Title talk, Round 2: Will Tech and UGA win their divisions?

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At issue: Can the Georgia Bulldogs grab what has become a prime opportunity? (AP photo)

For the first time this fall, the Associated Press rankings include both Georgia Tech and Georgia. The Jackets are No. 20, down eight spots after their thudding loss in Charlottesville. The Bulldogs are tied for 24th after their jittery victory over Vanderbilt. (Rule of thumb: Jittery victories over Vandy don’t often propel a team back into the Top 25, but apparently a waiver was granted.)

The regular season is more than half gone, but for these two locals it’s really just beginning. Tech’s schedule was always going to get tougher toward the end, and there’s a chance the Jackets will be favored in only one of their remaining games. (And that one’s at Duke, which really shouldn’t count.) Just last week, Tech seemed in Position A to win the ACC Coastal Division, and now it faces another difficult road test before it gets around to playing Clemson and Virginia Tech here.

As for Georgia: The Bulldogs have won five in a row and, by process of elimination, the best team in the SEC East. But the Vandy game was so bizarre it made us wonder if this gifted team can seize on a series of gifts and find its way back to the Dome. Which is another way of saying … let’s get to the talking points!

Tech: The Jackets have been installed as a three-point underdog against Miami, which is 3-3 and was outgained by Bethune-Cookman earlier this month. Tech’s loss to Virginia showed it can be beaten by just about anybody. But that’s not to say the Jackets will be beaten by everybody from here on.

Tech isn’t like a lot of Top 25 teams: It doesn’t win on talent; it wins on precision. When it’s imprecise, it loses. The offense that managed nine touchdowns against Kansas could muster only two against Virginia, and somehow the Jackets flubbed three second-half chances to take a lead against an opponent that would have collapsed had it fallen behind. In sum: Bad loss.

At issue: Will Tech stumble at the finish? (AP photo)

Also at issue: Will Tech stumble at the finish? (AP photo)

Paul Johnson isn’t about to junk the spread option for the single wing, but he’s adept at tweaking. With a bye week to prepare, the Cavs took away the pitches to the A-backs –  plays largely responsible for those nine touchdowns against Kansas — and forced quarterback Tevin Washington to keep. He gained 115 yards; nobody else had even 40. And the passing game withered: Two completions, 24 yards.

Miami won’t have an extra week to cram, and Miami plays lousy D. (It’s 81st nationally in total defense, 94th in rushing defense.) The Hurricanes have better skill players than Virginia, but they don’t have the linemen. And I’m fairly certain Tech won’t get caught on the back foot again.

This is a winnable game, and if Tech wins Saturday it will have what it wants: A chance to all but clinch its division by winning twice at home. As to whether the Jackets are good enough to close the sale … well, that’s another matter.

Georgia: The season couldn’t have started worse for the Bulldogs, but all else has broken their way. Florida and Tennessee have lost starting quarterbacks. South Carolina has lost its quarterback, which might not have been a bad thing, and also the great Marcus Lattimore, whose absence cannot be overstated.

The way to the division title has been cleared: Georgia needs to win three more league games and the Gamecocks must lose one. (And they’ll play Arkansas in Fayetteville on Nov. 5.) And Georgia has won five in a row, which would suggest the Bulldogs are, at long last, rolling. But then you parse the strange doings in Nashville and, not for the first time, you wonder.

Which team will win its division?

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The only way the Bulldogs could have put themselves in position to lose at the end was to have a punt blocked, which they did. The only way to let Vanderbilt linger was to yield a touchdown on a kickoff return, which happened, and to limit Isaiah Crowell to 10 carries, which Mark Richt, for reasons unclear, did.

The Bulldogs get a week off before heading to Jacksonville, which is where Georgia seasons go to disintegrate. It’s tempting to suggest this year will be different — yeah, this year for sure! — but I’ve suggested as much and been wrong so many times that my default position is this: I’ll believe Georgia will beat Florida only after Georgia beats Florida.

