Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The dark years are over

You know, there's been constant complaining about how Richt's first half was far superior to his 2nd half and how things have really fallen off since then.  Now, I saw every game of the dismal '09 and '10 campaigns live and in color.  However, I was just thinking about the last 6 years compared to the first six years (obviously this one isn't over yet).

Vs. Auburn - first 6 (3-3) - last 6 (4-1…with 5-1 looming)
Vs. Florida - first 6 (1-5) - last 6 (3-3)
Vs. Tennessee - first 6 (4-2) - last 6 (4-2)
Vs. Tech - (6-0) - last 6 (4-1…with 5-1 looming)

No doubt, this is why Richt has received the support from the administration through some of those lean years.  His record vs. our rivals is simply stellar.  The difference is that in the last 6 years we've lost more games like Miss. St, UK, and Colorado.  We simply didn't lose those games the first year.  And, of course the biggest difference is…

Vs. South Carolina - first 6 (5-1) - last 6 (2-4)

And, against the heavy-weights?

Vs. LSU - first 6 (2-2) - last 6 (1-2)
Vs. Bama - first 6 (2-0) - last 6 (1-1)

That's a wash.  I think the dark days are over.  It's hard to keep up to this level because everyone will be chasing us, but I think we've climbed out of the doldrums of whatever 2009 and 2010 were.  And we managed to beat our rivals a lot in the process.  And if we can revert back to the early days of not losing those mind-boggling games, then we'll be in a pretty good spot.  It was just interesting to think about those numbers.

Monday, October 29, 2012

News and Notes...Who to pull for...

Well, as Erk would say, "That was something."  After the game, Captain immediately asked when was the last time we beat the #2 team in the nation.  Our minds went to the victory against #1 Florida in '85.  Of course, that was #1.  Then I was thinking about #2 Texas in the '84 Cotton Bowl ('83 Season).  I was right.  Texas was #2.  However, Butler's 60-yarder came against #2 Clemson in '84.  That wasn't a very good UGA team, but somehow we found a way to win that one.  We beat Bama that year in B'ham, but lost to South Carolina, Florida, Auburn and Tech.  Dooley had a way of winning those.  Of recent vintage, we beat #3 LSU in the SECCG in '05.  So, really, that was as big a game as we've won in almost 30 years.  I agree with Mark Richt.  That's a great team.  That's a tremendous defense they've got in Gainesville.  Jordan Reed is a junior, btw.  Let's hope he takes this opportunity to enjoy the riches of the NFL.  I don't know what they'd do on offense without Gilleslie and Reed.  Bad news for the Gators…#26 and #3 will be back in Jax next year.  Good news for the Gators…I don't think #29 will.  What a one man wrecking crew.  Here's your weekly 'who to pull for' deal, which is a lot clearer for the rest of the season.  Bottom line, it's in our hands and we just need a couple of chips to fall.  Here's the schedules for the rest of the season:

Nov. 3 - Okie St - 8 p.m. on ABC
Nov. 10 - @ TCU
Nov. 17 - @ Baylor (Can RGIII play?)
Nov. 24 - Open
Dec. 1 - Texas (What in the world are UT and KSU doing closing the season out against one another?)

Notre Dame
Nov. 3 - Pittsburgh - 3:30 on NBC
Nov. 10 - @ BC
Nov. 17 - Wake Forest - 3:30 on NBC
Nov. 24 - @ USC (You can almost bank on that one being on 8 on ABC, but I don't know if Fox has the rights to non-conference games in Pac 12 stadiums)

Nov. 3 - @ USC - 7 p.m. on Fox
Nov. 10 - @ Cal
Nov. 17 - Stanford
Nov. 24 - @ Oregon St.
Nov. 30 - Pac 12 Championship Game (Friday night at 8 p.m. on Fox)

We need 2 of those 3 to lose a game.  Notre Dame has the easiest road, but seems to be the most vulnerable team.  You've got to believe Matty Trojan shows up to beat at least once in 3 tries (twice vs. the Ducks and once against the Trojans).  Even with a USC win, the Pac 12 championship game is likely to be hosted in Eugene.  It's hosted by the team w/ the best Pac 12 record.  However, the Ducks have 3 of their remaining 4 games away from home, and the one at home is vs. the most physical team in the Pac 12.  They've got the toughest road, especially considering they'll have to beat USC twice to run the table.

