5 things that could rain on my sunny forecast and undo UGA

These folks seem cheerful. Well, don't they? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

These folks seem rather cheerful. Well, don't they? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

I’m on record as having picked Georgia to go 10-2, win the SEC East and finish No. 11 in the land. I would say that qualifies me, just this once, as an optimist.

But I wouldn’t be gloomy ol’ MB if my every thought was sweetness and light. I’m willing to concede that this season could come undone … if all (or most of) this happens.

1. Isaiah Crowell is overrated. I don’t think he is. But not everyone can be The Next Herschel Walker. The Bulldogs have searched for three decades and haven’t quite found another. (Although Tim Worley and Rodney Hampton and Garrison Hearst and the pre-surgical Robert Edwards and Knowshon Moreno were pretty good. And Terrell Davis would have been had Ray Goff gotten him the ball.)

Since Signing Day, Mark Richt has acted if Crowell, borrowing from the soccer coach Jose Mourinho, is indeed “a special one.” When asked last month if he feared his backfield, without the washouts Washaun Ealey and Caleb King, would suffer, Richt said, “I don’t know there was a time last year when I thought our backs were playing lights-out.” The implication was that this season might be such a time. But that’s a lot to ask of any freshman. If not the new Herschel, Crowell needs at least to be the new Hearst.

2. A.J. Green and Kris Durham prove irreplaceable. Even if Crowell is great, we shouldn’t expect these  Bulldogs to become the 1980 Bulldogs. Richt’s is a finesse offense. His quarterback will throw the ball a lot. At issue is whether Tavarres King and Marlon Brown and Malcolm Mitchell and Rantavious Wooten — all of whom are talents — can supply the production lost with Green and Durham.

Given that Green was the greatest wide receiver in Georgia history, the guess here is that there’ll be some decline. But let’s not forget Orson Charles, who’s technically a tight end but who often aligns himself as a slot receiver. He might be the best tight end in Bulldog annals. (And yes, that’s saying something.) He’s the key to the passing game.

3. Todd Grantham is overrated. He has a big reputation and gets paid a ton of money and gives expert (if ineffective) choke signs, but he hasn’t yet proved he’s a top-shelf collegiate defensive coordinator. (Then again, he has only been a college DC for one year.) His 3-4 looked good on occasion last season, less good on other occasions. Auburn ran through it, but Auburn did that to a lot of defenses, Alabama’s included. Georgia Tech ran through it without its starting quarterback, but Paul Johnson can have that effect.

There’s no reason Georgia shouldn’t have a big-time defense. It has seasoned defensive backs, gifted linebackers and the requisite nose tackle (in either Kwame Geathers or Jonathan Jenkins) it lacked last season. If the Bulldogs can’t stop people this season, it’ll be because Richt hired the wrong man to replace Willie Martinez.

4. It starts 0-2. Georgia could lose to Boise State this Saturday. It could lose to South Carolina the next week. (For the record, I don’t think it will lose either game.) Should that doomsday scenario occur, would the season still be worth playing? Or should Georgia just fire Richt and hire Kirby Smart on the spot?

Wait a second. Even at 0-2, Georgia would still have a chance to right itself. Its two toughest games would be behind it. Mississippi State has to come to Athens. Tennessee and Florida are in major flux. From 0-2, it wouldn’t be unthinkable to see the Bulldogs — who are a young team, and young teams tend to get better as they go — win nine or even 10 games. There might indeed be life after doomsday.

5. It has simply forgotten how to win. This is the biggest concern. Check Georgia’s stats from last season and you’ll get the drift. The Bulldogs outscored opponents by 130 points. They outgained opponents by 734 yards and had 10 fewer turnovers. And yet they finished with a losing record.

This happened because Georgia lost every game that was in doubt in the fourth quarter save Georgia Tech. (Another stat: Georgia outscored the opposition in each of the first three quarters on the season — but was outscored 92-68 in the fourth.) The Bulldogs shouldn’t have been 6-7, but they were. Was 2010, as Richt has suggested, just one of those bizarre years, or was it the clearest indication yet that Georgia is no longer Georgia? And if that’s the case, can even a Dream Team save this program?

By Mark Bradley

256 comments Add your comment

DawginLex

August 29th, 2011
2:00 pm

First?

Last year was bad from the start of the summer and carried right on through.

Arrests
No AJ
Suspensions
AD fired
Red panties

Confidence is a huge thing. That’s why Boise is dangerous. 38-2 means only 2 teams have figured out how to beat their success formula.

