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Post One more thing to overanalyze

Thursday November 27, 2008

The weather forecast has turned around overnight, and now it’s looking as if a slick track is likely on Saturday.

The debate about whether rain helps the offense or defense will no doubt come up over the next day or two. On one hand, the offense knows where it’s going and the defense has to adjust to make the play. On the other hand, we’re going up against an option offense that has put the ball on the ground this year.

One thing to consider – we assume that with the option the football will be flying all over the field when the pitch is made. But Dwyer and the quarterbacks have accounted for over 73% of Tech’s running plays this year. In other words, a Tech running play is much more likely to be a straight handoff or a quarterback keeper.


Post Tributes a-plenty

Wednesday November 26, 2008

The last game of the season usually gives us an opportunity as fans to recognize and reflect on another outstanding senior class, but two other big tributes will also be featured during the day.

The Vince Dooley Athletic Complex will be dedicated in a ceremony on Saturday morning at 9:30 at the Butts-Mehre building. The ceremony will be followed by a ribbon cutting and unveiling of a plaza and statue along Lumpkin Street to honor Dooley’s contributions to the University.

Of course the last home game means Senior Day and a chance to recognize this year’s seniors for their accomplishments and dedication to the program. The ceremony should begin at roughly 11:45.

When the first quarter wraps up, keep your seats. Larry Munson announced his retirement earlier this season, but there was never a formal ceremony to honor Georgia’s legendary play-by-play man. There will be a short ceremony between the first and second quarters featuring a video tribute and Larry’s first visit to the Sanford Stadium field during a game. The ceremony will be brief at Larry’s request, but it will surely be emotional and raucous.


Post The best defense…

Tuesday November 25, 2008

Much, if not all, of the talk leading up to this weekend’s game will center around Georgia’s challenge in stopping Georgia Tech’s option offense. There’s plenty of reason for that: it’s a look we’re not used to, it’s effective, and it did a lot of damage in the game most of us used to scout the upcoming opponent. Defending the option will require exceptional preparation and execution. But don’t take for granted the size of the job on the other side of the ball. Keep this fact in mind:

Tech hasn’t scored more than 17 points on Georgia since 2000.

That might or might not change this year. Tech’s offense is different and improved this year, and past performance does not guarantee future results, etc., etc., etc. We’ve seen what the Tech offense can do against teams like Miami and Mississippi State, but they’ve also scored 21 or fewer points in over half of their games to this point thanks largely to turnovers.

Yet from 2004-2006, the games were way too close for comfort. In 2004, David Greene had to come off the bench and play injured just to get a field goal. Georgia scored 30+ in four of its last five games in 2005 but could only manage 14 against Tech. In 2006, Georgia couldn’t even break double-digits without help from the defense. In games where the Georgia offense has performed well, the result has been wins by double-digits.

Georgia in 2008, statistically speaking, has one of their best offenses in recent history. The quarterback, running back, and receivers are among the SEC leaders, and it’s all being done behind a young and depleted line. But those of us who have seen the offense in operation should know that statistics over the course of a season have a way of smoothing over what’s actually happened. Yes, this is the same Georgia offense that had its way with Arizona State, LSU, and Kentucky. It’s also the same offense that struggled for 14 points at South Carolina, skipped the first half against Alabama, shot itself in the foot against Florida, and couldn’t put Auburn away. If the Georgia offense had been performing consistently at a high level on the way to those nice averages, I wouldn’t be as concerned. But they haven’t.

Georgia Tech is currently #12 in scoring defense at 16.7 PPG – that’s the best unit on either team in this game in terms of scoring offense or defense. #12 puts them more or less between Auburn and Tennessee in that stat. They are strongest up front with Darryl Richard and Michael Johnson leading the way, but they have also been opportunistic with 17 interceptions (10th best in the nation).

