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.

2013 – 2014 Bowl Game Thoughts

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Photo is from 2013.  Result resembles 2014.

24-19: The Dawgs Choke on an ear of Corn
Since the heart of this blog is Georgia football, I feel obligated to discuss the 2014 Gator Bowl. The Bulldogs turned in a slippery and sloppy performance, losing 24-19 in their season finale.  The Nebraska Cornhuskers deserved to win.  For Bulldog Nation, the Gator Bowl left one more stain on a season which started with so much promise.

Excuses and injuries notwithstanding, the Georgia Bulldogs have a long offseason ahead.  Mark Richt and company must work towards getting better on the field without getting in trouble off of it. On a positive note, The University of Georgia won eight games this season.

The Dawgs remained competitive despite an overwhelming number of injuries and bad breaks.  History may not smile on this particular team the way they had hoped, but the 2013 Bulldogs continued the winning tradition associated with Georgia football.

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Too Many Mediocre Bowls

There are too many bowl games.  The 2013 bowl slate featured 35 bowl games.   Despite ESPN’s promotional insistence, Capital One Bowl Week is far from the most wonderful week of the year.  Even die-hard college football fans must have trouble getting excited for the mediocrity that ensues early in bowl season.

Johnny Football is Money
The debate about Johnny Manziel’s off the field conduct may never end.  Still, there is no questioning his will to win. Manziel’s highlight reel performance against Duke resulted in a 52-48 win for Texas A&M in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.  By erasing a 38-17 deficit,  the Aggie comeback capped off an unforgettable two year run for “Johnny Football” at A&M.

The former Heisman Trophy winner will be a top pick in the 2014 NFL Draft.  No matter which team selects him, Manziel is expected to be a franchise quarterback.  Love him or hate him, the legend of Johnny Football continues to grow.

The Bowl Championship Series Goes out With a Bang
With the 2014 BCS National Championship Game in the books, the Bowl Championship Series is no more.  Thanks in part to intriguing match-ups, the BCS went out in style. BCS festivities began with the 100th playing of the Rose Bowl game, which gave college football fans a 28-24 slug fest between Michigan State and Stanford on New Year’s Day.  That same night, the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl culminated in a 52-42 shootout between UCF and Baylor.

The Orange Bowl produced another high scoring battle between Ohio State and Clemson.  Clemson picked up the victory while Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes finished the year with back-to-back losses.

Major college football has needed a playoff for some time.  With that said, certain aspects of the Bowl Championship Series will be missed.  The Rose Bowl will maintain some of its luster as a marquee athletic event, but I hate to think the Tournament of Roses will not be quite the spectacle when it is part of the playoff puzzle.

The Streak Ends
Congratulations to the Florida State Seminoles for winning the 2014 National Championship Game.  My disdain for the Auburn Tigers would not allow me to pull for the SEC’s streak of championships to continue.  As a college football fan, I am pleased the better team won. Luck finally ran out in War Eagle country.

Georgia SEC Opener – UGA Versus South Carolina September 7, 2013

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Steve Spurrier: “Just an old Sweet Song…”

According to Sports Talk SC, South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier played Willie Nelson’s Georgia on my mind at football practice on Monday. The South Carolina Gamecocks are looking for a fourth-straight win over Georgia, which would mean an entire UGA draft class (sans redshirts) would leave Athens without experiencing the joy of beating South Carolina. If the unthinkable occurs, the Bulldogs will only have themselves to blame.

Turnovers, Turnovers, Turnovers
The last three times that UGA has played the Gamecocks, Georgia has committed a total of five turnovers.  As a result, South Carolina has consistently been in position to make Georgia pay for careless errors. The Dawgs’ high turnover rate is magnified when they make mistakes and allow big plays like the ones shown in the videos below.
2011:



2012:



The Offensive Line Must Protect Aaron Murray
Jadeveon Clowney did not have a memorable opening to the 2013 season.  Instead of frequently sacking the North Carolina quarterback, he spent most of the game huffing and puffing.  Even so, Bulldog Nation better beware of the big bad wolf.  For the past two years Jadeveon Clowney and the rest of the Gamecock front seven have had success disrupting Georgia’s timing on offense and causing mistakes.

During the broadcast of the Clemson game last weekend, ABC/ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit brought up the fact that Aaron Murray is a rhythm passer.  This is the reason that Georgia only scored one touchdown against the chickens last season.  The offensive line must make protecting the quarterback their number one priority Saturday afternoon.  If they cannot, UGAs’ goose egg in the win column will remain.

