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Post West bound and down

Thursday September 18, 2008

I’m among those heading out to Tempe today, so it’ll pretty much be radio silence over the weekend. A few things I’ll be thinking about on the plane…

Next in line. The shuffling of the offensive line about which we speculated earlier in the week is underway. It looks like a starting unit of (L-R) Vance-C Davis-Jones-Boling-Anderson will take the field. There are concerns with three of the new starters – Vance’s speed and agility, Jones’ experience, and Anderson’s grasp of the assignments – that have been present since the staff began evaluating the line in the sprint.

I stress again that some of the line positions were close battles to begin with. Jones had been pushing Davis at center since the spring. Cordy Glenn’s rise to the starting lineup was one of the surprises of August’s preseason camp. Ability has never been the question with Justin Anderson; it’s only been a question of understanding the scheme. I don’t necessarily see this shakeup as a desperation move. The line did perform poorly last week, and that might have tipped some of these positional battles that were close to begin with. Tripp and Glenn aren’t going anywhere, and we should see each in the game on Saturday.

Where’s the hype? Maybe it’s a lack of perspective after the blitz for the SoCal-Ohio St. game, but is it just me or have things been pretty quiet this week? Oh, you’ve had a few nods to Georgia’s first trip out west in decades, and the Arizona press has done their part to spotlight the crazy SEC fans coming to town. You just don’t get the sense that there’s much buzz on the national scene for this game, and that’s not good news for a Georgia program hoping to grow its brand and national reputation through games like this.

In fact, if I go to ESPN’s college football page, I’m reminded that the national focus this weekend is back in the South and the SEC. Gameday will be at LSU-Auburn. Florida @ Tennessee is also getting plenty of play because, well, I guess we missed talking about Florida during their bye week. On a scale of 1-10 with 1 being South Carolina-Wofford and 10 being Beanie Wells’ ankle, this game is only a 6 or 7 on the hype meter right now.

Something to prove? Though Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno put up some good numbers and highlights in Georgia’s first couple of games, their first performance last weekend in front of a national audience was pretty lackluster. The Georgia offense produced just one touchdown, Moreno was held well under 100 yards, Stafford was bailed out of his first INT of the season, and, worse, the Georgia coaches more or less surrendered to the fact that the line was getting beat and didn’t even let Moreno try to put the game away on their final two drives of the game.

It’s not that Stafford or Moreno have played poorly. Stafford is as good as he’s been at Georgia, and Moreno has 7 touchdowns already. But as Chase Daniels begins to pull away from the pack in the Heisman race, Georgia’s stars on offense could really use a big game in a high-profile setting. Of course they can only perform as well as the line and the hands of the receivers allow.

Getting pressure. The pass rush has been a hot topic this week, and it doesn’t help that the Dawgs are now down two starters. The loss of Jeff Owens got tons of attention in the first week, but defensive end Rod Battle missed the South Carolina game and is also out for Arizona State with a neck injury. The depth on the line is thin enough, and now half of the starting unit is unavailable. We made a lot out of Arizona State’s sack total last year, but they’ve been much better so far this year giving up just five sacks through three games. Whether that’s a factor of the competition, better-than-expected play from the patchwork line, or the result of scheming around the weakness, the job of getting to and disrupting Carpenter doesn’t seem as easy as it might have in July.

For everyone headed out to the game, be safe, and we’ll see you here on Saturday.

Sun Devil Stadium

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  • Future contracts for intersectional matchups should include a “agreement not to lose to UNLV the week before this game” clause.