Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Status Quo reigns

Wednesday April 30, 2008

Mark Schlabach reports that the BCS meetings have concluded with the process unchanged.

Saying the BCS was in an “unprecedented state of health,” ACC commissioner John Swofford announced Wednesday that college football will not change the way it determines its national champion as it prepares to begin negotiations for future television contracts that will probably run through the 2014 season.

“We will move forward in the next cycle with the current format,” said Swofford, who serves as BCS chairman. “I believe the BCS has never been healthier in its first decade.”

While most will focus on the fact that a plus-one or playoff were shot down, it’s also worth noting that the formula and process has been pretty stable since the 2004 season. The major change since has been to replace the AP poll with the Harris poll, but the mechanics have stayed constant.

Post Tennessee Tech added for 2009

Tuesday April 29, 2008

Speaking of the regular season, Georgia’s 2009 season is now set with the addition of 1-AA Tennessee Tech on November 7, 2009. That date preserves a bye week before the trip to Jacksonville.

Tennessee Tech rounds out a non-conference schedule for 2009 that includes a home game against Arizona State and road games at Oklahoma State and Georgia Tech.

If you’re not already tired of hearing about how tough Georgia’s 2008 schedule is, 2009 doesn’t look much easier. There’s no long road trip, but the first month of the season features two considerable trips in the first three weeks with Arizona State and LSU coming to town after the trip to Arkansas. Here’s the complete 2009 schedule:

Sept. 5: @ Oklahoma State
Sept. 12: South Carolina
Sept. 19: @ Arkansas
Sept. 26: Arizona State
Oct. 3: LSU
Oct. 10: @ Tennessee
Oct. 17: @ Vanderbilt
Oct. 24: –Bye–
Oct. 31: Florida
Nov. 7: Tennessee Tech
Nov. 14: Auburn
Nov. 21: Kentucky
Nov. 28: @ Georgia Tech
Dec. 5: SEC Championship

Post It doesn’t matter

Tuesday April 29, 2008

I’m a bit weary also of the playoff topic, but Tony Barnhart’s concern over the fate of the regular season (h/t Get the Picture) touches on a point that for some reason rubs me the wrong way.

Barnhart repeats a line that most college football fans dogmatically accept: In college football EVERY regular season game matters.

That statement has never made sense to me. Without getting too semantic over what "matters" means, it seems to me that relatively few games matter in the context of a national championship. You can’t tell me that the regular season is its own glorious playoff winnowing the field of contenders weekly while at the same time insisting that the South Carolina – Clemson game matters in any way outside of the Palmetto State.

Even some of the compelling must-see games Barnhart cites (say, Alabama-Auburn) often have nothing to do with the national title picture. Is the argument being made that Auburn-Alabama is a great game to watch because of the postseason format? If so, someone has to explain that in a little more depth (and type slowly for my benefit).

The concerns over bracket creep, etc. are enough to give any rational playoff advocate pause, but the extent to which we romanticize the regular season must have its limits. It can be argued that the focus on the regular season as a culling process for title contenders actually costs us more interesting and more frequent high-profile inter-conference games. The quality of nonconference games is something that college basketball has over college football, and it’s not only because of the number of games on the schedule. There is a trade-off in our search for games that matter, sure, but are we losing better potential regular season matchups as a result?

Post A significant commitment

Monday April 28, 2008

Austin Long - Rivals.com

You can go down the star-studded list of Georgia 2009 commitments and debate which might be the best player, if such a thing can be determined nine months before Signing Day.  But Monday’s commitment by Austin Long might prove to be one of the most significant.  Why?

Take a look at Georgia’s depth chart – specifically at the offensive tackle spot.  That’s three scholarship offensive tackles.  Though Georgia finally has good numbers on its line, pure tackles are relatively hard to come by.  Just look at the first pick of the NFL draft to see how valuable a top-quality OT can be.

