Wednesday, December 18, 2013

It could be could be Ohio State

24 straight wins.  24 of 'em!

And nothing to show for it.

No bowl trophy.  No conference championship.  No national championship. Nothing.  Just 24 straight wins.  That's it.  Nothing to show for it. 

Seeing some of that special on the Youngstown Boys team made me think;  if they don't beat Purdue and we go to the game.  Or, if Terrance catches the pass in Jax…are we totally reversed from them?  They were perennially the team that couldn't get it done.  They kept going 10-1.  That title got them respect from voters, which sent them to a few more BCSCGs.

I think we'll be like OU and OSU.  When we win it, we'll string together 3-4 appearances in 10 years.  Of course, I'll be, like 80 when that finally happens.

Something Crazy: Coaching Stat

You want me to tell you something crazy?  I'm not sure what it means, but it means something about our culture at UGA, maybe good, maybe bad, probably a little of both.  It is different.  It has always been different.  Brown stepping down made me thinking about it because Richt is now the 5th longest tenured coach in CFB.  

Here it is: 

Since 1939, we've had 6 football coaches. Florida has had 13 in that time frame.  Alabama has had 12.  We've had 4 since '64.  That's all pretty remarkable.  If Richt retires in 4-5 years and we hire Kirby at around 41 or 42 and he stays till he's about 62, we could go 100 years with 7 head coaches. 

Thoughts on the season recap video: New Year, New Team, One Dream

Don't know if you've seen the video they showed at the Senior Gala, but you need to check it out.  It has left me with very mixed emotions.  A couple of thoughts:
  • Mark Richt is right, "Nobody does it better than Georgia."  Everything, and I mean everything, about what we do is…majestic.  The town, the unis, the stadium, the fanbase.  Nobody. 
  • We had a darn good football team that was ravished by a brutal schedule and catastrophic injuries.  I want to say that we should have won more games.  We might, MIGHT, look back and think it was all a miracle.
  • We can make good videos.  It's obvious that whoever is in charge of these is not in charge of the stadium videos.
  • There were no clips from the Auburn game.  There shouldn't be.  UGA needs to wipe it from our memory.  Cal-Stanford was fuel for Elway's fire for an entire career.  He still won't talk about it.  In the meantime, he closed a career with 2 Super Bowls and is building another champion now.
  • I'd be very interested to know if the Ramik targeting penalty in there was intentionally.
  • Get used to calling Chris Conley, Mr. President.  Seriously, that dude will probably be our AD one day.
Now, let me be very careful here.  But…part of this video really bothers me.  Part of me wonders if this video is exactly the hiccup in our program.  I love football and the relationships it forms.  Ben and I became friends working for some pretty average as grits teams.  Our best season was 10-2 and that felt like we were on top of the world.  We were also part of a 5-6 crew and the last UGA team to not make a bowl.  It IS a game, and the relationships formed in the grind are powerful.  But we're not starting a Boy Scout troop are we?  Truthfully, the narration doesn't bother me.  It was trying to make sense of the crazy mess the season became because of crazy circumstances.  Artie's comments bothered me most.  In 40 years, of course we'll remember.  I'll remember we couldn't get a snap down and lost by 3 at Clemson.  I remember we beat UT 16-15 to open up the season 33 years ago. 

I get it.  I really do.  I understand the relationships…the people.  I just think it was a little too "Aw shucks."  No team wins 'em all.  I just want it to bother us a little more when we don't.  It's not the 8-4.  And there were some fun and magical moments in the 8 and in a couple of the 4.  And I know we're trying to honor seniors with that video.  I'd love to hear Richt's thoughts on it.  I do think 8-4 bothers him.  I love the feel of it, but there's just a hint of something missin in it.  Just a hint.  Tell me if I'm totally wrong.

BTW, this is why I think I'm gonna like Hutson.  I think it bothers him.  I hate we only get him for 1 season.  I wish he was a RSJr. Next year.  However, his one shot might be a different kind of motivation for him. 

Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday After Season Thoughts

A couple of thoughts running through my brain late last night, and a few things I took a glance at:
  • Mizzou was easily the worst 11-1 team in the nation, and the worst division champ since 2010 South Carolina.  They really weren't ready for the bright lights and it showed.  Dawgs or Cocks would have put up much more of a fight.  Them's the breaks.  They won the games they had to.