The performance of Georgia’s offense will have a bigger impact on the game than just putting points on the board. With everyone fretting about stopping the option, what better way to affect an offense’s gameplan than to put it in a come-from-behind situation? Even in its losses Tech has done a good job this year of keeping the games close and within reach, and they’ve been able to stick to the offense. It wasn’t until North Carolina built a lead on them that Tech QB Josh Nesbitt attempted a season-high 22 passes.

It’s the last home game for Massaquoi, and it could be the swan song at Sanford for Stafford and Moreno as well. That trio, along with the rest of the offense, just might be Georgia’s best weapon to slow down Tech’s option attack. I go back to what I wrote back over the summer: if Tech is going to end the streak any time soon, (defensive coordinator) Dave Wommack will have as much or more to do with it than Paul Johnson. If Georgia’s stars on offense go out with a signature performance, it won’t matter what kind of offense Tech is running.


Post One SEC media member got it (almost) right

Monday November 24, 2008

Back in July when the SEC media made its preseason predictions, a single vote stood out among the dozens cast. David Paschall pretty much captured my reaction when he wrote that, "The Ole Miss Rebels somehow received a first-place vote after going 0-8 in the league last year." That’s right: Alabama, zero votes. Ole Miss, one vote. The SEC media split its SEC West first-place votes among Auburn, LSU, and….Ole Miss.

The Rebels are in no danger of winning the SEC West, but in hindsight that lone voter – through luck or skill – had a lot more insight than the rest who put LSU or Auburn at the top. With Saturday’s win at LSU, Ole Miss moved into second place in the SEC West behind undefeated Alabama. The Rebels are 4-3 in the conference and 7-4 overall. This week’s Egg Bowl played at home against Mississippi State stands between the Rebels and a very solid 5-3 SEC record made all the more remarkable when you consider that Ole Miss won a total of 3 SEC games during the three years with Ed Orgeron at the helm.

With that record, it would be tough to keep Ole Miss out of a pretty nice bowl game. Only Alabama, Florida, and Georgia would have better SEC records. If Houston Nutt, with a new program and a new quarterback, could turn Ole Miss from a team that went winless in the SEC a year ago to a team headed for a New Year’s bowl, I don’t see how anyone else could be considered the SEC’s Coach of the Year.

Of course it all comes down to this weekend. Not only would a loss to Mississippi State drop the Rebels into a 4-4 mess, a loss in their biggest rivalry game would also take a lot of the shine off of a nice season. The memory of last year’s epic collapse in Starkville still has to hurt, and a win this year to top off a winning season would go a long way towards erasing the bad memories left from the end of the Orgeron era.


Post Bye week thoughts from the couch

Monday November 24, 2008

Where is Penn State among the discussion of 1-loss teams? Their dismantling of Oregon State looks better every week, and their only loss was a 1-point road upset against an 8-4 Iowa team. Not saying they necessarily stand out over Texas, Florida, or any of the others, but it’s amazing how quickly they were written out of the conversation after the Iowa game.

Jarrett Lee’s taking a lot of heat for LSU’s woes this season, and he has made his share of mistakes, but issues at quarterback were more or less a given entering the season. Most expected LSU to follow a tried-and-true SEC formula: play well enough on defense to get by with average offense. The story of LSU’s season hasn’t been Lee’s struggles at quarterback; it’s been the slippage on defense. LSU has given up 31+ in five of their last seven games. Houston Nutt has won at Death Valley in consecutive seasons with two different teams and seems to have his quarterback for the next several seasons. The Alabama-Auburn-LSU power structure in the SEC West has been shaken up this season, and if the Rebels can win the Egg Bowl this year, an 8-4 Ole Miss team might be headed to the Cotton Bowl.

How might a guy named Sammie Stroughter impact Georgia’s postseason? Pac-10 leader Oregon State had to come from behind to win at Arizona, and Stroughter was Mr. Clutch for the Beavers down the stretch. He tallied 3 catches for 88 yards on OSU’s final two drives, caught the touchdown pass that pulled the Beavers to within 1, and then set up the game-winning field goal with a 49-yard reception with under 40 seconds remaining. With the win, Oregon State remains in position to win the Pac-10 if they can beat Oregon this weekend. If OSU does win out and earn a Rose Bowl trip, it will likely keep Ohio State out of the BCS and put them in a position for a possible game against Georgia in the Capital One Bowl. If OSU loses to their rival, Southern Cal heads to the Rose Bowl, Ohio State gets an at-large BCS bid, and it would be Michigan State heading to Orlando.

Is it possible for a team like Vanderbilt to have a letdown game? Twice this year after milestone wins (the Auburn victory in front of a national Gameday audience and the Kentucky victory which made them bowl-eligible), the Commodores have come up with an ugly loss. Mississippi State and Tennessee have a combined 4 SEC wins, and Vanderbilt accounts for half of them. It’s great and all that Vandy is headed to a bowl game, but they are still very much Vanderbilt.

David Cutcliffe’s Duke team was the talk of the college football scene after a 31-3 win over Virginia gave the Blue Devils a 3-1 start. Entering the final week of the season, Duke is now 1-6 in the ACC and will be favored to lose to rival North Carolina this weekend. Duke has won just one game since that blowout of Virginia back in September…naturally, that win came against Vanderbilt. Four wins would still be as many victories as Duke had from 2004-2007, but that quick start might have inflated expectations for this season. Cutcliffe is still a heck of a coach and will continue a tough turnaround job.

When sorting out the Big 12 South mess, how important is the strength of schedule factor? Texas’s win over Oklahoma on a neutral field surely counts for a lot, but we can’t forget that Texas (and Muschamp’s defense) had the game in Lubbock for the taking and didn’t get it done. Looking outside their respective Big 12 schedules, Oklahoma should get credit for a slate that includes wins over respectable TCU and Cincinnati teams. Meanwhile, Texas’s best nonconference opponent was SEC bottom-dweller Arkansas, and Texas Tech hasn’t played a BCS conference team outside of the Big 12.


Post Get ready

Friday November 21, 2008

You know what’s coming over the next eight days. The Tech people you know will be insufferable. The Atlanta media will bait and bait – the Schultz and Bradley columns almost write themselves, don’t they? Even Wes Durham couldn’t wait to start running his mouth. Just smile…it’ll be a small price to pay when we’re enjoying #8.


Post David Hale live chat @ 2 p.m.

Thursday November 20, 2008

If you have the time, head over to join the fun at 2:00. David’s been doing a great job of coverage this fall, and if you’re not reading his site…oh, who am I kidding? Of course you are.


Post Opponent watch

Thursday November 20, 2008

Georgia Southern (6-5):

Central Michigan (8-3): CMU’s hopes for another MAC title came down to a single game on Wednesday, and they came up short. They led undefeated Ball State in the 4th quarter, but a pair of late touchdowns flipped the game, and a final drive ended on an interception. It was a thoroughly entertaining game, and it did well to illustrate that the best MAC teams have no business anywhere near the BCS. With the conference title out of the picture, the Chippewas can aim for 9-3 and hope for a bowl bid. THIS WEEK: Lost to Ball state (Wed.)

South Carolina (7-4): Even the strong South Carolina defense didn’t come to play in Gainesville. The ugly loss does take a bit off of what had been a nice turnaround, and they’ll have to win the in-state rivalry to avoid settling for just a winning season. THIS WEEK: BYE

Arizona State (4-6): It wasn’t quite the 60-point beating other teams put on Washington State, but the Sun Devils had few problems routing the Pac-10′s worst team. Even though their current two-game winning streak came against horrible teams, it’s still good to get back in the saddle. Now they have consecutive wins and a bye week to get their heads straight for season-ending games against UCLA and rival Arizona. They’ll need to win both to have a shot at the postseason. THIS WEEK: BYE

Alabama (11-0): After consecutive losses to Mississippi State, it had to spook some Alabama fans to be down again in the second quarter last week. Defense and special teams took care of that, but you expect a bit more from an offense that seems to have all of the pieces. No chance they overlook the Iron Bowl. THIS WEEK: BYE

Tennessee (3-7): There’s not much left to play for. The fans have moved on to the ongoing coaching search. All that’s left is avoiding the program’s worst season in history. Tennesse scraped by Vanderbilt and Kentucky last season, but the close games have been going against them this year. THIS WEEK: @ Vanderbilt

Vanderbilt (6-4): Congratulations to the bowl-eligible Commodores. They brushed off the Florida loss and won a road SEC game to get over the six-win hump. In fact, half their wins this year have come on the road, and the ability to win away from home is often the hallmark of a quality team. Even more impressive, the win at Kentucky assured Vandy of finishing in the top half of the SEC East. Vandy is certainly legitimate and interesting to watch, if only to see D.J. Moore. With the sixth win out of the way, the story becomes how far the team can go. Will Vandy fans for once outnumber Tennessee fans in Nashville? THIS WEEK: Tennessee

LSU (7-3): In 1994, the Kentucky basketball team pulled off "the greatest comeback in college basketball history" when they rallied from 31 points down in the second half to beat LSU. LSU was on the other side of an incredible comeback last week when they stormed back from a 31-3 second half deficit to beat Troy. Over / under on the number of LSU fans who will claim they stayed and supported the team through the end of the Troy game is 125,000 – roughly the same number who claim to have sat in the rain to watch the thrilling finish of Georgia’s 1996 win over Texas Tech. The question now is whether LSU was simply caught sleepwalking or if they are in trouble against teams like Ole Miss and Arkansas. THIS WEEK: Ole Miss

Florida (9-1): Georgia fans can find small comfort in the fact that the Dawgs at least hung with Florida until halftime. The Gators have just had to take the field to get Vandy and South Carolina to lay down. It’s going to be very, very ugly this week for the Citadel. Will Tebow play at all in the second half? THIS WEEK: Citadel

Kentucky (6-5): It’s been a rough couple of weeks for the Wildcats. They found new life in quarterback Randall Cobb, but they’ve come up just short when given a chance to win games against Georgia and Vanderbilt. They have that critical sixth win already, but a loss against Tennessee in the season finale would leave them at 6-6 and a pretty unattractive bowl team. THIS WEEK: BYE

Auburn (5-6): The big question: where the heck was Mario Fannin at the end of the game? He didn’t just score Auburn’s two touchdowns earlier in the game; he also scored in Athens last year. Instead Tommy Tuberville chose to "split carries" and had the ineffective Ben Tate in the game. Tate was the target on the game’s final pass, but he couldn’t come up with it. There’s more going on with the Auburn offense than just the coordinator. THIS WEEK: BYE

Georgia Tech (7-3): The divisional and conference titles are still in play, but it’s amazing that a team can be one game away from either an outside shot at the title or finishing .500 in the conference. That’s where Tech is, and it will be decided tonight when they host Miami. Tech has had the Canes’ number lately, but this year’s Miami squad is rounding into form towards the end of the season. Expect to see some good defense on display. THIS WEEK: Miami (Thurs.)


Post Coach apparent

Wednesday November 19, 2008

I suppose I should add my congratulations to Bulldog alum Will Muschamp on the occasion of his impressive promotion and raise. Some will be disappointed that he won’t be coming back to Athens in some sort of coaching capacity, but we’ve been just fine when he’s on the other sideline lately. I understand that they are making the move with Muschamp’s career trend line in mind, but is he who they would hire if there were a vacancy today? I doubt it.

I do find it interesting that among the universal “no-brainer” reaction to this announcement that there hasn’t been much discussion raised over one issue.

It was only a week or two ago a report from the University of Central Florida’s Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport was all over the sports news. The biggest item getting play from that report was the number FOUR – the number of black Division I head football coaches.

Of course the coach-in-waiting thing isn’t necessarily a barrier to improvement in this area – Joker Phillips at Kentucky is Prince Charles to Rich Brooks’ Queen Elizabeth. But as long as the number of black head coaches remains an issue, will the practice of naming a successor beforehand come to have the appearance of a way to get around a more thorough interview process without appropriate attention given to minority candidates? Will groups like the BCA begin to speak up about the practice?