Beyond the fact that Georgia got a great player at a position of dire need, consider this icing on the cake:  Georgia went into Memphis and got a commitment from one of the nation’s best tackles over Alabama and Tennessee.  Better yet, “Austin was a big Florida fan,” according to his father.  With Alabama considered the favorite and Long a Florida fan growing up, a commitment to Georgia has to be seen as a tremendous coup for Mark Richt and his staff. 

Fans might be a little nervous with Long over in Memphis and some very persistent and effective recruiters working for the competition, but Long told UGASports.com that those fans needn’t worry.

“Georgia is definitely the place for me, and I am not going back on my word,” Long said with confidence. “I am a Georgia Bulldog now, I gave them my commitment, and I am standing by that. I am definitely going to Georgia.”

Post Down year for the SEC in the draft?

Monday April 28, 2008

Many of us, myself included, have made a point out of the fact that the NFL draft didn’t seem to hit Georgia all that hard. But in reality, only three SEC teams had more players taken than Georgia:

Alabama: 0 draft picks

Arkansas: 6 draft picks (1st round (2), 3rd round, 7th round (3))

Auburn: 5 draft picks (2nd round (2), 3rd round, 4th round, 7th round)

Florida: 2 draft picks (1st round, 3rd round)

Georgia: 4 draft picks (5th round, 6th round, 7th round (2))

Kentucky: 4 draft picks (4th round (2), 6th round, 7th round)

LSU: 6 draft picks (1st round, 3rd round (3), 4th round, 7th round)

Ole Miss: 0 draft picks

Mississippi State: 0 draft picks

South Carolina: 1 draft pick (7th round)

Tennessee: 3 draft picks (1st round, 3rd round, 5th round)

Vanderbilt: 3 draft picks (1st round, 3rd round, 5th round)

16 picks in the first 3 rounds isn’t bad for a conference, but it is down a bit (-24%) for the SEC from 21 selections a year ago. Georgia fans might be giddy about all of the returning talent, but they’re not alone.

Post You can wait another two months, right?

Monday April 28, 2008

With the NFL draft in the rearview, our annual search for meaning during the football offseason enters its longest, most desolate stretch. Its starkness is rivaled only by midwest interstates.

The release of NCAA 2009 is one of those wells along the dusty path which will sustain us along the way. There have been several sneak peeks to come out this month.

"Alternate uniforms" are part of the game this year, and, yes, you can expect Georgia’s black jerseys to be an option. Now you can BLACK OUT your house. Put black drapes up, turn off the lights, dye the cat, dress like a Goth, crank up Soulja Boy, and prepare to run up 312 points against Temple on Varsity level.

As for the rest of the new features and changes, there’s a ton of them. We’ll only try to hit what seem to be the highlights:

  • Bigger holes, cutback lanes, and open receivers, making the game feel more wide open than ever before
  • Pre-play confusion and difficulty making adjustments when on the road against tough teams
  • Interactive TD celebrations (could it be??? nah….)
  • All-new authentic fields with new textures, lighting, and field degradation
  • User Customizable Stadium Sounds & Music…band geeks should love this one.
  • Return missed field goals
  • CPU vs. CPU (watch mode)…the graphics are good enough, so why not? It’s probably better than most of the other sports on TV.
  • Formation audibles, Smart routes, Bobble catches, Better passing control, Post play continuation
  • Online Dynasty: up to 12 competitors can recruit head-to-head, customize schedules and play for up to 60 seasons

July can’t get here soon enough.

PS…no plain old X-Box version this time. 360 only.

UPDATE: Georgia will apparently carry the #1 ranking in the game for the 2008 season. Take that for meaningless preseason bluster, South Carolina fans.

MD Alt uniform
It’s not Georgia’s black uniforms, but you get the idea.

Post NFL draft roundup

Sunday April 27, 2008

If you want a reason why so many are high on Georgia for next season, you got it over the weekend.  No player from the team which finished #2 in the nation was selected before the 5th round of the NFL draft.  That news tells us that there’s a ton of proven talent coming back, and Georgia shouldn’t be absent from the draft’s first day for very long.  It might be sooner than we like if Stafford or Moreno have the kind of season we hope they do.