  • I can't force myself to believe that Auburn's offense will be a lasting juggernaut for one reason:  The NFL.  We look at it and say, "Gosh, why doesn't my team do that?  They're killing people."  But no NFL GM is thinking that, which means a few things.  1.  It can be stopped.  The best and brightest offensive minds in the world still think Peyton, Brady and Breeze and precision passing is the way to go, which means they think it's the hardest to stop.  Football is cyclical.  Every team Auburn plays will be seeking a new way to stop it.  It only takes one and the rest copy cat.  The ACC spent a couple years figuring out Tech, now the best teams have.  Maybe Malzahn will turn out to be the smartest guy in the room.  Me thinks the NFL has the smartest guys.  Do you think Saban won't research all off-season how to stop it?  Do you think all those coaches don't talk?  2.  Recruiting.  They're going to have a hard time recruiting top-shelf WR, which ends up being a losing game down the road.  Bottom line is I don't want to go where I'm not going to get thrown the ball.  The ocassional bomb won't satisfy the desires of the AJ Green recruits of the world, which will hurt their talent pool.  Cam notwithstanding, it's not a system to get in the NFL as a QB, and if I can't get in the NFL, then why do I want to come?  Over the long-haul, it begins to have an effect.  Maybe there are more Cam Newtons and Nick Marshalls out there than I realize.  There's a lot of Khiel Fraziers, who is shorter than Cam and a step slower than Marshall.  Those attributes make all the difference.  Turns out Tech has had a hard time finding another Josh Nesbitt.  3.  That offense, much like Tech's, will never be combined with a good defense.  Based on what Malzhan will try to recruit at QB, what scout teamer will give them a look in practice to mimic Hutson Mason?  Exactly. 

  • My daddy always said about a great game of golf that the tendency is to think about what you could have done, like you mised that 5 footer and fluffed that one into the water.  You always forget that you holed in one from 30 yards away, hit the best drive of your life and had one bounce off a tree into the middle of the fairway.  Auburn would be wise to be mindful of that.  UGA could well be 6-6 this year, and you are what you are.  But that team is dangerously close to being 8-4, and legitimately should be 9-3.  Don't know what that means for next year.  But, eventually the luck runs out and the ball bounces the other way.  It just does.

  • Speaking of luck, since the advent of the SECCG, here are the teams that finished the game with 1 or zero losses and played for the NC:  1992 Bama (12-0), 1995 Florida (12-0), 1996 Florida (11-1), 1997 Tennessee (11-1…played in Bowl Coalition Champ. Vs. Nebraska), 1998 Tennessee (12-0), 2003 LSU (12-1), 2006 Florida (11-1), 2007 LSU (11-2…outlier!), 2008 Florida (12-1), 2009 Bama (13-0), 2010 Auburn (13-0), 2011 LSU (13-0), 2012 Bama (12-1).  Of course, the real outliers there are 2002 UGA at 12-1 and 2004 Auburn at 12-0.  Hard to say Mark Richt didn't do what a lot of others have done in his first 2 years.  Bottom line is ain't many people running through unscathed.  Urbs never did.  Miles did and lost the title game.  Spurrier never did all the way through.  That's unlucky when you look at the whole bunch.

  • Tre Mason was fantastic Saturday night.  He had 46 for 304.  That's 6.61/carry.  Didn't it seem like he was running wild the entire game?  Wrap your head around this.  Gurley's career is 6.25/carry.  Mason's career is 5.7/carry.  I'm serious when I say this:  maybe we should just hand him the ball more.  Including receiving, he's at around 7.5/touch.  Do you realize he had 12 carries for 154 yards in Clemson?  That's a ridiculous 12 yards/carry.  I know, I know…the 75 yard run.  Take that out and he's at 11 carries for 79, which is 7.2/carry.  Soak that in.  If Gurley had the space Mason had it would be like a video game.  Let's hope the kid stays healthy and we can give it to him 20-25 times/game, maybe more.  We've got to figure out a way to get him the ball more.  In an alternate universe in heaven, I just want to see what would have happened had we run a screen pass to him on the last play vs Auburn.  People would have said it was a terrible call.  No play to that kid is a bad call.

