Archive for October, 2013

State of the Georgia-Florida rivalry: Coach Boom’s seat a little warm

georgia floridaOne of the most gratifying things about the past couple of years in UGA football has been the flipping of the narrative when it comes to the annual game in Jacksonville.

Where once the Gators were seen (by those with short memories dating back only to 1990) as “owning” the Georgia-Florida series, the past couple of weeks leading up to this year’s game have produced headlines like this one in the Orlando Sentinel: “UF’s Muschamp is now officially coaching for his job.” And this headline in USA Today: “With another loss, will Florida’s Will Muschamp be on the hot seat?”

Yes, the page has turned in Cocktail Party history. As the Athens Banner-Herald noted this week, there are now only a half-dozen current Bulldogs who’ve played in a loss to Florida: Aaron Murray, Rantavious Wooten, Arthur Lynch, Kenarious Gates, Blake Sailors and Chase Vasser.

Where once Jacksonville loomed so large in the Bulldog psyche that Georgia fans were calling for the game to be moved elsewhere, that …

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Fan talk: Where do the Dawgs go from here?

Did Mike Bobo not trust his backup players enough against Vandy? (University of Georgia)

Did Mike Bobo not trust his backup players enough against Vandy? (University of Georgia)

Aside from the “Fire Richt!” and “Fire everyone!” laments from some readers, there were more reasoned fan responses and questions in this week’s Junkyard Mail. Let’s check some of it out. …

Joe Burger writes: Hey Bill, Mediocre defense, more special teams errors, the absolute worst called offensive game of the year, just terrible. The whole football program gets an F [against Vanderbilt]. Now, I know there were some TERRIBLE calls and, yes, we’re missing offensive playmakers, but we lost to Vandy. So, would you change your midterm grade for the team after seeing that performance? And even more importantly, but left unanswered in your report card, where is the UGA football program headed in the future? Bill, are we ever gonna win a national championship with coach Richt and his staff? I hate to be the Doubting Thomas, and I’m not gonna scream to fire coach Richt, but at what point do you …

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What will it take for 2013 Dawgs to still be considered successful?

Aaron Murray said Georgia finishing with a 9-3 record would be "a great year." Do you agree? (Associated Press)

Aaron Murray said Georgia finishing with a 9-3 record would be "a great year." Do you agree? (Associated Press)

Last week, after the Missouri game, when the Dogs still had an outside chance at winning the SEC East if they won out and the Tigers lost two, a fellow Bulldog fan and I were discussing various alternative outcomes for the season.

What if Georgia won out, I asked, but didn’t win the SEC East?

The fan said that any season that included wins over South Carolina and LSU (both in the Top 10 at the time) as well as Florida and Tech would have to be considered a really good season.

We revisited that discussion Saturday night after the Vandy game. He said that when he had made the earlier statement, he wasn’t even considering the possibility of the Dawgs losing to the Commodores. His new view? Even with wins over South Carolina, LSU, Florida and Tech, any season that includes a loss to Vanderbilt would have to be considered a disappointment.

OK, I’ll grant that losing to …

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If the cream rose to the top Saturday in the SEC, what is Georgia?

Remember when this team had some swagger way back ... three weeks ago? (Associated Press)

Remember when this team had some swagger way back … three weeks ago? (Associated Press)

A few more thoughts and observations in the wake of Georgia’s demoralizing loss to Vandy …

Wow, what a crazy Saturday in SEC football.

Missouri over Florida might not really have been that big a surprise, considering the surge the former has made and the weakened state of the latter. And because of how close the Vols came to knocking off Georgia, their win over the Gamecocks wasn’t that big a shocker, especially with Connor Shaw going out injured (again). But despite the offensive uptick Gus Malzahn has given Auburn, the Tigers winning that defenseless shootout with the Aggies was unexpected (and attributable, at least in part, to Johnny Autograph’s banged-up shoulder). And I know Ole Miss has done well in recruiting, but knocking off the Mad Hatter’s Bayou Bengals was another big surprise, even with LSU’s less than imposing defense.

Still, the booby prize has to go to Georgia: Even with …

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A bad day all-round for Georgia’s Bulldogs

Aaron Murray was just one of numerous Bulldogs who had a bad day Saturday against Vandy. (Associaed Press)

Aaron Murray was just one of numerous Bulldogs who had a bad day Saturday against Vandy. (Associaed Press)

The wheels officially came off a once-promising season for Georgia Saturday in Nashville on a day when the Bulldogs failed in just about every facet of the game.

You know the old saw about it being “a team loss”? This is one game where that isn’t just a way of deflecting blame from one or two players. Just about everyone on both sides of the ball plus the coaching staff was to blame in this devastating loss, which probably eliminated Georgia from any chance for another SEC East title.

Running down the Dogs’ sorry performance against the Commodores, we find a familiar litany of problems:

  • Three more special teams meltdowns — including a allowing a fake field goal to turn into a touchdown, a turnover on a fumbled punt reception, and yet another bad snap that went over the punter’s head — led to Vandy points.
  • Damian Swann had another mostly terrible day, getting burned on …

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As Dawgs head to Nashville, Bulldog Nation frets about the defense

Georgia has to worry about Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews. (Associated Press)

Georgia has to worry about Vanderbilt wide receiver Jordan Matthews. (Associated Press)

I think it’s fair to say that Vanderbilt doesn’t have quite as many Georgia fans worried as Mizzou did a week ago. However, as the Dawgs found out two years ago, Nashville can be a tough place to come away with an expected victory.

