Archive for November, 2010

Georgia-Auburn: Bringing a great rivalry home

ga. auburn house dividedIt’s a shame the whole Cam Newton soap opera has overshadowed one of college football’s oldest and most competitive rivalries this week.

As I’ve said before, Georgia-Auburn is my favorite of the Dogs’ rivalries. I think it’s one of the best rivalries in college football. It has so much going for it: the proximity of the two schools, the many ties between them (including Vince Dooley and Pat Dye) and the fact that it’s been a remarkably even series, with the Dogs having a chance to tie up the all-time record this year with a win. One of the most oft-cited statistics involves the fact that even in cumulative scoring it’s pretty even, with Georgia leading all-time 1,778 to 1,722. In what other series does anyone even look at that?

It’s also been a great rivalry on the field, as I noted last year with my list of the 10 greatest Georgia wins over Auburn. So many memories, from “between the hoses” to “Look at the sugar falling out of the sky,” from Uga V trying to take a bite out …

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UGA recruiting of Cam Newton? Square peg, meet round hole

Cam Newton struck Georgia coaches as more of a tight end than a quarterback. Really. (Associated Press)

Cam Newton struck Georgia coaches as more of a tight end than a quarterback. Really. (Associated Press)

It’s probably just as well that Mark Richt, who recruited Cam Newton out of Atlanta’s Westlake High School, wasn’t able to sign him.

As has been widely reported, Richt admitted at his Tuesday news conference that “We actually had him pegged as more of a tight end prospect. A lot of it had to do with what we like to do offensively, more of a fit than any disrespect to his type of ability to play quarterback. He’s proven to be pretty darn good though.”

Indeed.

Chances are it wouldn’t have worked out anyway. If the reports Newton left the University of Florida on the verge of being suspended or expelled for cheating violations are true, you can imagine he also probably would not have been a good academic fit at UGA.

Not to mention the fact that if he drove the streets of Clarke County like he did in Gainesville, where he racked up a dozen traffic offenses, he’d at the very …

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How will Dogs stand up to national spotlight that comes with Cam Newton?

Aaron Murray needs to get off to a fast start against Auburn. (Associated Press)

Aaron Murray needs to get off to a fast start against Auburn. (Associated Press)

A few early thoughts on this year’s renewal of the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry …

It’d take the best performance of the season on the part of Todd Grantham’s defense to stop Cam Newton, and the odds are long against it happening. He’s just too talented and the Dogs haven’t done a good job this season against quarterbacks who can run. (This one, of course, can pass, too.) About the best we can hope for is that Georgia makes Newton and the Tigers work for it and doesn’t give up big plays. …

After watching Auburn and Arkansas go back and forth last month in a game with a basketball score, a lot of folks warmed to the idea that the Tigers don’t have a very good defense and that Georgia’s best shot at winning this game is to get into an offensive shootout. If that does indeed prove to be the case, the key for the Dogs is going to be getting off to a fast start and not having to try and play catch-up. …

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There aren’t many better ways to spend a Saturday in November

Branden Smith made himself useful on offense as well as special teams and defense Saturday. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Branden Smith made himself useful on offense as well as special teams and defense Saturday. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

A few more thoughts on Georgia’s 55-7 victory over Idaho State …

As I detailed Saturday, I had my quibbles with the Dogs’ performance against the Bengals, despite it being an overwhelming (as expected) victory. My concerns chiefly were the rather “shaky” start, as Mark Richt termed it, and the fact that Georgia wasn’t able to run at will against a defense that its scout team ought to be able to beat easily.