Here’s to 38-3

p-coal dog

August 29th, 2011
2:02 pm

did I read somewhere that georgia’s only practice in pads this week will be today. If so they will not be fundamentally sound or aggressive on Saturday. Blocking/tackeling will be horrible and the dawgs will lose.

Gbal

August 29th, 2011
2:04 pm

Hey Mark – Liked your last piece. Sounds like you are crawling back up on the fence here… leaving yourself an OUT!!! But hey.. It is your column.

This SMACK from the Boise paper ….

Georgia kick returner and cornerback Brandon Boykin (@BrandonBoykin2) posted a message to Boise State coach Chris Petersen on Twitter on Saturday:

“Dear Coach petersen, I DARE you to Kick to me…. Sincerely, Me and my #dawgs”

Boykin is the only player in Southeastern Conference history with three 100-yard plays in his career — all kickoff returns for touchdowns.

He might be in luck. Here’s what Boise State special teams coach Jeff Choate told me earlier this month about the Broncos facing three dynamic kick returners early in the season:

“We’ll have our hands full. But that’s why you do this. I don’t think we’ve ever backed down from a challenge. It should be fun.”

Mark Bradley

August 29th, 2011
2:07 pm

Kudos, DawginLex.

LHarding Dawg

August 29th, 2011
2:08 pm

You can also count me into the ranks of the optimist but after last year I might need some convincing. Beat Boise and I’ll be sky high, lose to Boise, then I just won’t know.

edumacated

August 29th, 2011
2:10 pm

Young team? How many years in a row have we heard that one. When do we get an old team?

Vance Duly

August 29th, 2011
2:13 pm

I would have added to the list with a 5a: Will Coach Bobo emphasize his offense’s strengths (whatever they turn out to be) and refuse to follow his recent trends of barf-inducing predictability in certain game situations and of dropping what IS working in favor of some weak attempt at “balance” or “spreading the wealth around”. If he grows into his OC job, we might win 10 games. If he does not, we WILL lose a game or 2 that we could have been won. GO DAWGS!

Re Boise

August 29th, 2011
2:14 pm

Didn’t Boise lose like 20 starters from last season?

Gator Mike

August 29th, 2011
2:16 pm

GO DAWGS,BEAT Boise ST. I believe that you will do it.
Hopefully both the GATORS and DAWGS will be in the hunt when we all meet in JAX.

Beast from the East

August 29th, 2011
2:17 pm

“Todd Grantham is overrated. He has a big reputation and gets paid a ton of money and gives expert (if ineffective) choke signs, but he hasn’t yet proved he’s a top-shelf collegiate defensive coordinator. (Then again, he has only been a college DC for one year.)”

Mark,
How can Richt’s 5th choice as DC, who was fired from his only other DC job be overrated? The only thing big about his reputation is his mouth. He may turn out to be as good as Van Gorder, but he hasn’t done squat yet, other than the infamous choke sign.

Herschel Talker

August 29th, 2011
2:19 pm

MB:

Here’s a 6th thing: Mark Richt continues to coach and run the ship like a boob. That will guarantee a one-way ticket out of town.

HT

Gbal

August 29th, 2011
2:21 pm

And Mark If we dont make your 10-2 prediction you know that this is truely making for the BRADLEY CURSE …. See 2010 prediction.

http://blogs.ajc.com/mark-bradley-blog/2010/08/28/the-uga-season-game-by-game-nine-wins-coming-right-up/

Vance Duly

August 29th, 2011
2:21 pm

I would add one more to the list: Will Coach Bobo grow into the OC job, or will he hamper the offense with his barf-inducing predictability in certain game situations? As a part of this, will he continue to stop what IS working in favor of an ineffective attempt at “balance” or “spreading the wealth”…? Will he be innovative or get outcoached in the key games? Will he utilize the 2011 offense’s strengths (whatever they turn out to be) or stick to his tendencies? If Bobo does not grow into the OC position, Georgia may lose 1 or 2 very winnable games…… GO DAWGS!!!

GeoffDawg

August 29th, 2011
2:21 pm

Addition through subtraction with Searles bolting as well. Was it last season that we had the most experienced O-Line in the conference for all the good that did us?

What happened with that guy? He went from being a miracle worker to a hack over the cours of a few seasons. Drinking problem? Trouble at home? Something happened.

