can’t find a pass rush in a hurry, it’s going to be a long year for their defensive backs, who were sliced and diced repeatedly by precisely run routes and throws.

There’s also got to be some concern on the other side of the ball, where the run game was anemic.  Sure, Davis’ injury didn’t help and Spurrier was forced to abandon the run to try to keep pace, but that offensive line was supposed to blast TAMU’s defense and that didn’t really happen.  Nor did Thompson really look any better than he did last season; he’s still hit and miss (although he throws a beautiful deep ball when he has the time).  The Aggies’ pass defense was as questionable as Carolina’s, so you wonder what will happen when SC faces a team with a legit pass defense.

For Georgia partisans, it’s hard to see the result as anything but good news on a number of levels.  No, it doesn’t translate into a guaranteed win in Columbia in a couple of weeks, but a defense doesn’t absorb a body blow to its psyche like that and shake it off overnight.  And the ‘Cocks face another Air Raid attack this week in East Carolina’s.  It’s hard to see how Lorenzo Ward is going to have time to game plan for Georgia while he’s trying to devise a way to stop the bleeding in the secondary.  The other thing that’s big, of course, is the loss itself.  If – and note I did say “if” – Georgia goes in to Columbia in a couple of weeks and steals the win, South Carolina’s divisional hopes may not be dead, but they’ll certainly be on life support.

By the way, Spurdog, 52 points and 611 yards are career marks in Columbia.  Now you know a little bit about how we felt after the 1995 Florida game in Athens.

Ole Miss 35  Boise State 13

Mississippi is the scariest team in the Southeastern Conference.

I don’t mean scary in the sense of dominant.  I mean scary in the sense of unpredictable.  Freeze’s team has talent, especially on defense, and plays with a mean streak, again, particularly on defense.  But it’s got depth issues and the talent isn’t spread out across the board.  It’s also got a quarterback who often plays with the attention and focus of a pregnant gerbil.

That’s how you wind up farting around for three quarters with a Boise State team that is several notches below the seasoned group that beat Georgia in the Dome a few seasons ago.

In other news, Bo Wallace is still Bo Wallace.

Freeze was baffled by a couple of Wallace’s interceptions, saying the senior threw toward receivers who weren’t even supposed to be part of the play.

Yet he still wound up throwing for 387 yards and four touchdowns.

There’s going to be a game this year where Ole Miss shows up for its entirety and beats a powerhouse in the West.  And there’s going to be a game this year where Wallace never shows up and Ole Miss gets smoked.  Enjoy the ride.

Temple 37  Vanderbilt 7

How does a team lose by thirty at home to a team coming off a 2-10 season?  Seven – seven – turnovers and a minus-five turnover margin will do that for you.  We knew Vandy’s offense would be anemic coming into the season; it lived up to the expectation and then some by failing to score.  But we didn’t know it would take an active hand in sabotaging the rest of the team like that.

Derek Mason played three quarterbacks.  Nothing worked.  It’s looking a like a long season may be shaping up in Nashville.

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Filed under SEC Football

And we’re officially underway with the 2014 season…

It’s not a visor toss, but the disgust still comes through.

In fairness, he’s got some reasons for that.

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Filed under The Evil Genius

“I always let the coordinators be where they want to be,” Saban said.

Except in the case of Junior.

Gee, I wonder why.

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Filed under Don't Mess With Lane Kiffin, Nick Saban Rules

Reinvention

Good piece from Brandon Larrabee on how Steve Spurrier turned the South Carolina program around includes this observation:

In a way, it’s not really surprising to say that facilities, recruiting and coaching all played a role in South Carolina’s emergence as a power in the SEC East. What is perhaps somewhat surprising is that Steve Spurrier — who won a half-dozen SEC titles and a national championship at Florida doing things his way — was able to oversee that kind of reinvention in the twilight of his career.

Larrabee is referring to the reinvention of the program there, but I think Spurrier also reinvented his approach to running a program as well.  Not an easy thing to do, especially when you’re somebody who’s had a great deal of success over a long period doing things in a particular way.  You have to tip your hat to Spurrier for pulling that off.

You also have to wonder if Mark Richt can pull off the same trick.  It’s apparent to me that Richt is in the second phase of reinventing his approach to running the Georgia program since the dark days of the 2009 season, although I’m not sure whether it’s best to characterize what’s been happening this offseason as a continuation of what he started when he dismissed Willie Martinez and the rest of the defensive staff, or if this is a separate development.  In any event, it’s apparent that in some ways, business as usual in 2014 isn’t the same business as usual we saw over the previous four seasons.

2009 saw a complete breakdown in confidence between the staff and players.  That breakdown has largely been mended, I feel.  But it may have masked other issues that came to light later, issues which I would sort of group together under the heading of not paying enough attention to details.  That’s how you get the nitpicking crazy stuff about special teams breakdowns I’ve highlighted this week.  It’s also how you get poor roster management.

So maybe the new blood that’s arrived has put a charge into Richt, a charge leading him to focus on the details more than he did before.  Last year was a valuable experience in that we finally saw a Georgia team that may have lost its composure now and then, but never failed to show up for a game – something we couldn’t say about the prior two seasons (or many seasons before that, honestly), even if both 2011 and 2012 saw SECCG trips along the way. That’s the sign of a team that’s bought back in to what the coaches have to offer.  The next step from that is to keep up that focus on all the details, which is over time what separates teams with talent from teams that win consistently.

Is Georgia there yet?  I am skeptical you can turn a battleship that quickly, but Richt has surprised me before.  Even if there isn’t a complete transformation, there should be early signs of it we should see in the opener if all the preseason talk we’ve gotten is more than just that.  I’ll be rooting for reinvention.

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Filed under Georgia Football

“Nothing can unify a community and alumni base of a university like college football can.”

Too bad schools are losing touch with their students on that front, then.

Average student attendance at college football games is down 7.1% since 2009, according to an analysis by The Wall Street Journal of stadium turnstile records from about 50 public colleges with top-division football teams. The decline was 5.6% at colleges in the five richest conferences.

The decrease even at schools with entrenched football traditions and national championships stands in contrast to college football’s overall popularity.

What’s the problem?  Not enough wi-fi?  Nah, it’s the usual suspect.

The growing number of empty seats in student sections across the U.S. is a sign of soaring ticket prices, more lopsided games and fewer matchups against longtime rivals, and the proliferation of televised games that make it easier than ever for students to keep tailgating long after kickoff.

It’s money that they love.  Schools, I mean.  And students usually don’t have that much, at least in comparison to older alumni and ESPN.  And perhaps that’s why ADs like Joe Alleva don’t sound that upset.

“There are so many other things they can do that maybe going to the game that day isn’t the most important thing on their agenda,” says Louisiana State University athletic director Joe Alleva. Student attendance fell 5.5% to 8,508 in 2013 from 9,000 in 2012.

By the time LSU notices that those students aren’t buying season tickets down the road, Joe will be off enjoying retirement somewhere and it’ll be somebody else’s problem.  Of course, by then college football may be sporting a 24-team playoff, so maybe nobody will notice.

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Filed under College Football