There’ve been a lot of SEC schedule change-ups in recent years (and more are coming) and the Dawgs frequently have played the Kentucky Wildcats late in the season, but this year is a throwback to days of old: It doesn’t get much more traditional than an October Saturday night in Lexington.
After the big letdown in Columbia, Mark Richt’s team is looking to get back on track and, on paper, Kentucky looks like the perfect opponent to help the Dogs do just that. The Wildcats have been hit hard by injuries, play a lot of true freshmen and looked absolutely awful last week against Arkansas.
You’d figure Georgia would have no trouble covering the spread, which is more than 27 points.
But two concerns lurk in the back of Georgia fans’ minds: This is the SEC and as Todd Grantham reminded us this week, “on any given Saturday, anybody can beat you. … Any time you play on the road in this league is going to be a battle.”
Throw in the fact that Kentucky led South Carolina 17-7 at halftime and Grantham’s defense has gotten off to a slow start this season, even against lesser opponents, and you have the elements of another underwhelming first half by the Dawgs.
I’d be shocked if the outcome of the game was still in question in the fourth quarter, but what would really please me would be for Georgia to come out taking care of business from the very beginning, especially on defense. And, of course, the Dawgs’ offense doing what they should be able to do pretty easily against the Wildcats. If at least one half of Gurshall doesn’t have another 100-yard game, I’ll be surprised. And Aaron Murray ought to finally take that career touchdown pass record, too.
I’ll take any SEC win, but the last time the Dawgs were favored by more than 20 points on the road was 2004, ironically at Kentucky. Georgia won that game 62-17 in an effort that saw Richt emptying the bench.
Parker Welch, I’m hoping I get to see you play some this week!
Now, let’s get to some Junkyard Mail. …
Sammy Tribble writes: Whew, the 2013 schedule looks quite a bit tougher for my Dawgs. But at least it’s not Alabama we’ll be facing from the SEC West next year, and seeing Zach Mettenberger play Between the Hedges should be cool. But what’s with Georgia having to go to Auburn two years in a row? And a home schedule without either Auburn or Georgia Tech? Bill, when’s the last time that happened? I’d say Georgia season ticket holders are getting shortchanged, wouldn’t you?
Well, in a pure football sense, swapping a home game against LSU for Auburn is an even swap for UGA ticket holders, but that, of course, ignores the fact that Georgia-Auburn is a special rivalry. But the conference says it needed three teams to make repeat visits in order to set up the proper rotation between SEC East and SEC West teams from 2014 on, and Georgia was one of the ones that got stuck. So much for all those Georgia-gets-special-treatment conspiracy theories. And 2013 will be the first season since 1957 that Georgia hasn’t had a home game against either Auburn or the Yellow Jackets. There’d been speculation that Tech might be agreeable to switching things up and playing in Athens two years in a row in order to get out of having to play road games against Virginia Tech, Clemson and Georgia all in the same season, but with the uncertainty about the 2014 SEC schedule still looming, that now looks unlikely.
J Lucas writes: If Georgia doesn’t finish strong and compete for the SEC, should Georgia look for a different coach? Or do you think Richt will eventually “finish the drill” and get a national championship for the Dawgs? It’s so frustrating because he is such amazing person and coach but the Dawgs can’t keep going this route of winning 10,11, and even 12 games and think that’s enough. Hate to sound greedy, but like I said before we are in the SEC, we have had the talent. What is wrong with Georgia?
It’s hard to say what’s wrong other than a fairly consistent failure in recent years for the Dawgs to play their best against big-time opponents, but calling a program a failure simply because it doesn’t win a national championship is setting the bar so high that you’re bound to be disappointed. And, frankly, getting rid of a coach who wins 10 games a year doesn’t seem very likely. Where Greg McGarity will have to make a tough decision is if Richt’s teams start performing in the eight- to nine-win range. Next season, with a much tougher schedule and quite a few defensive players likely to leave for the NFL, I think the expectations will be relaxed somewhat. But beyond that, yes, a breakthrough season would work wonders for the program’s long-term stability.
Johnathan Tatman writes: Does UGA have a chance of taking the SEC East again this year? How would the rest of the season for Florida and South Carolina have to play out for those two teams to be eliminated? If we are able to make it to the SEC championship, what are our chance of holding a current Bama or Mississippi State team?
If Florida beats South Carolina and Georgia beats Florida and wins out in the conference, Georgia would be the SEC East winner. How would this year’s team match up against Alabama? Well, if they get that far, the outlook would probably be better than it seems at this juncture. But you’d expect the Crimson Tide to be favored. And if it’s not Bama representing the West, I think LSU is a much more likely division winner than the Maroon Bulldogs.
John writes: Bill: I have to hand it to the South Carolina. Those people did a great job of getting the crowd into the game. Even in big games, the crowds at Sanford Stadium do not seem to get as pumped up as South Carolina was. One reason may be the canned music. Every time the Gamecocks were set to kickoff, the stadium was blasting the song “Sandstorm,” and that really got that crowd going. I think Georgia could learn something from South Carolina about trying to get the fans more involved in the game.
I think you’re right, John. The atmosphere at Sanford Stadium definitely could use some tweaking.
Ron Roberts writes: Where the HELL is Richard Samuel? Recalling the way he ran rough-shod over the Florida Gator defense late last year had me wondering — particularly when it was evident (and that was pretty early in the game) why he wasn’t dispatched to give extra blocking? It’s THAT kind of “in-game” adjustment we seem to be ill-equipped to make. So where is he? Why was it painstakingly obvious to everyone else that we needed to lose a wideout (that Murray had little-to-no time to get to anyhow) to bolster our backfield blocking?
Samuel simply has been beaten out by other players. He’s pretty much out of the tailback rotation now, it seems, and the Georgia coaches have been pleased with how Merritt Hall is playing at fullback. As Richt put it: “He is a very tough kid, very sharp and he makes very few missed assignments.” And Quayvon Hicks is getting playing time blocking in goal-line situations. At this point, it doesn’t look like Samuel is going to see the field a lot, but there’s still half a season to go so that could change.
Ed writes: Hey Bill. I’m sitting here watching the replay of the Georgia-South Carolina game on ESPN3. It’s tough to watch, and this occurred to me while watching the first few plays. Why is Georgia not capitalizing on Murray’s running ability to make plays? He and [Connor] Shaw are mirror images of each other as far as their build and athletic ability are concerned, but Murray is a better passer. Spurrier does capitalizes on Shaw’s running ability, but Bobo neglects to do so with Murray. I think if he would reel off a few nice runs it would open our passing game up, too, with the opposing D having to spy the QB. I feel like we’re wasting a valuable talent that he has.
I have to disagree with you here, Ed. I don’t really want to see Murray running the ball a lot more than he has this season. Yes, he made some nice plays a couple of years ago when he tended to panic and take off running when his pass protection faltered, but Murray isn’t really built to be a running quarterback on a consistent basis. And he’s prone to fumble when he does take off. Plus, look who’s on the bench if he gets injured. Georgia really would prefer at this point not to have to take the redshirt off Hutson Mason, and Christian LeMay isn’t ready for prime time. Plus, the Dawgs have Gurshall to carry the ball. So, no, I don’t think Murray needs to be more of a part of the running game.
I’ll answer more Junkyard Mail next week. Do you have something you want to discuss concerning the current football season or UGA athletics in general? Got a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? If so, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg