Since 1995 - Insightful commentary on the Georgia Bulldogs

Post Ranking the games of Georgia’s SEC Network takeover

Monday July 25, 2016

Georgia takes over the SEC network programming at midnight tonight. There will be several magazine-type shows inside the football program, the must-see Herschel Walker SEC Storied special, and ten memorable games featuring six of Georgia’s sports. Clear some space on your DVR.

I’ve ranked the ten games they’ll show taking into account the magnitude of the win for the program, the quality of the game/meet/match, and the novelty of the rebroadcast. Surprisingly spots 1-4 are not all football!

1. 10:30 p.m. — 1983 NCAA East Regional Final (Men’s Basketball – Mar. 27, 1983): The Dawgs upset defending champs UNC to earn a trip to the Final Four. This is as good as it gets for Georgia basketball. Even the football-only crowd should watch this at least once.

2. 1:30 a.m. – 1980 National Championship Game (Football – Jan. 1, 1981): You’ve seen this already, right? If not, it’s a no-brainer – the crowning jewel of the Herschel Walker era and Georgia’s last national football title.

3. 8:00 a.m. — 2016 NCAA Women’s Swimming and Diving Championships (March 25, 2016): Georgia’s gymnastics and women’s swimming and diving programs have emerged as the standard-bearers for Bulldog athletics. In this meet you’ll see not only great collegiate swimmers but also world-class Olympians bringing home to Athens another national title.

4. 12:00 p.m. — 2016 NCAA Super Regional Final (Softball – May 27, 2016): It doesn’t get much more thrilling than a walk-off home run to advance to the World Series. Kaylee Puailoa’s improbable shot stunned the heavily-favored #1 Gators in arguably the biggest win in program history. If you missed this live, catch it now.

5. 2:00 p.m. — 2000 Outback Bowl (Jan. 1, 2000): I don’t know that there’s been a bigger swing in a game – perhaps the 2006 Virginia Tech bowl game is up there too. Many fans have a love-hate relationship with that era of Georgia football, but the spirit of this comeback win set the stage for some high expectations entering the 2000 season.

6. 6:30 a.m. — 2001 Women’s Basketball SEC Tournament Final (March 4, 2001): The last hurrah of the Miller-Nolan era. Kelly Miller hit an off-balance shot at the buzzer for the win to finish off a dramatic second half. It turned out to be the last SEC championship for Andy Landers.

7. 8:30 p.m. — 1997 Georgia vs. Florida (Football – Nov. 1, 1997): A cherished win between long droughts in Jacksonville. Bonus: two interceptions by Kirby Smart!

8. 1:30 a.m. — Georgia vs. Florida (Football – Nov. 8, 1980): Memorable for one play, but watch the whole thing to understand what got us to Belue-to-Scott. I put this low on the list because you’ve likely seen the game’s defining moment a million times. But one more time can’t hurt…

9. 3:30 a.m. — 2008 NCAA Super Regional Final (Baseball – June 8, 2008): The 2008 baseball team was probably the best of the three Georgia squads that made the trip to Omaha in the 2000s. There wasn’t much drama in this decisive third game of the Super Regional, but this 17-8 thrashing of N.C. State was a treat.

10. 10:00 a.m. – 2012 Men’s Basketball vs. Florida (Feb. 25, 2012): KCP and Gerald Robinson had big games, and Georgia led the entire way in the upset win. It kept alive Georgia’s slim postseason hopes for the time, but the Dawgs finished the season 15-17.

Post How will Smart customize game day?

Tuesday July 12, 2016

Marc Weiszer reports about some changes Kirby Smart will make to the weekly schedule during the season. Both the weekly news conference (Monday) and the Bulldog Hotline (Thursday) will be shifted around.

Those changes aside, I’ve been wondering how the game day experience will change under Smart. Each coach wants things his way, and sometimes the changes can be jarring: fans of a certain age can remember the smoky entrance and music (Macarena, anyone?) that ushered in the Jim Donnan era. The pregame we all know by heart now evolved during Richt’s 15 years – everything from the Dawg Walk itself to the pregame walk and huddle about 40 minutes before the game came about with Richt. Smart will and should have the opportunity to establish his own routine.