It’s a quirk of the draft that it’s often better to go undrafted than to be taken in the later rounds.  Both scenarios mean that your spot on the team is far from guaranteed, but a free agent has the chance to select a situation which might be a little better fit.  Take the example of Brandon Coutu.  It’s great that he was drafted, but he’s brought into a situation where he will be the decided underdog competing for a roster spot against NFL veteran Olindo Mare

If there was a Bulldog-related surprise, it was Fernando Velasco’s absence from the draft board.  We expect he’ll sign as a free agent very soon, but he was projected to be drafted before Adams.

Drafted Dawgs:

  • DE Marcus Howard:  Indianapolis Colts (5th round)
    Quotable:   “I think I’ll be able to help the Colts rush the passer,” Howard said. “They have a couple of guys just like me, probably just a tad bit bigger. I think I’m going to come in, help them rush the passer and help them on special teams.  Just watching those guys play the past three or four years, I’ve seen the defensive ends that they use. It’s pretty much the same Tampa 2 (defense) we got here at UGA. I think I’m going to come in and help the team out.”
  • RB Thomas Brown:  Atlanta Falcons (6th round)
    Quotable:  “I really worked hard to appeal to them that I’m not injury prone. If you go back and look at the two injuries I had, the one was a knee injury on a kickoff return where I feel like anybody could’ve torn their ACL on that play. The second one was a crack in my collar bone when I dove into the end zone. But I had full recovery from all of those and I’m just excited about being a Falcon.”
  • OL Chester Adams:  Chicago Bears (7th round)
    Though he played tackle out of necessity for Georgia as a senior, Adams “projects as a guard with the Bears.”
  • K Brandon Coutu:  Seattle Seahawks (7th round)
    Quotable:  “The respect that Seattle had to go ahead and say, ‘Hey, I’m going to draft him in the seventh round,’ means a lot to me and I’m just going to work a little harder to hopefully take advantage of the opportunity I have.”

Free agent signings:

Post Bring on the expectations

Thursday April 24, 2008

I was glad to see Kyle sign on to the "embracing expectations" approach to the 2008 season that I put forth back in January. With a successful spring practice behind us and the major injury bug dodged so far (knocking wood), I see no reason to shy away from title talk.

There are some very key points in Kyle’s reasoning. This is the biggest one as far as I’m concerned:

…do we really want the luxury of languishing in the relative obscurity of lowered expectations if it means taking the chance of turning out like underappreciated Auburn in 2004?

Exactly. If college football were a law school class, the 2004 Auburn season would be one of the landmark cases studied every year. It provides insight into so much about the sport – everything from the technical (the perfect storm of Chizik and Borges) to the personal (the redemption of Jason Campbell) to its national implications. Even this far removed from the 2004 season, we’re still talking through those implications.

There is one line of thought, expressed by Kyle himself last week, that the lesson had to do with the consequences of a weak nonconference schedule. I’ve been more of the opinion that Auburn’s schedule mattered much less than the fact that Southern Cal and Oklahoma were put on a collision course from the moment the 2003 season ended. Yes, the Narrative.

2007 provides another example. Last summer LSU and Southern Cal were the teams of destiny at the top of the preseason polls. Les Miles cemented the Narrative by calling out Southern Cal’s schedule and conference. Though Stanford made sure that the Tiger-Trojan championship game would never take place, I have to think that LSU’s #2 preseason position in the polls made a difference when the pollsters chose them as the first two-loss team to play for the BCS championship. No one was talking about Kansas or Missouri last July. LSU’s presence in the preseason national title discussion certainly didn’t hurt their position even after a typically fatal late-season loss.