Aaron Murray: Just Win, Baby
Aaron Murray could break every Georgia passing mark in the record books.  If he continues to fall short in big games, his legacy in Athens will ultimately be that he never won the big game.  If the offensive line has protection issues, and history indicates that it will, Aaron Murray must step up and take the game out of the Gamecocks.  2013 is Aaron Murray’s last stand between the hedges, he must play football accordingly.

Special Teams Must Execute
Steve Spurrier may very well watch film of the fake punt that he pulled on UGA in 2011 whenever he needs a laugh. Special teams execution does not refer to making 50 yard field goals. Rather, it means that the Bulldogs need to keep their head on a swivel playing against the old ball coach, because a special teams fake could come at any time.

Regardless of preparation, challenges and mistakes are going to surface on the football field for Georgia on Saturday afternoon.  As long as the Georgia Bulldogs give South Carolina their best shot, Bulldog Nation will have nothing to be ashamed of.

2013 Opener: Georgia – Clemson August 31, 2013

Brief Historical Perspective
The Bulldogs and the Tigers waged their first gridiron battle in 1897. UGA and Clemson have played a total of 62 games against each other, with Georgia leading the series by an all-time count 41-17, with four ties.  At present, Georgia owns a five-game winning streak over Clemson. The two teams last met in 2003, when the Dawgs mauled the Tigers by a score of 30-0.

The Weight of Expectations
It is critical that Bulldog Nation does not still see UGA as being five yards away from a national championship.  It is always fun to dream big, but what happened in 2012 is largely independent of what is to come beginning this Saturday night. Conversely, Clemson carries the weight of being the highest ranked team in the Atlantic Coast Conference to start the season. The much maligned ACC will be roaring for the Tigers this weekend, just as the much ballyhooed SEC will be cheering for the Bulldogs.

Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney Has Much to Prove
Dabo Swinney has a history of getting very emotional following Clemson wins.  He has never won a BCS bowl game, but his Tigers did win the ACC Championship in 2011. The purveyor of Howard’s Rock parlayed that victory into one of the most embarrassing losses in the history of the BCS, falling to the West Virginia Mountaineers by a final score of 70-33.

The Georgia Bulldogs Must Prove Themselves, Too
The game against Clemson kicks off what will be an extremely challenging stretch for the Bulldogs. Three of UGA’s first four football games are against teams that are ranked in the top 15 according to the preseason polls. Georgia could probably absorb one loss and still accomplish all they set out to achieve  this season.  Even so, starting the new campaign with a defeat at the claws of the Tigers would let a lot of air out of a Bulldog Nation balloon that is pretty high on itself.
Picking a Winner
The defensive issues that both of these teams face have been well documented. When  looking for an edge in this contest, look no further than the conference that each team is representing.  The mighty Southeastern Conference has ruled college football by hoisting the Bowl Championship Series trophy for seven straight seasons.  Conversely, the Charlotte Observer notes that since the BCS was created in 1998, the Atlantic Coast Conference has one BCS Championship to their credit.

I’m going to channel my best Kirk Herbstreit and pick a winner based on what he might say, as a way of judging my own opinion versus the ESPN expert.  Unfortunately, Herbstreit probably will not pick the game because he likely has announcing duties on ABC.  As for Lee Corso, I think that guy started picking games based on which mascot head is more fun to put on years ago.

Georgia walks out of Death Valley a winner on the arm of Aaron Murray and the overall talent of the UGA offense.  The Bulldog defense will make enough stops to pull away from the Tigers in the fourth quarter.  Final Score: Georgia 45, Clemson 31.

Georgia Versus Clemson – Ten Days Away

georgia_clemsonYou Can Cut the Tension With a Knife
With kickoff a mere ten days away, anticipation is building for Georgia’s 2013 season opener against the Clemson Tigers, and concern is starting to creep in between the hedges.  The Atlanta Journal-Constitution continues to report on the Bulldogs depleted defensive backfield.  A game that I previously believed would be an opportunity for Georgia to make a bold statement is now a contest that I hope the Dawgs can find a way to win.

Expect a Shootout in Death Valley
Clemson starting quarterback Tajh Boyd led the Atlantic Coast Conference in touchdown passes in 2012, with 36 touchdowns.  In all likelihood, the Tigers will look to strike Georgia’s secondary early and often, as Boyd also led the ACC in yards per attempt.  The Dawgs must put a lot of pressure on the Clemson signal caller to relieve the aerial assault.

