Making the case for a better year in 2010…

My post yesterday in response to David Hale’s question about whether an 8-5 mark in 201o would be acceptable got me to thinking about what factors I’m basing my expectations for this season on.  I’ve probably touched on most of them here over the past few months, but it’s worth trying to organize them into a list of pluses and minuses.

POSITIVES

  • Schedule. Georgia doesn’t play three non-conference BCS-level foes this season, it doesn’t play two of those on the road and it doesn’t open with one.  The Dawgs drop LSU for Mississippi State.  Alabama isn’t on the slate.  Idaho State may be the worst team Georgia has ever played.  Even with the early road game stretch, this is still a less difficult schedule than the team played through last season.
  • Regression to the mean. Georgia won’t finish minus-16 in turnover margin this season.
  • Special teams. I did a recent comparison between Georgia’s and Florida’s special teams, but neglected to mention that there’s a sizeable gap between those two schools and the rest of the conference.
  • Health. I hesitate to bring this up for fear of the jinx factor, but Richt has said that this is the first time in Athens that he’s looking at having no serious injury issues going into fall practice.  That’s huge.
  • SEC East. It’s looking a little down this season, right?
  • Returning starters on offense. Nobody in the conference returns more starters on that side of the ball than Georgia.  That suggests good things may be in store for the running game.
  • Established offensive identity. One of my complaints early last season was that Bobo wasn’t certain about what he wanted his offense to do.  By the end of the season, he had a clue.  The experience on offense should reinforce that this year.  Having the best play maker in the conference can’t hurt, either.

NEGATIVES

  • Aaron Murray. Hey, look, he’s talented, he’s been in the system for two spring practices now and he’s surrounded by a boat load of experienced talent.  He’s also an unproven redshirt freshman quarterback who’s about to get thrown into the SEC wars for the first time.  It’s a crapshoot, at least to start with.
  • Change of defensive scheme. Some of this will (I hope) be ameliorated by better fundamentals than what we’ve seen for the past two seasons and by (again, I hope) a commitment to put the best players on the field, regardless of seniority.  But if nothing else, there are going to be inherent personnel issues that Grantham will try to coach around.  The thing is, Xs and Os can only take you so far.
  • Lack of experienced depth at quarterback and outside linebacker. If you’re a little nervous today, imagine what things would be like if some combination of Murray, Houston and Washington went down for part or all of the season.  Gulp.
  • 3-17. My gut tells me that 6-2 will be good enough to win the East this year.  Georgia has a leg up on Florida in that the Gators get both LSU and Alabama on the schedule (back-to-back, to boot!) and the Dawgs miss both.  But I don’t see Georgia rolling up a two game lead in the East on Florida, which means that the winner of the WLOCP should be in the driver’s seat in the East.  That, um, isn’t good if you’re a Georgia fan.

I haven’t weighed these factors against each other yet.  (That’s what July is for.)  But I will say at this early vantage point for me, the good outweighs the bad, mainly due to the first two positives I’ve listed.

So what do you guys think?

56 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

56 responses to “Making the case for a better year in 2010…

  1. heyberto

    As always, hard to argue with your logic. We’ll see how it all plays out. I, for one, don’t want high expectations… I prefer to be pleasantly surprised by our season, if that’s even possible.

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  2. hailtogeorgia

    Senator, I think there are two things you left off of the positives list. One of these things is arguable, the other definitely isn’t.

    1. Bryan Evans. I love the guy for what he brings to the locker room, but there’s no way you can say that Georgia isn’t a much better team in coverage without him on the field.

    2. Plug n’ Play (aka Tight Ends). This may fall under the returning starters thing a bit, but with the four tight ends we have, Bobo should be able to use a lot more two tight end sets and should be able to do just about anything he wants as far as flexibility at the position is concerned. If he wants two big bruisers to block, he’s got them in Figgins and Lynch. If he wants pass catchers, he’s got them in Charles and White. I think this is the type of thing that could really allow Georgia to have a large number of long, sustained drives and give that young defense some help.

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  3. Spike

    Senator, the easier schedule and the experience on offense, QB excepted, are the biggest positives. Stiil there is the WLOCP. Can we not soil our pants against these guys for once?

