Georgia has far better than ‘puncher’s chance’ against LSU

Aron White and Christian Robinson punctuate Georgia's return by planting the school flag at Tech.

Aron White, Christian Robinson punctuate UGA's return with school flag . (Johnny Crawford)

This is the column that I didn’t think I would be writing six weeks ago, when Georgia fizzled and nearly self-destructed at Vanderbilt, and a five-game winning streak seemed like the furthest thing from Mark Richt’s mind.

This is the column that didn’t seem plausible three months ago when I looked up at the scoreboard and saw, “Boise State 35, Georgia 21” after looking down on the Georgia Dome field to see a Bulldogs team get beat physically by a Mountain West Conference team and play flat emotionally — the worst possible exacta for a hyped-up season opener.

This is the column that says Georgia can beat LSU.

This is not to diminish anything LSU has accomplished this season. How can one diminish an SEC team going 12-0? The Tigers have played and beaten seven teams that were ranked at the time they played. That includes No. 3 Oregon to start the season (40-27), No. 2 Alabama in Tuscaloosa (9-6 in overtime) and No. 3 Arkansas (41-17). LSU is as legitimate and proven as any No. 1 team that has come along in years.

Which doesn’t mean it can’t lose.

No. I’m not drunk on the Kool-Aid. Something changed in Athens. Maybe the 33-28 escape at Vanderbilt was a wake-up call. Maybe it was just a case of a young team slowly gaining confidence. At the very least, we know players reaffirmed that they believed in — and would follow — their head coach. Because a team doesn’t just rally from a 17-3 deficit to beat its nemesis (Florida), destroy Auburn 45-7 and spin a 10-game winning streak after a 0-2 start because it’s suddenly getting bounces.

After the body-slamming of Auburn, when it became clear the Dogs would win the SEC East, many felt they would have a “puncher’s chance” in the conference title game against the winner of the West, LSU or Alabama. But that short-changes Georgia.

When I hear puncher’s chance, I think George Foreman vs. Michael Moorer. In 1994, when Moorer was the heavyweight champion, he won nine straight rounds against the unranked 45-year-old Foreman. Then he got stupid. Foreman suckered him in. He landed a concrete right hand to Moorer’s porcelain chin. When Moorer looked up from the canvas, he saw little blue songbirds circling above him.

Three months after the loss to Boise State, the Bulldogs return to the Georgia Dome Saturday against LSU. They don’t need to rely on one lucky punch to win. They have become that good. They are playing with a rhythm, a confidence and an edge that we haven’t seen since 2007.

A year ago, when I wrote that Richt deserved to come back this season because of what he had accomplished in Athens, there was a backlash. Many fans wanted him fired. I wasn’t ready to make that leap. But neither did I share the confidence of Richt’s defenders, particularly after the season’s first two games. An unraveling seemed imminent. So did a job change. Clearly, that’s not happening now.

LSU is rolling. But so is Georgia. Aaron Murray is the best quarterback the LSU defense will face this season, and in the last four games he has completed 68 percent of his passes for 14 touchdowns and two interceptions. The offense is loaded with receivers: Orson Charles, Malcolm Mitchell, Tavarres King, et al. (Just when Georgia Tech figured it had everybody covered Saturday, a freshman, Chris Conley, popped open in the end zone. Chris Conley? He’s UGA’s sixth-leading receiver.)

The assumption here is that with Isaiah Crowell being held out Saturday with an ankle injury, he and Carlton Thomas (who had only a few carries against Tech) will be ready for LSU and provide balance to the offense.

Defensively, the Dogs get better by the week. They throttled the Tech’s option offense Saturday and held the Jackets to 10 points until a meaningless touchdown in the final minutes.

Boise State and South Carolina combined for eight offensive touchdowns in the first two games. In the 10 since, Georgia has allowed only 12 offensive touchdowns. That includes one or none in seven of the 10 games. This is the second-best defense LSU will face this season. They managed only three field goals (one in overtime) against the only opponent with a better one, Alabama.

Georgia doesn’t have a mere puncher’s chance in the SEC championship. Georgia has a legitimate chance. The team that will play in the Georgia Dome on Dec. 3 is not the same one that played there on Sept. 3.