Georgia looks to be the better team, but Georgia has been the better team and lost this game a half-dozen times the past 20 years. There’s a chance Gators quarterback John Brantley could return, and even if he doesn’t, is a crew as flighty as this — say hello, Todd Grantham — capable of seizing a game of such magnitude? The East is there to be won, but I’m not yet convinced Georgia can win it.

By Mark Bradley

285 comments Add your comment

MatthewH

October 17th, 2011
12:29 pm

I must admit, it doesn’t look good for the Jackets.

y3ll0wjacket

October 17th, 2011
12:33 pm

It will be interesting to see how the Jackets bounce back from this loss. I kinda like them better as underdogs.

SouthJaxBeach Bulldawg Fan

October 17th, 2011
12:37 pm

MB, I was at the game Saturday night and this was one UGLY game to watch. The fake punt they ran was as plain as day. And just as the Georgia fans are filing out Vandy goes and blocks the punt to set up what could have been a nightmare!! And what happened AFTER the game was pretty indicative of what happened throughout the game. I SWEAR CMR needs to put a Dog Collar on Grantham. His sideline antics are getting a little sickening. Need I remind him that this is NOT the NFL!

TexGT

October 17th, 2011
12:40 pm

Pathetic loss to UVA. Inexcusable.

UGA fan in UVA Country

October 17th, 2011
12:40 pm

First off, the UVA victory surprised no one up here. Just overrated is these Jackets. Win their division? When they lose to UVA……..ain’t gonna happen. UGA….jury is still out, we’ll see after the UF game…..but it looks better than GT.

Steve

October 17th, 2011
12:43 pm

Never has a team benefited more from scheduling than UGA. (And, I’m a UGA alum/fan.) Missing LSU and Bama is key in the SEC (L)East this season, and Georgia managed to do it. Of course, so did South Carolina.

The game against Auburn looks tougher than it should. In the game at Jacksonville, UGA will be fighting its own demons rather than a rather-terrible Florida team. Win both of those, and UGA likely makes it back to Atlanta.

GT, on the other hand, is done. They will lose two of three to Miami, Clemson and VT.

Gtlover

October 17th, 2011
12:43 pm

Stick a fork in tech. We’re done. Expect the same to three more years. Four more losses to ugag.
Then search for another losing coach. Can’t win with academics at tech. Dave Braine was right.

Gamecockrock

October 17th, 2011
12:44 pm

Gamecocks only lose 1 more. UGA loses to UF and AU

CW

October 17th, 2011
12:45 pm

I believe Georgia is in a better position than Tech.

I didn’t see whatever transpired in Nashville, but I’ve watched Tech really play very mediocre football the last three weeks. The end of the NC State game was really awful and the Jackets slogged through against Maryland and could have easily been beaten except the Terp’s offense was horrific. The UVa game wasn’t as close as the score would indicate.

Funny thing is, now that Tech will be the underdog in their remaining games, they might actually play better. Please, someone tell me why this team just can’t tolerate success?

Sugar Hill Dawg

October 17th, 2011
12:45 pm

As a UGA alum, I’m feeling more confident than most of the Tech nation, I imagine. Getting Clemson at home is a plus for the Jackets (as is Auburn heading to the Piedmont of Northeast Georgia), but beating Miami, VPI (That’s what they were called we I lived in Yorktown in the mid ’60s.) and Clemson is a pretty tall order. I wrote at the beginning of the year I didn’t see Kansas beating Tech, but Tech could beat Tech. That sentiment reared its ugly head Saturday, and could do so again by Thanksgiving. As for my Dawgs, BEAT Florida!!! Geeze, I remember the good old days (Abernathy to Washington, Fourth and Dumb, etc.) – return this series to its rightful place!

reebok

October 17th, 2011
12:46 pm

I’m a Tech fan, so it pains me to say that Georgia is much more likely to win its’ division than Tech is. I’m afraid GT is looking at 7-5, with our only remaining win coming against Duke. I think UGA will get flattened by either LSU or ‘Bama, but at least they will have gotten to their championship game.

