“It hasn’t all been great this year, though.”

If you’re looking for a nice summary of the Kentucky team we’ll be seeing at Sanford Stadium tomorrow, this Q&A with the publisher of CATS Illustrated isn’t a bad place to start.  This, in particular, about the defense is worth a look:

“They had one of the top run defenses in the country through the first half of the season but that seemed like fool’s gold because of the competition. When Florida, Missouri, Tennessee and Ole Miss needed to run the ball against Kentucky, they were able to. The pass defense was supposed to be a strength this year, but not until Saturday did the secondary really put together a strong performance. The personnel is better top to bottom than it usually is at Kentucky and that’s a credit to Stoops’ recruiting. Kentucky is strong on the edge and at linebacker. Junior safety/nickel Mike Edwards is one of the league’s top defensive backs. Kentucky has struggled to pressure the quarterback in recent years but they’re up to 27 sacks on the season because they’ve had 15 the last three games. It needs more work on the defensive line and up the middle. The defensive line rarely pressures the quarterback.”

Sounds like chicken soup for Jake Fromm’s and the Bulldog offense’s soul.  And this — “On the flip side, while Kentucky is good on the edges defensively, they are weaker up the middle. Georgia should be able to exploit that.” — sounds like an invitation to Mr. Chubb.  We’ll see if they’re ready to take advantage.

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Senior Day thoughts

For once, I don’t think the word “special” is being oversold:

“This is a special group, and I think it’s a special group because they have really good leadership,” second-year Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart said. “They have an opportunity to win their 38th game, which could rank them right in the top 10 senior classes to ever play here. The big thing for me is that everybody else on the team acknowledges that it’s their last home game and that you prepare and play as if it was yours.

“I know what that last home game in Sanford Stadium means. It’s the one you remember the most. These guys have meant a lot to this program, meant a lot to me personally, meant a lot to the staff, and they’ve meant a lot to this university. I think we all owe it to them, as a fan base and as a coaching staff and as a team, to make sure that we give them our best effort.”

This year’s group has a unique resume:  the transition from Richt to Smart, a shot at three ten-win seasons despite that transition, Georgia’s first trip to the SECCG in five seasons and the Dawgs’ first serious opportunity to score an appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Right now, though, I suspect they’ll be remembered most for this:

Smart went 8-5 in his debut season a year ago, but the foundation for a big 2017 occurred last December, when Chubb, Michel, Bellamy and Carter announced their plans to return rather than declare for the NFL draft.

“Those four guys showed their commitment, and I think that really set the tone for the rest of the team,” Blazevich said. “They chose to invest another year in this, and when they came back it made it even easier to follow them, because you knew they were all in. That really caught on with the team…

It’s too early to talk about legacies, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all in a few years to point back to that decision as the moment leading to the program taking off and re-establishing itself as a conference power.  Senior Days are always worthy of our support, but this one may be a little more special because of those four.

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I am shocked, shocked to learn that there is spending going on in here.

To sum up the current state of affairs at the University of Arkansas:

  • Jeff Long has been fired.  The school owes him a buyout of $4.8 million.
  • Bert is not long for this world there, either.  I’ve seen various numbers tossed out for his buyout, ranging from $6+ million to (gulp) $15 million.
  • Bruce Feldman, who’s tapped into this kind of stuff, now reports that “Big-money boosters at Arkansas and members of the university’s board of trustees have been pushing for the Razorbacks to go after Auburn coach Gus Malzahn to be their next head coach.”  Aside from the salary they’d have to pay Gus to get him to jump, there’s also the little matter of his buyout, something in the neighborhood of a mere $7 million.

That’s a shitload of bucks to lay out for a program that’s still in the same division as Alabama.  And yet nobody is batting an eye.  Cost of doing bidness in the SEC, y’all.

So I have to chuckle a little when I see “how did we get here, anyway?” articles like this one.

How did we get to this point? It boils down to some combination of revenue going through the roof especially from television rights, powerful agents wielding tremendous leverage and university leaders giving in to increasingly one-sided contracts amid growing desperation to find a winner.

Notice anything missing there?  Oh yeah, that whole cheap labor thing.  There’s all that extra money out there as a by-product and it ain’t gonna spend itself.  The result is inevitable when you consider the basic ingredients:  stupid and desperate athletic departments with more money than sense waiting to be fleeced by agents who know how to play on that stupidity and desperation like a finely tuned instrument.  Which they do, again and again.

There’s so much money coming in with no place to go that it essentially becomes a cushion against irrational management.  Arkansas can afford to behave senselessly, so who really cares?

Welp, maybe Congress does.  The tax bill just passed by the House does away with the deduction associated with charitable contributions for tickets.  Honestly, it’s hard to argue with this kind of reasoning:

Going after the season-ticket donation deduction doesn’t come as a complete surprise. Many in political circles believed the deduction was unfair because the donation included the rights to get season tickets, which is something of significant value.

“I don’t believe the deduction was ever intended to apply to donations related to season tickets,” the bill’s author, Representative Kevin Brady (R-Texas), told ESPN.

Brady said that the majority of season-ticket holders in college athletics don’t have to pay for the rights to their seats; they just pay the cost of the ticket. Since deductions technically cost the taxpayer at large, Brady reasons that the average fan is actually disadvantaged by the deduction at the hands of the wealthy, who deduct the price of their large donation for the right to sit in the best seats.

That, of course, won’t stop the schools.

