Archive for November, 2012

Dawgs need a nearly perfect game to stem the Tide

Is Mark Richt's team ready to take the next big step? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Is Mark Richt's team ready to take the next big step? (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

On paper, Georgia and Alabama are remarkably similar and match up pretty well coming into Saturday’s SEC Championship game at the Georgia Dome.

Both teams utilize pro-style offenses that are led by experienced quarterbacks. Aaron Murray leads the nation in pass efficiency with a rating of 177.15. while Alabama’s A.J. McCarron is second at 176.26. Both offenses feature productive tailback tandems. Both teams have lost a couple of top receivers to injury this season (though the Dogs’ receiving corps looks a bit less depleted than the Tide’s). The teams average scoring about the same number of points per game. They both run 3-4 defenses. Alabama’s ranks higher nationally, though Georgia’s has come on strong in the past month and has more NFL-caliber personnel.

But while Nick Saban’s team is no longer looking invincible after a close call against LSU and a loss to Johnny Football, the Tide is rightfully …

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What will it take for the Bulldogs to beat Bama?

Aaron Murray's play is seen as a key for Georgia's chances against Alabama. (Associated Press)

Aaron Murray's play is seen as a key for Georgia's chances against Alabama. (Associated Press)

Considering the awe-inspiring track record the Crimson Tide brings into the Georgia Dome Saturday and Georgia’s spotty record against Top 10 teams, UGA fans appear to be remarkably optimistic about the Bulldogs’ chances of pulling out a victory and heading to the BCS title game.

At least, that’s the feedback I’ve gotten from readers on the Junkyard Blawg’s Facebook and Twitter pages.

This isn’t blind fan loyalty, mind you. As with others in the Bulldog Nation I’ve heard from this week, these UGA backers say Mark Richt’s Dogs need to play their best game of the season and come out firing on all cylinders in order to have a chance of upsetting Nick Saban’s mighty Tide.

Asked what are the keys to a Georgia win in the SEC Championship game, the fans on Facebook and Twitter are pretty unanimous that the two biggest factors will be how the offensive line and quarterback Aaron Murray

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SEC Championship week: Relax, Bulldog Nation, and savor the moment

2012 SECchamp FootballThere’s been an inordinate amount of attention paid in the media this week to who’s talking (Georgia’s Bacarri Rambo and Sanders Commings, Alabama’s Kenyan Drake) and to who’s not (Aaron Murray).

Really, though, I think Mark Richt struck the right tone on this issue when talking about the bravado displayed by some of his defensive players in advance of the SEC Championship Game: “You know what? They’re all young and excited, and they say what they want to say sometimes. And I don’t think it’s going to matter much what everybody says before the game. I think it’s going to matter what happens when we kick it off. So I’m not too worried about that.”

Let’s be honest, at this stage of the season giving the other team so-called “bulletin board material” isn’t really a major concern. This is ultimate big-time college football, and a bit of swagger is pretty much expected.

Bacarri Rambo is confident, and Georgia fans should just enjoy the ride. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Bacarri Rambo is confident, and Georgia fans should just enjoy the ride. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Both teams know …

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Dawgs get a chance to ruin ESPN’s dreams and earn some R-E-S-P-E-C-T

BCS-logo-Black_BackgroundMark Richt’s Georgia Bulldogs aren’t just up against Nick Saban’s Alabama Crimson Tide in their bid to win an SEC Championship and a place in the BCS title game.

Outside the Peach State, UGA is widely, if unfairly, viewed as some sort of interloper that really ought not to be in the national championship discussion at this stage of the season.

That’s especially true with the national sports media. ESPN wants a ratings-powerhouse Notre Dame-Alabama matchup in the BCS national championship game so badly that it can barely contain itself.

The self-touted Worldwide Leader in Sports is flat-out in love with the Fighting Irish this season, even above and beyond Brent Musburger’s obvious man-crush on Manti Te’o. And the idea of matching two of college football’s major ratings generators in the game for the crystal football has them practically drooling.

It was pretty obvious Saturday night on “SportsCenter” that the hosts had to keep catching themselves from saying that Notre Dame’s …

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Dawgs quickly took all the suspense out of this year’s Tech game

Bacarri Rambo is congratulated by Mark Richt after his record-tying interception. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Bacarri Rambo is congratulated by Mark Richt after his record-tying interception. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

The Georgia Bulldogs set the template for their fourth straight win over the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets Saturday right from the start.

Literally.

Malcolm Mitchell returned the opening kickoff to the Tech 44. Aaron Murray threw a pass to tailback Todd Gurley, who then ran the ball to the 17 on the next play. Another pass to to surprisingly acrobatic big tight end Artie Lynch put the ball at the 3, and then Gurley ran it in for the first score.

Time elapsed: 1 minute, 3 seconds.

The Georgia offense pretty much continued to have its way with the Tech defense until Mark Richt started emptying the bench, but that was only half the winning equation.