Beast from the East

August 29th, 2011
2:22 pm

Mark,
How can Grantham be overrated? No one other than the Dawg faithful would rank him in the top 50 DC’s in the country. Heck, he was Richt’s 5th choice and he was fired from his only other stint as a DC. He may turn out to be good but he hasn’t done squat yet, other than make immature gestures from the sidelines at college kids.

John

August 29th, 2011
2:22 pm

How do you outscore opponents by 130 points, outgained opponents by 734 yards and had 10 fewer turnovers and still finish with a losing record? Run the points up on weaker Div. 2 schools and score points in “garbage time” against good schools to make the scoreboard appear respectable. Georgia scores nothing in the 1st and 2nd quarters when they need to score, then put together some scores when the opposing team goes into “prevent defense” in the 4th quarter. Go back and look at Murray stats in the 1st half compared to 2nd half against “prevent defenses”…it tells the story.

GeoffDawg

August 29th, 2011
2:22 pm

Re Boise – I thought I read that Boise returns 13 or 14 starters from last year and that they’re almost all seniors.

David Granger

August 29th, 2011
2:22 pm

You make some good points, Mark.
I wish we weren’t making such a big deal over Isaiah Crowell. I think he’s a good player, and should be a very productive running back. (But then…I thought the same of both Washaun Ealey and Caleb King who were, respectively, 4 and 5-star recruits.) I wonder if the Georgia coaching staff is touting Crowell so much because running back is such a key position, and both our two experienced ones are gone? I think it would be much better if the only info we were getting on Isaiah Crowell is that he’s working hard, looks good at times, and we expect him to help the team…like we used to hear about Herschel, when he was a freshman.
I agree with you that A.J. Green is the best wide receiver in UGA history, but we’ve got some good ones to throw to…along with a very talented tight end. If our passing game is bad this year, I don’t think it’ll be because of the receivers.
I am still unconvinced about our defense. We were better last season, but far from good. I hope the improvement continues. At least our punting and kickoff defense was a little better.
I do worry about the team’s overall attitude. Personally, I think that Coach Richt has just let the team get away from him, discipline-wise. And when that happens, it’s hard for a coach to get it back.

The Spirit of UGA VII

August 29th, 2011
2:23 pm

I see dead people down there. No—wait!—I see coaches packing boxes at their houses and heading out of town behind moving trucks. I see fans desperately seeking Viagra and still finding no special motivation after games.

I hear huge crowds chanting—wait—yes, that’s what they’re chanting: “Fire Richt. Fire Grantham.”

I’m glad I’m up here and away from that mess. Poor Russ—he just can’t catch a break. All set to retire in Savannah, and I up and croaked on him. I hope they can strap some shoulder pads to each of his sides. There’s bound to be some kicking going on.

arx3dawg

August 29th, 2011
2:23 pm

3 non-quantitative reasons to believe that we will best Boise St.: 1. No arrests this summer. They were too busy practicing. First time since 2007…and look what they did that year. When CMR is dialed in, and he is, uga wins (mostly). 2. Everyone is basing their fear of Boise St. on that team’s performance against VT last year. It was a good win, to be sure, but they didn’t blow VT up. In fact, VT should’ve won. If we (yes, we) score 30, we win. and 3. We have better players. My biggest concerns ( Bobo and turnovers )are game time things. If we are well coached ( big if ) and we protect the ball, we win. My predicted score ( on Monday ) UGA 31, Boise St. 24.

I can't believe it

August 29th, 2011
2:23 pm

You man Mark B has overrated Georgia before? Say it’s not so!

matt r

August 29th, 2011
2:24 pm

I think #3 is the biggest concern, and very nice dropping the Mourinho reference

Just take care of business......

August 29th, 2011
2:24 pm

Just block better, run faster, and hit harder……and everything else will fall into place.

Go DAWGS!

5 Time National Champs Nebraska

August 29th, 2011
2:24 pm

DawginLex
August 29th, 2011
2:00 pm

First?

Last year was bad from the start of the summer and carried right on through.

Arrests
No AJ
Suspensions
AD fired
Red panties

Confidence is a huge thing. That’s why Boise is dangerous. 38-2 means only 2 teams have figured out how to beat their success formula.

Here’s to 38-3

______________________________________________________________________________

Why is it when I bring those things up, I am a troll and moron? If you mention it, does that make you a moron too?…….Just asking.

