UGA needs a signature win; South Carolina could use one

"If you don't acknowledge my genius, I'll have you fired, too." (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

"If you don't bow to my visored genius, I'll have you fired." (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

As they used to say in tire commercials, here’s where the rubber meets the road. Georgia looks really good, but that’s not the same as being really good. Until these Bulldogs whip somebody of national consequence, we can’t say for sure that this is again a team of national consequence.

Yes, Georgia is ranked No. 5 in the polls, and off the strength of its first five games it has looked (that hedging verb again) the part. But who have the Bulldogs beaten? Missouri? Good win, but the Tigers were/are unranked. Tennessee? Good win, but the Vols are unranked and were handled more easily by Florida in Knoxville than by the home side on Saturday. And that’s just this year.

Georgia’s 2011 season was equal parts rousing and confounding. The Bulldogs won 10 consecutive games and took the SEC East for the first time since Matthew Stafford was in high school. They also lost to the four best teams they played. Granted, all four — Boise State, South Carolina, LSU and Michigan State — were ranked among the top 11 in the final Associated Press poll, but you know when last the Bulldogs beat a team that would finish in the Top 25?

Nov. 28, 2009: Georgia 30, Georgia Tech 24.

Two Saturdays ago, this correspondent attended the 48-3 destruction of Vanderbilt and deemed it among the most impressive Bulldog performances he has ever witnessed. (For the record, this correspondent first saw Georgia play in person in 1974.) But the road to eminence isn’t paved with the likes of Vandy 2012 or Florida 2011. Until the Bulldogs bag a big name, their name will carry an asterisk.

Which is why South Carolina’s appearance on the schedule is most welcome. Want clarity? Here it comes. If Georgia goes to Chickentown and wins, the asterisk gets blown to smithereens. If not, we wonder longer and harder.

Georgia’s last meeting with the Gamecocks was among the strangest in a strange series. (Remember James Jackson flipping the ball to the ground? Remember Quincy Carter throwing it to the wrong team?) Even Steve Spurrier, who lives to gig the Bulldogs, allowed that “they definitely outplayed us.” But that 45-42 loss came at time when Georgia wasn’t sure it could beat anybody, let alone anybody good. Having won 15 of the 17 games since, it now has reason to believe.

ESPN is dispatching its “College GameDay” to Columbia, ensuring that hip waders will be required to slog through the hype. The game itself could be better than its billing. South Carolina’s defense is under new management — Lorenzo Ward replaced the esteemed Ellis Johnson, who left for Southern Miss — but has so far outperformed Georgia’s vaunted D. (It must be said that, owing to suspension, the defense lacked its full complement the first four games. It must also be said that Tennessee, in Week 5, amassed 44 points and 478 yards.)

Meanwhile, the Bulldog offense has become a bullet train, averaging 48 points and 536 yards. By way of comparison, Spurrier’s offense appears almost pedestrian. Did we have it wrong all these years? Is Mike Bobo the real Evil Genius?

Speaking of Spurrier, as indeed we must: He has embarked on another of his megalomaniacal sorties, trying to get Ron Morris, sports columnist of The State, fired for insubordination against the Emperor Stevie. Whining intimidation is an old Spurrier tactic: When at Florida, he tried it against writers from Gainesville and Orlando; heck, he even dashed off a handwritten note, complete with barnyard epithet, to yours truly. But this latest campaign is goofy even by Spurrier standards — almost as if this man of legendary ego and undeniable achievement still thirsts for approval.

The Gamecocks, who hadn’t won anything of note before Spurrier, upset No. 1 Alabama in 2010 en route to the East title. They also lost five games and were beaten 56-17 by Auburn in the SEC championship game. It has been nearly two years since South Carolina brought down Bama, and of  its 11 victories last season the Gamecock victim ranked highest in the final AP poll was … No. 19 Georgia.

Now they’re both in the Top 10, and Saturday’s winner will have taken a giant step toward the Georgia Dome on Dec. 1. (Florida is again a factor, but that’s another matter for another day.) In the spirit of hype, we might just dub this the Game of Validation. Or, in the spirit of both tire advertising and ESPN-type ballyhoo, the Valid Bowl.