So, who else loses?  K-State looks really good, but is that an undefeated-type team?  Can they beat TCU in Fort Worth or can Patterson draw up a defense to stop Klein?  Can OSU put together a string of points on Saturday night to stay with them?  Can all those athletes in Burnt Orange actually play like a college football team on Dec. 1?

I think there's a good chance USC wins Saturday night.  They were embarrassed last week, but rolled on offense.  Monte Kiffin is still their DC, and I think Barkley has a moment in him.  If that happens and Bama looks like Bama and we take care of business, we will wake up to rankings on Sunday that look like this:

1.  Bama
2.  K-State
3.  Notre Dame
4.  UGA

Now, if Okie St. pulls it off Saturday night AND USC…well, brothers…it's on like it's never been on in 30 years.  And that sure would make for a fun few weeks of football.

Go Dawgs!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Backing In

There is no such thing as backing in.  So, don't even entertain it from people.  No.  Such.  Thing.  If the Gators beat the Cocks and we go down and beat #3 and undefeated Florida in a stadium and in a series we haven't won 2 in a row in since 1989, and go 11-1, that is not backing in.  That is earning it.  It is what it is sometimes.  You roll with the punches, deal with the schedule, get lucky sometimes and get unlucky sometimes.  We had the most talented team we'd had in years, probably ever in the Mark Richt Era in 2008.  We have Bama and LSU on the schedule instead of Ole Miss and Miss St.  Jeff Owens gets hurt in the opener.  Ellerbe gets hurt in the first quarter against Bama.  We had to show up in Baton Rouge and play lights out to win there…and we did.  We got boat raced the next week.  What if we'd have played in Oxford the week before Jax instead. 

Peyton's 1997 team made it to Atlanta because us and LSU beat Florida.  They hoisted a trophy.  LSU won a train-wreck of a division in 2001…and hoisted a trophy.  You win some, you lose some.  Sometimes you get the schedule breaks, sometimes you don't.  We played amazing vs. Vandy cause we wanted it bad, rolled early vs. UT and left our guts on the field in the 4th qtr.  I look back now and think, "How in the world did I think we could pull off 2 of those in a row."  It's very hard.  Then you have a couple plays go against you and you're down 21-0 in a hornets nest.

UT backed in in 2007 thanks to us beating Tebow, something they never did.  South Carolina backed in with 3 losses in 2010 because everybody else sucked.  Yes, I know they beat all three of UT, UF and UGA.  Still, 3 losses?  That team lost to Kentucky…seriously.  If we go 11-1 and so to the Cocks I'll tip my hat to them.  But if we end up playing in the SECCG, I won't feel a bit dirty.  If you go down the Jax and win that game, any UGA fan in their right mind knows that's earning it.  We're trying to do something that hasn't been done in 23 dadgum years and people are talking about 'backing in.'  Have they lost their minds? 

I kind of get the feeling that this thing is going to great crazy this year.  It just feels that way.  Don't know why. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

It hasn't happened since 1998...