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  4. sUGArdaddy

    I’ve said it for the longest time, as much as I want to pound them into oblivion in Jax, we need to win a barn-burner down there. 2 of the games we’ve won in the last 20 years we man-handled them (’97 & ’07) and in 2004 we put the game away.

    We need to sweat one out and win a squeaker. We need to score w/ :20 left to take the lead, or knock away a 4th down Gator pass attempt in the last minute, or make a last second FG. That’s the problem down there. We need to win on a miracle. To me, that is what turned the UT series around. That would make everyone finally believe.

    Don’t forget, though, that Brantley is inexperienced, too. It’s easy to assume that he’ll step in a be great, but he might not be. Crompton was very highly recruited, as was Cox. You just never know about a QB. He may struggle, get dinged up, or be colorblind and like throwing it to the other team. Will those Gator WRs be as open when their’s no threat of a running QB or any viable running threat at all?

    We listened all summer about how much better off we’d be with Cox than Stafford. Not so much. Might be the same thing in Gainesville.

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    • hailtogeorgia

      That’s a really good point about winning a close one in Jacksonville that I hadn’t really thought about before. I think you’re right, a comeback victory on a drive down the field or something to that extent would be a lot more confidence inspiring than a beatdown.

      I know that of the Georgia/Florida games I’ve been to that we’ve won, even when we get a big lead early, I’m always scared they’re going to get their stuff together and come back and beat us. It certainly would be nice to be on the other end of that comeback to change around the psyche a bit.

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    • Sanford222View

      This is a very good point that I had not thought about either. We need to win a game in Jax when things are stacked against us and we must overcome adversity. The players need to prove to themselves they can do that.

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  5. jferg

    I think you have to add “Change of Defensive Scheme” to the positive column as well as being in the negative one. This is the regression to the mean for the defense. Surely, given our schedule/opponents, better defensive coaching and a time-clock-eating run-based offense, we won’t give up 30+ points per game.

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    • JC in Powder Springs

      Agreed. I consider the D coaching change a big plus, and expect the ‘points allowed’ to come down. Also expect the D to generate more turnovers and more sacks – now that may turn out to be just 1 more turnover and 1 more sack, but it’d be an improvement. Of course, easier schedule factors into the D having those better stats.

      Q: Is changing schemes to 3-4 really much of a factor if the old 4-3 scheme wasn’t very effective last year?

      One thing is for sure, the new coaches sure have breathed life into the program. It’s disappointing to see Robinson & Mett gone, but you really have to be psyched about the verbal commitments, the new attacking D approach, fundamentals, etc. Dawgs are 45-1 for the national championship, and yours truly has plunked down more than a couple Jacksons.

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  6. Puffdawg

    Senator,

    I’ll probably catch a lot of flak for this. And this response probably belongs on yesterday’s hypothetical 8-5 post, but I’ve been trying to decide where I stand on this issue ever since your post yesterday on the same topic. And I honestly think you’re adding fuel to the hot seat fire by posting stuff like that.

    Here’s my take – If my best friend slept with my wife, we wouldn’t be best friends anymore. If my next door neighbor stole all my tools, I’d be pissed. But until those things happen, why am I going to work myself into a frenzy worrying about it? I know it’s slow on the college football front right now. I get that. But all of this is just idle (negative) speculation, which is perfect for morons like Stewie Mandel and Dennis Dodd. But, in my opinion, it is below you. That sort of thing leads people to start making absurd comments – like declaring that (the other) USC on the road is a gimme win. I just don’t see the point. I mean, what if a meteor hits Earth tomorrow and we all die? What if? What if?

    I like David Hale, and I read his blog, but this isn’t the first time that he has unintentionally stirred the pot. I think that fact that he IS so objective leads him to feel “entitled” to post things that otherwise create a negative energy around the program. There is no benefit to UGA in discussing this topic. Why didn’t he posit, “Would CMR be considered the greatest UGA coach of all time if he is able to go 12-1 this season and dethrone Bama and Florida?” Again, not trying to bash Hale, because I think he usually does a good job.

