Oct 21, 2011

2011 UGA compared to 2007 UGA at this point

Remember the UGA team that after playing 7 games (5-2) and struggling to beat Vandy in Nashville, went on to become one of the best teams in the country to end the season?

That was the 2007 Georgia Bulldogs, but could it also be the 2011 UGA team?

The past couple of years have made Georgia fans much more pessimistic about our team and program.  A 5-game win streak right now should be a big deal, but most of us instead say, "Well we've beaten no good teams" or "we have an easy schedule."  So let's take a look at 2007's UGA at this same point, one of the best teams of the past decade.

The 2007 team started the season with an overhyped Oklahoma State who was supposed to be great.  We won that game and thought we were great, but no one knew that OSU would end up going 7-6.  That win was probably about as good as our win at home this year against Mississippi State.  But perspective at the time made it seem much bigger.

Then the 2007 team then lost a horrible, boring game at home to South Carolina.  But South Carolina was horrible that year and went 6-6.  It was a bad loss, to a bad team.  The South Carolina team we should have beaten this year was much better, and even with losing Garcia and Lattimore they'll still probably end up at least 8-4.  It was a much worse loss in 2007.

Then the 2007 team destroyed Western Carolina 45-16, but not as impressively as we beat Coastal Carolina this year 59-0.

Once again, another huge game at Alabama.  Georgia won a thriller in overtime.  We were great again!  But guess what?  Alabama finished the season 7-6 and lost to Louisiana Monroe that year.  It wasn't as great of a win as it looked.

We then easily handled Mississippi (just like we did this year), followed by a horrible, blowout loss to Tennessee in Knoxville.  Tennessee was a good, but not great, team in 2007 that finished 10-4.

And then finally, in mid-October, we went to Nashville to play the lowly Commodes, and snuck out of the game on a last second field goal from Brandon Coutu to win 20-17.  We thought this year's game was bad, even though we were winning easily most of the game and almost let them come back.  In 2007, it was a struggle through the whole game.

So comparing the 2 seasons: Our 2 losses in 2007 were much worse than the ones in 2011.  We lost at home to a 6-6 South Carolina and in Knoxville to a good Tennessee.  In 2011, we lost to a top 5 Boise State team and a good (before injuries) South Carolina team.

Our wins so far in 2011 are pretty much comparable to 2007, except we've more easily handled opponents, despite playing too conservatively late in the game and letting teams come back.  In 2007, though, we still look at those wins as good ones, just because at the time they were played, our opponents were overhyped (see Oklahoma State and Alabama).

So going into the Florida game this year, our team actually has a BETTER resume than in 2007.  Could we get a repeat of that year, but this time with our East competition actually losing when they should?   

Oct 14, 2011

New Hyundai Commercial shows UGA's "Hedges" (YouTube Video)

This new national commercial has been slowly spreading around online.  It played on ESPN last night during the USC vs. Cal football game.  I've never owned a Hyundai, but thanks to this, I might look at them some in a few years when I need a new car.

Oct 3, 2011

Say Goodbye to Dreams of Mullen

A while ago, after Mississippi State's loss to LSU, I wrote this post explaining why I didn't think Dan Mullen would be a good choice for UGA if we were to make a coaching change in the near future.

Now it appears that Mullen has tried to emphatically pronounce to UGA that he is not the guy for the job.  First, his Bizarro Bulldogs were dominated by the real Dawgs between the hedges on Saturday.  We all know that the final score of 24-10 does not properly illustrate the true embarrassment suffered by the cowbell ringers, as Mark Richt and co. apparently decided that Georgia had enough points at the half and could just mess around a little in the 2nd and practice (poorly) field goal kicking.

Not only did Mullen's rising power in the west have a horrible day in Athens, but he seemed to have let his squad run out and celebrate midfield before the game even began, causing a bit of a scuffle between the teams.  Of course, Mullen claims that his team didn't mean to disrespect anyone, and it was clearly a Georgia player who started the whole thing.  Just to make himself sound more guilty, he also threw in that his team "won't back down" to anybody, and as the attacking UGA players approached, his innocent guys just wouldn't back down.  Too bad they aren't as tough on the field during the game.

Here is a video of the incident below (courtesy of ecdawg1).  It replays in slow motion toward the end so you can clearly see the MSU players rushing the G, and then the UGA players coming out toward them.  And at 1:17, you can see Mullen smiling while the refs are breaking it up.

