Wow! September has flown by! So what did we learn on Saturday?
1. Georgia is just not very good: I could spin it for you Bulldog fans, but I won’t. You could rationalize the South Carolina loss. It was on the road and Georgia was playing a new defense against a great, young running back. You can explain the Arkansas loss and praise Georgia’s comeback to tie the game in the fourth quarter. But after Saturday’s loss to Mississippi State in Starkville, I can only come to one conclusion: Georgia is just not very good.
I see an offensive line that has underachieved. I see running backs that are pretty average. I see a defense that really doesn’t have the personnel to run the scheme that is being employed. Yeah, Georgia was missing its star player (A.J. Green) who finally returns this week. That is a factor, but it doesn’t explain everything.
Mississippi State played hard and deserved to win the game. I’m not taking anything away from them. They played with a sense of urgency after two straight losses.
I thought there would be a sense of urgency for Georgia’s players to avoid an 0-3 start in the SEC. I was wrong.
Georgia fans have a right to be upset. Georgia should be better than this. But you need to know that Mark Richt is going to be the head coach at Georgia in 2011. He deserves the opportunity to fix whatever is wrong with this football team and this program. Now if things don’t get better Richt may have some tough decisions to make when this season is over. Let’s see how the season plays out.
2. Russell Wilson is the real deal: Wilson sliced and diced the Georgia Tech defense but you know what? Wilson is going to do that to a lot of defenses this season. With a quarterback like Wilson a team has a chance to win every Saturday. Suddenly, N.C. State’s Thursday night date with Florida State (Oct. 28) and visit to Clemson (Nov. 6) look a lot different.
Georgia Tech needs to put that game behind them and try to get on a little roll here with Wake Forest, Virginia, and Middle Tennessee coming up before a trip to Clemson. If Georgia Tech is going to get back in the ACC race, the Yellow Jackets have to protect the passer and the Joshua Nesbitt has got to throw it better.
3. There is a reason that Alabama has won 18 straight games: Some teams just know how to win despite adversity. Alabama’s defense was being carved up by Arkansas quarterback Ryan Mallett for about three quarters on Saturday in Fayetteville. But head coach Nick Saban was patient. He and defensive coordinator Kirby Smart made a couple of adjustments to get more pressure on Mallett. Then they decided to smash mouth the Razorbacks and wear them out. The result was a 24-20 victory and No. 1 Alabama stays undefeated with Florida coming to Tuscaloosa on Saturday. It was an impressive thing to watch. Alabama beat the No. 10 team last week and plays No. 7 Florida on Saturday and goes to No. 22 South Carolina on Oct. 9. If South Carolina had beaten Auburn the Gamecocks might have climbed into the Top 10 giving the Crimson Tide three straight games against the Top 10 in consecutive weeks.
Bottom line on Alabama: After jumping out to a 20-7 lead, Arkansas really wanted to win that game. Alabama expected to win the game.
4. Keep your eye on Stanford at Oregon: Oregon won a hard-fought game over Arizona State but when the coaches poll came out Sunday Oregon had jumped over TCU into the No. 4 position. And if Oregon can beat No. 13 Stanford (4-0) at home on Saturday, I predict the Ducks just might make Boise State uncomfortable in that No. 3 spot. Stanford, meanwhile, is just kicking everybody. The Cardinal’s 35-0 win over UCLA (which trounced Texas 34-12 last Saturday) looks even more impressive now. Stanford’s Andrew Luck is the best quarterback in the Pac-10. Florida-Alabama is the game of the week, but Stanford-Oregon is a close second.
5. Auburn showed me a lot of grit on Saturday: I’ll be honest. I wasn’t sure that Auburn had enough left in the tank to beat a team like South Carolina. The Tigers had been in a real slug fest the week before against Clemson. I thought fatigue would catch up with them in the fourth quarter. But quarterback Cameron Newton is turning out to be everything they hoped he would be. And the Auburn defense hung tough, held Marcus Lattimore to just 33 yards, and got the turnovers when they needed them in the fourth quarter. After Louisiana-Monroe this week, the Tigers have a couple more shootouts coming up with Kentucky in Lexington on Oct. 9 and Arkansas home on Oct. 16. Then they get LSU at home on Oct. 23.
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Programming note: We’ll break down the weekend’s action and bring out the analyst’s couch for our friends from Georgia and Georgia Tech on today’s “Barnhart and Durham” at 10 a.m. on 790 The Zone. Please come join the fun. www.790thezone.com