Anyway, it’s not even a given that Muschamp will end up with the head coaching job. Sure, he has a nice raise and the promise of the top job when it becomes available, but I don’t see this move as much more than a way for Texas to lock up a promising coordinator. Muschamp could still leave whenever he likes, but now it’s likely not to be for another coordinator position, and it would have to be one heck of a head coaching opportunity to renounce the throne in Austin. For now, it means that Tennessee and Clemson can go pound sand. Down the road, we’ll see.

I made the call back at the beginning of the year that one of these things is going to happen sooner or later to one of these coach-in-waiting deals.

  • The program fires the current staff before the old coach has a chance to step down, leaving the successor without a job he assumed was his.
  • The fan base grows weary of the outgoing coach and everything about the old program. The successor is seen as a slipcover on worn-out furniture.
  • The successor loses luster as an assistant before the transition can take place, leaving a program stuck with a guy they didn’t even want as an assistant.

None of them seem very likely right now when applied to Texas, but Mack Brown is still a relatively young guy to be making this move. We’ll see how the fans feel about Brown and Muschamp in five to ten years.


Post Today’s least surprising headline

Wednesday November 19, 2008

USA Today: College athletes studies guided toward ‘major in eligibility’

You mean that in the name of the APR and graduation rates student-athletes are being steered towards easier majors? Who would have ever seen that coming? Read the article for an insight into the wonderful world of unintended consequences and human nature.

The bottom line of course is that the NCAA is more or less powerless to do anything but wag their finger at the practice. So long as the student-athlete is making academic progress in a legitimate course of study at a member school, there is no differentiation between a social sciences major at Kansas State and a biochemistry major at Columbia.

“There are limits to what the national office can, and should, do,” (NCAA President Myles Brand) says. “Anything to do with the academic programs really falls entirely within the purview of the individual institutions.”


Post Hope springs eternal

Wednesday November 19, 2008

Even after this disappointing season, you’d think that 6 straight wins over Alabama would give Auburn fans just a little bit of faith heading into the Iron Bowl. Not so much for the Huntsville Madison County Auburn Club.

Beat Bama Party Canceled


Post Grinding it out

Tuesday November 18, 2008

"It’s been a tough grind."

Mark Richt had a succinct and accurate reply when asked to sum up the 2008 season on Sunday. But for the different colors, it could have been tough to tell Auburn and Georgia fans apart leaving Jordan Hare Stadium. Both fan bases had become resigned to the type of game they had just watched. Auburn’s offense squandered three scoring opportunities on Georgia’s side of the field. Georgia mixed moments of individual excellence with spectacular breakdowns, blunders, and penalties. Par for the course all around.

Whether it was the cumulative toll of four games away from home or sensing the malaise of the fans, Georgia’s players and coaches left the game drained, searching for explanations, short of emotion, and – after all of that – winners. The Dawgs are 9-2, just as they were at this point last season, but instead of popping the champagne after another win over Auburn, we all could just use a good nap.

It’s time again for the words of Norman Dale…this is your team. On one hand, it’s an injury-riddled mess of unfocused aggression. On the other hand, there is enough talent and playmakers to beat – if not get by – all but a handful of teams out there. None of that is likely to change in the next two weeks. Is there time to tighten things up and focus on specifics for Tech? Of course. What I mean is that it seems silly to expect traits and tendencies that have been there for the better part of 11 games to suddenly turn around. I’m about as accustomed now to the personal foul or the botched kickoff as I am a Rennie Curran tackle or an A.J. Green highlight-quality catch.

I really want to keep the meta program-type stuff until after the season. Believe me, there is one very big game remaining. But there’s a lot of good thinking out there lately under the general "what’s wrong" topic, and it’s worth talking about.

