Jan 28, 2010

Hoops Dawgs Struggle: Are they a "home" team?

Fun hoops fact:

This season at Stegeman Coliseum, the Georgia basketball team is 9-2 (1-1 SEC).

Away from Athens, they are 0-7 (0-3 SEC).

It's looking more and more to me like they're a "home" team, that is, they perform well at home, but when away they're plagued by turnovers and haphazard ball handling. At least they're doing well somewhere, unlike some Georgia teams of the past.

Jan 26, 2010

NCAA Teams with Top Attendance in 2009 (UGA is 6th)

Yesterday ESPN released a list of the top 20 NCAA football schools ranked by average home attendance during the 2009 season.

Georgia comes in at 6th, with 100% capacity. I'm not really sure how so many other stadiums exceeded their capacity, but it sounds uncomfortable.

It's good to know that even in a down year, the fans still show up strong at Sanford Stadium.

Jan 22, 2010

Georgia's 2009 season: What could have been?

We're at that strange point in the off-season, where we haven't yet started the complete "next year" discussion, and we're still somewhat talking about last year. I think it would be a good time to reflect on 2009, then shove it away forever. Since I love hypothetical discussions in college football, I want to look at Georgia's 2009 season and think about what could have been. What if things had been different? What if certain circumstances were flipped? Would we have fared better, worse, or the same?

So we start with #1, and it's the biggest.

#1. What if Stafford and/or Moreno had stayed?

I told you it was the biggest. Of course this would bring us all the way back to January of 2009, while the 2009 Georgia season was only just conceived in the womb of college football. At the time, their decision to leave for the NFL was devastating, but after a while, most of us convinced ourselves that we'd be fine without them.

We were wrong.

In my opinion, either one of these players would have greatly improved our year, for different reasons.

At first glance, Stafford seems like the most important. Throughout the year, a big complaint of many Dawgs was the up-and-down performance of Joe Cox. Just imagine that first game at Oklahoma State, where a flu-plagued Cox struggled and the Dawgs fell apart after their first successful drive. Surely Stafford, in his senior year, could have brought us a victory in that contest (but then again, so could Cox perhaps if he hadn't been sick). An early problem was that we couldn't get the ball to AJ Green when we needed to most. That was Stafford's favorite thing to do. With Stafford, I think it's likely that we could have at least beaten Oklahoma State, LSU, and Kentucky (a game highlighted by QB failures). Tennessee was too confusing for me to predict, and Florida, well, was similar to 2008. With Stafford, I feel like we could have been (maybe at worst) 10-2 in the regular season.

But then again, Moreno was perhaps even more important. Although many complained about problems at head signal-caller, the Dawgs also lacked a consistent running game through at least half of the season. Imagine our season opener with Knowshon at RB, instead of Richard Samuel and Carlton Thomas (with a lack of an injured Caleb King). Remember the LSU game, where Georgia had 45 yards rushing TOTAL, and practically none in the 1st half? A pinch of Moreno would have fixed that right up. Once again, it's hard to imagine us losing against LSU, Oklahoma State, or even Tennessee with a star runner like Moreno. In all 3 games Georgia had less than 100 total rushing yards. Kentucky is a bit more in question, because by that point we had the running game going pretty smoothly. But once again, a 10-2 season looked very possible with just Moreno returning.

And if they had both come back? We can only dream of crystal footballs in 2009. I would have predicted at least a BCS bowl for that fictional Bulldogs squad.

(Credit: Jim Hipple)

#2: What if Caleb King wasn't hurt to start the season?
The Georgia running game was a mess for much of 2009. Before the season began, there was much debate over who would be our lead running back, Caleb King, Richard Samuel, or maybe even Carlton Thomas. Just before the season opener, King injured his hamstring and was sidelined. We were left with 2 running backs that looked poised to play: Samuel and Thomas. They did a decent job at first, but we just weren't where we needed to be on the ground. King appeared briefly in the third game (at Arkansas), but was playing second fiddle to Samuel. Just as he started to build up his reputation, his jaw was broken vs. LSU, and he was limited again (helping to stifle our rushing in that game).

