I wrote last week about how Georgia’s win-loss record over the past decade looked pretty good overall and against nonconference and BCS conference opponents. But if there’s one area that gives credence to the notion that Mark Richt’s program has slipped a bit, it’s in the big games, the ones against teams that finish the season ranked. In that regard, the Dogs have been only middling.
Chris Low of ESPN.com has taken a look at how SEC teams have fared over the past five seasons against teams that finished in the Top 25 of the final polls, either the AP or the coaches’ poll. As a whole, the SEC, generally considered the strongest football conference by just about any criteria, didn’t show up as well as you might have expected, with only two conference teams, Florida (14-9) and LSU (13-11), having winning records against Top 25 teams in the final polls.
Meanwhile, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Tennessee, South Carolina and Vanderbilt managed five or fewer wins against the final Top 25.
The Dogs did better than that. Georgia and Auburn tied for fourth place with 8-12 records, behind Alabama, which was 10-12.
That’s not too bad overall, but the trend is what has caused most of the criticism of Richt over the past couple of seasons. The Crimson Tide are 7-2 over the past two seasons and went 5-0 during their 2009 national championship season, Low points out, while Georgia has gone the other direction, posting a 2-6 mark against the final Top 25 over the last two seasons.
As the Dogs move ahead with a revamped defensive staff, Richt will be judged this coming season primarily on his team’s overall record. Will they get at least 10 wins? Will they end the season ranked, preferably in the Top 10?
But, really, the key indicator of whether Richt is getting his program back on track will be how they do against teams that wind up the year among the ranked elite. If the Dogs continue to come up short more often than not in those games, there might be more shake-ups still to come.
TAKING THE LONG VIEW ON METTENBERGER
I was off Monday and away from the Blawg when the story of Zach Mettenberger’s underage drinking arrest broke, and I can’t argue with most of what’s been said in the various online venues. It was a dumb thing for him to do, though not unusual for an 18-year-old college kid. But most 18-year-olds with fake IDs (two!!??) and a hankering to drink aren’t on full scholarship and aren’t locked in a competition for starting quarterback on a high-profile team.
(As for the most prevalent question in the wake of his arrest — why on earth he’d be spending spring break in Valdosta — Buck Belue reports that Mettenberger was in town to see some old high school buddies play in the Valdosta State spring game.)
Mettenberger’s expected suspension for at least one game pretty much precludes him being the starter in the opener, and might even make him third-string. Beyond that, he’ll have to convince his coaches that he’s capable of making better decisions than he did this past weekend.
Of course, unless the vast majority of football analysts are wrong, Mettenberger likely wasn’t going to be the starter at the beginning of this season anyway.
But the fact remains that while Aaron Murray looks like the frontrunner, he missed a lot of work last year and has a bit of a history with injuries. And Logan Gray, well, when you’ve already had discussions with your coaches about possibly switching positions, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of your future prospects.
So despite the general view that Mettenberger is something of a long-term “project” — a kid who has a big arm but needs to improve in a lot of areas of the game — circumstances could dictate that his time comes sooner, rather than later.
Let’s hope he takes this setback in stride and rededicates himself to being more than just another dumb 18-year-old. Because as Rex Robinson put it, “We may need him down the road.”
TWO DOGS MAKE TOP 100 LIST
Speaking of Murray, he was one of two Georgia players to crack the list of Top 100 College Players to Watch compiled by ESPN’s Joe Schad, coming in at No. 58. A.J. Green, who ranked No. 11, was the other. Alabama had seven players make the list, Oklahoma had six and Florida and North Carolina had four each.