UGA SEC Opener 2014: Dawgs Face Gamecocks

mark_richt_steve_spurrierGeorgia – South Carolina – Expectations Versus Hope
Bulldog Nation expects to contend for the Southeastern Conference Championship.  The Gamecocks hope the past two weeks were not a harbinger of things to come.  After giving up 52 points at home in the SEC opener, Steve Spurrier and South Carolina enter week three with their backs against the conference wall.  Still, the Ole’ Ball Coach has made a living turning Bulldogs into bad Dawgs.

Bulldog Nation – Maintain Momentum
Sanford Stadium featured a raucous crowd firmly behind the home team, leading UGA to a convincing week one win over Clemson.  Now, the Bulldogs must visit South Carolina to face a desperate conference foe.  The Dawgs must not give Cocky and company anything easy early, as Georgia has the talent to pull away late.

Feed the Beast – Embrace the Heisman Hype
Todd Gurley leads the way with regard to early Heisman Trophy hype.  After scoring four touchdowns in the first game of 2014, the eyes of the college football world are on TGIII.  Bulldog Nation has a stable of running backs in its arsenal.  TGIII leads the way, but running backs such as Keith Marshall, Nick Chubb, and Sony Michel have proven able to contribute when called upon.

Jeremy Pruitt Makes Immediate Impact in Athens
Georgia’s biggest move this past offseason occurred off the field when the Dawgs hired Jeremy Pruitt to be their defensive coordinator.  In 2013, Pruitt’s FSU defense dominated college football.  At present, the Bulldogs appear poised to bring defensive dominance back between the hedges.  Let us not get ahead of ourselves though, two great quarters only represents progress, not a finished product.

South Carolina’s Secondary Sucks
Georgia’s running game was special in week one.  However,  the Gamecock’s biggest weakness is found in their secondary.  After giving up more than 500 yards through the air against the Aggies of A&M, Carolina gave up 321 more passing yards to East Carolina last week.

If one puts their ear to the crowd anywhere in the college football universe it is almost possible to hear the Georgia bandwagon piling up.  From a fan standpoint the hype is a lot of fun, but it will be interesting to see whether UGA can manage expectations.  As for the opposition, Steve Spurrier’s mouth is the only thing crowing right now in Carolina.

Prediction: Georgia Bulldogs 31, South Carolina Gamecocks 17.
Other than Steve Spurrier’s propensity to make life miserable for Georgia, there is not much to indicate the Gamecocks can keep up with the Bulldogs.  South Carolina has looked average at best, while UGA is in pretty much every early College Football Playoff bracket.  If South Carolina is victorious Saturday afternoon, it will speak far more about Georgia being overrated than the fighting Spurrier’s being underrated.

For what it’s worth, Steve Spurrier has a record of 15-6 coaching against the University of Georgia. Even so, five of those losses have come during his tenure in Carolina.  The father of the “fun n’ gun” offense may not have much fun in 2014.

UPDATE: Urgent Memo to Georgia – Be on the lookout for fake punts.

Kickoff 2014 – Dawgs Maul Tigers: UGA 45, Clemson 21

keith_marshall_todd_gurley_ugaGeorgia Pummels Clemson in the Second Half
Georgia versus Clemson was a tale of two halves.   The first act was altogether unimpressive.  UGA gave up 254 yards on defense, resulting in the game being tied at 21 as the teams headed to the locker room.  During the final two frames, Georgia not only tamed the tigers, they slayed the tigers.  Bulldog Nation pitched a shutout in the second half while outscoring the Tigers 24-0 in the last 30 minutes of the game.

Dawgs Run Wild Between The Hedges
Having options at running back is nice, but Todd Gurley is clearly the big Dawg in Sanford Stadium.  His production on Saturday night, including 293 all-purpose yards, proves the Dawgs carry a championship level bite when #3 is able to shoulder the loud.  TGIII finished the opening contest with 198 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

Wearing #27, Nick Chubb had a 47 yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter to break the will of the Clemson defense.

jeremy_pruitt_mark_richtA Damn Good Dawg Debut
On the other side of the ball, Jeremy Pruitt’s defense settled down nicely after giving up 13 first downs in the opening quarter quarter and turned in an impressive performance against Clemson.  If the starters can stay healthy, coach Pruitt should expect to continue his meteoric rise through the coaching ranks.