Poll position matters in racing and college football. If you want to have the best chance at a title run, start as high as you can. Counting on higher-ranked teams to lose and clear the path works sometimes, but it can get very crowded at the top. It’s a somewhat unusual situation this year in that there really isn’t a clear preseason #1, so getting an early nose ahead of the rest of the field might really matter this season. There’s definitely danger in having the bulls-eye on your back, and Doug’s very right that it can overwhelm a team. The teams that are able to use those expectations as motivation instead of as distraction have become some of our better college football champions. Why not Georgia?

Post This calls for a celebration

Thursday April 24, 2008

This should help you sleep well tonight – the Georgia quarterback position is in good hands for the next six years or so.

Tampa QB Aaron Murray has committed to Georgia this morning. He’s rated a four-star prospect and among the top 50 players in the nation by Rivals.com and was the first player invited to this year’s Elite 11 quarterback camp. A lot is going to be made about this commitment because Georgia went into Florida and got a quarterback at the top of Urban Meyer’s list. The decision makes sense though – 6’1", 198 lbs. sounds a lot more like D.J. Shockley than it does Tim Tebow. Florida signed five-star Cam Newton out of Georgia in 2007, but his interest in Georgia was minimal. "Georgia is stacked at the quarterback position and I not going to play anything but quarterback in college," he said in 2006.

Enjoy a few more years (we hope) of Stafford and Cox. Logan Gray looked plenty capable at G-Day. Now Murray and Zach Mettenberger stand ready to battle it out a couple of years down the road. With the quarterback position more or less set, receivers and other offensive recruits won’t need to worry about the quality of leader they’ll have under center.

At this morning’s announcement, Murray thanked the other schools that showed interest in him and said, "I am humbled and honored, honored to know that you thought enough of me to offer me a scholarship to join your team." Not the kind of talk you typically hear from a recruiting press conference, is it? Murray had this to say about Georgia:

"It is a school that every time I left, I just wanted to go back," he said. "I love the coaches, the intensity, and the competitive practices. The academics are top notch and it is a great college town."

The Dawgs are in the mix for Murray’s teammate, standout tight end Orson Charles. Charles of course received notoriety by knocking over Florida’s national championship trophy a few weeks ago. He’d receive a hero’s welcome at Georgia for that reason alone.

Murray is Georgia’s ninth commitment for the class of 2009. With the class expected to be somewhat smallish due to scholarship limits, we might be nearly halfway home.

Post Wrapping up a memorable basketball season

Wednesday April 23, 2008

Chip Towers has a good recap of the men’s basketball banquet. Be sure you see the highlight video of the SEC Tournament produced by the Tip-Off Club.

I have to tip my cap again to Dave Bliss. We all know that he wasn’t the highest-rated prospect ever signed by Georgia. He had to play raw right out of the gate. Crippling back problems limited his progress and playing time. To use one of Dennis Felton’s favorite terms, it was gratifying to see Bliss recognized as a leader and important part of this team and program. To earn co-MVP honors alongside a star like Gaines is a tremendous accomplishment for anyone.

The list of awards (thanks to Towers):

Individual Workout Award (weightroom, conditioning, etc): G Terrance Woodbury

Most Improved: C Albert Jackson

Take Charge Award: G Corey Butler

Academic Award: C David Bliss

Best Rebounder: G Sundiata Gaines

Best Playmaker: Gaines

Best Defender: Bliss

Junkyard Dawg Award: Bliss

Kevin Brophy Heart and Hustle Award: Bliss

Team MVP: Bliss and Gaines

Post What’s the future of the Big 10?

Wednesday April 23, 2008

This isn’t good news for Jim Delany. It’s an issue I’ve heard Cowherd talk about several times – shifting demographics spell big trouble for northern football. The problem isn’t only demographic. Not only are people moving south and west away from Rust Belt states; it stands to reason that few student-athletes from warm-weather states would choose a worse climate away from home.

Of course there’s plenty of talent outside the Sun Belt, but how many power programs can it sustain? Is the Big 10 headed towards looking like the ACC of the 1990s with everyone playing for second place?