You know, I read a comment yesterday somewhere that made me pause.  Since 1999, only one Eastern Division team has shown up to the Dome undefeated -- 2009 Florida.  That team got bushwacked by Bama that day.
1999 - Florida boinked a FG off the upright to lose in OT to Bama.
2000 - Florida lost inexplicably 47-35 (and it wasn't that close) in Starkville to an MSU team that went 4-4 in the league
2001 - UT lost at home to us after pulling off a miracle to take the lead with 47 seconds
2002 - We lost a heartbreaker to a terrible Florida team
2003 - We lost a heartbreaker to eventual national champion LSU in Baton Rouge, then lost to an even worse Florida team with a true freshman QB
2004 - UT lost 34-10 at home to Auburn
2005 - We lose to Florida with DJ out and to Auburn in the final minute...at home.
2006 - Florida loses at Auburn
2007 - UT loses to Florida 59-20 and to Bama 41-17...seriously
2008 - Florida somehow loses at Ole Miss (Eli Manning was already playing for the NY Football Giants)
2009 - Florida goes unscathed
2010 - South Carolina loses to Kentucky, Auburn, and Arkansas...and somehow wins the thing.  Boy, us and the Gators stunk that year
2011 - We lose to South Carolina in one of the craziest games evah
Strangely, the West has sent 2004 Auburn, 2008 Bama, 2009 Bama, 2010 Auburn, and 2011 LSU all undefeated to the dome.  2 of those 5 didn't come out alive.  I don't knwo what all that means, but it tells me that, for whatever reason, none of us (Florida, USCe, UT, or UGA) seem to be able to make it to the dome undefeated, so the likelihood of that happening is slim to none.  That South Carolina team is good.  Do you think it's good enough to beat LSU, Florida, Tennessee, and Arkansas back to back to back to back?  I don't.
We suffered a horrendous and embarrassing loss.  It's a long season.  We were 0-2 last year and led the best team in college football 10-7 at the half about 11 weeks later.  Get back to work.  Chances are everyone in front of us in the division will lose and we control what we do against one of them.  We're 12th.  4 of the 11 teams ahead of us are in our league.  3 are from the Big XII.  2 are from the Pac 12 and will probably have to play each other twice.  Finish the drill.  Finish 11-1 and let the chips fall where they may.  If the Cocks go 12-0 or 11-1, tip your cap to them as a fantastic team.
Just as a crazy side thought.  I've already been thinking about the craziness of Thanksgiving weekend.  If us, Florida and USCe all round robin each other and go into thanksgiving 10-1, we'd turn all our state rivalry games into de-facto conference games because BCS rank would determine the champion.  I like our chances there and I'd cheer harder for Clemson than I ever thought possible.
Alright, that's my mind-break football moment of the day.
Geaux Tigers!

Monday, October 8, 2012

To make you feel better...

Well, I don't know if it will actually make you feel better.  It was a complete and utter dismantling.  However, it was weird.  It's not like they gashed us all night long.  The 2nd and 3rd quarters were hard football to watch and very evenly matched.  Nobody could do anything.  Problem was, we spotted them 21 points.  Call me crazy, but I'm on the Malcom Mitchell for punt return campaign.  We can't play teams that have their fastest player back there while we have Rhett McGowan.  That kind of thinking got us to 6-7 in 2010.  Anyway, it's not that I have much say-so on that issue.

So where do we go.  We keep playing football, man.  The season ain't over.  And, 11-1 is a GREAT season by any measuring stick.  And we're fully capable of that.  Whether that gets us to Atlanta is out of our hands, but we have set the stage for a tremendous season.  We avoided a hornets nest in Missouri and a meltdown vs. Tennessee because we're a pretty good team. My first born said to me yesterday, "Well, we could still go to the national championship this year because Alabama lost one last year and still made it."  Bingo.  And what I mean is that, bingo, the luck has to tilt our way at some point, one would think.  And don't tell me you make your own luck.  Bama lost the most important game on it's schedule last year to the best team for all the marbles in their division.  Yes, it was a 9-6 OT loss, but they still lost it…at home.  But Saban is better, right? 

Of course, Saban's program is better right now.  And South Carolina's is better.  That's because they have, for my money, the 2 best coaches in College Football in the last 25 years.  The other guy that is in the conversation thankfully doesn't coach in Gainesville anymore, but is in Columbus.  So what do we do?  We ain't getting Saban and Spurrier's gone after Clowney leaves, and maybe this year if he wins the SEC.  Who else is going to compete with them?  And do you think we can do it knowing that we WILL NOT oversign like Bama and USCe do?  And you do realize that our admission policies are demonstrably more stringent than theirs.  In short, there's no way Clowney gets in at UGA.  No way.  He might not have gotten in at Clemson, if that tells you anything.
So, I want to see us get tougher and meaner, but I'm not sure that we can guarantee that.  There's a lot of teams in our league in shambles (UT, Arky, and Auburn).  We're not them.  I'm not sold on Muschump or Miles at LSU for the long haul.  Patterson is in the Big XII and has no reason to jump ship anywhere.  Chip Kelley's offense will get someone killed in the SEC…and we don't allow our kids to smoke dope, which would dramatically alter his recruiting practices (and perhaps his personal life).  Petersen ain't leaving Boise.  He has no reason to.  He gets paid almost $2 mil. to live in a place he loves with almost no pressure and wins a lot.  I'll gladly up my per game ticket prices from $40 to $75 if that's what it takes to get Jim Harbaugh, but that ain't happening.  Do we really think Kirby, with no HC experience, has what it takes to win those games?  Maybe he does, but he also might be Ray Goff.