Some things you just don’t see coming.

By Jeff Schultz

Follow me on Twitter (@JeffSchultzAJC). Friend me on Facebook (Facebook.com/JeffSchultzAJC).

1,469 comments Add your comment

Dude

November 27th, 2011
2:25 pm

dawg

November 27th, 2011
2:28 pm

Brad

November 27th, 2011
2:28 pm

they do have a chance!

Inlet Dawg

November 27th, 2011
2:29 pm

I have to agree that we got a chance,much like Jim Carey in Dumb and Dumber,but we got a chance.

Hmmm

November 27th, 2011
2:32 pm

Honestly, UGA beat FL and GT…making it to the SEC C is just icing.

Alphadawg

November 27th, 2011
2:32 pm

I agree. I think LSU can score on our D but I also think we have more weapons than AL on offense and can score some points as well.

Steve

November 27th, 2011
2:33 pm

I like it Jeff! UGA 24 LSU 21. However I bet LSU will be favored by 12 or so.

Nikki

November 27th, 2011
2:33 pm

ESPN Gameday said the Dawgs would lose to Ga Tech. They went on to basically say the Dawgs were gonna get slaughtered in the SECCG. Keep underestimating the Dawgs. That’s okay.

UGA has a great chance as long as Murray remains calm and plays his game. Don’t let the moment overwhelm you.

oakisland

November 27th, 2011
2:33 pm

Play with passion and confidence and I think the Dawgs have a good shot. Would love to see our Dawgs shut up the bias espn anaylists never give us any respect. GATA

Danora

November 27th, 2011
2:35 pm

LSU 35, Georgia 7

Thugs’ dream comes to an abrupt end.

pdawg

November 27th, 2011
2:35 pm

Ga. will beat LSU!!!! Go dawgs

hipdawg

November 27th, 2011
2:35 pm

good article……dawgs roll 35-17.

Alabamadawg

November 27th, 2011
2:35 pm

WOW !!! Love your column Jeff. I hope your right as usual,

JDawg1785

November 27th, 2011
2:36 pm

Georgia actually does match up pretty well with LSU. If they play like they did against Auburn, they have a shot. Go Dawgs!

Whatever

November 27th, 2011
2:37 pm

Of course they have a chance. They’re going to play, aren’t they? There are baffling upsets almost every year.

But it’s not a good chance. LSU is clearly the superior team.

Georgia will probably get 3 or 4 chances to score the whole game. They had better not waste any.

Nope

November 27th, 2011
2:37 pm

Not happening. Against any other team in the country, I would say you’re right. But not this year’s LSU team. Georgia doesn’t even match up well against them. Having 4 receivers is great provided you can protect with 6 and the progressions don’t make your QBs head spin. Georgia keeps it close until half-time and then… boom.

LDawg

November 27th, 2011
2:37 pm

GEAUX DAWGS!!!

Greg

November 27th, 2011
2:37 pm

Good article though I thought South Carolina only scored two offensive TD’s. 28 of their 45 points came on a 70 yard fake punt run. an interception return and two fumble returns(one was for a TD and the other was to the 5 yard line…so technically I guess South Carolina’s O scored 3 offensive TD’s).

Jbdawg

November 27th, 2011
2:38 pm

Big worry is their special teams and freaks at DB. Otherwise not concerned. They deserve to be double digit favorites. What was point spread in 2005?

Jbdawg

November 27th, 2011
2:38 pm

Big worry is their special teams and freaks at DB. Otherwise not concerned. They deserve to be double digit favorites. What was point spread in 2005?

Jbdawg

November 27th, 2011
2:38 pm

Big worry is their special teams and freaks at DB. Otherwise not concerned. They deserve to be double digit favorites. What was point spread in 2005?

Vain Jangling

November 27th, 2011
2:38 pm

UGA just needs to recruit a big, fast durable tailback . . . sometime between now and Saturday. Highsaiah “Take Me Out Coach, I’m Suspending Myself” Crowell just ain’t making the grade.

