You sometimes don’t know how much you’re appreciated until you’re no longer there.
Take Aaron Murray, for example. Despite all those impressive numbers No. 11 has wracked up over the past four years, a lot of college football observers outside the Bulldog Nation have tended to take him for granted. Good, solid quarterback, they’d grant, but he only ever danced around the edges of Heisman conversations.
However, now that his final season playing for Georgia has ended prematurely, these folks are coming out of the woodwork to hail Murray’s importance to the Bulldog attack, reminisce about his ownership of rival Georgia Tech, and to declare that without him playing behind center UGA will be hard-pressed to continue its dominance over the Jackets Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Some Vegas pointsmakers took as much as a touchdown off the projected point spread for this game in the wake of Murray’s injury.
Now, I’m as ardent a Murray supporter as you’ll find, but I also know three things about Georgia’s offense that should allow it to overcome his absence:
None of that is to say I don’t have concerns about Saturday’s matchup. Under Ted Roof, the Jackets’ defense is markedly improved over the past couple of seasons. They’re 10th in the nation in rush defense, 17th in total defense and 24th in scoring defense. Still, against the four best teams they’ve faced, the improvement has pretty much vanished. Hence their four losses.
Of course, as always, I also wonder just how well Todd Grantham’s defense will do against Tech’s triple-option offense and its annoying (and frequently borderline legal) cut blocks. Georgia’s been pretty stout against the run this season, ranking third in the SEC in that category, but I worry a bit about the secondary being caught out of position (as on Kentucky’s long TD run last week) or allowing the Jackets to suddenly catch them sleeping with a long pass play. Basically, it’s going to come down to just how disciplined the Dogs’ defenders remain, and whether Grantham calls an aggressive game that disrupts Tech’s option plays.
And then there’s always the elephant in the room when you talk about the 2013 Georgia Bulldogs: special teams disasters. Avoiding those is a big key to a UGA win.
Lastly, AJC columnist Jeff Schultz keeps saying he doesn’t think the Georgia players are going to be up for this game, the first in three years where they’re already out of contention for the SEC title. I think he’s wrong, simply because it’s Georgia vs. Georgia Tech and the Bulldog players get told all year long how important that game is. Plus, these programs genuinely don’t like each other. But I’ll grant that if the Dogs come out flat for this one it certainly could make wrecking Tech a much more difficult task.
So, yes, Georgia enters this year’s battle for the Governor’s Cup without its biggest team leader. But, barring any more unforeseen disasters, I think the Dogs still should be able to prevail. Again.
It’s the natural order of the universe, after all.
Now, let’s take a dip into this week’s holiday-abbreviated Junkyard Mail. …
Jim P. writes: Bill, Do you think Tech and others will try to blitz more often on a new UGA quarterback? And will Coach Bobo go more conservative and heavy on the run game, with a new QB? Or allow Mason to sling it more? Whatever works for the Dawgs is fine with me, but I sure am liking those passes to Gurley lately. Remember when Coach Dooley started passing the ball to Herschel? It was few and far between, but still ingenious back then.
I’m sure Tech’s defense will try to ratchet up the pressure on Mason, and there’s always the chance that Georgia’s offensive line will have one of its off days. But Mason reads the field pretty well and pretty quickly, so he should be able to get rid of the ball. And he does have Gurley in the backfield with him. Also, Bobo still had Mason throwing a lot against Kentucky and I’d be very surprised if that’s not the case against Tech. Like I said above, I think Mason should be fine.
Rockmart Dawg writes: Bill, what was up with playing Dallas Lee at center so much in the second half against Kentucky? Was David Andrews hurt? Those high snaps Lee was giving Hutson Mason were really scary. That’s exactly what we don’t need against the Nerds.
Mark Richt said on this week’s “Bulldog Hotline” that the coaching staff just decided to make a substitution and give Lee some snaps at center since he’s the backup at that position. Andrews is still the starting center.
Chris Houck writes: Bill, if Florida parts ways with [Will] Muschamp, do you think Georgia would make a run at him as D-coordinator? Who knows whether Muschamp would have any interest. As with most fans I haven’t been satisfied with the product Grantham is putting on the field but I don’t think you fire him unless you can truly make an upgrade. Muschamp would be a considerable upgrade in my opinion. Either way I think our D will be much better next year; if we can somehow get the D to elite level, i.e. top 15, I think the sky’s the limit for the Dawgs next season (barring injuries of course).
I’m not crazy about Grantham’s work, either, but I don’t see a change coming this season. And, as Richt noted this week, it doesn’t sound like Muschamp is going to be available anyway. The former Georgia player was a pretty successful defensive coordinator in his stints at LSU, Auburn and Texas, and he may well wind up back in a job like that if he gets fired as head coach at Florida, but it’s looking like that’s at least a season away.
And, finally, Jerry Jackson writes: Bill, I was really disappointed to see the Dawgs not come out in black jerseys for the final home game, as even Hondo on the pre-game show seemed to expect. I guess they really didn’t bother to order any this year. Seems like somebody at Butts-Mehre really dropped the ball on this one. It was the perfect opportunity to reintroduce those snazzy black jerseys without all the hype of a major game. Your thoughts?
I agree, Jerry, and Richt actually apologized for the lack of black jerseys on his radio show this week and said they should have done that. As for the proposal that’s grown in popularity over the past couple of years about making black jerseys the norm at the final home game each year, in honor of Senior Day/Night, the UGA head coach said, “I think that’s a great idea. I think that’s something we should consider.” Richt even went so far as to declare he likes the black jerseys so much that maybe Georgia ought to consider wearing them for any night home game. As he put it: “red in the afternoon, black at night.” It’ll be interesting to see whether any of this comes to pass.
That’s it for this week. Hope to see a lot more red than yellow in the stands Saturday.
Go Dogs! Wreck Tech!
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg