When the dust settles…
… don’t be surprised to see Corch to be walking the sideline in one of those semi-final games.
When the dust settles…
… don’t be surprised to see Corch to be walking the sideline in one of those semi-final games.
I’ll just put these Michael Elkon observations out here as food for thought.
Here’s Georgia’s historical SRS chart, if you’re interested. Michael may have skipped past the ’81 team (turnovers at Clemson, plus Dan Effing Marino ruined what should have been a helluva year), but his overall point is worth debating.
Here’s a heartwarming story from Tallahassee.
A disturbing story involving Florida State kicker Ricky Aguayo has a Florida connection.
On Tuesday, the Tallahassee Democrat’s Karl Etters reported that Aguayo told police that members of a fraternity on Florida State’s campus beat the player over missed field goals during a game against Florida in 2016.
Per Tallahassee Police records obtained by Etters, Aguayo reported being “jumped” by members of the Pi Kappa Phi fraternity in front of the group’s house after the Seminoles’ 31-13 victory against the Gators. Aguayo missed two of three field-goal tries that day…
The report goes on to mention that police saw blood on Aguayo’s face and a ripped shirt. He declined to press charges, and he refused to pursue medical treatment, according to the report.
Mind you, that was after a win. Can you imagine what those scamps might have taken upon themselves to do if Aguayo had missed a game-winner?
Meanwhile, we take you to the Georgia Tech locker room, where two players evidently decided to eliminate the middle man. It happened in the spring, so I’ve got to say I’m impressed they kept it quiet as long as they did. Then again, maybe they thought nobody would really care.
Georgia still hasn’t lost at Bobby Dodd Stadium in the 21st century. Some traditions never seem to end.
Let’s jump right into the bullet points, shall we?
All in all, denying Tech a bowl appearance while demonstrating that the gap between the two programs is depressingly wide was the cherry on top of what’s been a very satisfying regular season sundae. This team has left itself in a position after twelve games to play for everything an élite program expects to play for. As a Georgia fan, it’s nice to be back in that position. Well played, gentlemen.
Jimi Hendrix, were he still alive, would be celebrating his 75th birthday. Here he is, playing lead guitar on a wild Isley Brothers’ cut, “Testify, parts 1 & 2”.
Bill Connelly updated his advanced statistical profile yesterday. Georgia’s moved to 4th in S&P+ Rk, which is nice, I guess. What I like more, though, is that the Dawgs notched a 95% performance rating against Georgia Tech. The main reason I find that pleasing isn’t because it came against the Jackets (not that I’m complaining), but because it indicates another good thing about the coaching job Kirby Smart has done this year.
Last season, you may recall, Georgia stumbled through the last three weeks of the regular season. The percentile performances steadily declined: Auburn, 65%; UL-Lafayette, 49%; Georgia Tech, 39%. The story in 2017 couldn’t be more different. After the egg laid in Auburn, the Dawgs finished strong and stronger: Kentucky, 91%; Georgia Tech, 95%. The performance in the last regular season game was Georgia’s highest of the year. You can’t ask for anything more from a coaching staff.
That’s one reason I think Georgia stands a decent chance to succeed on Saturday.
Andy Staples believes that at the heart of the Tennessee hiring fiasco, you’ll find a story about customer service.
College athletics are a lot like the media business. There are end users—the fans and the readers/viewers/listeners—but they aren’t the only customers. We sell you copies of the print edition of Sports Illustrated, but we also sell space in the magazine to advertisers. We give you columns such as this one for free on the web, but we charge advertisers to place their content next to ours so you’ll see it as you read about your favorite team. In a way, the advertisers are like the big-money donors in college athletics. Their opinions often count for more than the opinion of the average reader.
The advertisers and the big donors pay more money, so their voices often carry more weight in our enterprises. But what we in the media and the people who run college sports should realize is this: If we lose the end user, we lose the entire enterprise. When the kid stops running to the mailbox to see who made the cover or when the fan stops buying tickets for that one game a year he saves up to attend, we’re on borrowed time. Sometimes, we need to stop and listen to our rank-and-file customers. Tennessee’s administration learned that Sunday.
It’s a comforting way to look at things, I suppose. It’s also a little delusional.
Tennessee is reeling now, but it’s not as if the program’s been on solid ground for a while. When it comes to hiring/firing head coaches, the story in Knoxville since Fulmer was canned (and, remember, that came a year after Mike Hamilton gave him a contract extension) has been one of lather, rinse and repeat. If the athletic director needed to be sensitive to the wishes of the fan base — and clearly, his is a major fail in that regard — it’s because of how shaky things are there now after three straight regimes have been unable to deliver the success on the field Vol fans believe they’re entitled to.