Joel

November 27th, 2011
2:38 pm

McDawg

November 27th, 2011
2:38 pm

just keep them out of the end zone-worried about special teams

Dirty Harry

November 27th, 2011
2:39 pm

The Dawgs supposedly didn’t have a chance in 2005 either. I think we won that game 34-14. That’s why the game is played. I’m not saying UGA will beat LSU, but, since they will play for 60 minutes, UGA does have a chance.

Muck Richt

November 27th, 2011
2:40 pm

I’ve never understood how anyone could take any pride in the UGA football team. Look at their history for the past forty years: how can anyone ignore Jan Kemp and the remedial studies scam, the Jim Harrick sleaze, the DUIs in the athletic office (not just Damon Evans), the DUIs and other arrests of players, the #1 party school label (for the most drunk students), the suspensions and outright dismissals, the Fulmer Cup, and on and on?

As disgraceful and sickening as it is, I don’t see many alumni and fans demanding an end to this sleazy activity. It sets UGA apart as the kind of school that decent people despise and it’s become an embarrassment to the whole state of Georgia.

Will it ever end? Not while Mark Richt is at UGA. Richt is the biggest hypocrite in the United States. And even with the cheating and lawlessness that he ignores, he still can’t win the SEC.

Howard

November 27th, 2011
2:41 pm

Jeff…I totally agree with you…I’ve been saying and writing in my sports column that I’ve done for 36 years that Dawgs have a great chance to beat Lobbying Les Miles. #1-they’re playing and peaking at the right time, #2-they got the better opponent to play (no-one wants Bama in my estimation), #3-Les Miles is no Nick Saban and is due for one of his clock or play-calling disasters, #4-it’s a home field advantage for UGA and on artificial turf (Les can’t eat grass unless he brings his own) and the crowd will be nuts for the Dawgs, #5-Georgia has the largest offensive line in all football and can handle the manhandling LSU’s d-line normally dishes out, #6-Aaron Murray is indeed the best QB they’ve played and his receivers are vastly under-rated, #7-Georgia has a good kicking game to match LSU, #8-if Crowell and other runners being their A-games, it becomes a tossup in my estimation.
If Georgia continues their trend and LSU doesn’t bring its A+ game, then I smell upset. And if that happens then we will be seeing “Lobbying” Les again trying to talk folks into putting LSU against Bama. Boy, he’d live up to that nickname then!
LSU is just due for a letdown game and I do not see Georgia having one. And through all this rant, I’m not even a Georgia fan…just do not like LSU and its players or fans.

B'dawg

November 27th, 2011
2:42 pm

Great writing Jeff. One of the best Ive read with the AJC. Since you went as far as you did with the article without actually saying UGA wiould win, what are youre keys to a UGA victory? Inquiring minds want to know.

rxdawg79

November 27th, 2011
2:43 pm

@danora: And your team’s dream ended when? Or did it just involve Astroglide and a blow-up doll?

GT

November 27th, 2011
2:44 pm

LSU is at a whole different level, Georgia is getting better but not this year. I still don’t think they have played a team like LSU and after watching Alabama waste Auburn who may have been the toughest competition in the killer row 9 game winning streak they are not even punchers in this upcoming game. Tech is getting worse, Georgia is getting better but not this year.

dawgfan

November 27th, 2011
2:46 pm

It will be a good game. Our D can definitely hang with their O. They’re mostly just a power running team. We match up well with them there. Everyone that is associated with our offense will have to have the game of their lives for us to have a chance. I like the way Murray is playing and its no knock on him, but I don’t like having to pass the ball that much. It doesn’t get you very far against a team like LSU. Crowell needs to grow a pair and fast. I hope Samuel is back too.

Whatever happens it beats the heck out of being a Georgia Tech fan, but everyone knows that.

Thanks.

Burgess

November 27th, 2011
2:46 pm

Somebody tell me again, how good a coach Paul Johnson is ???

Dawg Whisperer

November 27th, 2011
2:49 pm

It’s not so hard for me to believe because this is almost a re-run of what happened in 2007(?). Mark Richt has a very good defensive coordinator working with top flight athletes and Aaron Murray will continue to mature and improve.

This is not the same team that played at the first of the season, it is much better partially due to the fact that the team believed in coach Richt’s leadership. Gloom and doom seems to sell on AJC sports blogs and there were many fans and UGA haters who bought into it.

