There’s a certain liberating effect when comes Georgia’s bye week. I get to settle on the couch with a clicker and a beverage or two and flick away to my heart’s content with the remote. And there was plenty of action to follow yesterday.
Here are a few general observations about the conference:
- Good teams play good defense. For all the flashiness of the spread, the strength of this conference is still in its defensive play.
- Quarterbacks? What quarterbacks? You’ve got Tebow, who’s having what for him is a lesser year. You’ve got Snead, who’s talented but erratic. You’ve got Mallett, who’s channeling his inner Matthew Stafford. You’ve got Garcia, who’s good at generating yardage without generating points. With the regression of McElroy and Todd, this is a very ordinary group overall.
- Mixed bag on the kicking front. Lots of missed field goals yesterday. Outside of Tiffin, no kicker had what I’d call a great performance.
- Lots of smart coaches in this league. The undermanned Dan Mullen really stood out, which makes sense, but all the usual suspects – Saban, Monte Kiffin, Ellis Johnson among others – had their defenses well prepared. And it looks like the defensive coaches in this league have figured out Gus Malzahn’s offense.
- Will you people finally realize that Arkansas isn’t that good? I’ve never understood the love this year for the Hogs. They’re 1-4 in the conference now with a couple of ranked opponents left to play, including a road trip to LSU in the finale. They gave up 553 yards to Mississippi; the score would have been much worse if the Rebels hadn’t turned the ball over so much.
- Alshon Jeffery is a rising star. After watching that game yesterday, I understand why Junior threw the insults at him during recruiting when Jeffery indicated he wasn’t interested in wearing orange. This kid is good. I can’t believe how much he’s improved since I saw him in Athens.
- That Florida defensive depth is no myth. No Brandon Spikes and a patchwork defensive line, and the Gators still held Anthony Dixon to 53 yards on 15 carries.
- No plaque this time. Savor this, ye fans of the GPOOE™: “And then after the game, which No. 1 Florida hung on and won 29-19 despite repeated woes in the red zone and a determined effort by Dan Mullen’s Bulldogs, Tebow declined to talk to the media for the first time in his career.” That’s what happens when you throw about as well as Tyson Lee, I guess.
- No Heisman for you. I think the Mark Ingram campaign stopped as abruptly as it started.
- A Vanderbilt milestone. Warren Norman became the first Commodores player since Vanderbilt began playing football in 1890 with two kickoff return TDs in a season.
- A South Carolina milestone. But that’s not as sad as what got Spurrier excited –
Spurrier, who won his 105th SEC game to tie Georgia’s Vince Dooley for third in the conference, was asked about that distinction. He said he was more impressed that South Carolina had won five straight SEC games at home — best in school history.
“That’s a record, right?” Spurrier said. “I like that one better.”
“And what about Georgia?”, you might ask.
Well, on a certain level, matters are about as we might expect. The Dawgs have said and done the right things during their off week. The Gators’ newfound offensive shakiness in the wake of Tebow’s concussion has given them grounds for hope, as well. But there are still many questions surrounding this bunch.
Do we take it as a sign for optimism that the same Vandy team that Cox and Company scorched (okay, it’s a relative term) for 34 points in Nashville was able to limit South Carolina to 14? How depressed should we be over Tennessee being held to three points until there were less than two minutes to play yesterday?
How concerned should we be at this point in the season that Stacey Searels is still reshuffling assignments on the offensive line?
Are we unfairly discounting the effect that the schedule has had on Georgia’s play and record to date? And why does the betting public seem to have a better impression of this team than the fans who follow it more closely do?
As much as I’d like to think that Florida’s less than stellar play in its last two games against teams with lesser overall talent than Georgia’s gives the Dawgs a better chance than many will give credit, I can’t help feeling that if Bobo and Martinez stroll into Jax with the same coaching philosophies they’ve had on display all year – soft zone on defense and running to establish the pass on offense – it’s going to be the exact tonic Florida needs to get everything back on track. Throw in Georgia’s 119th national ranking in turnover margin, and you don’t exactly have a recipe for success.
I’ll have more to say during the week, but rather than tritely saying that Georgia has to play its best game of the year to have a fighting chance in Jax, I’ll close here by simply saying that it’ll be a great start if the Dawgs show up and play their most competent one.