    Now, as Turd and Muck et al will certainly testify, I am a rah rah supremely optimistic fan. I tend to give benefit of the doubt to CMR (maybe more than I should). And I realize there are different approaches. But in my mind, after the sports year we just had (especially in football), UGA needs as much positive momentum as we can muster, and hypothesizing another disastrous season by one of the greatest coaches in our school’s history ain’t gonna get us there.

    Just my two cents.

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    • First off, I thought I was being optimistic here and in yesterday’s post. I’m looking at a team that I think has a legit shot at a 10-2, 6-2 regular season. I’m just trying to start the process of breaking down my reasons for that with this post.

      Secondly, I don’t know what to tell you about off-season speculation, other than it’s the lifeblood of a college football blog like this. I can’t post something about playoffs every day, you know. 😉

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  7. ConnGator

    Minor quibble: I think Bama returns all 11 starts on offense, so that would be more than Georgia.

    Also, regarding the comment about “no viable running threat at all” for Florida, I am not sure what that means. Are you saying that Florida’s offensive line will not open holes, or that Demps, Moody, and Gillislee are not talented? I see Florida having one of the better rushing attacks in the SEC this year.

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    • ConnGator

      Cancel that first part. Bama only returns 8 starters on offense, my mistake.

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    • Steele says ‘Bama returns eight on offense.

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    • sUGArdaddy

      Florida’s running threat the last 3 years was #15. And when the other guys made big runs, it was mostly because there was the threat that Tebow was going to pull it and take it himself. No such threat exists now. Brantley is probably a much better passer than Tebow, but what you can’t equate right now is how many of the those open receivers and running lanes were available because of the presence of #15? John Taylor was a great NFL receiver, but his best attribute was that he always got to play alongside Jerry Rice. Playing against the #2 corner for every team helped.

      And, no, I’m not convinced in Demps, Moody and Gillespie. We virtually shut down Florida’s running backs the last 2 years, even in blowout losses and with Willie on our sideline. I don’t think those guys are in Richardson/Ingram and Ealey/King’s league. Meyers insistence on focusing his running attack around Tebow the last 2 years would say he thinks the same.

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      • ConnGator

        Hmm, you are saying that only the threat of the QB keeper in the option broke open running lanes for the backs? Maybe. I don’t think so but it is possible.

        Most Florida fans are convinced Moody is too injury prone to rely on. Gillislee, though, looks like the real deal. This year passing will set up the run by unstacking the box.

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        • hailtogeorgia

          I think that saying that only the threat of Tebow running is oversimplifying it a bit, but I think Florida’s situation is a unique one. Florida has made their money in the running game with Tebow and the Quarkbacks the past few years (Demps, Rainey, the rest of the sub 5’10 guys that Florida seems to have a stable full of). Much of that running game consisted of sweeps, pitches, and options going outside the tackles. Having guys like the Pouncey twins certainly doesn’t hurt, but it wasn’t exactly the Power I.

          I will be really interested to see how the backs at Florida perform this year. Moody does struggle with injuries, and to be honest, I don’t know much about Gillislee. I know that Mack Brown, the running back who committed from MLK in Atlanta, was the top back in the state, so that can’t be too bad (but maybe he’ll redshirt?). I’m not sure of Florida’s line situation (perhaps you can enlighten me) but losing a center in the first round of the draft doesn’t exactly help. Either way, I do think that the smaller guys will struggle to run between the tackles, and seeing as how Florida hasn’t really run between the tackles recently, I think it’s a bit of a stretch to say that Florida’s running game will be one of the better ones in the SEC. I see them being middle of the road in that area…but hey, we’ll see.

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          • ConnGator

            Florida returns most of the offensive line, losing only only one of the Pouncey twins. Depth should be good but not great.

            Yes, running Demps/Rainey up the middle drove Florida fans crazy last year, similar to Georgia fans griping about directional kicking. If Adazzio keeps doing that he is going to become most hated coach.

            Unless injury strikes or it is a bizarre summer I think Mack Brown redshirts.

            I see a balanced attack, and that’s always tough to defend.