  • Finally, and thanks to the Counselor for getting my mind on this.  1966 (Kirby Moore from Dothan, AL) was the last UGA QB who didn't come from the state of Georgia to win an SEC title.  Since then we had Mike Cavan in '68 from Thomaston, Ray Goff (Moultrie) & Andy Johnson (Athens) in '76, Belue and Lastinger from Valdosta in '80-'82.  Greene from Snellville in '02 and Shockley from College Park in '05.  We've signed some pretty good out of state kids.  Signing Stafford was a no-brainer.  Same with Murray.  It's a stat, so it is what it is.  You can't really get around what it says.  It's been nearly 50 years since it happened.  Hutson's from Marietta.  Just Sayin'.
Go Dawgs!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

An Open Letter to the Ol' Ball Coach

Dear Coach Spurrier (or Coach Coors, whichever you prefer),

I wanted to gradulate you (I’m sure you still speak ‘gator,’ right?) on another fine season and a 10-2 record.  It really is amazing what you’ve done with the program where great coaches go to die.  And you own Dabo like you did Ray Goff.  But, I mean, his name is Dabo.  Mostly, I wanted to commend you on a feat that I am not sure has been accomplished in the long history of the SEC since we went to divisions (Admittedly, I haven’t really looked it up):  You have amazingly gone three straight seasons with defeating the SEC East Champs while sitting at home the first weekend in December.  I’m sure this is something you and the Gamecock faithful can be proud of.  In fact, it sounds like a possible ring or stadium banner idea.  Of course, I concur with you in recent years that we should really think about schedules and maybe another way to determine the division champions in our esteemed conference.

  • Whoever gets the easiest draw vs the West really has the advantage and seems to win the division.  Wait, you played the two teams from the West (6-6 Miss St. and 3-9 Arkansas) with the two worst records?  And Mizzou had to play Jonathan Tackle Football and Ole Miss?  And UGA had to play LSU and Auburn?  Oh, sorry, I was thinking you had a point there.
  • As you’ve mentioned before, really we should only count division games.  Wait, you mean y’all tied UGA at 4-2 in the division while Mizzou went 5-1?  Rats, I thought you had a point there, Coach.
  • You were right that it’s hard to raise a program up in the SEC and get to that SEC championship game.  I mean, it was amazing how quickly South Carolina did it from 1992 to 2010, only 18 years after joining the league.  And it only took you 5 years since you got there in 2005.  Wait, it took Mizzou 2 years?  I must be confused.
  • Maybe the division title should go to the team that tries the hardest?

In any event, you’ve raised the level of consistency in Columbia to new heights, and for that you should be extolled.  What is truly remarkable is how you guys have consistently lost an inexplicable game in the last three years that eventually cost you the division title.

  • 2011 – That home loss to a 7-5 Auburn team, who squeaked by Utah State on a miracle finish.  By the way, isn’t Auburn the one team that owned you while you were in Gainesville? 
  • 2012 – A 33-point beat down to your alma mater, Florida, in a game in which Florida had 183 yards offense.  No, I’m serious.  That’s how many yards they had.  And won.  By nearly 5 touchdowns.  Did I mention it was your alma mater?
  • 2013 – A loss at Tennessee, whose only other SEC victory came against 0-8 Kentucky.  Didn’t you used to whip Tennessee every year?  Coach, I don’t want you to get down about this.  I don’t want you to think about how that loss to that bad Tennessee team has cost your team a chance at being 11-1, playing for the SEC title, and a shot at a BCS National Championship Game birth.  Coach Fulmer called me and told me to tell you to just forget it, and he sends his condolences.

We’ve had a disappointing, sometimes exhilarating and crazy season in Athens this year, Coach.  But finally, I wanted to laud you for joining a distinguished group.  In 2013, the Cardiac Dawgs only beat four teams by double digits:  North Texas, Appalachian State, Kentucky, and the Mighty South Carolina Fighting Gamecocks.  Now that deserves a banner in Williams-Brice.

Coach, whatever you do, I don’t want you to get down about this.  I’m sure that some time in the near future again you’ll encounter a season in which Florida and Tennessee are dumpster fires and not bowl eligible, and you play the worst two teams in the West while UGA plays the #1 and #3 teams in the West while starting 78 freshmen on defense and ends up having 24 players tear their ACLs.  And in that same season, I’m sure again you’ll have the best QB in your school’s history and the best defensive player in the country and your school’s history.  I’m sure another opportunity like that is just around the corner. 