Devil's Advocate

October 17th, 2011
12:47 pm

Now that we’re over the boogie man blame game, could you not ask for a better ending to the Vandy game (heading into the Florida game) than to see Grantham lose it on someone? Seriously, why has UGA lost the last few times to UF? Lack of defense. Grantham is earning his paycheck this season but the Florida game is the one “must win” to rule them all. This isn’t even about the SEC East, this is about being able to beat Florida more than just the occassional token win.

Mark Bradley

October 17th, 2011
12:48 pm

That’s a good point, y3llowjacket. I tried to make it the other day: Tech is better when it’s lean and hungry, which is hard to be when you’re favored and ranked No. 12 in the land.

piermontdawgny

October 17th, 2011
12:49 pm

frankly, we could not have asked for a better outcome versus vandy…first and foremost, the win without injury…second, exposure of critical issues – special teams, lack of killer instinct, etc.

the coaches have two weeks to get after it

Trevinb

October 17th, 2011
12:50 pm

I concur, Mark. If UGA does not beat UF this year, they will never beat UF.

Jamaaliver

October 17th, 2011
12:51 pm

BRadley, where’s my Heat Check?

Devil's Advocate

October 17th, 2011
12:54 pm

reebok,

I’ve been spending this season uplifting more Tech fans than UGA fans. You guys had one bad loss. UGA fans know all too well what that feels like the past few seasons. It’ll be ok. I’d be shocked if CPJ allowed the Jackets to slip to 7-5 at this point. Tech could lose to Miami just because it’s on the road but I think they bounce back from the VA loss and beat 2 out of the big 3 (Miami, VT, Clemson).

Mark Bradley

October 17th, 2011
12:54 pm

I’m saving Heat Check for tomorrow. Sometimes I exercise my one-day option on that.

Thanks for asking, though.

Robert

October 17th, 2011
12:56 pm

“Tech isn’t like a lot of Top 25 teams: It doesn’t win on talent; it wins on precision. When it’s imprecise, it loses.”
This is an interesting observation. Perhaps the reason CPJ system was so successful in the past was his location. Or to be more specific his institution. The type of personnel that are equipped to make it at a service academy must by nature be detail oriented and focused on precision. I wonder if Tech (or the majority of NCAA FBS schools) will ever be able to attract the type of personalities that are laser focused enough to consistently execute the scheme.

dtanner

October 17th, 2011
12:57 pm

grantham is an embarassment, and to think this old,fat,bald headed fool is making 700kper year,his D looked great against coastel carolina though

GTBob

October 17th, 2011
1:02 pm

GT has very little chance of winning the Coastal. VT will be too tough to overcome. UGA pretty much wins the SEC east by default. It will be a little embarrassing though to win the east if they lost to South Carolina and Florida.

Buzzman

October 17th, 2011
1:02 pm

Tech will not win their division, they will only win 1 more game and that is against Duke. Sorry about that but this is the way it is, Tech players have no drive, we have no defense, and all we have is 5 plays.

SEC WEST

October 17th, 2011
1:04 pm

LOL…the great thing is UGA wins enough to resign Richt. LOL Then we will get to play him again as the rotation in the SEC changes. But UGA will be forced to keep him since he will have a nice fat contract that they will not be able to bail out of. Roll Tide!!! Keep winning those soft games Richt!

JC

October 17th, 2011
1:06 pm

Tired of hearing about the 5 game win streak by the pups. You beat the bottom dwellers with a combined SEC record of 1-13, with Vandy having the 1 win over Ole Miss, Congrats, you should have a 5 game win streak. Your toughest 2 games of the year you found a way to lose. Don’t count the game cocks out yet.
Go Gamecocks!

CSAttaway

October 17th, 2011
1:07 pm

Why can’t we finish a game? (UGA) All we needed to do was get a first down and we run east/west and then punt? Tennessee was just a horrible ending too. I want the killer instinct at the end – something we have lacked for a long time. We do not seem to finish strong. On a positive note, I agree with piermont in that hopefully we can learn from these blaring weaknesses in 2 weeks. As for Tech, I hope they win, win, win. As for UGA, I hope we win every game and that USC wins every game. Sorry, I just don’t think we stand a chance against Bama in the SEC championship game. If we win out and win out in convincing fashion, we may even be in the running for a BCS game at 10-2. Maybe we could play a Hawaii-like team (2008) with a very bright outlook for next year. We should be loaded for bear next year. That is, assuming our players do not jump to the NFL early.