Let’s get real for a second, though. If the circumstances were different… if UT had been successful, does anyone really believe the athletic director would face the same kind of pressure from the fan base, its customers, over a hiring decision? If you really need to think about that, ponder what’s gone on in Athens this year in the wake of Georgia’s success. As the ticket sales stories for the two biggest games of the season indicate, if there’s one thing Butts-Mehre isn’t wrapping itself in these days, it’s customer concern.
But I digress. The reality of the situation in Urnge Land is that Currie should have known he was dealing with a restless fan base. If nothing else, the continued delusion by many Vol fans over the ludicrous chance that Gruden might accept becoming the next head coach should have been an indication that things weren’t exactly normal. That’s on him, as Staples explains.
It’s also something Tennessee athletic director John Currie should have considered as he was zeroing in on Schiano. The vetting process is supposed to bring every potential land mine into view before a school gets too far down the road with a candidate. When a candidate is potentially controversial, a school will often leak that it is considering that candidate as a trial balloon. Had Currie floated such a balloon in the past few days, Tennessee’s fan base would have reacted in similar fashion. The difference is the sides wouldn’t already have a Memorandum of Understanding. The Vols could have moved on to another candidate without a full-on revolt that will wind up making the search even more difficult going forward.
Water under the proverbial bridge now, though. And that leads us to a place where Staples is off.
Another issue Sunday was what appeared to be an effort by some of the most influential voices in college football’s media corps to tell Tennessee fans to shut up and accept the hire. Whether this was because those people believe Schiano to be a great coach or because they want to stay on the good side of agent Jimmy Sexton is irrelevant. It came off as people in our business talking down to our customers who already had made their decision on the issue. We do that often. I’m just as guilty of this as anyone, and Sunday’s events should make all of us step back and consider listening to our customers a little more.
But here’s the tough part for us and the even tougher part for Currie. Every individual voice isn’t correct. When a consumer bloc rises up the way it did Sunday, it’s fairly easy to determine that the best move for the future of the business is to give the people what they want.
Welp, I’m hardly an influential voice, but it seems to me that there are valid reasons to react negatively to what happened that have nothing whatsoever to do with Schiano or Sexton. (I say this with my neutral observer hat on, of course. As a Georgia partisan, I couldn’t be more thrilled with what’s gone down in Knoxville.)
To start with, to describe this as a revolt of a consumer bloc is stretching things. Sure, there was a chunk of the fan base that was extremely worked up over the possibility of the Schiano hire, but that doesn’t extend to Clay Travis’ attention whoring. Nor does it cover the playing to the crowd group of politicians who smelled an opportunity to grandstand without any downside. Ed Kilgore goes so far as to wonder if a standard has been set:
Well, if Schiano wasn’t a household name in the state of Tennessee before, he certainly is now, and not in a good way. Vol fans are now coming to grips with the power they exercised over an athletics Establishment that probably figured some lost season ticket sales were the worst they might fear in choosing whoever they wanted. And politicians in Tennessee must think about the precedent they set in intervening instantly with respect to a proposed college-football coaching position. You could definitely see ambitious political underdogs throughout the South trying to get attention and votes by pushing for or against coaching hires, particularly with jobs coming open this year all over the region. Voters may need to know their positions on taxes, education, economic development, and football.
There is a certain “Okay, Smokey, you caught the car you were chasing, now what?” aspect to this circus that I don’t think everyone grasped in the immediate moment. I bet, though, as news like this greets the Vol faithful, that will start to sink in.
So much for uniting the fan base. Who’s next? Tee Martin, who’s never been a head coach? Jim Bob Cooter, who, name aside, doesn’t have a head coaching resume, either? What coach in his right mind (i.e., not a Tennessee man) is going to be willing to walk into a shitstorm like this without the insulation of a huge contract, which means the school is likely to overpay to the nth degree? (Cry not for Jimmy Sexton, folks, he’ll be just fine.)
Don’t get me wrong here. John Currie managed to screw up the one thing I didn’t think it was possible to screw up — replace Booch with someone more attractive. He deserves everything coming his way. But, man, giving into the social media mob as a business plan doesn’t seem to have much of a future.
Seth Emerson has a nice story about how Georgia’s 2014 signing class has proven to be the polar opposite of the incredible shrinking class of 2013.