Finally, Mullen perhaps also allowed one (if not more) of his players to... relieve themselves on the hedges, as photo evidence here purportedly shows.

This guy really knows how to build résumé.   

Sep 16, 2011

Why Dan Mullen Would be a Bad Choice for UGA (for now)

The Mullen lovers are out there.  They are few, but they are loud, and they lurk on message boards and comment sections, waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

Dan Mullen was a very successful offensive coordinator at Florida during part of their recent glory years, before he took over the head coaching job at a struggling Mississippi State program.  In his first season (2009), the little Bulldogs went 5-7.  In 2010, they had a surprisingly good year, going 9-4 (a mediocre 4-4 in the SEC), but with no wins versus the SEC West other than Ole Miss, a team which has taken the same spot as Vanderbilt but in the West as division punching bag.

Yes, his recruiting was outstanding, as he managed to get the #25 and #19 class in the nation according to Rivals and Scout, respectively.

But should we be so excited by 5-7 and 9-4 that we're ready to hand the reigns over to this guy after only two seasons under his belt?

First of all, Mark Richt isn't done yet, despite what some media pundits and strangely interested Alabama fans are saying.  We still have 10 games left to play and who knows what will happen.

Second, if you watched last night's ESPN game of LSU at Mississippi State, you might have noticed some very questionable coaching decisions.  Actually, look back before that to last week's game against Auburn.

Last week, when the Bulldogs had a 2nd and goal against Auburn with 10 seconds left in the game, Mullen decided to have his QB try to run the ball into the end zone.  He was stopped just short, and time ran out.  The game was over.  Anyone with basic knowledge of clock management in football was scratching their heads.  Why not attempt a pass first?  With 10 seconds, you have ample time to make a pass attempt, and if that doesn't work, the clock stops and you still have time to run the ball once more.

Here was Mullen's post-game explanation of the choice:
"You could go pass-pass, pass-run, or just run."

Yes, we are aware Coach Mullen.  You can either have 2 chances to score, or 1 chance to score.  You insanely chose 1 chance, essentially leaving a play on the field at the goal line to win the game.

He says he gave the choice to his quarterback, Chris Relf, who said he was confident he could get it in on just a run.  So he listened to the player, called the play, and they lost the game.

Skip to last night versus LSU.  With the Bulldogs down only 16-6 in the 4th quarter and 10 minutes left in the game, Mullen decides to pull his starting QB who everyone has raved about and put in his backup.  Although this is a surprising and confusing move, maybe Mullen had good reason to believe that Relf wasn't effective all night and that the backup might have more success.

But the real shocking decision came minutes later, when LSU tacked on an extra field goal to be up 19-6, and Mississippi State gets the ball with 2:53 on the clock and all 3 timeouts remaining.  The Bulldogs were still down by only 2 scores.  They would need to score a quick TD, kick a successful onside kick, and then score another TD.  It's extremely unlikely, but it's been done time and time again in college football (see Auburn vs. Utah State two weeks ago).

But Mullen decides to run the ball multiple times on this last drive, letting the clock run and refusing to take timeouts.  It was clear to anyone watching that he had given up; either he had no faith that his team could actually assemble a worthwhile offensive drive, or he just didn't care.  So he quit.  He let the game end without using his timeouts, and let his team go down without a fight.

A sad part was watching the backup QB and rest of the team running desperately to get in formation to run their final play with time running out, despite it being clear that their head coach wasn't going to call a timeout and didn't really care what they were doing out there.  He was just going to let it end, despite still having a chance to win.  What do you have to lose?  You're going to lose anyway, right?  If you turn it over and LSU gets the ball, they will take a knee and run out the clock anyway.  No harm done.

Now I don't want to say that these decisions should define the rest of Mullen's career.  He's still a decent coach who has recruited very well and had one good season at a struggling Mississippi State.  He could still do great things there, or at another school.  But decisions like those shouldn't earn you a job at a program like Georgia.  If anything, they should be warning signs that jumping on the Mullen-bandwagon might be a bit of a rushed decision.

Mark Richt may be done soon at Georgia.  None of us really know.  But I don't think I've ever seen Mark Richt give up on his team when down only two scores in an important SEC game, or any game for that matter.  And whether Mark Richt is good for the future of UGA or not, I'd rather have a coach who is smart enough and cares enough to give his team a chance to win, all other things aside.