Innocent Bystander

October 17th, 2011
1:08 pm

I believe you meant to say the loss of Marcus L. cannot be OVERstated.
No UGA coach has beaten UT and Florida in the same year since Vince Dooley.
Special teams could kill us in Gainessville.
Let’s hope not.

dawggirl

October 17th, 2011
1:14 pm

“I’ll believe Georgia will beat Florida only after Georgia beats Florida.”

Amen and amen. No reason to think otherwise.

Reality

October 17th, 2011
1:15 pm

The SEC East is weaker than the Coastal Div of the ACC. Maybe UGA can luck into the East and become the sacrificial lamb for BAMA.

Gordon

October 17th, 2011
1:15 pm

If UGA can’t get to Atlanta this year, then they will never get there again as long as Richt is the coach. They literally have the easiest schedule in the SEC in a year when the SEC is as down as it has been in 20 years.

Dontavius Supremo

October 17th, 2011
1:22 pm

Take this to the bank: Georgia will lose to Florida and Auburn. They have yet to beat a team with a wining record. Tech may win its division, but does anyone other thanTech grads really care? No.

Devil's Advocate

October 17th, 2011
1:32 pm

Seriously CSAttaway?

UGA has finished the last 5 in a row with a W. And why would you hope SC wins out to prevent UGA from winning the East? You as a fan are afraid of facing Bama yet you want to call out the team for the lack of a killer instinct? *boggle*

Tom, Resident Georgia Fan

October 17th, 2011
1:33 pm

Gamecockrock … where have you been?

Dirty Harry

October 17th, 2011
1:33 pm

Reality, go back to your mother’s basement……..

robodawg

October 17th, 2011
1:35 pm

Don’t read too much into the Vandy game. We have a long tradition of beating Vandy and Kentucky in underwhelming fashion.

I think we beat Florida, lose to Auburn, and sweat out waiting for S Carolina to lose twice (which they will). Then we plow over Tech, try to make a good showing against LSU or Bama, go to a decent Florida bowl, and go into 2012 with big expectations.

Devil's Advocate

October 17th, 2011
1:36 pm

Since when has UGA been required to play only the best teams in the SEC? No one was giving UGA a pass when they were playing various combinations of Bama, LSU, and Arkansas (along with Auburn) the past several years!

Frank Lane

October 17th, 2011
1:38 pm

Dawg fan through and through, but I will bet on FLA and AUB to win. Tech loses twice more and does not win division.

Dawg Tired

October 17th, 2011
1:40 pm

Mark – I would make SC an underdog to both Florida and Arkansas. The UT game is not a sure win. They could lose the next three without Lattimore. Certainly would have lost to MSU without him. We should beat KY. Need to beat either Florida or Auburn. Of course,neither is a sure thing. However, if we do beat either Florida or Auburn, we have good chance fo winning the East. We would have 2 loses. Florida already has 3. SC will most likely have at least 3. Let’s wait and see what happens.

Spider29

October 17th, 2011
1:40 pm

I am a Georgia fan and I hope both UGA and Tech are able to win their respective divisions. It does seem as though Georgia has the easier remaining schedule. In my opinion, the success or lack of will hinge on the Florida game. Win that, and I think UGA will finish out the conference schedule undefeated. As for Tech, they really need to beat Clemson at Tech. To me that is their toughest game. Miami can be beaten and Va. Tech is not as good as in recent seasons. Both the Bulldogs and the Yellow Jackets need to put together complete games. As we all know and have seen of our teams this season, winning with just one facet of the game really clicking is very difficult. Go Dogs and Jackets (until Nov. 26, then it’s just go Dogs)!