Destin Dawg

August 29th, 2011
2:24 pm

UGA was flat out of shape last year !!! lost all close games in 4th quarter… with hands on hips… corrected with new S & C and nutrition… had a few energy vampires…. gone now … Grantham and Lagatos will prove their worth… Junkyard Dawgs should be hungery Pissed off… awesome kicking game is a huge ++ … Go Dawgs !!

cantondawg

August 29th, 2011
2:24 pm

Baseball uses the terminology that momentum is only as good as your next starting pitcher. I’ll use this one for Football. Momentum is only as good as the players you have coming back and coming in. Looking at UGA, I see improvement everywhere except wr of course. QB should be better. I think RB will be better also because what we lost in experience we also lost in bad attitude and we actually gained in talent (Crowell). OL could be very good but not very deep. We just have to pray that there is no injuries. DL should see the most improvement with Jenkins and Geather stepping up. LB should also be improved and i think JJ will make people forget about Justin Houston. DB should also be very solid. In addition, this is year two of the 3-4 Todd Grantham defense and the players should be alot more familiar with it now. The first year of any defensive change is usually brutal even at Alabama.

What if?!

August 29th, 2011
2:25 pm

As a Dawg fan hate to even utter these words, but how does Murray getting injured not make the list?

GeoffDawg

August 29th, 2011
2:25 pm

Beast from the East, if CMR didn’t think highly of Grantham, regardless of which choice # he was, he wouldn’t have gotten that fat contract. Unprecedented for a Georgia assistant to that point if I’m not mistaken. Coach Richt owns this hire, good or bad.

5 Time National Champs Nebraska

August 29th, 2011
2:26 pm

Here is my #6 – UGA is not the program it used to be. Something has happened and they are on a down turn.

Fish Bisch

August 29th, 2011
2:26 pm

Ga will be last in the SEC east.

Alabama | MrSEC.com

August 29th, 2011
2:27 pm

[...] in 2011.”7.  Two Gators escaped injury in minor one-car accident yesterday.8.  Here are five things for Georgia fans to worry about in Fall 2011.9.  With the goal of getting things back to normal in Athens, Saturday’s game [...]

John

August 29th, 2011
2:27 pm

DawginLex…..Florida had a worse police record than Georgia through the Meyer era and look at their record. It’s the coaching, pure & simple….everything else is just excuses.

cantondawg

August 29th, 2011
2:28 pm

An old adage states that football is broken down into three parts….1) Offensive 2) Defensive 3) Special Teams

Coaches usually say that if you win 2 of the 3 phases of the game then you will win the game.

Our Special Teams are the best in the country so we should win that phase in every game.

Now all we have to do is win one of the other two in every game.

Athens Dawg

August 29th, 2011
2:29 pm

Boise has a new OC, lost Pettis & Young, lost some key secondary players, lost their kicker and punter…while UGA has a brand new outlook & attitude, no arrests, clean off-season, 2nd year in the 3-4…Kwame Geathers and Jenkins are the missing pieces, Crowell will shine…etc.

Somebody on here said UGA will forget how to tackle…that’s all they’ve been doing this offseason. Going full speed. It’s not like pre-seasons’ pasts where Richt used to not tackle to the ground in order to avoid injury. Richt is going all out and I think our team will too.

Lowcountry Bulldawg

August 29th, 2011
2:29 pm

Number 5 on that list is my biggest concern. Do we have the leadership that can will this team to make that last drive or the heart to make that key third down stop. I t has been a few years since we have seen that.

I also remember UGA finishing games, a bad first half? Don’t worry we are a second half team, was the saying of plenty of my friends. Usually they proved right. UGA has to finish games this year strong.

DawginLex

August 29th, 2011
2:31 pm

John

Meyer goes 7-5 annually without Tebow

He left because he realized he was their Herschel

No Tebow=no titles

Beast from the East

August 29th, 2011
2:32 pm

GeoffDawg,
I agree that Richt owns the hire, but how can anyone could anyone call him overrated? Based on what’s he’s accomplished in the past? No. Based on national perception? No one outside of the region even knows who he is. Just a poor choice of words from MB in my opinion.

The General Feeling

August 29th, 2011
2:33 pm

Mutt fans are looking for anything to make them optimistic before the butt kicking come Saturday night.

5. It has simply forgotten how to win.

Well Mark, “it” is certainly a reference to Coach Richt as he has not only forgotten how to win, he no longer makes winning a priority. He has made millons of dollars and will live comfortably for the rest of his life building churches in Haiti or wherever his god takes him. Winning football games is further down his priority list.