But aside from those complaints engendered by my innate worrywart tendencies when it comes to Georgia football, I thoroughly enjoyed Saturday. The fall weather was glorious (OK, a bit chilly in the shade under the overhang where we sit at the stadium) and the turnout was better than I expected, at least for the first half. Once the 1980 national championship team had been recognized at halftime, many fans headed for the gates and someone broke out …

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Second-quarter blitz makes up for Dogs’ sluggish start

A.J. Green had two touchdown catches in Dogs' win over Idaho State. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

A.J. Green had two touchdown catches in Dogs' win over Idaho State. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

It might seem churlish to come out of a 55-7 win complaining, but this was after all Idaho State that Georgia was playing Saturday and while a 35-point blitz in the second quarter put the game out of reach early, the Dogs quite frequently were not operating at peak efficiency.

Aaron Murray struggled in the first quarter for the second week in a row, completing only five of 11 passes for 39 yards as Georgia ended up having to settle for two Blair Walsh field goals in the first 15 minutes. While the official line put forth by the Georgia broadcast team was that Murray was throwing into a stiff wind to start the game, the plain fact is that several of those throws were off target from the start, particularly a couple he threw into the dirt.

And Georgia’s running game hardly overwhelmed the relatively small ISU defense, with Carlton Thomas the leading rusher with 64 yards on 14 carries. …

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Is just winning enough for Dogs against Idaho State?

Sanford Stadium is sold out for Saturday's game, but how many actually will show up? (University of Georgia)

Sanford Stadium is sold out for Saturday's game, but how many actually will show up? (University of Georgia)

The last 100 tickets to Saturday’s game at Sanford Stadium were sold this week, pretty much eliminating the only real suspense concerning the meeting with Idaho State. Georgia’s streak of sold-out games continues at 62.

But it’ll be interesting to see how many thousands of those sold-out seats will be empty when the Bulldogs and Bengals take the field. There’ve been pockets of seats going unused all season, and not just in the student section. On the heels of a disappointing loss to Florida that put the Dogs officially out of the SEC East race, and with a less than compelling match-up against an FCS (formerly 1-AA) jabroni opponent, the stands could look quite spotty Saturday, even with the 1980 national champions being honored at halftime.

The Bengals, of course, will get their $525,000 for being Georgia’s designated breather, and barring a complete implosion by the …

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Gator kicker has the right idea on choke flap: ‘It’s ridiculous’

Enough with all the manufactured outrage over Todd Grantham's sideline gesture. (Associated Press)

Enough with all the manufactured outrage over Todd Grantham's sideline gesture. (Associated Press)

There’s something you have to understand about the whole “Chokegate” thing. It’s a slow news week. Idaho State is coming to town and writing about that isn’t going to generate many page views.

A sports editor asked me the other day what I thought of the Todd Grantham choke-gesture flap.

“It’s a nonstory,” I said.

“Yeah,” he replied, “but it’s a great online story.”

Sort of like in the old days of newspapering, when journalists would draw a line between a real story and a tabloid story.

And so various bloggers and columnists in search of stirring up their online readers have expounded on sportsmanship and leadership. A couple of have seemingly gotten really outraged over Grantham’s gesture, writing thundering sermons saying he should have to apologize, be fined or, as one overheated Kentucky writer went so far as to suggest, lose his job.

Let’s be clear about this: It wasn’t …

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Keeping bowl streak alive a worthy goal for Dogs

Georgia would benefit from the extra practice time a bowl brings, especially the defense. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Georgia would benefit from the extra practice time a bowl brings, especially the defense. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Goals are a changeable thing.

A week ago Georgia still had an outside chance at winning the SEC East. And now here the Dogs sit after the Florida loss, facing extremely long odds on being able to end the regular season with a winning record (which would require winning out, including a shocking upset of Auburn) and probably needing to suck it up against the in-state rival to even finish bowl-eligible at 6-6.

But in the current era of college football, even postseason eligibility is a moving target, and with 35 bowls this year requiring 70 teams, there’s a possibility that the NCAA might have to allow some 5-7 teams to go bowling.

And Georgia athletic director Greg McGarity has made it clear that Georgia would accept a bowl bid even with a 5-7 record. “The SEC has certain obligations to fill certain spots to fill all the bowls,” he said. “Without question, as would …

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