Dogs need better showings in big games

Mark Richt's program has slipped the past couple of years against Top 25 opponents. (University of Georgia)

Mark Richt's program has slipped the past couple of years against Top 25 opponents. (University of Georgia)

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.

131 comments Add your comment

Bill King

March 9th, 2010
7:45 pm

Ozzfest:

Hutson Mason is still in high school. He won’t start at UGA until the fall semester.

A. Murray

March 9th, 2010
7:55 pm

“WHAT IS THE DEAL WITH HUTSON MASON….I THOUGH A PARADE ALL-AMERICA WOULD MAKE WAVES ON A TEAM WITH NO APPARENT QB

ESPN 150 – No Hutson
Rivals 100 – No Hutson
Rivals 250 – No Hutson
Scout – 53rd ranked QB in the country

Oh but he is one of six QBs on the Parade “All American Team”

Hutson Mason Can Play QB

March 9th, 2010
8:53 pm

Mason’s stock went up after Mett’s went down. Hutson won’t get to athens until summer, but he’ll end up backing up Murray and if Murray gets hurt AGAIN Mason will be starting in 2010. He can handle it too, working very hard with pro QB’s, play-book, etc. Just needs reps. 5000 yards, 55 td’s, Parade All-American, he can play.

Hutson Mason Can Play QB

March 9th, 2010
10:21 pm

ESPN 150–all went to Notre Dame–didn’t work out too well. Espn not the best evaluator of talent.

Big D Dawg

March 9th, 2010
10:26 pm

In 2001 Nebraska was chosen to play in the Rose Bowl vs Miami for the MNC. That year they got beat badly (62-36) by #14 Colorado in the last game of the season and did not play in the Big 12 Championship and #9 Colorado beat # 3 Texas. However, Nebraska finished ranked #4??? for some reason and still played #1 Miami. They were embarrassed 37 -14. So, don’t hand me the crap about …. you don’t win your conference you don’t play in the MNC! UGA didn’t lose their last game of the season in 2007. LSU lost 2 of their last 5. UGA won 7 in a row to end their season. So, there is precedence for a team to not play in their conference championship game and still play in the MNC.
UGA should have played in the MNC in 2007. Don’t embarrass yourself saying it never happened before.

AltamahaDawg

March 9th, 2010
10:33 pm

haha, I think what would be relevant that Saban has been coaching an entire decade longer too. Today, Saban is more accomplished, experienced and wiser. You would expect him to be. Richt still has 4 yrs before he would be at the mark in Saban’s career when he won a NC. In fact if you wanted to really compare the 2, Richt was in position twice to do so in his first 8 yrs ever as a HC, Putting him way ahead of Saban’s pace.

AltamahaDawg

March 9th, 2010
10:35 pm

Spike, it’s because the gators have had better teams.

Big D Dawg

March 9th, 2010
10:52 pm

And just in case Bama Stan or any other Bama fan comes on here harping about their “13 MNC”…….Here’s the AP listing. And yes, as far as AP goes UGA only has 1 but if we count like “bama” we’ve got 5…….. and according to the AP poll GT has 00000

Team Total Seasons

Notre Dame 8 1943, 1946-1947, 1949, 1966, 1973, 1977, 1988
Alabama 7 1961, 1964-1965, 1978-1979, 1992, 2009
Oklahoma 7 1950, 1955-1956, 1974-1975, 1985, 2000
USC 5 1962, 1967, 1972, 2003-2004
Miami-FL 5 1983, 1987, 1989, 1991, 2001
Ohio State 4 1942, 1954, 1968, 2002
Nebraska 4 1970-1971, 1994-1995
Minnesota 4 1936, 1940-1941, 1960
Florida 3 1996, 2006, 2008
Texas 3 1963, 1969, 2005
LSU 2 1958, 2007
Florida State 2 1993, 1999
Tennessee 2 1951, 1998
Michigan 2 1948, 1997
Penn State 2 1982, 1986
Pittsburgh 2 1937, 1976
Army 2 1944-1945
Colorado 1 1990
BYU 1 1984
Clemson 1 1981
Georgia 1 1980
Syracuse 1 1959
Auburn 1 1957
Maryland 1 1953
Michigan State 1 1952
Texas A&M 1 1939
TCU 1 1938

ATLGA Dawg

March 9th, 2010
11:18 pm

Oakwood Dawg, you sound like a crybaby. Just like all the other people who bring out the tired, unfounded, and pointless ‘argument’ about bringing back Donnan and Goff anytime Mark Richt is even remotely criticized.

Grow up.

