Over the past two seasons, as the Dogs were trying to survive absolutely killer schedules, I kept looking ahead at the 2010 and 2011 schedules and thinking that if Mark Richt could solve his defensive problems and find a quarterback, he’d be looking at a definite window of opportunity.
The rotation of SEC West teams that the Dogs face definitely turns advantageous this season (no Bama or LSU) and the most challenging opponent on the nonconference schedule looks to be our in-state rival.
CollegeFootballNews.com is thinking along the same lines. In doing their roundup of the SEC composite schedule for 2010, they see Georgia’s “realistic best case record” as 11-1, the “worst case” record as 7-5 and peg the Dogs’ “likely finish” at 10-2.
Their summary paints a pretty optimistic scenario: “Georgia won’t be the best team in the SEC, but it has the schedule to look that way. Any SEC East team worth its salt would take this slate in a heartbeat. There’s no Alabama or LSU to deal with, Florida, as always, is at a neutral site, Tennessee is a home game, and the road games are at South Carolina, Mississippi State, Kentucky, and Auburn. Throw in a home date against Vanderbilt and anything less than a New Year’s Day bowl appearance will be a mega-disappointment. Even the nonconference schedule works out well with the Georgia Tech game at home and the one tough road trip at Colorado. On the negative side, the game against the Buffs is coming off a road trip to Mississippi State for the only back-to-back road games of the year, and the week off doesn’t come until late November.”
One caveat: CFN also predicted a 10-2 finish for the Dogs in 2009.
And, of course, that neutral site for the Florida game hasn’t proved very helpful for the Dogs in recent years. Plus, under Richt the Dogs actually play better on the road than at home. But a return to New Year’s Day certainly does seem within this team’s grasp. Let’s face it, if they hadn’t blown it against Kentucky last year, they still probably would have played on Jan. 1.
So what do you think? Will anything less than the Outback or Capitol One be a “mega-disappointment” this season? Or is CFN underestimating the rebuilding Richt faces this year?
SUCCESS AT THE CHARITY STRIPE
The men’s basketball Bulldogs aren’t there yet, but the team definitely has improved since Mark Fox came to town, especially in one aspect of the game: free throws.
The Athens Banner-Herald takes a look at that improvement, which sees the dogs leading the SEC by making 72.7 percent from the free-throw line heading into tonight’s game in Knoxville. That’s up from the 63.8 percent they shot last season (which ranked 297th in the nation out of 330 Division I teams) and is on pace to be the team’s best percentage from the foul line since 2001-02, when the Bulldogs converted 73.7 percent of the time, the ABH says. Under Dennis Felton, Georgia never shot better than 67.9 percent.
Travis Leslie, for example, has improved from shooting 57.5 percent last season to 76.1 percent this year. The other Dogs have also improved.
Trey Thompkins, who leads the conference by making 85.7 of his free throws, tells the ABH, that the key to the turnaround is “we just shoot millions and millions of free throws. Once we’re done doing all the grinding in practice, we step up to the free-throw line and knock down free throws. You can’t leave unless you knock them down.”
I’ve never understood basketball coaches who don’t emphasize practicing free throws. It’s like a football coach who ignores the kicking game. Too many games are won or lost at the line.
This is just one more reason for Dogs basketball fans to be pleased with the Fox hire.