UGA quarterback Aaron Murray had 36 touchdown tosses of his own last year. As he continues to rewrite the Georgia passing record books, the final chapters will be penned beginning on August 31. Murray will be behind a very experienced offensive line that is capable of protecting him and giving him the time he needs to make good decisions with the football.

Unease in Athens
The reality is even if the expected starters are able to make a full recovery by game day, they are still very inexperienced.  Clemson’s offense is nothing if not high powered, and the Tigers have proven that they can score very quickly.  Defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Todd Grantham will play a big role in the outcome of game one.

Georgia and Clemson each have questions to answer in the defensive secondary.  As a result, it is a fairly safe bet that they are going to combine to score 70-80 points before the final whistle blows.  Hell, Clemson gave up 70 points to West Virginia in the 2012 Orange Bowl.

The match-up between the Dawgs and the Tigers will end in favor of the team that can win the turnover battle.  According to College Football Statistics, Clemson had a total of 21 giveaways in 2012.  By comparison, Georgia turned the ball over 19 times. With UGA’s young defense, the Bulldogs absolutely have to avoid beating themselves.  Bulldog Nation is eager to take a bite out of Howard’s Rock.

College Football Outside of the South – ACC

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The ACC has not won many rings since coach Bowden retired.

The Atlantic Coast Conference Has Been Atrocious in BCS Games
The ACC has been one of my least favorite conferences to keep tabs on in recent years.  As a result, this post examining a portion of ACC football will center around the conference’s four most important games against the Southeastern Conference in 2013.

ACC Coaching Thoughts
Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson may be a triple option guru, but when he loses he becomes an obnoxious oaf.  Jimbo Fisher and the Florida State Seminoles have not won a big game since Bobby Bowden retired, Unless of course you are absurd enough to count the ‘Noles Orange Bowl victory over Northern Illinois at the end of last season.

I am looking forward to watching the ACC try to distance themselves from their own mediocrity in 2013. According to Mr. SEC the Atlantic Coast Conference holds a horrid record of 3-13 in BCS bowl games. Furthermore, if this is to be the year that the ACC reasserts itself as a power in college football, then there will be several roadblocks ahead.

Alabama-Virginia Tech
The Hokies are coming off an extremely disappointing year in which they finished 6-6 in the regular season, before defeating Rutgers in the Russell Athletic Bowl to end the year with a winning record.  This year, Virginia Tech has the honor of playing the defending national champion, Alabama, to begin their campaign.

The Crimson Tide have been sitting atop college football for two consecutive years, and it is nearly impossible to believe that a fictional purple turkey is going to knock them off.  Luckily, college football is not played on paper. What a “Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game” it will be if the Tide forgets to roll in.

Georgia–Clemson
I will admit that my opinion on this game is totally biased.  With Bulldog quarterback Aaron Murray coming back for his last chance at a championship, UGA has no intention of starting the season in an 0-1 hole.  There will be an offensive shootout in Death Valley, and Bulldog Nation will have the final bark.

Clemson may believe they will defeat Georgia, but history is not on their side.  mcubed, a sports history and statistics website, reports that the SEC went 6-2 against the ACC in 2012.

Georgia-Georgia Tech
Since Paul Johnson broke out his fish frier after his Yellow Jackets skewered the Dawgs for 45 points back in 2008, Georgia Tech has not been able to recapture that magic again.  Johnson was the ACC coach of the year for each of his first two seasons in Atlanta, but downright appalling defense has stung  Tech for a total of 19 losses in the past three seasons.

Georgia wiped the field with Georgia Tech in the final regular season game of 2012. The Bulldogs capitalized on a Georgia Tech fumble at the Georgia one-yard line to gain an early 14-0 lead and never looked back. It was a game that Tech head coach Paul Johnson called “a pretty good thumping.”  If the regular season pans out the way that Georgia fans are hoping for, a similar result should be expected in Atlanta this year.



South Carolina-Clemson
Steve Spurrier (thankfully) has had trouble winning the SEC East in the past two years. Consequently, the Ole’ Ball Coach has had to find solace in making life miserable for Clemson fans every year.  According to Clemson head coach, Dabo Swinney, the Tigers are knocking on the door to greatness, but how can that be if Clemson is not even the best team in their own state?

Despite their advantage of 65-41 (with four ties) in the series rivalry, the Tigers have not beaten the Gamecocks since 2008. The heat between the two schools figures to be kicked up a notch this year, as South Carolina and Clemson are ranked 7th and 8th in the preseason polls respectively.