Two programs missing from the second list – Penn State and Michigan – might really be at a crossroads in terms of their ability to keep the pipeline full. It doesn’t help that JoePa is having to dismiss talk that his contract status is another factor hurting Penn State recruiting.

Post David Pollack to retire

Tuesday April 22, 2008

David Pollack
It had to be an incredibly tough decision for such a competitor, but David Pollack’s comeback attempt has ended.

(Head Coach Marvin) Lewis said Pollack told him last week that he wasn’t comfortable with the neck medically despite being cleared to play.

Given the severity of his injury back in 2006, that’s probably a very smart decision. Pollack still has a world of possibilities open to him, and you have to like his chances at success in whatever the next step is.

In other Bulldog/Bengal news, Odell Thurman has been reinstated by the NFL. He has missed two complete seasons since leading the team in tackles in 2005.

With Pollack’s NFL dreams ended, you wonder if Thurman will make anything out of this chance he has to keep playing or if he’ll piss the opportunity away again.

PS…I know some will instantly call for Pollack to join the UGA program in some position, but I’m not sure that’s the best move for both parties. We have no idea what kind of a coach he would make, and it might serve him well to prove his coaching chops on another stage first. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him in broadcasting, though he’s always had his eye on becoming a preacher.

Post There’s no tying. There’s no tying in baseball!

Monday April 21, 2008

By now you’ve probably heard about Georgia’s 10-10 tie in Sunday’s series finale at LSU. Though the tie snaps Georgia’s SEC winning streak at 10 games, the Diamond Dawgs can still claim an 11-game SEC unbeaten streak. The team sits at 14-3-1 in the league which puts them with a comfortable 3.5 game lead over South Carolina, the closest team in either division. There are still series remaining with Florida, Vanderbilt, and Ole Miss – three of the better teams in the conference – so Georgia has the opportunity to shut the door on several of the other contenders.

LSU isn’t having the best season, but it’s still a significant accomplishment to take an SEC road series. Ties suck, but they beat the alternative of losing.

Ties aren’t all bad. It all depends on context. The last draw by a Georgia football team came at Auburn in 1994. In Eric Zeier’s last attempt at a legacy, the Bulldogs scored two second-half touchdowns to erase a 23-9 Auburn lead. As we watched and exhaled as Auburn’s last-second field goal attempt sailed wide, the tie didn’t feel so bad. The Dawgs had ended Auburn’s 20-game winning streak, and they had done it by getting off the mat in the home stadium of a rival. Not bad, though a win instead of a tie in that game surely would have meant a bowl bid in my senior season of 1994. I’m not bitter though, not at all.

Back to baseball. A lot can be said for a tie in Sunday’s game. Saturday’s game was wild enough with Georgia blowing an 8-1 lead before winning it in the 9th. Most teams would have been happy to get out of town with the series in hand. Down 10-3 on Sunday, you couldn’t blame the Dawgs for looking east towards the trip home. It says a lot about this team that they were able 1) to regroup after giving up the lead on Saturday and 2) to come up with seven runs late in the game on Sunday. With a tough schedule remaining, that half-game in the standings could be a very important trump card to hold at the end of the year.

Post Rare air for Georgia football

Monday April 21, 2008

The Senator says that the preseason talk around the Bulldogs has an "uncharted territory" feel to it, and I have to agree. It’s a challenge for the team, and excitement and optimism can seem like kryptonite to a fan base full of Munson disciples.

But a high preseason ranking wouldn’t be a first for a Mark Richt team. The Bulldogs were a consensus #3 in 2004, and they even started #1 according to the Sporting News. The outcome of 2004 notwithstanding, a lot was expected of the final year for Greene and Pollack. The Senator’s right, though: there’s just a different feeling about the hype surrounding this year’s team. Why the difference? I see two reasons, and both have to do with the aftermath of the 2003 season.