The key to beating Tech is defending their pesky triple-option, and Georgia showed how it would do that on the Jackets’ opening drive, too. Tech chewed up yardage and was moving toward the Georgia goal line, thanks in large part to …

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Any win over Tech is great, but some are unforgettable

Georgia vs. tech helmetsA friend posed a tough question this week when he asked me to pick my all-time favorite Georgia win over Georgia Tech.

I had to give that some serious thought. For one thing, there’ve been so many! And asking a Bulldogs fan to single out just one victory over the Trade School is almost as unfair as asking a parent to pick a favorite among their children.

They’re all favorites.

Still, there are some that are more unforgettable than others. Last year, I listed my top 10 favorite wins over Georgia Tech. But, yes, I can narrow it down a bit more than that.

Like many UGA fans, I’ll never lose the warm glow that comes from remembering the 2002 game when Mark Richt’s eventual SEC champions completely demolished the Jackets 51-7 in Athens. And then there’s the great come-from-behind victory in 1978 when freshman Buck Belue came into the game with the Jackets leading 20-0 and engineered one of the most exciting comebacks in Georgia football history for a 29-28 win. Another exciting …

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What would Elvis say? Dawgs should just TCB!

Mark Richt knows there's only one thing the Bulldogs need to be concerned about right now: Georgia Tech. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Mark Richt knows there's only one thing the Bulldogs need to be concerned about right now: Georgia Tech. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Back when Elvis died, the paper sent me to Memphis and Tupelo. One of the folks I encountered in Elvis’ hometown was a woman who had been close to the King and wore one of those lightning bolt TLC (Tender Loving Care) necklaces he gave his female friends. The equivalent for his male buddies was one that said TCB (Taking Care of Business).

TCB. Those initials stand for words to live by for the Georgia Bulldogs right now. In other words, they need to focus on one thing and one thing only: beating the Georgia Tech Yellowjackets.

Not the upcoming meeting with Alabama in the Georgia Dome.

Not the chances of playing for a BCS national championship if they manage to knock off the Crimson Tide.

Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech. Georgia Tech.

Mark Richt kept repeating that mantra in his Sunday night teleconference with laser-like focus despite the repeated efforts …

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Slow start doesn’t hurt as Dawgs roll over Georgia Southern

Aaron Murray had another big day through the air. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Aaron Murray had another big day through the air. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

Georgia’s game with Georgia Southern Saturday went about like many people expected.

It took the Dogs defense about a half to really get a handle on the Eagles’ run-oriented triple-option offense, and Georgia’s offense came out suffering the seemingly inevitable letdown after the emotional high of winning the SEC East last week and were their own worst enemy, stalling drives with penalties and a couple of sacks, losing a couple of fumbles and dropping passes.

In the end it wasn’t close, with Georgia winning 45-14. But for most of a half the Dogs let the Eagles think they were really in this thing.

As the first half clock counted down with Georgia clinging to a 10-7 lead, it looked as if Southern might tie it up or even take the lead as they drove toward the Bulldogs’ goal line. But if you live by the cut block, you die by the cut block, which can easily turn into an illegal chop block. A timely flag for …

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Fan talk: Triple option, Gurshall’s workload, Murray returning for another year, and bowl scenarios

Quarterback Jerick McKinnon leads Georgia Southern's productive rushing attack. (Associated Press)

Quarterback Jerick McKinnon leads Georgia Southern's productive rushing attack. (Associated Press)

It won’t be fun for the Georgia players fending off those cut-blocks and it probably won’t be as pretty as many in the Bulldog Nation would like, but Mark Richt’s Bulldogs should emerge from their SEC Cupcake Weekend match against Georgia Southern with a 10th victory and fully up to speed on handling the triple-option offense that they’ll see again next week.

The Eagles bring the Football Championship Subdivision’s leading rushing attack to Athens, averaging 401.2 yards per game on the ground. Southern’s rushing attack is led by quarterback Jerick McKinnon, a former Sprayberry High School star who was the Southern Conference offensive player of the week after beating Howard by running for a career-high 198 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw for two more touchdowns, though he only passed the ball four times in the game. That put McKinnon over 1,000 yards rushing.

So the …

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Dogs must keep their eyes on the right prize

It's an exciting time for the Georgia Bulldogs, and that can be challenging. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

It's an exciting time for the Georgia Bulldogs, and that can be challenging. (Brant Sanderlin / AJC)

The biggest challenge facing Mark Richt’s Bulldogs over the next couple of weeks may not be defending the triple option’s fullback dive against Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech or even dealing with those nasty legal-but-shouldn’t-be cut blocks that both teams employ.

Or even thinking about likely SEC Championship game opponent Alabama.

No, what the Dogs have to resist is getting caught up looking even farther ahead to where they’ll be if they manage to win out.

Already, players admitted to the Chattanooga Times Free Press, they’re keeping their eyes on the BCS standings, where Georgia sits at No. 5, with Bama and three undefeated teams ahead of them.

As Christian Robinson put it: “Everybody in the nation knows we’re cheering for other teams, because at this point it’s the only way we would have a chance of getting in” to the BCS national title game.

Richt may have the maturity …

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