They were part of a signing class that was considered modest, at least by SEC standards. It had been cobbled together by a staff in flux: Defensive coordinator Todd Grantham had left a month before signing day, replaced by Jeremy Pruitt, who was joined by three new assistants.
“We’re all working toward one common goal,” then-offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said on signing day, 2014. “And that’s to get back to Atlanta.”
Bobo, Pruitt and almost every staff member are long gone. But in the class’ fourth year, that modest signing group is the backbone of the team that got Georgia back to the SEC Championship Game.
Eight out of Georgia’s starters are members of the 2014 class. That includes the star tailbacks (Chubb and Michel, who ended up being two of the three most prolific rushers in program history), the best offensive lineman (Isaiah Wynn), the center (Lamont Gaillard), a 50-game starter who could still tie or break the program record for interceptions (Dominick Sanders) and Lorenzo Carter, one of the emotional leaders on the defense.
If Richt deserves blame for the fallout from having almost an entire signing class disintegrate — and, boy, does he — then he also deserves a little credit for setting up Smart with a nucleus of players who have the talent and the heart to make something special out of this season. (The effect of that Grantham to Pruitt transition shouldn’t be underestimated, either.) That’s not to take anything away from Smart, who, after all, is the one who’s taken the talent and molded it into Georgia’s first divisional champs in five seasons. But if you’ve got to go out, better to do it with a recruiting success story than not.
By the way, if you’re wondering who’s left standing in the Auburn backfield should Kerryon Johnson be unable to make a go of it Saturday night, here are his understudies:
The question, though, is whether No. 4 Auburn can be successful with Kam Martin, Malik Miller and Devan Barrett at running back if Johnson is unavailable Saturday. Martin has the most carries and is second on the team with 409 rushing yards, but he averages only nine snaps per game. The numbers are worse for Miller (65 total snaps) and Barrett (40).
Martin looked quick and shifty in his limited time relieving Johnson last week, but also a little smaller. The other two combined have averaged less touches per game than has Martin. If Johnson can’t go, do they load Martin up, or spread the wealth? Even if Johnson can go, do they limit his touches some to preserve him to get through the game?
They’ve got a hot quarterback and an offensive line that’s found itself playing extremely well down the stretch, so it’s probably not the end of the world if Johnson isn’t close to full strength or worse, but you can’t help but wonder how three lightly used backs will react to the bright lights if they’re called up to step in.
It’s been fun to talk about this season as if the wins over the four teams Georgia lost to in 2016 have been part of a revenge tour on the part of Kirby Smart and his players, but fun talk is all that is. Revenge is an emotion that works in a far more satisfying way in novels than in real life.
So I’m glad to hear the players talk about their second shot at Auburn like this.
“It always sucks to have that feeling leaving the field, because you put in so much,” Carter said of the 23-point loss on The Plains. “That’s one of our rivals, and it’s a deep rivalry. Just losing a game like that, I felt horrible. So, yeah, I think that’s motivation for everyone not to want to feel that way again.”
In that game with Auburn, Georgia committed 4 personal foul penalties, was flagged 7 times overall, had a devastating turnover when Mecole Hardman muffed a fair catch, and missed a field goal. The Bulldogs didn’t play particularly well offensively or defensively, but the incredibly ill-timed miscues added fuel to an already volatile atmosphere inside the Tigers’ sold-out stadium.
“It wasn’t really excitement,” junior Terry Godwin said of the team’s reaction when the Bulldogs learned they’d get another shot at Auburn. “It was more like, ‘It doesn’t really matter who it is because they know they’re going to get our best shot, regardless.’ But all the mistakes, all the penalties, we just have to play with more discipline and focus this time. We didn’t play Georgia ball. We got away from what we’d been doing all season and it showed on the scoreboard.”
Added senior tailback Sony Michel, “It’s not that we wanted a redo; we’ve just got to fix those mistakes now. It’s great that we get another shot at them. We’ve just got to prepare well.”
The focus should be on themselves, not on the team that beat them. If there’s anything worth getting emotional about, it’s being back in the SECCG.
But that’s really not the players’ thinking as they prepare for this rematch. As ever, it remains about what’s on the line. It’s about winning a championship.
“It’s crazy,” Carter said. “In the past it’s been about getting rest after Georgia Tech. We’re not getting any rest now, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. I’m excited about the chance we’re getting instead of sitting at home watching everybody else play.”
Amen to that.