  1. Momentum
  2. The post-2003 college football landscape

Momentum. Though Georgia played in the 2003 SEC Championship, they didn’t finish the season well. They "won" the SEC East after an obscure tiebreaker broke a three-way tie with Tennessee and Florida. Then they got steamrolled by LSU in the Dome. Finally, the Dawgs escaped the Capital One Bowl in overtime against an ordinary Purdue team after blowing a lead in extraordinary fashion. It was 10-win season, and I’ll always consider that defense one of the best of the modern Georgia era, but that was a pretty shaky way to end the season. Though Greene and Pollack returned, there wasn’t much momentum from 2003 into 2004.

Contrast that picture with the current state of the program. Georgia has an active seven-game winning streak. They closed the season with double-digit wins over rivals Florida, Auburn, and Georgia Tech. Finally, they finished the season with a BCS embarrassment of Hawaii which earned Georgia the #2 ranking. The momentum began building right away as nearly all of the first looks at the 2008 season had Georgia at or near the top. The momentum has sustained itself through Signing Day and spring practice, and it shows no signs of letting up.

What does 2003 have to do with now? Given the drama towards the end of the 2007 season, the consensus in support of LSU’s championship is strong. Other contenders either didn’t win their conferences (Missouri, Georgia) or lost their bowls (Virginia Tech, Oklahoma, Ohio State). It was a different story of course in 2003 when LSU and Oklahoma played for the BCS championship while Southern Cal claimed the AP title after their bowl win.

The fallout from 2003 immediately established Southern Cal and Oklahoma as the teams to beat heading into 2004. LSU, as defending champion, was somewhat in the picture but was ranked no higher than third by any preseason poll. The Trojans and Sooners were so clearly established as #1 and #2 entering 2004 that even Georgia as #3 generated very little title noise.

(As an aside, I believe the above also explains why discussion of Auburn’s 2004 schedule as a factor keeping them from a shot at the national title is a red herring. No one was passing Southern Cal and/or Oklahoma unless one of those two lost a game. Auburn could have played the Colts, Patriots, and Steelers out of conference and still had no shot for anything better than #3.)

There is no such clarity heading into 2008. Instead the preseason talk has been to identify a pool of about eight contenders. Ohio State will be good again, but two title game losses have pundits nervous about naming them a favorite. Southern Cal will be in the mix as always. Georgia, Texas, Florida, LSU, Oklahoma, and Missouri have just as much place at the table. With a top ranking as much up for grabs this year as ever, why not Georgia?

Without a clear favorite entering the season, it will be interesting to see if that lends itself to greater poll volatility early in the season. Will the polls pick a #1 and stick with them, or will the first few weeks be an audition?

The Florida Factor. I can’t let this post go without mentioning this point. Last summer when everyone was talking about who was and wasn’t a national power, I put down three simple criteria that seemed to hold up. One was that you can’t be under another team’s thumb. Georgia had lost six straight to Florida entering the 2004 season. With that kind of track record in Jacksonville, it was pretty easy to dismiss Georgia as a title contender even at #3. Though it will take a few more wins (consecutive wins would be a big first step) to declare the Gator domination over, the Dawgs are certainly in a much better position vis-à-vis the Gators entering 2008 than they were entering 2004.

Post G-Day Rebroadcasts

Friday April 18, 2008

I have no idea what the ‘enhanced version’ is (Director’s Cut? cutting room footage from the ‘real’ G-Day?), but if you blinked and missed G-Day, it will be on at these times (and probably 233 more times over the summer):

Comcast/Charter Sports Southeast (CSS) will re-air an enhanced version of its complete-game broadcast of Georgia’s spring football game held April 5th.

Led by quarterback Matthew Stafford, the Red team defeated the Black team, 17-3, as the Bulldogs concluded the 2008 spring practice season. They will open the 2008 regular season against in-state opponent Georgia Southern on August 30th.

CSS’s re-air schedule for the 2008 Georgia G-Day game is as follows:
Monday – 4/21 – 7:00 PM
Thursday – 4/24 – 9:30 PM
Tuesday – 4/29 – 7:30 PM