Some elements and ads are produced by the athletic department and sponsors, so I don’t expect that find-Hairy-behind-the-french-fries is going anywhere. But I do think that warmups and pregame activities might be tweaked. Nothing major – just enough to feel a bit off from the routine we became conditioned to over the past 15 years. Is it the end of Baba O’Riley? Of Nickelback? Will Smart prefer different in-game video? Does he care?

I was glad to see Smart embrace the Dawg Walk tradition as part of G-Day, and there’s no reason for a recruiting-savvy coach to scrap one of the program’s best recruiting experiences. The Dawg Walk will be modified by necessity in a season or two – the team will move to a new locker room under the west stands instead of crossing the field to the east endzone. The team will dress in that new facility rather than pre-Dawg Walk. Many teams arrive at their stadium in warmups or coat-and-tie, and that could be a big change for fans used to seeing the team come through the Dawg Walk in uniform.

Will the new locker room also mean the team will take the field from the opposite open side of the stadium? We’ll find out in a year or two when the new locker room is complete.

Post The Sony Michel ripple effect

Tuesday July 12, 2016

Sony Michel is expected to be out 6-8 weeks after breaking his arm last weekend. That timetable has him back just before the season opener, but it’s worth remembering that it’s 6-8 weeks until he’ll be cleared for participation, and his return to playing form could take a while longer. We trust that the medical staff will be working with Michel to minimize weakness and atrophy and expect that Michel will play with a cast or brace for a few weeks. It wouldn’t be the first time.

All that’s to say that even if Michel is cleared and plays in the opener, he’ll probably be in a similar situation to Chubb: medically cleared but closely supervised, protected, and even limited. That has obvious direct bearing on the tailback situation – Brendan Douglas and a handful of freshmen (redshirt and true) might play a larger role in the early part of the season. Douglas himself had offseason wrist surgery, but he was able to participate in spring practice.

But beyond the tailback position the availability of Michel and Chubb will impact other roster decisions and even the identity of Georgia’s offense. A diminished (or at least unproven) rushing threat will place additional pressure on a passing game with questions of its own. Determining the receiver depth chart behind Godwin will be a priority of preseason camp. Tight ends look to be a potential strength, but they’ll have to be far more productive than a year ago.

Will the tailback situation and Michel’s status affect the quarterback competition? With a potential lack of experience at both tailback and receiver, you might lean towards a quarterback with starting experience. Lambert won ten games as a starter and dramatically improved his TD/INT rate. The offense wasn’t nearly as productive, but it also didn’t make the crippling mistakes that cost games. That unaesthetic formula got the team to ten wins despite Chubb’s injury and coaching turmoil.

Keep in mind that we’re not talking about a long-term solution, and we recognize that the team could undergo quite a transformation from the beginning of the season to its end. At this point I’m more interested in getting to the Ole Miss-Tennessee stretch when Georgia should be healthier and more potent at tailback and more settled at quarterback.

What gives me pause about Lambert as the “safe” option is, of all things, the 2013 Vanderbilt game. It’s not necessarily because of the loss (special teams had plenty to do with that); it’s the way Vanderbilt defended Georgia. Without Gurley and Marshall and with several receivers sidelined, Georgia simultaneously lacked a strong running game and a deep threat. Sound familiar? Vandy didn’t sell out against the run but were able to limit the Dawgs to just 107 rushing yards. With no deep options in the passing game, it felt as if Aaron Murray were trying to throw in a phone booth. Completions came in small, frustrating chunks, and Murray’s 4.1 yards/attempt has to have represented one of his least productive game.

So entering 2016, I wonder if Georgia’s probable tailback roster can take advantage of an expected weakness in the UNC rush defense. If not, Gene Chizik will likely follow that Vanderbilt plan and force Georgia to make plays downfield. That challenge lends itself not to Lambert but to other quarterbacks on the roster. There could be risks – the inconsistency of Ramsey or the inexperience of Eason – but the alternative is a stagnant offense against an opponent that can put up some points.

The less likely Chubb and Michel can play a significant role in the opener, the more likely we are to see Eason. Lost production from the backfield will have to come from the passing game, and I think we’ll need more than we saw towards the end of 2015. Kirby Smart, as a new coach, has the goodwill to take that kind of risk in the opener, and he’ll then have two winnable games to prepare the offense for what could be the toughest stretch of the season.