In the show, Walter Brennan played a crotchety old army scout searching for his son, a gunfighter on the run. Brennan’s character would tell people that he was a faster draw than his son and then add that it was “no brag, just fact”.
That’s basically how I feel about tomorrow’s Sugar Bowl. On this kind of stage, Georgia’s track record is far more impressive than Hawaii’s. Georgia’s certainly taken a more difficult path to get to the game than the Warriors have. Overall, the Dawgs are bigger, faster and deeper than Hawaii. Heart, desire and smarts will take you so far – at some point in time talent has to matter, too.
That’s not to say that a Georgia win is a lock, of course. The Dawgs have lost to some inferior opponents in the last two seasons, including a loss to Vanderbilt at home in ’06 that ranks as the most embarrassing loss of the Richt era. There’s also the loss to West Virginia in the Sugar Bowl two seasons ago that came as a result of a sloppy and poorly prepared team not showing up to play until spotting the opponent 28 points.
But I don’t think this team and, more importantly, this staff will repeat those mistakes. Richt was able to right the ship in the last minutes of the Vanderbilt game this year and has pushed all the proper buttons since. This team has improved steadily in its play all season and that’s reflected in its current six game winning streak. Despite the disappointment of not playing for the MNC, I don’t foresee a letdown in focus or energy against Hawaii.
And for all the attention being payed to the run and shoot and Hawaii’s #1 scoring offense by idiots like Lee Corso, it’s not like Georgia’s offense has been too shabby, either, of late. And that’s the real mystery to me as to why people believe Georgia is going to have a close call in this game.
Hawaii is ranked 41st nationally in scoring defense. Ignoring strength of schedule for the moment, consider the school that Hawaii is tied with in that category: Florida. Georgia scored 42 points against Florida. Georgia Tech, against whom Georgia put up 31 points, is ranked 18th. Auburn, ranked 5th nationally and giving up eight points per game less than Hawaii, allowed Georgia to score 45. If the Dawgs can hang those numbers on Florida, Tech and Auburn, why the hell should we expect Hawaii to do better?
And that’s without factoring in strength of schedule considerations. Steele, in his infinite wisdom, says Florida checks in at #9, Auburn at #38 and Georgia Tech at #63 in national SOS. Hawaii ranks 119th. It’s simply not realistic to expect Hawaii to do a significantly better job of holding the Dawg offense in check than those three schools did.
Moreover, there’s nothing analogous on Hawaii’s side of the coin to this. Georgia is currently 25th nationally in scoring defense. No team on Hawaii’s schedule this year ranks as statistically high as that. Boise State, Phil Steele’s #111 in strength of schedule rankings, comes in at 27th in national scoring defense. The Broncos, in a road game, held Hawaii’s offense seven points under its season’s average.
To me, this is the essence of the ballgame. Both offenses are going to come out trying to do what they’ve been successful with all season – Hawaii throwing the ball all over the place and Georgia using the run to set up the play action stuff – and the story of this game is going to be which defense is able to do a better job slowing down what the other guy does best. There is absolutely nothing that’s occurred this season that suggests that it’s Hawaii’s defense that carries the day here.
In essence – and no offense meant, Hawaii fans – it’s Georgia’s game to lose. No brag, just fact. Yes, look for Brennan and Company to get their yards in the air. And I’m pretty certain that Hawaii will score 28 or so points on the Dawg defense. But barring a turnover hemorrhage or some other unforeseen disaster, I’d expect Georgia to put up at least 42 in response. Over the course of the game, I don’t think Hawaii can keep up.
Georgia wins and covers the spread.