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Maddawg’s Play of The Day – College Football Week 8 (October 23, 2011)

In a season that had largely gone as expected, with very few upsets, week 8 of the regular season turned the college football landscape on its ear. Two big upsets were the order of the night, but before they occurred LSU proved they are the only true Tigers in the Southeastern Conference with a dominant performance over Auburn. #1 ranked LSU certainly looks like the best team in college football as they have a bye week before they travel to Tuscaloosa for an epic showdown with Alabama.



Many other teams did their part to hold serve as well. The aforementioned Tide rolled over Tennessee after giving the Volunteers a false sense of security in the first half. The game was tied at six when the two teams went to their locker rooms but Alabama came out swinging as they scored 31 second half points while blanking the Vols in the final 30 minutes. Elsewhere, Boise State was able to ground Air Force’s hopes of ending their undefeated season. The Broncos won 37-26.

Clemson also looked strong as they beat the tar out of the North Carolina Tar Heels. Next week’s game against Georgia Tech has lost nearly all of its luster as the Jackets have looked terrible in losing two in a row. The Clemson Tigers appear as if they will be immune to the sting of Georgia Tech, but as last night proved, anything can happen in college football.

BCS chaos is the lifeblood of a compelling college football season. It is fitting that in the first weekend of the Bowl Championship Series standings there would be two season altering outcomes. In a game that ended early this morning in the east, the Red Raiders of Texas Tech shocked the Oklahoma Sooners, 41-38,  in Norman. While it was tremendous to watch a stunning upset, it is also hard not to feel terrible for Oklahoma kicker Michael Hunnicutt, who missed two crucial field goals. Here’s hoping that Sooner fans can be reasonable human beings and leave the kid alone.

Now for Maddawg’s Play of The Day: Wisconsin had been steamrolling the competition through the first seven weeks of the college football season. The Badgers’ road trip to East Lansing was supposed to be a statement game as they found themselves at #6 in the BCS standings. However, somebody forgot to tell Michigan State. The Spartans fought hard all game, and, with 4 seconds left the game appeared to be headed for overtime.

What followed is the reason why I love college football more than any other sport. Michigan State won on a 44 yard Hail Mary that bounced off of two Badgers before Keith Nichol was able to catch the ball and score a touchdown. The play is arguably the most memorable play in the history of Michigan State football. The Bowl Championship Series is not perfect, but after last night, one would be hard pressed to argue that it does not produce tremendous results in the product on the field. In addition, Michigan State and Wisconsin could have a high profile rematch in the Big Ten title game on December 3rd.



Maddawg’s Play of The Day – College Football Week 7 (October 15, 2011)

Week seven of the college football season is in the books. A quick summary–two ranked teams were definitively exposed as overrated, (Michigan and Georgia Tech) while Clemson continues to play to the level of their competition. Giving up 45 points to Maryland should alarm Clemson Tiger fans but, they continue to pile up victories. Clemson has a legitimate shot to finish the regular season unbeaten.

The top eight teams in the country remain undefeated and there seems to be a real gap between those teams and everyone else. The Bowl Championship Series standings come out tonight, as LSU and Alabama both have a strong case for #1. Luckily for college football fans, the debate between the two teams will be settled on the field November 5th. Let’s face it, not even Watson is a smart enough computer to predict this collision course. (more on this later)



As for the Georgia Bulldogs, they narrowly avoided a trip to the dog pound.  I am going to have nightmares about that blocked punt with 15 seconds to go. That was the single scariest moment I have ever experienced as a fan. One has to  wonder if Mark Richt’s Georgia tenure flashed before his eyes as the play unfolded. (Mark Richt is a great coach but a loss in that manner would have been earth shattering.)

Kudos to Jordan Rodgers, younger brother of reigning Super Bowl MVP Aaron Rodgers, for one of the gutsiest efforts in Vanderbilt football history. While he only completed four passes out of 19, he carried the ball 11 times for 80 yards. The Commodores scored 21 second half points, and every time they needed a third down conversion he made a play  to get it. Vanderbilt has found their quarterback for the future and, while it was scary to watch Georgia struggle, it was fun to watch Jordan Rodgers play well.

Alabama and LSU meet in 20 days. Barring an unforeseen circumstance, both will be undefeated and a trip to the SEC championship game will be on the line. Each team has made highlight reel statements over the last few weeks as if they are sending a message to each other. Trent Richardson’s 76 yard touchdown run rang loud and clear. He has proven why Tide fans did not expect a drop off at the tailback position when Mark Ingram went to the NFL. SEC commissioner Mike Slive needs to see if Michael Buffer is available on the first weekend of November because LSU and Alabama will be ready to rumble.