Observor

March 10th, 2010
12:09 am

Saban vs Richt comparison isn’t really that fair. Saban took over an LSU program that had 8 losing seasons in the previous 11 years and at Alabama he took over a program that was still suffering scholarship issues from the second worst probation ever. Both were rebuilding jobs whereas Richt stepped into a program that had very good talent and was going 8-3 every year under Donnan.

Tide fan

March 10th, 2010
12:24 am

Richt is 10-10 against the sec east over the last 4 years including losing 2 of 3 to UK of all people and suffering humiliating blowouts to UT, Florida, Bama, etc.

Bama got embarrassed in Saban’s first year in a loss to LA-Monroe but I just now noticed something fascinating about Saban’s Bama teams.

In Saban’s tenure they have lost only 2 games by more than 7 pts. One was the 14 pt loss to Utah in which they looked like they clearly just didn’t want to show up. The other was an 11 pt loss to Florida in the 08 seccg in a game that was much closer than the score indicated since Bama was leading the game in the 4th qtr.

My only point is that Saban’s teams do not get blown out by 20-30-40 pts. It just doesn’t happen. And while Utah dominated us people forget that the game was 21-17 midway through the 3rd qtr.

Conversely Richt’s teams have the habit of getting repeatedly blown out and humiliated. It happened last year at UT 45-19 and earlier in 07 35-14 in 2 games that weren’t even that close, UF has blasted UGA several times, and the blackout game was over at halftime. That’s at least 6 games just in the last 4 years where Richt coached teams lost in embarrassing fashion.

My only point is that one of the signs a coach is slipping is when his teams are consistently giving up on him and getting blown out. That is never a good sign.

Hmmmm

March 10th, 2010
1:24 am

So if there are 5-6 teams in the SEC ranked in the top 25, there will be 6-7 SEC teams having losing records against top 25 teams. There isn’t another conference that has so many teams ranked, so of course, there will be teams that have losing records against top 25 teams in the SEC.

This is a dumb argument. Let’s look at the big east. How many teams do they have ranked in the top 25 consistently? 2-3? They aren’t going to have as many losses against top 25 teams.

Let’s look at the WAC. They can beat the crap out of the PAC 10 and end up having a good record against top 25 teams.

Do these records mean that they are better teams? No.

Using final season rankings is a bunch of crap as well. This was a dumb article.

76-Dawg

March 10th, 2010
2:57 am

I would be willing to endorse cutting back on league play in the SEC with no more than 6 inter league matches if in the SEC Ga, Tenn, Ala, Fla. Auburn, and LSU has too play OKLAHOMA, NEB, TEXAS, IOWA ,Miami, Ohio State, Penn State, Michigan, Oregon and especially teams like Boise State, Fresno State, Southern Cal, Boston College Notre Dame. Any team that only plays 1 or two hard teams all year and think they are good. When the average Sec team has to play 5 or 6 very hard teams its not fair for a team like Cincinnati, Boise State and about 5 more to end up with 1 or 2 losses and a lot more recognition. A few years ago I heard Ga. tried to get Southern Cal to play a home and away but SC refused the offer. The only requirement is the games can’t be the first 4 ball games of the year. I want some of the so called elite teams of the other league to play 5 or 6 really hard teams and see how many more of their great players get hurt or when you have to get your team phyiced

#2 BAMA FAN

March 10th, 2010
3:04 am

The real good football programs some times has to take 2 steps back to get the program headed in the right direction. Take the sooners and dawgs as examples, Bob Stoopes and Saban are buddies
and he has been in Tuscaloosa a lot over the past year in trying to learn how to stop the Texas and
gators offense. The dawgs of course had to hire a new DC after Richt fired 3 defense coaches and
payed big bucks for the DC. CMR needs to get the dawgs mentally tougher and focus on how not to beat yourself!! RTR

76-Dawg

March 10th, 2010
3:30 am

To finish: to get your team mentally really to play 6 great teams, how hard it is, then they may appreciate how special and hard the SEC is. A good example is when in the Oklahoma State game last year GA. started hitting like a typical SEC contest the officials started throwing unnecessary roughness penalty’s on every play like GA was playing a team of girls. The elite teams of other leagues don’t want any part of the great SEC teams unless it in the first few games of the year. They only care about win loss record. It’s amazing how the polls don’t reflect how great the SEC teams are but last year 10 teams in the SEC went to bowl games. Sorry about the rant but it is my opinion that the SEC don’t nearly get the recognition they deserve.