“While we certainly do not know the exact repercussions, we expect that it would have a damaging effect,” said Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne. “The philanthropic support of donors is instrumental, and although the amount of contributions from institution to institution varies, it is of equal importance across the board when you look at financial structures. Very few college athletics programs actually make a profit. Take that funding away, and it will be difficult to operate without making dramatic changes.”

The effect on not being able to deduct the donation might be more severe with the higher donations. NC State, for example, asks for a $25,000-per-seat donation for the best center-court seats for its basketball games for life. However, it comes with the promise of an additional donation of $7,200 per year, and that doesn’t even include the season tickets.

Duke’s White says that losing season-ticket donations could immediately affect scholarships in Olympic sports.

“We have over 500 student-athletes at Duke in 24 Olympic sports,” said White, who is a member of the United States Olympic Committee board of directors. “This would significantly compromise the opportunities for young people in those sports across the entire student athletics system.”

Or, for that matter, handing out obscene buyouts in contracts.  Cry me a river, Mr. White.

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You can take the Dawg out of Athens…

Ben Watson, ladies and gentlemen, repping the G.

Gotta love that.

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“Other places were so loud during the game you couldn’t even hear yourself think.”

An interesting dialogue popped up in places like Twitter this week:  how great is the Sanford Stadium experience for players?  Here’s what one former player had to say about that:

“I love ‘Dawg Nation and everything about them,” Rankin said. “But when it comes to getting hype in the stand, it isn’t much compared to other schools. Not even close. It could be third-and-long at the beginning of the game and the fans are going crazy, but it’s not consistent throughout like other schools.

Some of the criticism I saw was directed towards the music selection.

“UGA has been long overdue for new music in Sanford,” Rankin said. “Their Pandora station must be stuck on shuffle between the ’70s and ’80s music.”

And some was directed towards placement of the student section.

Believe it or not, I have some sympathy towards Greg McGarity here.  He’s got a variety of interests to accommodate with regard to gameday atmosphere:  students have their priorities, while alumni who pay the bills have theirs.  Fashioning a one-size-fits all solution is likely impossible.  (Especially when it comes to seating.)

Butts-Mehre isn’t totally blameless, though.  The administration, starting with Michael Adams, has steadily done what it could to suck the life out of game day, starting from the moment fans show up in Athens.  As for the music, that’s something I’ve bitched about before.  Rather than point fingers at particular eras, as Rankin has, I’d simply argue that there’s a lack of creativity in fashioning a stadium mix for the purpose of energizing fans throughout the game.  A lot of what is played has become tired simply due to repetition.

For those of you who attend games in Athens, how big a deal is this to you?  Are things too formulaic, sapping some of the energy from the crowd that the team could feed from?  If so, what suggestions would you offer to make an improvement in that?

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Getting down and bouncing back

Here’s a quote from a former player answering a question about comparing the 2012 South Carolina blowout with what happened Saturday:

“But the thing for us is that we didn’t really care if we got down 14 points because we knew that we could score that in two minutes,” one of the three on the 2012 team said. “We can’t do that right now. The combination of Aaron Murray and Mike Bobo was pretty lethal. They couldn’t do that (Saturday). They couldn’t play their game the other day. This is a young, physical team. They can’t score quick necessarily. We could. This team will grind you up and spit you out. Next thing you know you are getting killed. That didn’t happen Saturday.”

That is perceptive.  I remember thinking to myself at the start of the fourth quarter last Saturday that in 2013 Georgia was down 20 points to Auburn at the same point, only to come roaring back to take the lead with about two minutes left in the game and then reminded myself this year’s offense isn’t built the way that one was.  That explosiveness may have been largely out of necessity because of how porous the defense was that season, but also because Murray and Bobo aren’t Fromm and Chaney.

And the thing is, until last weekend, they haven’t needed to be as dynamic as their 2012-13 counterparts.  Grinding and spitting has worked just fine all season.  But Fromm, while precocious, isn’t at a point where he can lift the team up and carry it on his shoulders for a quarter (which is not the same as saying he’ll never get there — he will) and Chaney has to call plays based on the quarterback he has, not the one he might wish he had.

The point is, this offense, while effective for the most part, isn’t a finished product.  If the running game gets jammed, there can’t be a slide by the defense or on special teams because the passing game isn’t capable of taking up the slack and creating the kind of momentum the team can rally around in a comeback.  Unfortunately, that’s exactly what we watched happen at Auburn.  The trick going forward is to avoid those situations until the passing game catches up.

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Sauce for the goose

I notice that some of you have posted comments giving Smart something of a pass for the team’s poor effort against Auburn in the sense that it didn’t seem like the same old, same old kind of face plant we used to see with Richt.

In response, all I can say is that I bet if I posted a quote like this three years ago,

The D-line troubles are harder to explain. This is a deep and talented unit, and it was just pushed around. Auburn also isn’t on paper the best offensive line Georgia has faced. (That would be Notre Dame.) Talking to Georgia defensive linemen this week, including John Atkins and David Marshall, they attribute the problems to lack of focus, manifesting itself in not having gap control.  [Emphasis added.]

… I suspect some of you same folks would have gone ballistic over it.

Look, notwithstanding last week, Georgia’s had a great season and Smart’s done a lot of good to great things so far.  However, for the number one ranked team in the country to face one of its heated rivals and essentially not show up prepared to play — if you watched the game, you don’t really need to hear from the players about lack of focus to know it was true — well, that’s bad coaching, plain and simple.  There’s no point in splitting hairs.  Crap is crap.

Best thing to do is move on and hope there’s not a repeat.

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