The Bulldogs came out even on the turnover ratio in week one. The fumble charged against Georgia was questionable, as what was originally ruled an incompletion to Michael Bennett turned out to be a fumble upon further review.  Thankfully, the mistake turned out to be nothing more than a blip on the radar.

Will Georgia’s Bite Be Worse Than Their Bark?
There is reason to be excited in Athens.  Georgia possesses a seemingly endless stable of running backs, led by a fifth-year senior signal caller.  As long as Hutson Mason is able to make big throws when the running game opens up the throwing lanes, the sky is the limit for the UGA offense.

Defensively, linebacker Leonard Floyd is poised to continue wreaking havoc on the Southeastern Conference.  Selected as a preseason All-American by ESPN, Floyd is the face of coach Pruitt’s defensive unit.  Pressuring the quarterback will be the key to the Bulldogs’ season.

What A Difference One Game Makes
UGA issued a resounding statement on opening night and the Dawgs now find themselves in the championship conversation.  Following a bye-week, Georgia will look to build on their success in a pivotal Southeastern Conference contest against a wounded Gamecock squad that laid an egg against the Aggies in week one.  Steve Spurrier has been a constant thorn in the Dawgs’ paw, but this year’s South Carolina squad found out that the hard way that it takes a lot more than a mouthy head coach to win a title.

College Football Quick Thoughts – July 9, 2014

Phil Steele Predicts the Future
During a recent appearance on ESPN’s The Herd with Colin Cowherd, college football guru Phil Steele revealed his picks for the inaugural college football playoff in 2015.

Predictably, Steele opted for safe assumptions over shock value.  According to Phil Steele, Alabama, Oklahoma, Florida State and Ohio State are the four teams of destiny in the upcoming season.  The first major college football playoff kicks off on New Year’s Day of 2015.

Dawgs Focused on Special Teams
Throughout the past few seasons, woeful miscues on special teams have come back to bite the Georgia Bulldogs.  Whether it was the blocked punt that changed the complexion of the Vanderbilt game in 2013, or the punt return UGA gave up against South Carolina in 2012, Bulldog Nation has been able to chalk up at least one loss gridiron loss a year to inexcusable errors in the kicking game.

The Dawgs’ continuous woes on special teams have spurred head coach Mark Richt to retool his approach with special teams.  In February, Georgia Dogs reported that coach Richt believes making some changes on his special teams’ staff would provide the unit a much needed shot in the arm.

The article on Georgia Dogs features a brief comment from Richt, “This restructuring I believe will give us the best chance to win from a recruiting and special teams standpoint”.

Discipline Wins Championships
No matter who is doing the coaching, solid special teams play can largely be attributed to discipline.  Players must be ready to execute on every special teams outing.  Failure to do so can make or break an entire season in one play.  Just ask Alabama and Auburn.

Only 51 days remain until Georgia welcomes Clemson on August 30.

Tray Matthews Dismissed from UGA

Dawgs Putting Discipline Back in Defense
According to the Atlanta-Journal Constitution, UGA head coach Mark Richt dismissed Tray Matthews from the team earlier this week.  Matthews started six games at safety for Georgia, however his off the field problems left the Bulldogs with no alternative but to remove him from the program.

During what the AJC termed an exclusive interview, Tray Matthews stated that his unruly classroom behavior was the final straw in his dismissal.

richt_saban

Hopefully Nick Saban is giving our beloved coach a discipline tip. Or two.

Fret not, Bulldog Nation, for Tray Matthews says he was planning to leave anyway.  Apparently, he had been waiting for the right time to inform the media.  Matthews clearly has some growing up to do, and here’s hoping a change of scenery helps facilitate that.

As far as what is next for the troubled sophomore, Tray Matthews has expressed a desire to continue his college career at either Auburn or Louisville.

Task Getting Tougher for Jeremy Pruitt
Tray Matthews was not a difference maker on defense during his time in Athens.  Still, there is no substitute for experience.  UGA possesses the talent level to compete with any team in the country, but a lack of depth on defense is going to make a quick turnaround very difficult.

Georgia Sending a Message to Student Athletes
In the midst of another turbulent offseason for the Georgia Bulldogs, Mark Richt says the football team “is trying to make room for guys who want to do things right.”  Tray Matthews is the third player who played a significant role in 2013 that has left the program this offseason.  Defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt has his work cut out for him preparing for his first season between the hedges.