And the way Georgia has played defense so far this season, any SEC team presents a sizable challenge.

That said, barring a bunch of turnovers or special teams meltdowns, I think even with a lousy secondary the Dogs have too much for Vandy.

Still, there’s things that need taking care of, or the Dores could score a major upset.

Having watched the tape of the Missouri game, Vandy’s defenders have declared they’re coming for Aaron Murray and have dissed Georgia’s tackles, which I’m hoping will tick off the OL enough that they’ll turn in the kind of performance we saw against South Carolina and LSU.

The play of John Theus and the offensive line will be a key in Saturday's game. (University of Georgia)

The play of John Theus and the offensive line will be a key in …

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Midseason report card: Injuries, defense, special teams pull down grade

The 2013 Georgia Bulldogs get a mixed report at midterm. (Jason Getz / AJC)

The 2013 Georgia Bulldogs get a mixed report at midterm. (Jason Getz / AJC)

With six of the 12 regular season games in the books, it’s time to assess where Mark Richt’s 2013 Bulldogs stand at the midpoint of the season. Here’s what grades I’d assign if I were issuing their midterm report card …

Offense: B+

Actually, this should be two grades — pre-injuries and post-injuries. Before the Knoxville Massacre, I’d have given Mike Bobo’s offense an A-, with only the inconsistency on the offensive line keeping the Dawgs from an A or even A+. At that point, you were pretty sure Georgia could score almost at will on any defense in the country. But losing a bunch of playmakers has hurt, especially on third down and in the red zone. Plus, the OL is faltering again, which tends to make Aaron Murray nervous. And that usually means turnovers. So the post-injuries grade is a solid B.

Not a happy teacher-student conference between safety Quincy Mauger and Todd Grantham. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Not a happy teacher-student conference between safety Quincy Mauger and Todd Grantham. (Jason Getz / …

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No need looking ahead of Nashville unless Dawgs’ defense grows up quickly

Shaq Wiggins got burned on a couple of plays, but he showed a lot of potential. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Shaq Wiggins got burned on a couple of plays, but he showed a lot of potential. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Some more thoughts and observations in the wake of Georgia’s loss to Missouri …

The silver lining folks were quick to note that while Georgia no longer controls its own destiny in the SEC East race, Mark Richt’s Bulldogs aren’t out of it by any means.

Current division leader Missouri still has to play Florida and South Carolina out of the East and Texas A&M from the West, apparently without star quarterback James Franklin. A couple of losses there doesn’t seem out of the question. Georgia owns the tie-breaker over South Carolina and if the Dogs can take care of business in Jacksonville after a week off to heal up, the battle for the Okefenokee Oar could wind up as a de facto SEC East playoff game (assuming UGA can handle Auburn and Kentucky).

Sounds good, but the realists among us must note that unless Georgia’s defense turns things around rather quickly — starting this coming …

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A weakened Georgia offense no longer can make up for the defense’s lousy play

Aaron Murray fumbles as he's sacked by a Missouri defender. (Jason Getz / AJC)

Aaron Murray fumbles as he's sacked by a Missouri defender. (Jason Getz / AJC)

The delicate balancing act that had Georgia still in the national Top 10 almost midway through the season despite having the SEC’s worst defense and unreliable special teams was basically built on the premise that all of that didn’t matter if the Bulldogs’ prodigious offense could outscore everyone they played.

But the injuries to key playmakers suffered against LSU and Tennessee pulled the foundation away from that precarious house of cards and the results were seen Saturday at Sanford Stadium in Athens: Missouri 41, Georgia 26.

Actually, having trailed by 18 points at halftime, the scrappy Dogs fought their way back into the game in the third quarter as the defense, which in the second quarter hadn’t looked capable of stopping their own grandmothers, held the uptempo Mizzou offense scoreless. The Dogs pulled within 2 points before giving up a score on a badly defended halfback pass.

Still, you …

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Fan talk: Missouri looks dangerous and defense is a major liability for the Dawgs

Mizzou quarterback James Franklin is on a roll so far this season. (Associated Press)

Mizzou quarterback James Franklin is on a roll so far this season. (Associated Press)

Take a banged-up UGA offense that’s missing its two top running backs and three of its four top receivers, add a young defense that doesn’t appear to have figured how to slow down even the SEC’s worst offense, and top it off with special teams that have a penchant for meltdowns producing points for the other side.

Put that up against an undefeated team whose offense has turned out to be one of the nation’s best while the team has gone undefeated, albeit feasting so far on nonconference cupcakes and a faltering Vandy.

The result? That Georgia-Missouri game in Athens that was supposed to provide some sort of respite for the Dogs after a schedule frontloaded with Top 10 teams now looks to be a much bigger challenge for the Dogs than originally envisioned. In fact, the point spread favoring Georgia dropped three points over the past few days and quite a few college football observers are …

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