By Mark Bradley

349 comments Add your comment

Denver Dawg

October 1st, 2012
4:45 pm

go to Chicken-town and break some beaks – this ain’t LSU or Alabama we’re talking about….

beanster

October 1st, 2012
4:51 pm

Missouri are the Tigers.

Mark Bradley

October 1st, 2012
4:53 pm

They are indeed. That’s what I get for trying to write three things at once.

Lilburn Dawg

October 1st, 2012
4:55 pm

It’s going to be a good one ………a “must see”……. no matter who wins!

RamblinWreck82

October 1st, 2012
4:56 pm

I got the Cocks winning this one. UGag’s RB’s are over-rated.

foxhound

October 1st, 2012
4:57 pm

New sign at Sanford Stadium, “Georgia Football , When all is said and done, there is a lot more said than done.”

Boise Dawg

October 1st, 2012
4:57 pm

Two things concern me most about our offense and they go hand in hand.

We can’t get a first down when we need one to ice the game. We had the ball only up 7 against Missouri with 8 min left in the 4th quarter and we went 3 and out. We had 3 chances in the 4th quarter against a Tennessee defense that hadn’t stopped us all day and we couldn’t muster a first down.

As good as Gurley and Marshall look….it seems when defenses know we are definitely going to run the ball they don’t have trouble stopping our run.

Valid Bowl

October 1st, 2012
4:57 pm

Spurrier is goofy.

James

October 1st, 2012
4:57 pm

You do this for a living yet can’t remember that they’re the Missouri Tigers? I mean, it’s only the mascot of 25% of SEC teams…

By the way, no chance that UGA wins the East this year, much less a conference crown or national title. This is classic Bulldog domination of a paper-soft schedule. They will get beaten soundly in the second half next week and choke again against Florida.

HeyJames

October 1st, 2012
5:00 pm

So it looks like you’re a closet ga tech fan. How did last Saturday on the Flats work out for you guys?

Mark Bradley

October 1st, 2012
5:01 pm

I guess I had Wildcats on the brain. Been sitting here trying to figure out how Kentucky is a 14-point favorite over Mississippi State. That can’t be right, can it?

Bubba J.

October 1st, 2012
5:01 pm

Good article Mark. Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever said that before. Dawgs 31 USC 21. You heard it here first. Go DAWGS!

Bryan G.

October 1st, 2012
5:02 pm

Tell us more about the handwritten note, Mark!!

James

October 1st, 2012
5:02 pm

@HeyJames

Not sure why you would think I’m a Tech fan… why can’t a guy just think UGA is overrated without being insulted?

Mark Bradley

October 1st, 2012
5:05 pm

Actually a postcard. I still have it.

Mark Bowden wrote about it in the New Yorker. Click here. http://www.davidgagne.net/2002/12/02/the-sporting-scene/

Aaron

October 1st, 2012
5:07 pm

That Kentucky point spread CAN NOT be right. And if it is, please put me down for $1000 on MISS STATE +14.

cattledawg

October 1st, 2012
5:07 pm

If Murray doesnt gift wrap 7 to 14 points for carolina dawgs will win this game easily.

@spencaman

October 1st, 2012
5:09 pm

I thing if Aaron Muray can hold on to the football, maybe throw some screens to Marshall on the edge to divert the pressure, UGA can win

Mark Bradley

October 1st, 2012
5:10 pm

I don’t think it’s right, either. But here are this week’s lines.

http://www.vegasinsider.com/college-football/odds/las-vegas/

Bryan G.

October 1st, 2012
5:10 pm

Did Spurrier disagree with you about John Smoltz and that’s why he called you that, Mark?

Rodney in SC

October 1st, 2012
5:13 pm

Forget that Ron Morris asserted, incorrectly, that Spurrier was putting Connor Shaw’s future in jeopardy by playing him. Morris based his opinion purely on hearsay with regard to Shaw’s condition rather than the opinion of physicians. He then dimwittedly compared Spurrier’s reign at SC to Joe Pa’s control of the athletic department at Penn State. Even Morris admitted this was dumb. Like legions of SC fans, I simply do not read Ron Morris. Nor do I subscribe to The State’s pay coverage of USC sports–it’s only online profit center. Nor do I pay more for an inflated copy of The State on Sundays following a USC football game. Their business model is obviously based on coverage of SC sports and Gamecock fans have had enough. Good riddance Ron. It will be an economic decision only slightly influenced by Spurrier’s public defense of his reputation against slander.

jsmooth

October 1st, 2012
5:14 pm

@ramblin wrecked: Whose team is over-rated and whose mickey mouse offense is getting smoked this year with that pathetic defense? Not UGA’s. The joke at the coke is on life support.

COLUMBIA DAWG

October 1st, 2012
5:16 pm

Luxury suite tickets for the game and a wife who went to USC, This will be a game to remember!!! Slow down Clowney and Lattimore and we should come out on top!!! Just can’t see them making it 3 in a row. My dog will not wear a Gamecock collar for a year LOL. They are a good team and I agree this will be a “Game of Validation”

C'mon Man

October 1st, 2012
5:16 pm

Offense – UGA
Defense – USC
Special Teams – USC
Home Field – USC
Coach – USC

You make the call

Noah Webster

October 1st, 2012
5:17 pm

A “barnyard epithet” ? Oh my goodness, I hope it didn’t upset your delicate sensibilities Miss Bradley.

cattledawg

October 1st, 2012
5:22 pm

Can UGA not find a kicker to just do extra points? Im just glad rocky top had a hard time of it as well. How many black, left footed kickers have you seen before?

Herschel Talker

October 1st, 2012
5:23 pm

Who do you think will win Mark, and by the way I have always loved your articles because you have a little Larry Munson in you. But anyway just curious to know who you think might win. I have met Connor and he is a nice kid, but it would really stink to be beaten by a guy who GA never even looked at who spent much of his high school career in the shadow of his dad and brother. Murray is definitely as talented a passer as you could have but will Mr. Florida be eaten by Mr. Flowery Branch? Thanks again for all the great reads!

Bright Idea

October 1st, 2012
5:23 pm

Funny thing about this game…only Spurrier thinks Georgia has a chance.

Herschel Talker

October 1st, 2012
5:24 pm

Bama in Atlanta

October 1st, 2012
5:24 pm

If Nike was smart they would provide free visors to Spurrier because I think he will be throwing his several times this Saturday and they always do a TV closeup shot of the visor on the ground. What would be poetic justice is if Chick-fil-a had their “Eat Mor Chiken” logo on it!

Go Dawgs!

Resident Georgia Fan

October 1st, 2012
5:25 pm

All you Tech fans and SC fans: too bad you can’t be game day officials cause that’s the only way you could derail Georgia in Columbia. I’ll monitor things and be here Sunday when you will be nowhere to be found. Just who has SC played? Watch Georgia make SC one dimensional even as they light up the Brice. UT will give the Cocks fits and as for Georgia Tech, good God what an embarrassment. Please take “Georgia” off your name. Just refer to yourselves as the Bumbling Wreck.

cattledawg

October 1st, 2012
5:27 pm

Dawgs 34 – 17. Thats my 5 star lock of the century blowout special.

Herschel Talker

October 1st, 2012
5:27 pm

Oh and I hope we do not get the slow Ol’ Refs, we had this week, they will def be in awe of the Ol’ ball coach! Does the SEC understand that these Senior Refs cant keep up with 4.3 college football effectively?

Truthiness

October 1st, 2012
5:27 pm

If you think that SC will still be ranked at season’s end, won’t this be the first ranked team that Murray will have beaten? He has a lot of history to overcome, but maybe this will finally get that monkey off his back. Unfortunately, the defensive line looks like last year’s OL: some NFL talent, but underperforming so far. And the special teams are still that—way too special in their tendency to do strangely self-defeating things. It’s time for a signature win. This needs to be it.

See no Evil

October 1st, 2012
5:29 pm

I do believe that when SC beat Nebraska last year, they were ranked 14th, and Clemson was ranked 17/18 as well since they had only two losses prior. If the Gamecocks help someone to a lower poll position do you fault them?

Also, the reason Spurior is mad at Ron Moris is because Morris has comparing USC to Penn State when Spurior allowed Connor Shaw to play. There are a lot more people from Columbia that want Morris out on his backside than just Spurior.

Please get your story straight.

Mark Bradley

October 1st, 2012
5:29 pm

This was the one game I picked Georgia to lose. That was a while back, though.

bigcalidawg

October 1st, 2012
5:32 pm

Megalomaniacal (had to recheck for correct spelling)? Well hot diggity DAWG!

That right there is impressive….

Herschel Talker

October 1st, 2012
5:34 pm

You still think so Mark? I know you watched Gurley and Marshall run by those guys like they were standing still and I love the fact the doctors told Connor that he couldnt hurt that hairline fracture any worse…have the Drs. heard of Jarvis Jones and that he had a “down” game last week. LOL

Herschel Talker

October 1st, 2012
5:37 pm

See no evil its a pattern of whining we are talking about, The Ol Ball Coach needs to quit whining, St. Richt has had much more negative written about him by the paper we are currently on alone, not to mention the others…:)

Mark Bradley

October 1st, 2012
5:38 pm

Once I’ve picked something, I try not to change. I hate being wrong twice.

But if you’re asking which team has impressed me more, I’d say Georgia.

WDE

October 1st, 2012
5:38 pm

If we get a ref that has ever called offensive holding on the OL we win.The ones in the UT game have never even heard of it.. and see no evil we beat two teams ranked at the time we played them and got no credit for beating a “ranked” teams.and your right comparing USC to Penn State is insulting and wrong.

loyaldawg

October 1st, 2012
5:43 pm

Score fast and often. Go 3 and out and then score some more. Put a 60 spot on superior. Payback is fun.

Herschel Talker

October 1st, 2012
5:45 pm

Cool, If the Gurshall continues like this imagine what records could be broken the next few years, and yea, your right we need a signature win, I would like to know anyones take on the scoring fast defense on the field to long theory Steve has, and what can the Dawgs do about it when you have so many weapons. And is it just me or is Malcom Mitchell overwhelmed, I hope that his work load has caused some of this but it’s like brain overload every time he gets the ball, I feel uncomfortable for him..

CHDawg

October 1st, 2012
5:47 pm

I really like that a lot of people are hating on the Dawgs. KC Joyner (never heard of him till I read his opening attack paragraph on ESPN) says we are overrated and probably not even a top ten team! Holtz said we would be whipped and manhandled (more or less), and even Vegas doesn’t like our chances. That should help. Throw in SOS’s comments this summer, which dissed our players–said they liked playing us early to take advantage of all the suspensions, and the Dawgs should be fired up! We will just have to wait to see, but I think our D could be the star of the show. This is the same exact group that played so well last year, except for Boykin. SC has a great defensive line, though, so we will see how the chicken coop treats us this year. Go Dawgs!

Beast from the East

October 1st, 2012
5:47 pm

I don’t think this will be a high scoring affair. I think you’ll see the defenses buckle down and the game will be in the 28-24 range. Gotta go with SC due to the home field advantage, but I wouldn’t want to place a bet either way. Should be a good one.

Old Dawg

October 1st, 2012
5:50 pm

UGA’s sloppy special teams play and its inability to grind out first downs late in games is of great concern to me. So too is UGA’s run defense. I’ve noticed some real scheme issues this season, so Grantham needs to work that.

I’ve never seen a UGA team score so many points so easily. Darth Visor has a great defense, though I doubt they’ve ever had to stop a pass catching Mack Truck like UGA’s Lynch.

I’m still picking Georgia, but those issues need to be resolved this week if they’re going to the chicken coup and return home with a W.

Ted M

October 1st, 2012
5:51 pm

Mark – You’re cranking out some good stuff today and we haven’t even got your “Heat Check” yet.

I did finally see MS sideline tirade…it was worse then I expected. But I guess its water under the bridge.

Steve Sharpe

October 1st, 2012
6:03 pm

Mark – you are a cheap hack to give so much ink to such a poorly written series of paragraphs with little to know insight or flow…yet, you manage to reference the Ron (Mo-Ron) Morris for anyone who actually is within his small readership radius.

You offer no basis for portraying Spurrier as being in the wrong, but maybe it’s just the fellowship of mediocre sports writers that requires this?

"Off the Mark" Bradley

October 1st, 2012
6:10 pm

georgia outplayed them last year and will do so this year. Look for georgia not to give 21 points in TO and special team gaffs….. UGA makes a statement this week and moves on to complete a sweep of the east.

Really?

October 1st, 2012
6:11 pm

The chickens have egos like bama and a trophy case like vandy.