Discipline issues are a fact of life in big time college football.  The key to success is whether or not a team establishes a no nonsense standard of handling and overcoming issues, while working together to be successful on and off of the gridiron to breed success in all facets of college.

Games Cannot be won in June (Though they can Certainly be Lost)
June is a fairly absurd time to make big predictions about the upcoming season.  Even so, 2014 promises to be a pivotal year for Bulldog Nation.  It has been nearly a decade since Georgia won the Southeastern Conference, and expectations will be high for a lot of new faces to make a championship level first impression.

Times Announced for Georgia’s Frst Two Games of 2014

Georgia – Clemson: 89 Days Away
The Atlanta-Journal Constitution is reporting Georgia’s home opener against Clemson will kick off at 5:30. The contest will be televised by ESPN.  In addition, the Bulldogs’ annual showdown with South Carolina has been picked up by CBS in week two.

Recalling the Ridiculous Bus Ride
In 2013, ESPN made a big production out of Clemson’s short bus ride from their campus to Death Valley.  The “Worldwide Leader in Sports” showed the entrance in its entirety, from the loading of the buses, to players touching Howard’s Rock and running down “The Hill”, showcasing a display which appealed to absolutely no one other than Tiger faithful.  Admittedly, that statement is full of bitterness toward last year’s result.



It’s Only Teenage Wasteland
In an effort to make this year’s coverage equally home-centric, ESPN should broadcast the entirety of the Baba O’Reily entrance to Sanford Stadium, making sure to keep the commentary team quiet during Glory Glory to Ole’ Georgia as well.

It is far too early to tell what the outcome will be of Georgia’s impending tussle with Clemson.  2014 marks game number 64 between the two schools.  The Dawgs lead the all-time series by a count of 41-18, with four ties.

The Pressure is on Bulldog Nation
Clemson met (and arguably exceeded), expectations last season, capping off an ACC Championship with a victory in the 2014 Orange Bowl victory over Ohio State.  At present, it seems Cole Stoudt will get the nod at quarterback for the Tigers. Conversely, Hutson Mason will end his four-year odyssey of waiting to be the starter on opening weekend.  UGA will be eager to prove their worth as a top ten college football program as Bulldog Nation looks to put more bite behind its bark.

Trends UGA Must Reverse in 2014

hedges'Defense Doomed Dawgs in 2013
Todd Grantham left Georgia earlier this year for the opportunity to work with Bobby Petrino at Louisville.  The question remains whether the new Cardinals defensive coordinator wanted to leave Athens, or was he simply getting the hell out of dodge?

Athlon Sports notes Georgia gave up a school record for points last year, allowing the opposition an average of 375.5 yards per game.  This total is the highest per game yardage given up by the Bulldog defense since coach Richt has been in Athens.

The Football Must Bounce Georgia’s way (Good Luck Would be Nice)
The Dawgs’ negative turnover margin (-7) kept them from building momentum last season.  UGA lost games in agonizing fashion, and four out of their five defeats were by less than six points.  Had Georgia been able to stay even remotely healthy, 2013 could have been a banner year for Bulldog Nation.

Avoid the injury Bug
The University of Georgia had a rash of injuries throughout last season.  The Bulldogs played multiple games without their top two running backs and three best receivers.  Eight wins may be considered a disappointment on the surface, but in reality it was a minor miracle.

A More Favorable Schedule
In 2013, Bulldog Nation made the trip to Death Valley in week one. This year, the Dawgs welcome the Tigers in the first game of the 2014 campaign  before traveling to South Carolina. Without former quarterback Tahj Boyd, Clemson should beware of Dawg in just over 90 days.

The Bulldogs drop LSU, add Troy, and get a bye-week before heading to Jacksonville on November 1.

College Football Playoff Changes the Dynamic of Winning a Championship
Next season signals the beginning of the highly anticipated College Football Playoff.  The Dawgs are among a select few legitimate threats from the Southeastern Conference which have a quarterback with starting experience on their roster.  The new postseason format means earning a national championship will be even more difficult, but Georgia’s winning tradition means they are always in title contention.

Transfer Trouble for UGA Football?

jeremy_pruitt_bcsTransfers May Cause Depth Issues on Defense
Bulldog Nation has plenty of reason to be excited about new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt.  A proven winner, Pruitt has the experience needed to put the bark back into the bite of the Georgia defense.