76-Dawg

March 10th, 2010
3:44 am

#2 Bama Fan . I love my Dawgs but I totally agree with you that GA biggest problem is mental toughness. That why Spurrier is a great coach and all ways will be. He takes 20 recruits that either has no stars or just 1 star and get his team ready to compete against the best teams in the SEC. He may not win but the best teams know they can’t over look South Carolina or they can get beat. I hope Granthem will help with the mental part.

Dawg Olvinist

March 10th, 2010
4:15 am

With the new, retooled D, look for the Dawgs to take over games early in 2010—florida’s way down, so I’m not worried about them and tennessee has no talent and made a questionable hire in dooley. Richt should be able to easily win the SEC east and play bama for the title this year. The Dawgs are back on top–mark it down!

BuLLdawg

March 10th, 2010
6:02 am

I’ve been saying that all along.

2-6 vs. teams ranked in the final polls the last 2 years.

1-3 vs. Florida the last 4 years

1-3 vs. Tennessee the last 4 years

10-10 vs. SEC East teams the last 4 years.

tdog

March 10th, 2010
7:12 am

Hopefully we can eek out five wins this year.

AltamahaDawg

March 10th, 2010
7:22 am

So you’re saying you have been listing the record?

Standing on the sidelines

March 10th, 2010
7:47 am

Well, a lot of people have said that “Richt could not win the big one”. However, what cannot be said, is that Richt “does not get paid like he cannot win the big one”. Richt—the most overrated and overpaid coach in the SEC. At least until proven otherwise.

Hey, The D...

March 10th, 2010
7:55 am

…stands for “The DumbAzz” – learn to read – in this article AJ was listed as number 11 – Murray was # 58! Your UGA education is showing…but you were correct that AJ belongs in the top 20! DOH!

76-Dawg

March 10th, 2010
8:08 am

With a very good running back already in place and if a QB can show up UGA could very easily be 12-0 or at worst 10-2. The Dawgs can’t under estimate Spurrier and for once don’t under play Tenn. Florida and Auburn game are toss up’s. This is the easiest schedule UGA has had in a long time and with Boykin, A.J Green and Charles back and a great field goal kicker this could be the year of ‘THE DAWG’. How else could it get any better to christian UGA VIII by starting his carrier off with a great year.

Urban Meyer: The 5-3 SEC Coach

March 10th, 2010
8:20 am

Urban Meyer goes 5-3 in the SEC 40% of his seasons at Florida.

Richt has only done a season like that 2x in 9 years.

Meyer 2x in 5 years.

When Meyer goes 5-3 in the SEC in 2010, this will be the 3rd time in only 6 years.

Not impressive.

Nick Saban: The 5-3 Coach 8 Years

March 10th, 2010
8:29 am

Nick Saban went 6-5, 6-6, 6-6, 7-5 at Mich St.

He went 8-5 at LSU 2x

He went 7-6 at Alabama.

Saban has gone 5-3 or worse in conference 8 times.

Richt has only gone 5-3 or worse in conference 3 times in his first 9 years.

Compare that to Saban’s record and consistency in his 1st 9 years.

Richt has NEVER had a 7-6 or 6-6 season, Saban’s done it 5 times, including once at Alabama.

ATLGA Dawg

March 10th, 2010
9:47 am

I appreciate your arbitrary stats on Meyer and Saban, although they conveniently leave out the NCs. Statistics can be skewed to support any opinion.

No one knows what’s going to happen next year, but as of today, Richt and Co. have the most to prove and need a big season more than the other two.

ATLGA Dawg

March 10th, 2010
9:50 am

Oh yeah, and compared to Richt, how are their records against Kentucky?

jdawg

March 10th, 2010
10:00 am

what does gata stand for

Relax Dawg Fans

March 10th, 2010
10:55 am

Good points. If you want to be the best, you have to beat the best. We have not recently. But go from giving up under 20 points a game to over 27 and you lose games. But, in fairness, the offense has gone from 22 points a game early in Richt’s career at UGA to 27+ a game average.

Richt better than Saban or Meyer

March 10th, 2010
1:14 pm

Richt has less bad seasons than Meyer or Saban.

Richt is one of only 7 coaches EVER to get 90 wins in 9 seasons.

Richt’s consistency is PEERLESS in the SEC. Saban and Meyer are both too inconsistent to be called “great” coaches. Both have been pucky 2 times in their 24 year careers.

Richt has coached in 5 National Championships.

RED DOG 77

March 11th, 2010
1:18 am

OK BuLLdawg…………this is your time to shine son, let us have it, but go easy, please? no one wants to read a book…….Regards, RED