With a trip to Knoxville at hand, it’s a subject some skittish fans don’t even want to talk about, but thanks to the big win over LSU, the Dawgs still find themselves in BCS contention despite the opening loss to Clemson. Could a one-loss SEC champion not called Alabama jump over an undefeated team (say, Ohio State) that’s played a lesser schedule? No way to know yet, but it’s nice to at least still be in the conversation.
However, what if we already were in the four-team playoff system to be introduced next season, where would Georgia stand?
According to USA Today’s weekly mock Football Four Playoff Projections, the win over LSU pushed Georgia up to the No. 5 spot and the Bulldogs even got one first-place vote for the first time.
“Georgia moves into my top-four this week based on the strength of its wins against LSU and South Carolina, and the fact the one loss was on the road (and by three points) to the No. 3 team,” said panelist Hugh Kellenberger of the Jackson (Miss.) Clarion-Ledger. “That’s a worthy résumé, especially for this early in the year.”
“Nobody else in the country has two wins the quality of Georgia, and nobody else has played as tough a schedule,” said panelist Dan Wolken (USA Today’s national college football writer). “So even though the Bulldogs have a loss, I think they are playoff-worthy at this moment in time ahead of undefeated teams that haven’t played anyone.”
Based on the votes of the paper’s 16-person panel, the semi-final teams at this point of the season would be No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Ohio State and No. 2 Oregon against No. 3 Clemson. USA Today says the projection is intended to show what the College Football Playoff pairings might be if they were to be set today. This is purely a mock selection with no bearing on any official polls, rankings or standings.
Still, it’s a good sign that folks outside the SEC are paying attention. Looks like maybe Georgia, which was the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl national team of the week, can awaken the nation, as last week’s hype video put it, if they continue to win.
Now, let’s get to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …
Lamar Westbrook writes: Hey Bill, hope all is well. Once again we’ve seen Georgia’s defense play poorly! What concerns me is if you go back the last 2 years, they have underperformed. What is so bad is, even last year, they had a NFL defense because they were drafted, yet they played at times like my high school team! Todd Grantham is making way too much money for the way they are playing! The person that should make his money is Mike Bobo, he makes half of the money that Grantham does, yet he performs twice as good! Do you think he is overpaid? I sure do, he needs to step it up!! Go Dawgs!!
Well, with Georgia ranking at the bottom of the conference in third-down defense and pass defense, it’s certainly not the kind of season so far that Grantham would want to highlight on his resume. Actually, the run defense has improved dramatically since the first game and against LSU the Dogs got a lot of pressure up front. And as Mark Richt noted this week, the defense is basically winning on first and second downs but can’t get off the field on third down. A major reason for that is the secondary still is looking pretty young and inexperienced. However, this week there were a few too many excuses flying around in Athens to suit me, whether it was the players’ supposed hesitation over the new targeting rule or the problems communicating Grantham’s defensive signals. If the younger players really don’t know the hand signals or the calls associated with them, that’s on the coaching staff, I think. On the other hand, Richt thinks in some cases it’s a matter of overthinking things. In the LSU game, he said, “There were two plays, quite frankly, where two young safeties weren’t sure what to do at the moment of truth. Should I hit him or should I go for the ball? If I hit him, should I hit him high and get kicked out of the game? I think we were probably thinking too much. I think we overcoached the targeting stuff. I said that you’re allowed to hit them as hard as you want, just don’t hit them in the head and don’t launch at them. Hopefully that will help.” The bottom line is, as Brendan Langley said, “we can’t expect to go on the rest of the season giving up 41 points. Somewhere down the line it’s going to catch up to us.”
Wendy O’Keefe writes: I love reading your Blawg, which is obviously, unashamedly biased, but balanced and honest at the same time. While watching the game against LSU, I never really got nervous as I thought that our offense could do whatever it wanted whenever it wanted. I saw some great sparks on “D,” especially with our front 7 (I loved Leonard Floyd’s continued awesome play, and Jordan Jenkins was stellar) but the youthful mistakes are still coming through in the secondary. That being said, I feel that the defense will continue to improve and gain consistency with experience. I loved everything about the offense against LSU except for one thing … WHERE WAS QUAYVON HICKS?!? I didn’t see him involved in any blocking, much less rushing or receiving. I really think that he is an awesome weapon regardless, but especially in the rushing game with Todd Gurley hurt. Was he tweaked somehow, or suspended, or did he just not get his number called? What gives?
Thanks, Wendy. Mike Bobo said after the game that Hicks, who electrified fans in the first two games of the season, didn’t play as much against LSU because the coaches weren’t pleased with his play the previous week against North Texas. And Hicks admitted that his fundamentals had fallen off against North Texas and his blocking wasn’t up to par. Hopefully this was just a hiccup and the dynamic fullback will be back on track now that the coaching staff has gotten his attention.