BurytheBone

November 27th, 2011
2:50 pm

Can you imagine the welcome in new orleans at the sugar bowl if we pull the upset. GATA JYD

SiddyBoy

November 27th, 2011
2:50 pm

Hey Muck-We aren’t different from most football programs. The problem for you is that we just won our 10th game of the season.So go muck yourself !!!

B'dawg

November 27th, 2011
2:50 pm

Muck Richt,

I can totally understand youre feelings about UGA. We are diehard fans and we support our beloved bulldogs no matter what. Yes they embarass us from time to time. So do my children. But I dont and wont cast them aside. Its the love of the game and the support to stand behind them in good or bad times, hoping they learn one day from their mistakes. And more often than not they do something right and make up for those tragic misfortunes. And if we win the SEC or not all will be forgiven. Because this season has one hell of a ride for the bulldog nation. Ill say this with pride and a big smile on my face…. GO YOU HAIRY DAWGS!!!

doc

November 27th, 2011
2:51 pm

three weeks ago dawg fans were wondering why they would want to go up against lsu. my tunes have changed after wins against teams that dont come close to the quality of lsu.

no way in he!!.

Diggity Dawg

November 27th, 2011
2:53 pm

Jeff, I assume you meant, “Clearly, that’s NOT happening now.”

bwell

November 27th, 2011
2:53 pm

Jeff,

I like your article. I’m a faithful, loyal Bulldawg fan. I could not stand for the haters downing Ga or CMR. I know if we come out and punch the mess out of LSU; and get a lead like Ark. We will win. B/c our defense is a whole lot better than Ark. LSU use five backs, we will have to rotate the front line to keep fresh bodies to counter their run attack. But LSU cannot pass. So if we get a 14pt lead, they will panic and we will stuff LSU and ALL THE BULLDAWGS HATERS!

Dawg48

November 27th, 2011
2:54 pm

That’s why they play the game!

5150 UOAD

November 27th, 2011
2:54 pm

With BEN JONES the Dawgs always have a Chance Puncher in the game, but not really a chance of winning the SEC CG.

Hedo Rick

November 27th, 2011
2:55 pm

UGA is getting zero respect from the media outside of GA. The two teams we’ve lost two are both still ranked in the top 15… and SC was much better then with Garcia and Lattimore than they are now. So here’s to hoping LSU is disrespecting us also and thinking of their BCS title game against Alabama.

jaxdawg

November 27th, 2011
2:55 pm

Nice to Tech fans still can type after the annual beat down, right Muck Richt?

Vain Jangling

November 27th, 2011
2:55 pm

This is one of those columns, Schultz, that causes the UGA faithful to scratch their heads and say, “Gee. I thought the AJC always ragged on the Dawgs.” Yet another conspiracy theory shot down. You’ve ruined the day for CoonDogDawg, BlogTater, WartHogDawg, and the rest of the boys.

[Note to readers: Said monikers are for sale. Call with best offer. Offer void in cosmopolitan areas]

5150 UOAD

November 27th, 2011
2:55 pm

48 you watching the Falcons?

ub

November 27th, 2011
2:56 pm

Mark Richt is one classy person great job coach. GO DAWGS we can beat lsu.

48

November 27th, 2011
2:58 pm

No I aint watching the Falcons moron. Go back to bed.

Hedo Rick

November 27th, 2011
2:58 pm

I’m utterly shocked we moved ahead of Oklahoma in the AP poll.

BurytheBone

November 27th, 2011
2:58 pm

5150…… Find you a real team/coach to pull for

randyman

November 27th, 2011
3:00 pm

GT’s comments ” after watching Alabama waste Auburn who may have been the toughest competition in the killer row 9 game winning streak they are not even punchers in this upcoming game.” UGA beat Auburn worse than AL did and UGA coasted in the fourth. So how do you figure this? They may not win but its not because Al nor LSU beat Auburn badly. UGA did that also so u need to come up with a different reason why UGA wont win. I think if UGA looses it will be becasue of mental errors and a weak offensive game plan (BOBO) but NOT becasue of LSU’s better athletes. We can hang with them!!