The Bulldog Nation

P.S.  Coach Fulmer wanted me to tell you something like “You can’t spell Citrus without USC”…whatever that means.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

The Truth: #DEFENSE

I don't care if we're 4-3 or long as we stop people.  I don't care if we substitute like crazy or play the starters every long as we stop people.  I don't care if he uses 17 towels or announces his defense over the long as we stop people.  I don't care if he's a jerk or Sunday School long as we stop people.  But, I do care that we don't stop people and he doesn't seem to budge.
Bobo looks like he actually studies the game in the offseason and watches other teams.  He figured out that we could score a bunch of points.  In the last 3 years, we've seen the hurry up, Aaron master the back shoulder throw, way more 1 back sets, and the pistol get used like crazy.  We've even seen wildcat here and there.  We didn't want to do the 'look over to the sideline for the play', but when it became apparent that could help us score more points, we did it.
This Saturday is a great example.  We adjusted to Hutson on the fly and got some points before halftime.  Grantham either has a great game plan and does nothing at halftime and we get run over in the 2nd half because the other team made adjustments or we get steamrolled early and he can't make adjustments until halftime, after which we play pretty good.  What do they have all those white boards for on the sideline?  Pictionary?
But, I don't have to analyze much to know that we can't stop people and win a game ugly.  Bama played an ugly 1st QTR in Lexington this year, but it was 0-0 after 1.  They played horribly in the first half vs. Mississippi St. offensively and scored a TD right at the end of the half.  They were up 10-0 at half time.  We're incapable of that.  If our offense stalls the least bit, we're in for a mess and a dogfight.  And that's the problem.  It's a different age in CFB, but other teams still come to play defense sometime.  In 2003, we were losing the Vandy 2-0 at halftime.  That literally happened.  Our offense actually gave up the only points.  They were wretched, but our D kept it from being a run-away.  We settled down and won by 19.
Here's the deal.  We structure our team different than Bama.  I'm okay with that.  They didn't win their division this year, so it didn't work for them either.  But, here's the answers.  We finished the regular season #48 in Total Defense.  Auburn finished #52 and Mizzou finished #75.  That's your two division winners.  Statistically, we had a better defense when it comes to yardage.  It's that simple.  And we played 2 high powered OOC games against teams that can churn our yardage like crazy (Clemson and Tech).  But, defense is about points.  We finished #80 in scoring defense.  Auburn finished #31 and Mizzou finished #14.  There you go.  That's the difference between 8-4 and 11-1.  Our offense is as good as theirs.
Offensive ranks:
#20 UGA - 38.2 ppg
#17 Auburn - 38.6 ppg
#14 Mizzou - 38.8 ppg
We're giving up 29.4 ppg.   Auburn at 22.5 and Mizzou at 19.4.  BTW, that tells me Mizzou's D will be the difference on Saturday. 
Mizzou gained 27 turnovers.  Auburn gained 17.  We gained 14. 
Mizzou is +15 in turnover margin.  Auburn was +1.  Georgia was -6.
And that's the ballgame, folks.  A rash of injuries, minus 6 turnovers, a scoring defense that ranks 109 in the country and you've got 8-4.  With our schedule, if you'd have told me those stats in August, I'd probably have taken 8-4 and twice on Sunday.  The Vandy game still kills me, but Richt did a remarkable job holding it together.  I've never left a stadium with the feeling I did in knoxville, winning a thriller against a rival but being so depressed because of what we'd lost.  With alll that...If Chris Sanders, Nick Marshall, Isaiah Crowell and Boo Malcome are still on the team, we're still a whole lot better.  Get more players, preferably not knuckleheads.  And stop people from scoring a lot.  It's not that complicated.

2013: In the Books!

You woke up on Dec. 2, 2012 in a dark spot.  You'd just seen the most painful loss of your life, and probably that you will ever see.  Alabama was on top of the world (again).  Auburn had just gone 0-8 in league play, including a loss in Nashville.  Mizzou was banged up and not going bowling.  Dec. 2, 2013 sure tells a different story.  Auburn is on top of the world.  Mizzou is for real.  We're happy to have escaped with a wounded team against our arch-rival when we spotted them 20 and had no business winning with our back-up QB.  Bama is on suicide watch.