Gator Mike

October 17th, 2011
1:56 pm

The game in Jax this year should be a good one. Will Muschamp will have to deal with inner demons regardless of who wins. At this point, UGA looks like the better team because they are healthier and they are winning. All of us could be looking at a close game such as what we had last year
Hate to say it, but whoever wins the SEC East will get pounded in Atlanta this year unless Bama and LSU beat each other into ill health on in a few weeks. Both teams have been nearly injury free.

GTJeff

October 17th, 2011
1:59 pm

As POed as I am about Saturday, I am taking this season as a young team that will get better. We have 4 problems with this team right now.

1. VERY young group. More experience will get them better.
2. Lack of BIG d linemen especially at nose tackle. Still puzzled why TJ Barnes at 6′7″ 3 1/2 tons is NOT able to take this position. The d HAS gotten better & considering Groh said it takes 3 years to really implement it, I’ll expect it to be GOOD next year.
3. Tevin Washington. We saw what he did last year which was horrific. He looked like Joe Hamilton against the sisters of the poor but against less than horrible competition, folds. This will happen the rest of the year. Vad Lee will be the solution to this in the years to come as he learns this offense & stays focused. He is our Obi Won Kenobi….he’s our only hope.

I see this year going at best 8-5 with a close win over Duke & MAYBE a win over VT (they always struggle with us).

Big Dave

October 17th, 2011
2:03 pm

Dawg Tired – “Certainly would have lost to MSU without him.” He had 39 yards rushing before he went down. SC won because of their defense and because Alshon Jeffery went up and caught a nice pass by Shaw. Lattimore was not a factor in the game, Shaw rushed for more yards than he did. SC will beat Tenn because of their defense, lose to Arkansas, and have Florida at home. UGA had better win out.

Murphy

October 17th, 2011
2:04 pm

Florida game is huge!!!!! We must take care of business in Jacksonville. Florida will be ready to play after a 3 game losing streak and an open week.Of course they will be 100 % when we get them as usual.Demps and Brantley back.

Heath

October 17th, 2011
2:06 pm

I’ll believe UGA beats Florida when I see it too, but if they that one, they probably would still lose to Auburn. It’s hard to see them playing like their talent says they should for two straight conference games.

You Ain't-Know Gaily Whacker

October 17th, 2011
2:14 pm

Which Georgia win should count ? Bring on Bama or LSU. Georgia loses by 35.

DawginLex

October 17th, 2011
2:15 pm

too tough to call at this point

Beating florida is the biggest mental hurdle

Tech has VT at home and clemson at home.

i think our chances are a little better than Tech’s but not by much

GSO Dawg

October 17th, 2011
2:17 pm

If Georgia doesn’t figure things out with special teams this week and get mentally prepared for Florida (instead of dealing with this post-game Vandy coach nonsense), we will drop the game to Florida and Auburn.

BH93

October 17th, 2011
2:21 pm

Good point about UGA the much better team but still losing to Florida on multiple occasions. I just don’t know why we always have the brainfarts aganst them.

harold

October 17th, 2011
2:26 pm

UGA IS HORRIBLE. UGA HAS PLAYED “NO ONE” THE LAST 5 GAMES AND NEARLY LOST TO VANDY! IT IS TIME FOR RICHT TO GO!

BP85

October 17th, 2011
2:38 pm

Tech has been feasting on cupcakes in the early going this season and now begins to face stiff competition in the next few weeks. Virignia would not have been included in the ’stiff competition’ classification before last Saturday, but Tech’s demise 2011 has officially begun. Clemson and Va. Tech have a field day against them and The Dawgs will finish off what is left of them on the final Saturday of November. The Dawgs are clearly in better shape to be a contender to represent their division for the conference championship. Beating Alabama or LSU will be a very tall order and will take some help from above, realisticaly, but a trip to Atlanta to represent the East will be an improvement over the last few years.

WTF

October 17th, 2011
2:46 pm

MB’s mid-week fluff pieces are starting to show up early – must be the lull between baseball and Thursday night football.
Pay by the word, huh. AJC?