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            • Reptillicide

              You’re hypothesizing though. You think Florida will have one of the better running attacks in the league, but you don’t really have anything to base that off of. As the other guys said, your running game last year was Tebow, plain and simple. There isn’t anybody on your roster that can carry the ball like him. You’ve got some speedsters, but we’ve yet to see an SEC team that ran the ball well without a back that could pound it between the tackles. For as fast are your tailbacks are, none of them are going to spend much time attacking up the middle. I think Mack Brown is your eventual hope to be that guy, but I doubt he will play this year and I think until he is, you won’t see Florida run the ball very well.

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              • Reptillicide

                Also, I hear a lot of Gators saying you expect the offense to be a lot like it was in 2006… problem with that comparison is, again, you had Tebow as a short yardage back.

                From 2006-2009, 3rd and short was almost automatic for you guys… I don’t think any defense in the conference is going to be looking for John Brantley to run the ball on 3rd and short this season. That makes you more predictable.

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        • Reptillicide

          You do realize that you’re counting on a new starter at QB and a bunch of inexperienced receivers to “open up” the run game…. right?

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          • ConnGator

            Well, Brantley is a technically a “new starter” but he is a Junior. Most people think he is already one of the top passers in the conference. But I admit he is untested in tough SEC games.

            Deonte Thompson is hardly inexperienced, and Florida does have Carl Moore back from injury. Add a healthy Andre Dubose (who spent the past year learning the playbook and getting used to SEC speed), and a few others and I think the passing game will be fine.

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  8. All great points Senator, but you forgot one thing…..

    Perhaps my single greatest source of hope lies in Mark Richt. After a few seasons of playing general manager, he seems to have involved himself in the offense once again. Considering what he accomplished at Florida St…..that is a huge plus and something that cannot be overlooked when gauging expectations.

    Mark me down as expecting to see one of the most prolific offenses in Georgia history. Aaron Murray is not your typical redshirt freshman. He will have had two springs camps, two fall camps and an entire season of “holding the clipboard” when Richt finally hands him the keys to the machine on Sept 4th. I might also mention that he has been under the tutelage of one of the greatest offensive minds in college football the last twenty years.

    We didn’t give up many sacks last year and I don’t expect that to change….considering the top pass rushers on our schedule have moved on, the mobility of Aaron Murray, the maturation of King and Ealey and returning our best offensive line in quite sometime.

    As for the defense….I believe CTG will do exactly what he said he will do. Opposing QB’s will not be allowed to get comfortable and will be forced into making quick decisions….that doesn’t bode well for the inexperienced types on our schedule. Having watched some Vandy games lately…..their linebackers have been excellent. That will be a key element for Georgia’s success. I have faith in Coach Belin’s ability to make us much better there.

    Who’s that coming down the tracks…..

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  9. Dawgaholic

    There’s only 3 things we can be fairly sure of going into next year:
    1) Schedule is easier
    2) We will almost certainly have a better t/o margin than last year.
    3) We’ve got a damn good punter and placekicker.

    The rest of the plus and minus points are all speculative. Aaron Murray listed as a negative could be a huge joke come November, as could the defensive scheme change. Health as a positive could change in just one practice. The East may not be down. Spurrier is still Spurrier and you never know how good UF will be.

    At this point, I will say this: I am optimistic that the easier schedule will help us and am excited to see the new defensive scheme and #11 in action; however, I am aware that both #11 and the new defensive scheme will almost be certainly operating below their potential next year and their exact potential is uncertain.

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    • Dawgaholic

      “will almost certainly be” Where’s my %*#@ editor when I need him.

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    • hailtogeorgia

      10 returning starters isn’t speculative.

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      • Dawgaholic

        True. Results will still be on #11’s shoulders. If we don’t establish an effective passing game, teams will load the box. An NFL line and RB would struggle some against 8 or 9 in the box from an SEC D.

        I’m also in the camp that believes that Stafford had much more to do with Moreno’s success than Moreno had to do with Stafford’s success.

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        • Puffdawg

          Unless AM is a complete dud (which is entirely possible I suppose, but doubt), we’ll be fine on offense. We are going to score points. The key will be whether improved fundamentals on defense (tackling, playing the man on pass coverage, pursuit angles) will mask what deficiencies we have with matching personnel with our scheme.