There's always another year, and it'll always tell a different story.  Count me on the Mizzou train Saturday night.  If Auburn wins, go Bucks in that B1G final.  I have no desire to see Auburn play for all the marbles.  And, it will needle the FU fans so much to see Corch play vs. the Noles in the BCSNC game.  Who in the world do you pull for if you're a florida fan?

It's going to be a different league next year, for sure.  Mizzou, UGA, South Carolina, Alabama, LSU, and A & M lose really good veteran QBs.  Regrettably, Florida and Tennessee have all their QBs returning, so that's a plus for the rest of the league.  And who will go pro?  Will Tre Mason?

I like our chances with Hutson over Dylan Thompson and Maty Mauk.  It Hutson shines in the bowl game, will he be the pre-season all-SEC selection?  I mean, is it gonna be Bo Wallace or Nick Marshall?  As for the Gator, I'm excited about playing Michigan or even Iowa.  Just didn't want to play Minnesota.  It actually has a bigger payout than CFB, about $3.5 to $2.9.  I'd rather go there an play Mich or Iowa or play Duke in the CFA.  Best case would be vs. CoCanes in ATL.  Speaking of bowls, once again we've got some incredible flaws in the system.  Bama's gonna go not by choice but by necessity, much like UF last year.  At least the new system will allow for bowls to take who they want and get rid of teams like Central Florida in a big time bowl.  I'm still thinking long term the CFB is gonna regret being a part of it unless they create another bowl for the SEC and ACC.  10 years down the road they're going to have Oregon playing Michigan St. in a semifinal game and there will be 10,000 empty seats and they'll wonder why.  Worse, when they're not part of the semis, they're gonna end up with Arizona St. vs. Texas A & M and wonder why they can't sell tickets.  

As for Grantham, my concern is that Richt is tying his boat to a sinking rock.  I'm hopeful that CTG will find greener pastures as an NFL assistant and it will all transition smoothly.  My fear is that no change happens, and I'm just not sure they guy knows what he's doing.  I mean that in a sincere way.  I know he knows defense.  I'm not sure he knows how to get 20 year olds to do what they're supposed to do on a given play, and that's kind of the whole point.  He seems caustic and, basically, a jerk, and I'm not sure that flies with young ones unless you have A LOT of rings to flash around.  I also don't know that he knows how to get us to play fast all the time.  It seems complicated.  And I don't understand our lack of substituting at all.  Getting Reggie Carter in at LB in a close game when the opponent has it 1st and 10 at their own 20 seems like it would only help to me.  Spell Wilson for 3 plays and get him back in there.  

My fear is that next year is more of the same.  We go 8-4 again and lose shootouts to teams with competent offenses.  We  beat UT, Florida and Tech, but can't hang with USCjr, Mizzou, Auburn and maybe Clemson or another of the others (maybe 1 of the first 3).  We make the changes we have to make then, but 2015 is a different story.  We have a redshirt Sophomore at QB, a brand new center, a lot of weapons at WR gone and no Todd Gurley.  A new defensive scheme and we go 7-5 or 6-6 and Richt gets canned.  I've seen this before.  It's called 2010.  

Now, the other side of me says that Richt HAS to know that.  I know he also knows that we are absolutely loaded on defense next year, and my guess is he's banking on these guys getting it and us looking more like the last 1/2 of the 2011 defense (though that team did get gashed in the 2nd halves vs. LSU and Mich St…substitutions, anyone?).  And, as much as I'm a fan, no one wants to win more that Mark Richt.  It's ridiculous to think that Richt cares about Grantham's feelings or making changes.  He's no dummy.  He knows everyone of those coaches will land on their feet within 2 weeks.  If we don't change, I think it's because Richt is seeing the lens of 2014 through Hutson/Gurley glasses.  He knows we don't have to be great at defense, just adequate.  My concern is that we rolled that dice this year and got burned because of injuries and the D was worse than we thought.  But I know he sees a window.  The question is can that defense get you to 11-1.  11-1 and win the SEC at 12-1 and you're in the dance.  But, I'm fearful that we'll win the SEC at 11-2 and miss out because we couldn't stop 2 teams.

Just some Monday grist for my football mill.