It seems likely that having King healthy and ready to start the season would have improved our running game from the start. As we all know, Samuel didn't last at RB, and Thomas was very limited throughout the year. A more polished rushing attack could have led to a couple of wins in games that we just couldn't move on the ground. But King wasn't the only one who brought our ground-game back to consistency...

#3: What if Washaun Ealey had played from the start?
Clearly the true freshman was a spark that the Dawg's rushing offense needed. He was quick, powerful, and even hopped up quickly after a big hit, reminding us immediately of our past star #24. But we didn't see him until the fifth game of the season, against LSU. He averaged over 4 yards per carry in 7 of 8 regular season games, and with a healthy King along, we had a great one-two punch that brought us the consistency and power we needed. What if Ealey had started the season at 1 or 2 on the RB depth chart? It could have saved us in our season-opener in Stillwater, or things could have been about the same. But it's fun to dream.

#4: What if AJ Green hadn't been injured vs. Auburn?
Ok, so this one isn't quite as important for the season as a whole. Toward the end of the season, star receiver AJ Green injured his shoulder at home versus Auburn. He left the game early, but the Dawgs still managed an impressive win over our West rival. But this left Green sidelined for the last two games of the year, including a disastrous Kentucky game. Remember that Kentucky game? Yes, I do too. Although we'll never know how that game would have gone with AJ leaping 50 feet into the air to bring down wavering passes from Cox, I feel like we probably could have (should have) won it. It's hard to imagine us not pulling through against the Wildcats with AJ on the field. That would have put us at 4 losses on the season, and probably at least a Chick-Fil-A bowl rather than Shreveport. Not a huge deal, but it matters.

On the other hand, what if Green had played against Georgia Tech? Would we have scrapped the power running game and instead get pass happy with Green downfield? Would that have led to us blowing out Tech, or could that have hampered us, and perhaps even lead to a loss? We'll never know. Obviously I like to think we would have blown them out. But that's just me.

#5: What if Aaron Murray didn't get injured at some point?
I say "at some point" because it's not really clear when exactly he was hurt. All I know is that sometime before the Tennessee game, Murray injured his elbow in practice. This likely caused concern in the coaches, who, if forced to make changes at QB, were suddenly very, very limited. While many of us were complaining by that point that Logan Gray should get a shot, the Tennessee game (and then Florida) gave us a glimpse that maybe this wasn't the best idea. But Murray?

I'll admit that this number is completely hypothetical, considering we still have no idea how good Aaron Murray is. We don't even know if he'll start, or if that duty will be given to Zach Mettenberger. But the general "feeling" of the Bulldog Nation at that point was that Murray could be the next big thing for Georgia, while Cox was struggling and the Dawgs were losing. Especially after the Tennessee game, when we still had half a season to salvage, many were shouting that we should put in Gray full time (probably a bad idea) or even to go ahead and play Murray. But Murray was hurt to some extent.

If Murray hadn't been injured, would the coaches have considered playing him after Tennessee, or even later after Florida? Would this have helped the Dawgs to prevail in games that we instead flopped? Would it have made us even worse? Or would things have been about the same (except Murray would get some valuable in-game experience)? We'll never know.

(Credit: Jim Hipple)

#6: What if certain coaching changes had been made... earlier?
So what if Georgia had made a change at defensive coordinator after 2008? What if we didn't see so much soft zone coverage throughout 2009? This is one that many Dawgs would be most heated about, but I really don't know. We have yet to see how/if our defense will improve with changes in our coaching staff, and honestly, we don't know for sure how 2008 would have played out with a different defensive scheme/coach. Most would probably say we would have been much, much better. Granted, a more stiff defense probably could have brought us wins in every game, especially a disastrous Kentucky. We probably would have put up a much better fight against Oklahoma State, Tennessee, and Florida. Despite all of our discussion of what could have been at QB or RB, defense wins championships, and a stout Georgia D could have completely changed 2009.