Sep 14, 2011

Will the SEC East be a mess this year? (See: 2007)

In 2007, the SEC, like the rest of college football that year, was a complete mess.  There were no teams in the entire conference with less than 2 conference losses.  Georgia and Tennessee stood atop the East, each with 2 SEC losses, but the Volunteers would represent in the SEC Championship based on multiple close escapes late in the season.

The SEC East in 2011 looks like it could be just as much of a mess with no champion decided until perhaps the very end of the season.

Yes, Georgia already lost to East favorite South Carolina, but if you take a look at the schedules, the race isn't going to be over anytime soon.

South Carolina has likely wins against Vanderbilt and Kentucky at home, but I see them losing at least 2 out of Auburn, at Miss. State, at Tennessee, at Arkansas, and versus Florida. 

Florida has to play Alabama and at LSU, not to mention at Auburn and the rest of the SEC East.  Once again, it seems likely they would have at least 2 SEC losses as well.

Tennessee is about to go play in the Swamp this weekend, and they have an even tougher West schedule than Florida.  They play LSU at home and at Alabama, plus at Arkansas.

And of course Kentucky and Vanderbilt remain Kentucky and Vanderbilt.

Of course it's still possible that South Carolina, Florida, or Tennessee could be way better than they seem and could burn through their tough SEC schedules and remain undefeated in conference, but I wouldn't bet on it.  Georgia, meanwhile, has the easiest SEC schedule of them all, with games at Ole Miss, against Miss. State, and the annual rivalry game with Auburn.

Don't be surprised if the SEC East ends up similar to 2007, with each team having at least 2 conference losses, and maybe even with a tiebreaker determining once again which team will play in Atlanta for the conference championship.

Sep 12, 2011

"Sometimes it happens like that," but UGA has promise

Russ sleeping at the 2011 G-Day Game. Photo: B. Spoon

"Georgia outplayed us. Give 'em credit.  They definitely outplayed us.  But we won the game.  Sometimes it happens like that."  Those were Steve Spurrier's words after South Carolina snuck out a win against Georgia in Athens Saturday.

It's hard to take, but it's true.  After an embarrassing week one loss versus Boise State where execution in plays was hindered even more by bad play calling and coaching, the Dawgs seemed to put everything together against the Gamecocks.

The offensive play calling was much better, including a varied mix of I-Formation and shotgun plays (wonder if Bobo caught wind of my 78% stat on the blog...) which worked to almost perfection.  UGA was mostly unstoppable on offense, other than a few key halts after good drives in the 1st half that led to field goals rather than touchdowns, and the turnovers, of course.

The defense was phenomenal for most of the game, other than on a handful of critical drives late in the 4th quarter.

And the head coach finally seemed to realize that this was an urgent game, and we had to do everything possible to win.  Sure, we still ran a draw play on some long 3rd downs, but we also went for a surprise onside kick (which was barely overturned thanks to our favorite zebra Penn Wagers).

The media (ESPN) tried to convince everyone that this game would define Richt's future, and that a loss could mean his immediate firing.  Any realistic UGA fan knew that was false.  We know that Richt will likely have until the end of the season, at which point the AD and others will discuss his future as head coach at Georgia. And can you blame them?  Would firing a beloved head coach who's presumably loved by the players in the middle of the season really be good for us?

But instead, a loss here actually brought more optimism from fans than even last week's loss.  Somehow 0-2 turned out to be better than 0-1, mainly because of the way it happened.  Georgia's coaches began to coach, the players began to play, and everything was clicking.  Our running game appears to have life, as Crowell looked to be the 2nd coming of Knowshon Moreno while bouncing off of defenders and finding extra yards.  Our receiving corps look like they could be even better than last year with AJ Green, if we can just find a way to get the playmakers the ball.  Malcolm Mitchell is a speedster, Michael Bennett is the new Kris Durham, and of course we still have Charles, White, King, Wooten, and Brown back there.  And the defense not only made stop after stop, but they also made big plays, like a big interception by Rambo.

The media and other teams' fans are still convinced that Richt is done.  Maybe he will be.  They're convinced that UGA is "average" again, as one Rivals writer put it.  Maybe they are.  But they didn't look average on Saturday.  They looked like a great team, finally with coaching to match it, that made mistakes at just the wrong times to barely lose.

