One of the things I learned a long time ago is that in football, you should never overreact to a good win or a bad loss.
Don’t think you are better than you are because you played well on a particularly Saturday (see Florida State’s win over BYU).
Conversely, don’t beat yourself up or panic after a bad loss. And make no mistake about it. Georgia’s thumping at Tennessee on Saturday was a bad, bad loss.
Fans look at these things emotionally. That’s what they do and that’s why the South has the best college football fans in the world. They are emotionally invested in their team.
But Mark Richt and Damon Evans don’t have that luxury. They have to be pretty calm and rational because if you make a football decision based on emotion, chances are it is going to be a bad one. Here are some things they have to consider:
**–Georgia is very fortunate to be 3-3: When Georgia was 3-1, the Bulldogs were like a stock that was overvalued because the fundamentals didn’t back up the record. Georgia was ranked near the bottom of Division I-A in turnover margin (minus-9) and penalties (over 10 per game). Georgia had knocked down a pass in the final seconds to beat South Carolina. They had won a shootout on the road at Arkansas. They needed a field goal at the buzzer to beat a bad Arizona State team at home. Sooner or later the basic shortcomings of this team were going to catch up with them. And now they have.
**–Georgia’s schedule is just ridiculous. While Florida was playing Charleston Southern and Troy, the Bulldogs were playing Oklahoma State, South Carolina, Arkansas, Arizona State, LSU and Tennessee. While it is fun to play those kind of non-conference games, there is the fatigue factor. This team never got a chance to breathe in the first six weeks of the season and it finally caught up with them at Tennessee. Still, having said all that:
**–Georgia got smacked in the mouth at Tennessee and didn’t respond. The same thing happened up in Knoxville two years ago. And if you’re a Georgia fan you can’t like it.
If you play in the SEC you’re going to get your manhood challenged on a weekly basis. For all of the high flying offenses, this league is still about blocking and tackling. And if you can’t run the ball, and Georgia obviously can’t (97.17 ypg, 104 in the NCAA), you are going to get beat up in this conference.
Here is the reality. While the offensive line lost tackle Trinton Sturdivant for the second straight year, Stacy Searels’ group has underachieved based on the talent at hand. The running backs may have been high in the recruiting services coming out of high school, but they look pretty average to me.
Georgia should never average less than 100 yards rushing per game. Never. That is simply unacceptable.
**–The defense can’t rush the passer. It can’t cover receivers. Other than linebacker Rennie Curran and tackle Jeff Owens, I don’t see a whole lot of passion out there. It’s easy to blame the coaching and there is no question that Willie Martinez has some work to do. Steve Spurrier basically exposed this defense when he threw the ball 53 times against the Bulldogs on Sept. 12. Spurrier is among the best at detecting weaknesses on a defense. And there are a bunch of them on this defense.
So this is where Georgia is, in my opinion. The Bulldogs are a very average team that played very poorly last Saturday in Knoxville. They have a chance to have a decent season. They also have a chance to have a bad season.
While so many in the Bulldog Nation want to make wholesale changes to the staff, Richt can’t even think about that now. A college football season is about surviving and advancing. You can tweak within a season. You save the big stuff until after the season.
While the fundamentals on this particular team are pretty awful, the fundamentals on Richt’s program remain strong for the most part. What Richt has to decide after the season is whether or not those fundamentals are headed down instead of up.
Is Georgia recruiting the right players and not just the guys who are highly-rated?
Is Georgia maximizing the talent they have on hand? In other words, are they coaching them up? Are players improving?
Do there need to be significant staff changes to re-energize the program? Sometimes there needs to be change for the sake of change in order to bring fresh ideas and approaches. This is something that Mark Richt will have to strongly consider.
Does the head coach need to look in the mirror? Mark Richt is a damned good football coach but every coach should self-assess from time to time. He should not try to be something he’s not. But does he need to adjust his methods and habits?
When you’re 3-3 and the fundamentals on the team are this bad, everything is on the table. And after this season is over, everything should be on the table for Georgia. And it looks like some tough decisions are going to have to be made.
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