Still, a coach is only as good as the talent he is instructing.  With the recent news that UGA defensive back Shaq Wiggins decided to transfer, only one member of the Bulldogs secondary has started more than a single game.

Wiggins’ decision to continue his college experience elsewhere is unfortunate.  With that said, Bulldog Nation wishes him the best of luck.  The Dawgs have no use for an athlete who lacks the desire to play between the hedges.

Jeremy Pruitt Rebuilding UGA, Not Reloading
Jeremy Pruitt’s ability to coach up a defense will be tested this fall.  Coach Pruitt certainly has the championship experience to warrant his new position, but, as Pruitt recently told the Macon Telegraph, his defense is getting back to basics. “There’s some good, there’s some bad, but all of it we control”.  He also stressed the importance of lining up correctly, knowing what to look for, and having proper technique.

CBS Sports notes the Bulldog defense finished number 11 in the Southeastern Conference in defensive pass efficiency.  Shaq Wiggins led the team in interceptions in 2013.  Wiggins’ team leading total of two picks speaks volumes about the team struggling to create turnovers as opposed to his individual ability.

Give Bulldog Nation a Reason to Bark Again
Winning cures everything.  It is unreasonable to expect a team to compete for a national championship every year, but five losses did not set well with anyone in Bulldog Nation.  The Dawgs’ new defensive coaches are tasked with bringing consistency back to a Georgia defense that appeared lost by the end of Todd Grantham’s tenure.

Upon his introduction as Georgia’s defensive coordinator, Jeremy Pruitt revealed that he had been hoping for the chance to work with Mark Richt at UGA for more than a decade.  Now that his wish has come true, coach Pruitt must make the most of it.

Aaron Murray Fits in Kansas City

aaron_murrayAaron Murray’s NFL Career Begins
The Kansas City Chiefs selected former Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray in the fifth round of the 2014 NFL Draft.  Murray’s new football home will afford him the opportunity to work with an experienced head coach in Andy Reid, and learn from former #1 overall draft pick, Alex Smith.

The Pressure on Aaron Murray to Succeed Will be Minimal
The Chiefs won 11 games in 2013.  Kansas City features arguably the most explosive running game in the National Football League, led by Jamaal Charles, and the KC defense was dominant for much of last season.  Aaron Murray needs time to grow as a professional, which is why going to a storied NFL franchise is the best thing for the former Georgia quarterback.

As reported by ESPN, KC coach Andy Reid, and general manager John Dorsey have a successful history of drafting and developing quarterbacks at the professional level.  Both Reid and Dorsey are entering their second year as head Chiefs, and they helped the team improve its win total by nine games in their first season.

#11 Feels KC’s Selection is Mutually Beneficial
Assuming Kansas City continues to trend upward, there is hardly a better situation for Aaron Murray to properly cultivate his skill set.  According to the aforementioned ESPN article, Murray is excited about where he ended up following last weekend’s draft.  “It’s a great fit, I’m not complaining one bit…They do a heck of a job preparing quarterbacks”.

Important Information On Andy Reid and John Dorsey
Andy Reid is best known for his time as the head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.  As the head coach in Philly from 1999-2012, Reid guided the Eagles to four NFC Championship appearances.  The Eagles only appeared in one Super Bowl though, losing to the Patriots 24-21 in the 2006 Super Bowl.

Donovan McNabb was the starting quarterback for the bulk of the time Andy Reid led the Eagles.  While Philadelphia never quite grabbed that elusive championship ring, Reid’s belief in McNabb as his QB propelled Donovan to heights that not many saw coming out of college.

John Dorsey was the director of college scouting for the Green Bay Packers when the team last won a world championship in 2011.  He is credited with drafting players such as Green Bay starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and standout linebacker Clay Matthews.  When asked what led the Chiefs to pick Aaron Murray, Dorsey said, ““He’s a winner. He’s been a winner at every stage that he’s played between high school and college”.

There is no doubt that the beloved Bulldog alum is facing an uphill battle, but he possesses all the tools necessary to get to the top of the NFL mountain.

Hutson Mason – One Year Legacy

hutson_mason_uga2014:The Year of Hutson Mason
Hutson Mason has started two games at the University of Georgia.  After leading an injury riddled Bulldog offense to a thrilling overtime victory against Georgia Tech his first time out, the 2014 Gator Bowl did not have a happy ending. UGA’s  depleted roster, coupled with too many mistakes resulted in the Dawgs coming up short against Nebraska by a final score of 24-19.  UGA finished this past season with five defeats.