And while some can still rant about being 0-2, remember that is still 0-2 against the #4 and #11 teams in the country.  Mark Richt can't afford many more losses, and he certainly can't afford any bad ones, but he's still got a chance to make something out of this season with this team.  It's always better to lose early than late, as many teams have learned before.

Losing is bad.  We've lost way too much in the past few years, and we shouldn't be complacent with it.  We shouldn't be happy about 0-2.  If we don't have the type of season that UGA fans expect, maybe we should make some changes.  But maybe Saturday's loss shouldn't be weighed as heavily as the others, such as the Boise loss.  Because sometimes you can do almost everything right and lose.  Sometimes, it happens like that.

Sep 9, 2011

UGA vs. USCe: What I want to see, and what I expect to see...

What I want to see...

1. No forced play calling on the offense.  If the no-huddle shotgun offense keeps producing 3 and outs, don't keep trying to force it.  Mix things up, try different approaches, and see what works.  If something works really well, keep doing it until the defense stops it.  No need to get tricky when you already have the upper hand.

What I expect: More of the same from Bobo's offense.  Mostly baffling calls, but I do expect there to be a few great calls scattered in there that calm people down a little (see Boykin's run last week).

2. Isaiah Crowell start at RB.  Yes, he's a freshman, but he looks like he has what we need as an explosive player that can produce on the field and get the fans excited.  Give him just a moment to adjust to the unusual gameday environment in Sanford Stadium, and then call plays that give him a high chance of success to start the game to get him comfortable.  Also, if the running game isn't producing at all, give Malcome or Harton a chance to see what they can do in a game.  You never know if a player can turn it on in the heat of a game as opposed to practice.

What I expect: Samuel will start at RB, because that is the Mark Richt way.  Once again it will be a split of carries, probably Crowell with about 60%, Samuel with 30%, and Carlton Thomas with 10%.  I don't expect to see Malcome or Harton at all, especially if rumors of Malcome's disappointed Twitter comments are true.

3. Target Malcolm Mitchell.  The guy looked good, really good, toward the end of the Boise game.  His speed on his touchdown looked like it rivaled Branden Smith.  Get this guy the ball.  He deserves more targets after a great game performance.  Make the tight ends central to our passing game, and that includes Orson Charles and Aron White.  Also try to get Marlon Brown more passes, and Wooten too for that matter (both of whom also made good plays against Boise).

What I expect: I think we will target Mitchell, but not nearly as much as we should.  We used to have a problem with getting the ball to AJ Green, the best receiver in the country, so I don't expect us to get the ball to a freshman with supreme talent either.  We'll likely go to Tavarres King a lot more again, due to his experience and spot as #1 on the depth chart, and he'll be our primary receiver still on a lot of plays.  Hopefully he can improve his performance from last week.  Orson Charles will remain our #2 targeted receiver, which is good.

4. An aggressive defensive scheme that puts pressure on the QB and focuses on closer coverage of receivers.  In the opening drives of the Boise game, we had some tight man coverage on Boise, and our talent clearly could keep up and defend theirs.  Later in the game, Boise began to find wide open receivers all over the field with no defenders within 10 yards of them.  A soft zone defense leaves those dink and dunk short passes open that Kellen Moore thrived on, and Stepehen Garcia will do similar short passes all the way down the field if we leave them open.

What I expect: We'll do a better job of getting pressure on the QB, but unfortunately, we'll allow Garcia to dump short passes frequently to open receivers.  Hopefully we can rattle him enough to make him give up and look forward to the bar later that night.

5. Don't be afraid to be aggressive, but be smart about it when you do.  Mark Richt always refuses to go for a score at the end of the half when we have the ball.  We frequently have 1+ minutes on the clock and 2 or 3 timeouts, but we will run a screen pass or running play and let the clock run.  This game is too important to leave chances on the field.  We need to be in panic mode here, and we can't afford to just be calm and expect to come back and win.

What I expect: Even though this game is HUGE and could define the season (and potentially Richt's career), I still don't really expect us to change in a lot of common Richt ways.  If we didn't do it last week, I don't expect it that much this week.  If we didn't change ourselves to panic mode after going 6-7 and losing to UCF in a bowl game, I don't think losing to #5 Boise State will do it either.  Hopefully we'll have enough talent and just enough coaching to get a win regardless.