That's all I've got for now. What do you think?

Jan 17, 2010

Good for Georgia: Player losses in SEC 2010

I find it a bit silly that so many publications come out with their "very early preseason polls" before we even know which players are leaving early for the NFL draft. Well, now we know, so it would now be an appropriate time for such polls. I started taking a look at the returning starters for the usual-ranked teams for 2010, starting with the SEC. But the thing that caught my eye is just how much each SEC team is losing.

Perhaps most interesting is that Alabama and Florida, the two "dominant" SEC teams from last season, are losing a LOT of important players. First, let's take a look at Florida, who we've heard frequently now will be just fine replacing Tebow with Brantley, as if that was their only loss.

Florida is losing their starters in the following positions:
QB: Tebow
WR: Nelson and Cooper
TE: Hernandez
C: Maurkice Pouncey
DE: Cunningham and Dunlap
LB: Stamper, Spikes, and Doe
CB: Haden
S: Wright
KR/PR: James

That's 5 offensive starters, one of which is obviously the most important. But also, Hernandez and Cooper were pretty much the only targets of Tebow in 2009. There's also 7 defensive starters (7!) including all 3 starting linebackers. Oh, and also their reliable kick/punt returner, Brandon James. Florida could still be good next year, and they clearly have some of the best recruits to fill in for their past stars, but can new players perform to the level of those who are departing? I think Georgia fans tried to argue that we'd be fine replacing Stafford and Moreno, because we had such good recruits. That didn't turn out so well.

Then we have Alabama, known primarily for their hard-hitting defense. Their offense loses little, only Peek (their TE), and 2 guys on their O-line. But their defense?
- They lose both starting defensive ends (Washington, Dederick)
- They lose their star nose tackle (Cody)
- They lose 3 of their 4 starting LB's (McClain, Reamer, Anders)
- They lose a starting CB and PR/KR (Arenas) as well as a safety (Woodall)

Not to mention they also lose their kicker (Tiffin) and punter (Fitzgerald). That's only 3 offensive starters leaving, but 8 defensive starters, as well as 2 special teams players.

But most importantly for Georgia is the losses in the SEC East.

-Tennessee loses even more than Florida and Alabama. They lose their starting QB (Crompton), RB (Hardesty), WR (Hancock), and 3 starters on the offensive line. On defense they lose 2 lineman, 1 linebacker, and their star safety (Berry).

-Kentucky, although not a traditional challenge for Georgia in the east, did surprise us this year when we fell apart in the 2nd half. Luckily, Kentucky is getting hit pretty hard by losses as well. They lose their starting fullback, tight end, 4 offensive linemen, one defensive tackle, one linebacker, one cornerback, one safety, and their kicker.

-And Vanderbilt may be fortunate to lose a LOT of players, considering their terrible season last year. They lose their starting: QB, WR, OT, OG, C, 2 DEs, DT, LB, CB, 2 safeties, and punter.

-South Carolina loses relatively less than other teams, and this is why some (crazies) are trying to argue that USC of the east could win the SEC East in 2010. They lose a starting wide receiver and center on offense, plus a defensive tackle and safety on defense, and their star linebacker Norwood. Some have pointed out, though, that maybe it's bad for South Carolina to keep so many players. After all, this will be almost the same team that got embarrassed by Connecticut in the PapaJohn's.com Bowl.

As for West teams:

-Auburn is only losing 7 starters, but they're important. They lose Chris Todd, their starting QB, and Ben Tate, their star running back. They also lose their starting TE, OT, DE, DT, and cornerback McFadden.

-LSU loses 10 starters, but once again, some are very important. Their biggest offensive loss will be running back Charles Scott (not to mention both of his backups at the position as well). They also lose two of their best receivers, LaFell and the tight end Dickson, an OT, OG, DE, DT, 2 linebackers, and a safety.

-Ole Miss should drop off the map completely, losing a shocking 14 total starters on offense, defense, and special teams. They lose their QB Snead and star receiver/runner Dexter McCluster. They're losing 8 starters on offense, 5 on defense, plus their kicker and punter.

-Miss. State loses 8 starters, including their starting quarterback, running back, and a top receiver.

-Arkansas is already getting hyped as a possible candidate for 2010 SEC West champion, largely due to the fact that they only lose 5 starters. They do lose Michael Smith, their top running back, and a starting OG, DE, DT, LB, and S.

As far as non-conference opponents for Georgia, most worrisome would be Colorado and Georgia Tech. Colorado only loses 5 starters, but hopefully that's a good thing as they weren't very impressive in 2009. Georgia Tech loses 7 starters, but they're all BIG losses. They lose star back Dwyer, star receiver Thomas, star defensive end Morgan, and star safety Burnett, not to mention a starting OG, OT, and LB.

Finally, Georgia's returning player situation looks like this:
-On offense, we lose only one starting player, Joe Cox at QB (unless you count Michael Moore as a starting wide receiver).
-Defense is where we're hit hard, losing our defensive tackles Owens and Atkins, star linebacker Curran, cornerback Miller and safeties Jones and Evans. But considering defense was our main problem in 2009, it might not be too bad to get some new players out there along with our new coaches and 3-4 scheme.

Overall, 2010 is seemingly shaping up to be a great opportunity for Georgia. Florida and Tennessee, our biggest threats to take the East, are the hardest hit by losses. Of our west opponents, Auburn loses most of their big players, which should help us, but Arkansas returns most of their squad from last year. Finally, Tech loses 4 huge players. Now if we can just fix that defense, let's see what UGA can do in 2010.

Jan 13, 2010

Kiffingate 2010 - The drama continues (more videos)

First, here's the first part of the Kiffingate story with some entertaining videos.

Second, here are some more videos.

Raw footage of Lane Kiffin's quick press conference to announce his fleeing from Tennessee.

This one looks like it was taken toward the end of the "rioting" on campus. Be warned of some foul language aimed toward Kiffin in the video.

And some more glimpses into hillbilly culture as we watch these people sing "Rocky Top" while lighting stuff on fire to commemorate Lane Kiffin's wonderful season at UT.

Coaching changes so far.... and Kiffingate continues

First, check out the Kiffingate post below. I'll add more updates in a while.

I don't know if we've ever seen this many controversial coaching change stories within such a short period of time. Let me take you through the timeline of events.

December 1, 2009: Head coach Charlie Weis of Notre Dame is fired.

December 2, 2009: Georgia fires defensive coordinator Willie Martinez.

December 11, 2009: Head coach Brian Kelley leaves Cincinnati to go to Notre Dame.

December 26, 2009: Coach Urban Meyer declares that he will resign as head coach of Florida.

December 27, 2009: Coach Urban Meyer changes his mind, says he will take leave of absence.

December 28, 2009: Mike Leach is suspended by Texas Tech due to a player complaint.

December 30, 2009: Mike Leach fired by Texas Tech.

January 9, 2010: Tommy Tuberville is hired as the new head coach of Texas Tech.

January 11, 2010: USC coach Pete Carroll signs to be new head coach of Seattle Seahawks.

January 12, 2010: Tennessee's coach Lane Kiffin leaves after only one year to become the new head coach of USC.

January 12-present: Riots and protests on Rocky Top.

Also, legendary Bobby Bowden was finally let go from FSU, Jim Leavitt was fired by USF for allegedly roughhousing a player, Rich Brooks left Kentucky, and a bunch of other coaches moved around.

Can you believe this stuff? I hope there's some way this keeps up throughout the offseason so we have something to entertain us until actual football returns.

Kiffingate 2010 - Watch the videos

This is fun stuff.

First, the local news report.

Sometime after the announcement of Kiffin's departure, a riot/stampede started on UT's campus. A Tennessee basketball player updated frequently what was happening from his twitter. According to several reports, "protesters" ran down a main street on campus, chased after Lane Kiffin's car, and assembled by Neyland Stadium, some trying to climb the fences and get into the complex.

Here's some apparent footage of the "rioting."

Oh, and some of the "protesters" lit a mattress on fire and proceeded to chant "it's great to be a Tennessee Vol" while holding up "We hate Lane Kiffin" signs. Seriously.

I like how their chant just slowly dies down. I imagine these guys finished their little pow-wow and walked slowly and silently back to their dorms to go to sleep. Except for the guy whose mattress is on fire in the street.

I'm trying to decide whether we'd see this same stuff happening at UGA's campus if we were in a similar situation. Maybe it's just a Big Orange thing.

Jan 9, 2010

Over/Underrated teams of 2009?

See the final AP Top 25 and USA Today Coaches' Poll here.

Let's see what the polls got right (and wrong) in 2009.

The first thing to note is that the preseason polls weren't completely bad. 6 of the top 10 teams preseason finished in the top 10. Also of note is that 6 teams finished within 2 spots of their preseason ranking (Florida, Texas, Ohio State, Penn State, Georgia Tech, Utah).

But then there are the bad parts.

Overrated Teams:

Oklahoma: This was by far, the most overrated team of 2009, preseason ranked #3 in both polls, only to finish with 5 losses and unranked. However, you can't really blame the voters for this because no one foresaw Heisman winner Sam Bradford going down in the first game of the season. Would the Sooners have stuck around in the top 5 or 10 if they had Bradford in '09? We'll never know.

USC: They started at #4 in both polls, went on to lose 4 games, and finished #22 in the AP (#20 in Coaches'). This was probably just a bad call by the voters, who were enamored by USC's usual dominance in the Pac-10, and overlooked the huge losses on the Trojans' defense, as well as the starting of a freshman QB.

Ole Miss: The Rebels, a popular preseason pick for "most overrated team" lived up to their billing, although they didn't have a terrible season. They started #8 in the AP, but lost 4 games and finished #20.

Oklahoma State: Ranked #9 in AP preseason, finished unranked with 4 losses (including a shocking loss to Houston early in the season). The Cowboys also lost some valuable players during the year (most importantly star receiver Dez Bryant), but it's likely they were an overrated team regardless.

California: Ranked #12 preseason, finished unranked with 5 losses. They were a trendy pick to surprise in the Pac-10, but they imploded versus Oregon in their 4th game and kept sliding.

Georgia: This one pains me to say, but the Dawgs were technically overrated in 2009, ranked #13 preseason and falling to 5 losses and unranked. I could say we very easily could have beaten LSU and Kentucky, getting us to only 3 losses and a likely 10-15 final ranking, but that would be too biased, wouldn't it?

Florida State, North Carolina, Notre Dame, and Kansas: Started #18, 21, 23, and 25, respectively, and lost 6, 5, 6 and 7 games, respectively. These teams weren't vastly overrated, considering they were thrown in at the bottom of the preseason rankings, but they deserve mention for being poorly ranked at all by the voters. Especially Notre Dame and Kansas.

Underrated Teams:

Cincinnati: Despite their blowout loss to Florida in the Sugar Bowl, it's a little ridiculous that the Bearcats weren't even ranked by either poll in the preseason. They returned a lot of key talent from their Big East Champion 2008 squad, yet they were completely overlooked in 2009. The voters really dropped the ball with this team, which went undefeated in the regular season and finished #8 in the AP.

Boise State/TCU: To be fair to the voters, there are usually 1 or 2 non-BCS conference teams that go undefeated or lose 1 game, ending up with a high ranking despite cries that they never really played any tough teams during the season. Boise was generously ranked #14 in preseason, while TCU came in at #17. Then, they finished the year #4 and #6, respectively. Both actually played at least one tough team during the season, which is improvement, and it seems the media might be considering a much higher preseason ranking, at least for Boise State, in 2010.

Iowa: The Hawkeyes were only ranked #22 in the AP to start the year, but finished strong with 2 losses, a win over Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl, and a #7 final ranking.

Pittsburgh: Another Big East team that was left out of preseason rankings but ended up with 10 wins and a #15 spot.

Wisconsin, Miami, Texas Tech, Central Michigan, Clemson, West Virginia: All left out of preseason rankings but found their way into the final. Wisconsin notably fought their way to a 10-3 season with a #16 final ranking.

So which conferences, in general, are over/underrated?

This one's pretty easy. The SEC, Pac-10, and Big 12 had the most represented overrated teams in 2009. This was probably to be expected, especially with the SEC and Big 12, which both were riding high after a strong 2008 season. The SEC finished big again with another national champion in Alabama, so don't be surprised to see some more overranked SEC teams in 2010.

Underrated conferences? The Big East was severely underrated, just by the fact that no Big East teams were even ranked preseason. That's a little strange for a big-six conference, isn't it? Then, the Big 10 suffered some underrating and finished strong. And of course the non-BCS conference teams usually find a way to move up in the rankings.

The ACC rankings were remarkably correct for the most part. Virginia Tech went from #7 to #10, and Georgia Tech from #15 to #13. Then, a couple of overrated ACC teams (UNC, FSU) were swapped out for Miami and Clemson.

What does this say for the preseason rankings in 2010?

Expect to see the voters try to rectify their mistakes from 2009 with the next preseason rankings.

-Although the SEC may have been slightly overrated as a conference, the strong finish of Alabama (and a few other SEC teams) should lead to around 5 SEC teams ranked in the preseason again, if not more. Also, the fact that so many SEC teams finished with decent, but not bad records, the voters will likely expect many of those teams to improve in 2010.

-The voters will probably be slightly more cautious with the Big 12 and Pac-10. The obvious teams that will likely retain their high ranking are Texas and Oregon. Nebraska has moved up in favor of the voters and will likely also start high. The rest of each conference is more of a question, so don't expect to see too many highly ranked Big 12 or Pac-10 teams.

-Expect to see more respect for the Big East and the non-BCS conferences. We'll likely see at least one non-BCS conference team in the preseason top 10 (Boise State), and probably 4 or 5 overall in the top 25. The Big East, which had no preseason ranked teams in 2009, can look to having at least 2, if not 3+ ranked teams to start 2010.

-Also expect more respect in the rankings for the Big 10. They'll have very similar rankings to the SEC in the 2010 preseason.

-Finally, it's looking like this could be one of the most difficult preseason rankings to put together in a while. A lot of teams finished with similar records, and it will be hard for voters to determine who should be ranked where. With this in mind, there will very likely be a few questionable teams the find their way into the preseason rankings as voters will have to reach to find teams to fill the list.

Jan 6, 2010

Paul Johnson: "If an Iowa fan talks trash, punch him in the face...."

Dancing in the Endzone News Network (DITENN)
January 6, 2010
11:00 AM
Miami, FL

Coach Paul Johnson of the GTU Yellow Jackets was visibly upset after the loss to the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Orange Bowl tonight. He did a lot of shrugging, clenching of the butt-like crease in his forehead, and scratching of his hair. "Why would an Orange Bowl loss define Georgia Tech? What has Iowa done to be the mark for Georgia Tech football? What's the last thing they won? 1958?" he said. "...but the most important goal of our team was to win the ACC this year, and we did." Later after a noticeable wet-spot appeared in his high-waisted trousers, Johnson proclaimed, "If an Iowa fan gives you a hard time and you get tired of it, punch him in the face." Johnson then nonchalantly tossed the microphone to star receiver BayBay Thomas, who promptly dropped it.

The above story is false and intended for humorous purposes only.

UGA wins in hoops, Tech sucks again

Great win for the Georgia basketball squad last night for once again embarrassing Georgia Tech in the one sport that they are supposed to be good at.

It was really a bad night for Tech, because as most of you know, they also lost their first BCS bowl game (and their first appearance in a big-4 bowl since the 1960s). I saw some Tech fans before the game discussing how this was "a once in a lifetime" bowl game for Tech, which is pretty sad if you think about it. (Georgia has been to the Sugar bowl 3 times in the past decade, winning twice).