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          • Dawgaholic

            If AM plays as well as Greene did as a RSFR, then the offense will be better than just fine.

            Fortunately, AM as a RSFR compares favorably to Greene in just about every category if you look at what we know about them before their first live snap.

            If I were analyzing the 1980 team in May, I may have said I’m hopeful we’ll be better than last year but it just depends on that freshman back.

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    • Macallanlover

      I would say that having the best offensive line in the SEC in front of two quality RBs is a sure thing you can add to your list of things we can count on, but then I am the fool who thought our OL would be damned good before half the season was gone in 2009. Based on that, I will accept your truisms and hold tight to the fantasy that Searles will have that unit clicking when we hit Columbia. If my expectations are close, we will be very happy, even with a RS Frosh under center.

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  10. baltimore dawg

    i think that another potential positive is no charlie strong to contend with. i have a gut feeling that his departure at uf could be an inflection point in the series.

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    • ugalaw

      Baltimore,

      I concur about Strong. UF has been great the past few years, and could certainly score quickly, but they were always in every game because of their D. They didn’t give up cheap points.

      Take away #15 and Strong, and you are left with Meyer’s third or fourth option for DC and a guy that somehow is being touted as a Heisman candidate despite playing in one game when Timmy hurt his head. I am ready to see Meyer’s smug face after a couple of L’s this year. Hopefully in Jacksonville and then in Tallahassee.

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      • Dawgaholic

        Here’s hoping Tally is number 5 for them, Bama, LSU, us, FSU and another random one just for spite.

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  11. Ward Eagle

    Please, please, please don’t beat AU a-freakin-gain this year.

    Ugh(a)

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  12. South FL Dawg

    The schedule and health are key. The first is favorable and the second appears to be.

    I don’t want to rain on your regression to the mean parade but since we’re talking about one season, not a bunch of them, this is a push. Sorry, just IMHO.

    One other thing I think might help is all the changes….not only do players have to prove themselves but coaches do too. Can Grantham live up to his salary, can Lakatos cut it in the SEC, can Garner coach the entire line, will the offense carry the defense or vice versa…

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    • I don’t want to rain on your regression to the mean parade but since we’re talking about one season, not a bunch of them, this is a push. Sorry, just IMHO.

      Not sure what you’re getting at here. Turnover margin is one of the most randomly generated stats in college football and it varies on a year-to-year basis.

      Are you saying that you think it’s reasonably likely that Georgia will go minus-16 again this season?

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      • Dboy

        He is saying that since it varys year to year we have the same chance of having -16 as we did this time last year, from a pure statistics standpoint… Assuming that it is a truly random number. One year doesn’t predict the next in anyway. However, it is not random. Coaches and
        players do have control by not throwing INTs, forcing turnovers and creating INTs on the field.

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        • Dboy

          Seems to me that there is a loose trend that teams that do well have a favorable TO ratio and the ones that lose have a poor one. I don’t think it’s random. Good teams that are well coached, display good fundamentals and
          are experienced don’t end up with a -16 TO ratio. It is usually positive ratio on championship caliber teams. I choose to think that the best teams play disciplined FB and that this is what underlies their success and also results in a positive turnover ratio

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          • There’s still a random element to fumble recoveries that’s near impossible to predict. If being well coached were all it took to have success, you’d see much greater consistency in the numbers.

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            • hailtogeorgia

              That’s certainly true, but that’s also similar to what Willie said last year, “the ball just didn’t bounce our way”. Were there times we got some unlucky bounces? Sure. At the same time, it’s pretty hard for the ball to bounce your way when your guys are nowhere near the ball.

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            • dboy

              I agree that there is some variability / ball not bouncing our way. But I disagree that it is completely random. Check Alabama since Saban took over.

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              • dboy

                The consistent winning teams on the list (https://blutarsky.wordpress.com/2010/05/11/hope-springs-eternal-turnover-margin-and-regression-to-the-mean/)you linked (ala & fla) have been nearly exclusively positive while the teams that have performed poorly are almost exclusively in the negative TO ratio each year. I don’t think that it is a coincidence… i.e. that Miss state just needed the ball to bounce their way (in the Croom years for example) compared to the amazing TO luck of Alabama and Florida over the same 5 years… and that mysteriously helped them to multiple NCs that during that time period.