A couple of readers wondered this week about Mark Richt’s uncharacteristically emotional demeanor after the LSU game. Susan Jordan writes: Bill, what was with the coach this week? He was fighting back tears after the game when he talked with CBS and he also made reference in his postgame press conference to the team having had to “pick him up” during the week. Whassup?
An educated guess would be that Richt was affected last week by the shocking suicide of one of his former players, Paul Oliver. Richt, who attended Oliver’s funeral this week, described his former player’s death as “heartbreaking” when talking with reporters on a conference call before the LSU game. “I was crushed this morning when I heard it, quite frankly,” Richt said. “I haven’t been able to keep it off my mind, to be honest with you.” So it’s not surprising the coach was more emotional than usual after the big win.
Tommy Gentry Jr. writes: As a UGA fan who absolutely loves the look of our black jerseys, as most people do, but also despises the calls for a Blackout every time we have a big game, I have an idea I would like to throw out there. It is already a tradition for the students to wear black to the last home game of the season. I would like to see us wear the black jerseys every year for the last home game. The players love them, the fans love them, and it would give all the players an opportunity to wear them every year. It would also stop the fans from calling for the jersey every time we have a big game. I think people would love it. Just an idea of mine that I wanted to share.
The subject of uniform colors was brought up again this week thanks to Tennessee breaking out its Smokey Grays for Georgia. Overall, I think the Dogs’ Jay Rome was right when he said at this week’s press conference, “You’re going to play the same way you’re going to play. What you’re wearing ain’t going to matter how you’re going to play. It’s all about preparation and playing football, practicing.” Still, as I said last week, I’d like to see the black jerseys worn again sometime, and I agree that a big game is not the right venue, so your idea of wearing them for the final home game seems a good way for the program to get back in touch with its other primary team color. And it appears the back-in-black movement might be gaining traction among the players. Josh Harvey-Clemons said this week that a lot of guys on the team talk about wearing the black jersey. And Aaron Murray said that he’d love to wear the black jerseys once more before his college career is done. “I need to talk to Coach Richt about that somehow,” Murray said. “Maybe for whatever our last (home) game is — Kentucky.”
Steve writes: Bill, A great day all around Saturday in Athens. Beautiful campus, great weather and a thrilling win over LSU. I was hoping the PA system wasn’t as bad as you earlier described, but if anything it was worse. I couldn’t hear Brook Whitmire, even when he was just reading advertisements. And Heaven help anyone in distress trying to text for assistance. Just no way it will reach the authorities. But I couldn’t be happier for Coach Richt and Aaron Murray in particular. Go Dogs!! Thanks for your Blawg.
Thanks, Steve. The problem with phones and texting during games inside Sanford Stadium continues to be a sore point with a lot of fans. I texted my daughter at one point during the LSU game when I spotted her on the big video screen, and she got my text in the student section but wasn’t able to text a reply. As for the sound, I’m not sure I’d want the PA system to be cranked up high enough to top the sustained roar of the crowd at the LSU game! And I thought the amplification of the Redcoat Band was a big improvement.
Matt Cafaro writes: Bill, Are you as dismayed as I am that UGA has foolishly stopped using the brilliant REM Chapel Bell commercial during game telecasts and have returned to a horribly generic, forgettable commercial that finishes with pictures of celebrities who went to UGA flying across the screen? Ryan Seacrest? Really? Who cares?!?! The REM Chapel Bell commercial is perfect. Listening to REM echoing through my mind, seeing the softly-focused edifices of the MLC, the stairs to North Campus, The Georgia Theater, and finally, Sanford stadium and the Hedges, and the faces of my fellow Dawgs lined up to ring the Chapel Bell gave me goosebumps. Every time! The ending line, “You may leave… but it never leaves you,” actually brought a tear to my eye the first time I saw it. It spoke to my heart, to all of our hearts, about what it means to be a Georgia Bulldog. So why in the world would UGA replace something with such an obvious emotional impact as that with something so generic that it could be ANY SCHOOL???
I have to admit that this year’s “Together — Making a Difference” national promo spot for UGA doesn’t tug at the heartstrings quite like the previous chapel bell spot, but that one had a good two-year run and the school understandably felt it was time to freshen the message. And, really, I think the concept of the new spot is good: It shows the diversity of UGA, ranging from the football team to the Peabody Awards and such figures as former Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Pulitizer Prize winner and U.S. poet laureate Natasha Trethewey (a former UGA cheerleader), artist Lamar Dodd, country music star Bill Anderson, Olympic swimmer Allison Schmitt and, yes, ubiquitous TV host Seacrest, winding up with Scott Howard intoning, “How ’bout them Dawgs!” It’s not as accomplished a production as last week’s “Awaken the Nation” spot, but I think it reflects well on the university.
Got something you want to discuss concerning the Dawgs? Or a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Email me at email@example.com.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg