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Post Moving on…

Friday September 14, 2007

The AJC columnists have set aside this week to play "House, M.D." with the Georgia program. First it was Jeff Schultz’s diagnosis that Georgia and its coach were soft. Now Terence Moore offers that the problem is a lack of leadership – or, more specifically, someone "who can growl while throwing a chair across the locker room".

Moore’s point I think is closer to the heart of the matter. He does take an odd disapproving view of "leadership by committee" considering that he names several former leaders who were on the same team. Still, I tend to agree that the leadership issue is valid. I think we can put it even more simply: this is Matthew Stafford’s team, and we’re waiting for that big play or moment that cements it. There are locker room leaders, and you do need the veteran guys who keep everyone focused.

At the same time, you need the leaders and playmakers on the field. That the coaches are just as likely to have Tony Wilson as Sean Bailey in the game during key drives tells us that the team has a bunch of almost-but-not-quite playmakers. Go-to guys. Is Sean Bailey becoming one? How about Knowshon Moreno? In the end, though, I believe that the team will go as Stafford goes.

On to Western Carolina

Fans want a 70-0 bloodbath in part as a catharsis after last weekend’s loss but also as a demonstration that the team can really throw, catch, run, block, and tackle. Responding to the nebulous criticism of Schultz earlier in the week, they want to see some sort of "killer instinct" reflected on the scoreboard. If history holds, the Dawgs should win easily but not threaten that 70-point mark.

Mark Richt’s Bulldogs have played three 1-AA* opponents, and the results (at least on Georgia’s side of the scoreboard) have been steady:

  • 2002: 45-7 over Northwestern State
  • 2004: 48-28 over Georgia Southern
  • 2006: 48-12 over Western Kentucky

Even as 1-AA teams go, Western Carolina is no powerhouse, so style points will be the main focus of the game for Georgia fans. With Alabama coming up next week, fans will inevitably compare Georgia’s performance against Western Carolina with the Catamounts’ season opener at Alabama. The Crimson Tide won 52-6. That’s about what I expect from Georgia: a score in the ballpark of 50 points while making it tough for WCU to get on the scoreboard. While we’d prefer a shutout, you never know what will happen when the 7th string is in.

While the guaranteed wave of substitutions will make a direct comparison next to impossible, there are a few stats worth watching. Bama held Western Carolina to 247 yards of offense – 76 rushing and 171 passing. Bama was also effective running the ball. Tailback Terry Grant rushed for 134 yards in his debut with three touchdowns. Will Knowshon Moreno or Thomas Brown have big games? Turnovers will also be something to keep an eye on. The Dawgs have turned it over only once this season – a Stafford interception against South Carolina – but they have also caused just one turnover. While the Bulldog defense has generally been stingy holding two good opponents to an average of 15 points, they could do a good bit more to make plays and cause turnovers. We’ll see if they are able to create some things against a lesser opponent.

* – I’ll still refer to this level of competition as 1-AA. 1-AA was good enough for Erk Russell, and it’s good enough for me. The "we actually play college football with a playoff" subdivision is a nice attempt at rebranding, but "1-AA" reminds us that there is a hierarchy to things and that "Appalachian State" is a Cherokee phrase meaning "Chaminade."

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