Hutson Mason Finally Plays with a Full Deck
The Georgia starting quarterback will get the opportunity to play with a full supporting cast when the 2014 season rolls around.  Injuries were an epidemic for Bulldog Nation from start to finish in 2013, so it is likely better health alone will translates to more consistent results on the field.

According to Dog Bytes, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo felt Hutson Mason had a great spring.  Bobo remarked in part, “I thought Hutson had an outstanding spring, really stepped up in the leadership department.”

Bobo also noticed the Georgia signal caller working to make the most out of each play even while the skill level around him is not yet at full strength.

Taking the Pressure off of Gurshall
Priority number one for Hutson Mason is to keep teams honest, and prevent them from stacking the box against the Dawgs.  This task seems simple enough, considering he has coveted the opportunity to be the starting quarterback at UGA for more than four years.

Learning From the Past
In recent years, there have been three starting quarterbacks who have been afforded a single season to leave their paw print on the Georgia program.  Of the three names about to be discussed, this strategy only worked out heavily in Georgia’s favor on one occasion.

D.J. Shockley (2005)
D.J. Shockley led Bulldog Nation to a ten-win season during his lone year as the starter in 2005.  UGA finished 10-3, won the SEC title and appeared in the 2006 Sugar Bowl.

Joe Tereshinski III (2006)
The kid known as “Joe T” never really had the opportunity to take root as a starter between the hedges.  After stepping in for an injured D.J. Shockley against Florida in 2005, Tereshinski came into 2006 as the head signal caller. However, Joe  T injured his ankle during the second game of his final campaign.  Upon returning to the field, his lack of success proved to be his downfall.  Following an embarrassing homecoming loss to Vanderbilt, Tereshinski was benched in favor of Matthew Stafford.
joe_tereshinski_matt_staffordJoe Cox (2009)
Much like Hutson Mason and Joe Tereshinski III, Joe Cox had to be patient for his   opportunity to lead the Dawgs. Cox provided flashes of brilliance during 2009, guiding the Bulldogs to eight wins. Even so, far too many turnovers combined with a young supporting cast spelled mediocrity in Athens.  The 2009 Georgia Bulldogs went 4-4 in Southeastern Conference play.

Striving to get Everything Right
In an interview with ESPN, Hutson Mason made it clear that his goal is to win as much as possible. “When you get one shot, you get one opportunity, you want to make sure that you do everything right. You want to make sure that you don’t have any regrets because I don’t get four years.”

The year of Hutson Mason begins on Saturday, August 30, at home against Clemson.

The SEC Network Problem

sec_networkDriving Up The Cost of Cable
The price of cable television is becoming so outrageous that some people are cutting the cable cord.  Were it not for my love of live sports, I probably would have joined the growing crowd.

Exclusive Networks are a Needle in the College Football Haystack
Growing up in Athens, Georgia, has been very conducive to my love of UGA football.  I am fine with missing out on an occasional west coast showdown, as long as I get to see the Dawgs play every down.  The SEC Network launches on August 14, and it is shaping up to be another hoop for college football fans to jump through.

SEC Network – Distribution Fight at the Line of Scrimmage
According to Awful Announcing, the fight for SEC Network distribution rights is getting worseESPN is partnering with the SEC to broadcast this wonderful new network, however, as is the case with most every new network these days, this will not equate to free viewing for consumers.  At present, DISH Network and AT&T U-verse are the only television providers that have a deal in place to air the network.

The SEC Network will Feature Every SEC Football team
CBS Sports reported that every Southeastern Conference team will appear on the SEC Network this fall.  Set to broadcast approximately 45 college football games in its inaugural season, avid watchers of SEC football should be somewhat concerned with how this new network may change their viewing experience.

If cable companies such as Charter, Comcast, and Direct TV cannot agree to the terms necessary to carry the SEC Network, there are going to be a lot of unhappy folks down south in a few short months.

Money Talks: Solving the SEC Network Issues
The posturing between cable providers and the ESPN led SEC Network will be solved when the money is right.  Common sense says this issue will be resolved before a pigskin is ever tossed around, because the demand for SEC football is so high.  Still, with so many viewing options readily available, everyone involved with the shiny new network has an obligation to make it available to the widest possible audience.