I’ll just say this: the record has the potential to be very nice (one of the top 10 seasons in program history in terms of wins). The injuries have been significant and have affected the team on and off the field. I hope neither the record nor the injuries keeps us from looking critically at the things that could make the program the national title contender it was supposed to be. If this were a 6-6 season, it would be a lot easier to call for wholesale changes. At 11-2, it can be easy to say that things are good enough and have faith that the little things will take care of themselves over the long offseason.

We’re quick to note that Florida and Alabama had 10 losses between them a year ago, so surely there’s hope for Georgia to have the same kind of improvement next year. But both programs didn’t make this season happen by sitting still. Whether through attrition or their own action, new coaches were brought on board. Florida, faced with a woeful pass defense, brought in a new cornerbacks coach. Who gets the credit for a defense that is much closer to the top of the SEC in passing defense and leads the league in interceptions? Whether it’s coaching or the players, steps were taken to address one of the biggest obstacles to success for that program.

At the same time, Tennessee and Auburn also made changes, but they were bigger changes that actually went to the very identity of those programs. The results, as you might have noticed, weren’t as good, and more change is on the way at those programs.

Travis asks us to quantify our satisfaction with the season, but I have to punt right now. Ask me again in a month, or, better, after the bowl. We get the luxury of looking at the big picture when we like. For Richt and the team, they have two weeks in which to prepare for a game that could redefine what we consider “disappointment”. Whatever the flaws and strengths of this team, Richt has 100 guys to fire up for a motivated opponent. I’d rather he not spend so much time doing postmortems on a season that is still ongoing, but I guess it’s unavoidable.

(PS…any Georgia fan who uses the phrase "accepting mediocrity" when discussing this season will be rounded up and used to fill in the lower level at the 2008 ACC Championship game.)


Post That didn’t take long

Tuesday November 18, 2008

After an opening win over SC-Upstate on Friday, the men’s basketball team laid its first egg of the season on Monday night. The Dawgs lost 74-53 to Loyola-Chicago in the opening round of the preseason NIT. The game was tied at 29 at halftime, but Georgia was outscored 45-24 in the second period. For reference, Loyola lost to Division II Rockhurst in their season opener.

The SEC Tournament aside, this is the kind of rubbish performance that had people more than ready to make a change last March. If there is a saving grace, it’s that Howard Thompkins didn’t play as he continues to work back from injury. It should be a different and better team in there, but even he is not going to help much on nights where the Dawgs shoot 1-for-12 from outside and get a combined 13 points from the 9 players who weren’t Terrance Woodbury or Travis Leslie.


Post Well, you could just cancel the game

Monday November 17, 2008

NBC is challenging Notre Dame and Syracuse fans to participate in a bit of environmental competition centered around NBC’s “Green Week“.

NBC challenged both Notre Dame and Syracuse to get as many people as possible to join their Carbon Rally teams.

“You basically sign up and you can elect to take personal challenges,” Long said.

Challenges may include making sure tires are properly inflated and driving more “delicately,” without pushing the gas pedal more than necessary, Long said. The school that gets the greatest number of people to join its team wins $10,000, Long said.

If they want to go beyond silly symbolism and the fuzzy math that will be necessary to declare this game “carbon neutral”, I can’t think of a better way to show a commitment to the planet’s well-being than just agreeing to skip a completely meaningless game between an irrelevant Notre Dame team and a Syracuse team that’s beyond awful. Forget inflating tires – keep the Syracuse plane on the ground, tell the subway alums to stay home and plant a tree, and skip the mountains of gameday garbage. Trust us, the game won’t be missed.

Even if they can’t get the game called off, NBC can do the right thing in the name of their own cause and pull the plug on the broadcast. Even the TV crew has a carbon impact on the game – everything from travel to power needs – and every little bit counts. Do the right thing, NBC…for the good of the planet and college football.


Post Noon kickoff confirmed for Tech

Monday November 17, 2008

Tim Tucker writes on AJC.com that CBS has confirmed the noon kickoff for the November 29th Georgia Tech game.