So, you're left with this.  Is this what we are?  Well, time will tell in Jax, but we gotta afford this team that.  
They’ve looked REALLY good at times.  And it might still turn out great.  I do believe that we're going to see a different defense the rest of the year.  And we have to.  That's the difference.  We were pretty darn good last year because our defense played great.  That was the story for SC Saturday night.  Their defense won the game way more than their offense did.  If we're going to be elite, it starts with an elite defense.  We had one for the last 12 games last year (save for that 2nd half vs. LSU), and if we're going to be great, we've got to have the same thing.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Saturday, we get it back...

I've changed my mind.  I think we're going to kill them.  Of course, by Saturday I will be a nervous wreck.  But there's this…
  • In '10 they had the only team they've ever had that won the East.  We played them up there and we were missing our best player (AJ).  We were starting our freshmen QB in his first game on the road.  We had Washaun Ealey and Carlton Thomas.  Caleb King was suspended and Richard Samuel was redshirting.  It was Grantham's 2nd game.  We lost 17-6 and Lattimore rushed for 182 yards.  Ealey had a crucial fumble in the Gamecock redzone.  It was Mark Richt's worst team, which would go on to lose 4 straight and ended up 6-7 with a  loss to UCF in the Indy Bowl.
  • In '11, we had a pick six, a fumble returned to the 1, a fumble returned for a TD, and a fake punt for a loooooong and slow TD.  28 pts.  We lost Alec Ogletree the week before and lost Christian during the game.  We had just lost to Boise the week before, following that Indy Bowl loss and a 6-7 season.  We had absolutely no idea how to win.  We had Isaiah Crowell (who played great that game…but he was still IC), Richard Samuel and Carlton Thomas.  John Jenkins really hadn't started playing.  They won 45-42, thanks to our gift-wrapped 4-TDs.  We were in extreme identity crisis mode.
Fast forward to 2012 and think about a few things:
  • Alec Ogletree will play Saturday.  Due to him being a freshman safety or injured, the 'Cocks have never had the privilege :) of playing against #9.  Allow me to introduce you to the guy we call 'Tree.
  • Aaron Murray is not a freshman.
  • John Jenkins plays a lot.
  • Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall play RB for us, not Carlton Thomas, Richard Samuel or IC.  That, alone, should give you pause to feel really, really good.
  • I don't think we'll gift wrap 28 points (21 off turnovers).

I think I'm starting to feel like what Alabama must have felt like in '08 coming to Athens.  Our blackout/Gameday atmosphere was unbelievable.  Bama had won a couple games of consequence.  They beat Clemson in the CFA game 34-10, but that ended up being Bowden's last year.  They had beaten Arky 49-14, in what would be Nutt's last year.  Otherwise, they'd beaten a bunch of nobodies, including an ugly 20-6 win over Tulane.  We had beaten them the year before at their house on a miracle.  We were coming off the best run I'd ever seen under Mark Richt and feeling very good about ourselves.  The stars were aligned.  And they punched us in the mouth and took our manhood.  I think we're going to punch THEM in the mouth.  Spurrier's distracted with this reporter at The State.  I think he's preoccupied.  I think this team is ready to enforce it's will on someone and…for once, we're going to play a mammoth game with all our bullets in the barrel.  I don't think they're going to like it.
Then the real war will be in Jax.  Those guys have the horses to play with us.  Simply, these guys don't.  And they're gonna wilt when we're up 27-0 at halftime.