DawginLex

August 29th, 2011
2:33 pm

Nebraska

You are labeled a TROLL because at the end of your post you would have stated

“It’s amazing how this university graduates anyone. A bunch of thugs and goons are going to beat a class act like Boise?”

The part about 38-3 would have been conveniently omitted.

See the difference?

Athens Dawg

August 29th, 2011
2:33 pm

Coach Searels leaving will be the biggest move this off-season. He had a zone blocking scheme and our players didn’t perform well at that. Will Friend is a more drive your man off the ball, straight ahead kind of coach and that’s his philosophy. Our players are built for that type of football. I can’t wait to punish Boise. I will repeat, Boise has not seen size, speed or athleticism that they will see on Saturday. They just haven’t seen it. Not from VT, not from Oregon, and sure as hell not from the WAC. They’ll find out.

Beast from the East

August 29th, 2011
2:34 pm

“No Tebow=no titles”

No Hershel=no titles.

Man, I’m glad Tebow only left 2 years ago……instead of 30!

Uga IV

August 29th, 2011
2:36 pm

Mark, you have used the word “finesse” on many occasions to describe Richt’s offense. Please define what you mean by “finesse.” Yes, the offense throws the ball, but not more than the run. Usually goes about 60-40% run to pass. Uga runs a lot out of the I-formation with some play-action, but that is not geared to finesse, IMO.

honky talkin'

August 29th, 2011
2:36 pm

Kellen Moore is going to light Georgia up for 400+ passing yds.

Boise St. 38 – UGA – 27

The General Feeling

August 29th, 2011
2:36 pm

Number 5 should be your Number 1. Richt no longer makes winning a priority. It will be his demise but not for another 2-3 seasons. But he’ll leave the team loaded with talent for the next guy.

The Reverend Baby Doctor Bedpan

August 29th, 2011
2:37 pm

4. It starts 0-2.

It?

It puts the lotion on or it gets the hose again……

You’re scaring me Bradley.

Bama In Atlanta

August 29th, 2011
2:37 pm

Here’s the reason that proper execution of Granthan’s 3-4 defense will play prominently in the outcome of UGA’s season.

From 1997 through 2009, Georgia won at least eight games every season. Bookending that streak were the 5-6 record of 1996 and the 6-7 2010 campaign.

So besides the losing records, what do the 1996 and 2010 seasons have in common for Georgia? The answer is the vulnerability of their run defense.

In 1996, the Bulldogs gave up 149.8 rushing yards per game. Last year, Georgia yielded 147.2 rushing yards per game, the most for the Bulldogs since the 1996 team.

To beef up the rushing defense, Georgia is moving last season’s starting nose guard, 6-foot-2, 306-pound DeAngelo Tyson, to defensive end to put 6-6, 350-pound sophomore Kwame Geathers in the middle of Bulldogs’ three-man line.

Shut down the Boise running game and MAKE the QB throw rather than letting him CHOOSE to throw. Yes, he’s a good QB and will make some completions but the more you force the throw the more turnovers and punts you will force as well.

DawginLex

August 29th, 2011
2:37 pm

We are going to score a lot of points. Murray is going to have quite a day. Run just enough to keep them honest.

Murray is the best offensive player we have. He has plenty of beef to protect him.

Big question is can we stop them? They spread you out and use a lot of misdirection. We have to shutdown Doug Martin. Take him out of the equation and make Moore throw it 50 times. Without a running game, we will sack him and he will fumble and throw INT’s.

Our defense is the key to this game and to our entire season.

JB

August 29th, 2011
2:38 pm

I would say that 15 or so of Georgia’s starters were wanted by every SEC powerhouse. Well, it comes down to coaching and schemes. Outsiders say that appears to be our problem. I would say this staff and team were embarrassed last year. They made a lot of changes. Some poked out lips moved on. We’ve got a chance, due to having the athletes to win them all. We’ll see.

5 Time National Champs Nebraska

August 29th, 2011
2:38 pm

DawginLex
August 29th, 2011
2:33 pm

Nebraska

You are labeled a TROLL because at the end of your post you would have stated

“It’s amazing how this university graduates anyone. A bunch of thugs and goons are going to beat a class act like Boise?”

The part about 38-3 would have been conveniently omitted.

See the difference?

____________________________________________________________________________

And you glean that how?

I still fail to see how your insults are not considered trolling.

DawginLex

August 29th, 2011
2:39 pm

Beast

It’s the truth. You know it.

As each year goes by, you will agree with me more and more.