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                • You’re glossing over some big differences. Going from plus-6 to plus-19 (as ‘Bama did in 2009) is still a thirteen item difference; it’s just as significant as going from minus-7 to plus-6.

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                • By the way – those long positive streaks you cite? Two of the coaches who contributed to those got canned. There’s more to winning a conference title, let alone a national title, than having a consistently positive t/o margin.

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              • I did. Saban’s first two years had lower positives than Shula’s term. Last year was fantastic, but I doubt you’ll see ‘Bama at +19 in 2010.

                Look at Florida this past year – everyone came back, they had a great year… and t/o margin declined from plus-22 to plus-7.

                This isn’t to say that it’s completely random. But all you guys who want to argue that it’s somehow controllable… well, the stats don’t bear that out.

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  13. fishook dawg

    I think another positive this year is that, thanks to Grantham, players are being ranked on ability, and not by how long they’ve been there. Richt was that way when he first got here and he went away from it. Getting the best play makers on the field at the same time has got to help. I haven’t heard Bobo say he’s ranking the offensive guys, but I would hope he does. One suggestion to Bobo would be, since Gray is going to receiver some, why not hand off on a reverse to him and then have him fling the pass down field to AJ.

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    • Puffdawg

      I see an annexation of puerto rico double reverse statue of liberty flea flicker to a streaking AJ in the near future.

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    • loyaltildeathdog

      I like our qb because he shouldn’t need to carry the team. I like our new D.C. because he’s teaching an outstanding group of athletes to tackle. I like our special teams will hopefully kick the ball into the end zone.

      I like our schedule and the fact that that a D.C. with pressure instead of bend attitude will generate some turnovers which was a problem in 09.

      I can’t wait but I’m a homer.

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  14. Vious

    We will struggle with the 3-4 at many parts of the year and you can tell through players comments that it can be quite confusing with all the check-offs

    We have a Freshman playing QB, RS or not

    We have an OL that couldn’t run block to save their lives the first 3/4ths of last year

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  15. Reptillicide

    People are sleeping on the dawgs, which is a good thing. Let the pundits talk about Florida re-loading, or South Cackalacky finally having “their year”

    There are really only 4 games that we have to worry about winning. South Carolina, Arkansas, Florida and Auburn. Even if you’re skeptical, you’ve got to believe you can split that 2-2, and I think 3-1 is probably with 4-0 possible. Either way, you’re looking at 6-2 or 7-1 in conference, and that probably wins you the East.

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  16. JC in Powder Springs

    How about penalties? Just the change from directional kicks going out of bounds should reduce penalties. Having so many vets returning on O should reduce penalties too. At the spring game, it didn’t appear CTG was very tolerant of dumb penalties either. Anyway, it would be great to see a drop in penalties.

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    • It’s a good point, JC, except there’s very little correlation between penalties and wins/losses.

      Also, one weird thing about penalties last year is that while Georgia was last in penalty yardage per game, it was first in opponents’ penalty yardage per game. The net loss was about nine yards per game. Compare that to Auburn, which had a net loss of thirty yards per game.

      I’m not saying it wouldn’t hurt to see a drop in penalties, but I’m not sure you’d see much a change in the record if there were.

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  17. pcsjax1

    Nobody seems to get it! It’s a high stakes poker game called “Championships Plural”(The National Championship and The SEC Championship) It started at the beginning of the 21st Century. Mark Richt and Georgia were playing at the table with two SEC Championships! Over the past four years “Middle of the Pack Mark” has posted no Championships and is no longer at the table with LSU, Florida and Alabama.
    It’s not about 10 wins (or averaging 10 wins), It’s about winning championships!

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    • Sanford222View

      All Richt can do is win SEC Championships. Whether the Dogs play in the BCSCG after that is mainly due to luck and subjectivity. Don’t sat Richt could win them all because we know how that turned out for Auburn in 2004. I realize a team from the SEC going undefeated and being left out of the BCSCG is not very likely it can still happen.

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