Games often turn on a play or two. Seasons can turn on a game or two.
Fletcher Page of Dawg Post brought that to mind in a chat with the Chapel Bell blog when he noted: “To me, last year was a last minute (and disgraceful call) loss to LSU, and a flop on senior night against Kentucky away from a 10-win season. Despite a poor defense, turnover prone quarterback, and sketchy playcalling, that’s the truth.”
Well, sort of. The Dogs did pretty well give the Kentucky game away in the second half with turnovers. But it wasn’t just the bad flag on A.J. Green that allowed LSU to come back and win that game. Terrible kickoff coverage and lousy tackling on the 33-yard winning touchdown run had something to do with it, too.
And these close calls work both ways. Had Rennie Curran not broken up that fourth-day pass at the goal line with 22 seconds remaining, Georgia might not have come away with a win over South Carolina. What if Bacarri Rambo hadn’t made that play at the goal line in the Auburn game and the Tigers had tied it up? And if a wide open Bay-Bay Thomas hadn’t dropped that fourth-down pass in the Tech game …
So, yes, Georgia came thisclose to 10 wins last year, but the Dogs also easily could have had eight losses.
Page’s basic point is worth remembering, though. Georgia managed an eight-win season, including a bowl game, despite having nearly the worst turnover ratio in the country, terrible kick coverage, an inconsistent defense and a quarterback who threw way too many interceptions.
Looking ahead, this is the time of year when the fan base is at its most optimistic, but if we temper our expectations a bit, what is the minimum improvement that we can expect?
The turnover situation has to get better, and mathematically the odds are that will be the case. If there’s dramatic improvement in that aspect of the game, it’ll be big.
Tied in with that will be the play of Aaron Murray. True, he’s an inexperienced quarterback, but he’s surrounded by 10 returning starters, so he really only has to be adequate until he gets a few games under his belt and avoid turning the ball over. That’s why Mark Richt keeps telling him he doesn’t have to be the hero.
And Mike Bobo has to strike a balance between easing his QB into the full offensive package and not playing it too conservatively, while balancing the running and passing games.
The revamped defense is probably going to go through some growing pains, but seems poised to at least be a lot more aggressive, especially at going after the quarterback. But if the fundamentals of tackling are sound, which they too often weren’t the past couple of seasons, Georgia at least shouldn’t be any worse off.
On special teams, Georgia has a couple of the best kickers in the country, but that was the case last year. What hurt in too many games was the extremely poor planning and execution of kickoff coverage. We have different folks in charge of that this year, so there’s hope for improvement.
Basically, all the 2010 Dogs need to be better than last year’s team is moderate improvement in a few key areas.
Still, in the end there will be games that come down to a batted pass here or a missed tackle there. Or even a penalty flag.
And without that element of uncertainty, college football wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.