Georgia’s New Defensive Coordinator Jeremy Pruitt – Thoughts

jeremy_pruitt_ugaJeremy Pruitt Brings Instant Credibility
Dating back to 2012, Jeremy Pruitt has been a member of the national championship winning coaching staff for three-straight seasons.  Among the challenges facing Georgia’s new defensive coordinator is fixing a UGA secondary that gave up a lot of yards in 2013. Pruitt’s experience as the defensive backs coach at Alabama and Florida State should serve Bulldog Nation well.

The Hire of Jeremy Pruitt Helps Boost Morale
While there were probably not many tears shed when Todd Grantham decided to head to Louisville, his departure left Georgia with a hole to fill.  Jeremy Pruitt’s past success indicates he can improve the young Georgia defense in a hurry.  In 2013, Pruitt’s FSU defense held the Clemson Tigers to 14 points in “Death Valley”.

Georgia has Some Pieces in Place
One of the most appealing aspects of the Pruitt hire is his experience in a 3-4 defensive scheme very similar to UGA’s previous defensive coordinator.  Georgia’s defense is far from broken.  Rather, the Dawgs have areas which require a tune-up.   Linebacker Amarlo Herrera is probably the most consistent player in the unit, and he will continue to get better.

Leonard Floyd was a difference maker rushing the passer from the linebacker position last season, and Jordan Jenkins continues to show flashes of brilliance playing outside linebacker. The Dawgs are ready to go up front, but the defensive backfield has lingering questions.

Dawgs Reloading, not Rebuilding
The excitement surrounding the hire of Jeremy Pruitt is refreshing, though it will be up to the players to execute on the field.   UGA last won the Southeastern Conference in 2005, but the Dawgs are consistent contenders for the SEC title.  The University of Georgia is among the winningest football programs in the country, so it is nice to see Mark Richt and Greg McGarity reloading as opposed to picking up pieces.

Farewell to Todd Grantham
It is impossible for me to root for a football team coached by Bobby Petrino.  Even so, best wishes to Todd Grantham in his efforts at the University of Louisville.  He spent every offseason in Athens job hunting, so I hope he is happy in his new home.  Bulldog Nation is certainly pleased with his replacement.   Does anybody know if Todd Grantham likes motorcycles?

Eulogizing The BCS

bcs_national_championship_trophyOffering Perspective From the Southeastern Conference
The Bowl Championship Series began in 1998.  The Southeastern Conference won seven straight BCS titles from 2007-2013.  In addition, the SEC claimed ten of the 16 crystal balls handed out in the BCS era.  I must admit to rooting for Florida State in the final BCS Championship game, but the positioning of the SEC as the dominant conference in college football cannot be denied.

Next season marks the debut of the long-awaited College Football layoff.  Affectionately known as “Mr. College Football”, Tony Barnhart offers a very comprehensive and honest view of how the CFP (College Football Playoff) will change the landscape of college football.

For what it is worth, Tony Barnhart is a passionate Georgia Bulldog football fan.  According to his website, he has authored four books on the subject, including From Herschel to Hobnail Boot, The Life and Times of Larry Munson.

2013 – 2014 Bowl Game Thoughts

georgia_nebraska

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.

espn_bowl_week
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.

College Football Thoughts – Conference Championship Week

ohio_state_urban_meyerUndefeated Ohio State Should be Ranked Ahead of one Loss Auburn
If the Buckeyes can best the Spartans on Saturday night, Urban Meyer and company deserve to play for a national championship.  The Ohio State University has won 24 football games in a row dating back to 2012.  On the contrary, Auburn needed back-to-back Christmas miracles to make it into the SEC Championship Game.

Should Sparty stun the Buckeyes this weekend, the winner of the Southeastern Conference title showdown between Auburn and Missouri will likely play Florida State for college football’s ultimate prize.  Even though anything can happen in college football, I feel confident FSU will defeat Duke.

The Targeting Rule Needs to be Amended, but it is not Going Anywhere
Safety is the number one priority at every level of football.  The changes to the targeting rule are representative of the emphasis on protecting players from concussions.  As far as properly enforcing the rule, referees have been pretty hit or miss.

There have been some excruciatingly bad targeting calls this season, along with cases where obvious fouls went undetected, such as in Navy versus San Jose State.

Wave Ryder is the Midshipmen defender at the center of the play in question, apologies in advance for the low-quality of the video below.  Searching for Wave Ryder highlights brings up a variety of topics in Google.



One aspect of the targeting rule in need of further examination is the 15 yard penalty assessed regardless of whether the ruling is upheld.  Logic dictates this penalty serves as incentive for defenders to go low when attempting to make a stop.  Still, it is unfair to impose an automatic first down on an overturned targeting infraction, because doing so can change the complexion of a contest.

Todd Grantham Will Coordinate Georgia’s Defense Until his Contract is up
The unrest in Athens continues to grow due to UGA’s inability to get the opposition off the field consistently.  Do not hold your breathe for a change on defense.

As current associate head coach and defensive coordinator of the Bulldogs, Todd Grantham is not going anywhere until the end of his current contract. Unless, of course,  he receives a better job offer.  The former NFL assistant stands to make $850,000 a year for the next two years.  His contract expires at the end of 2015.

This season has been about dealing with injuries and breaking in new players.  While Grantham’s aggressive 3-4 defense can be frustrating to watch, having a negative turnover ratio certainly does not help.  According to Sports Illustrated, coach Richt is adamant his coaching staff will remain intact.  As a loyal Dawg, I hope Todd Grantham does not spend his offseason waiting by the phone for job offers.  Still, if he wants to leave, adios.

Picking Winners
The 2013 college football campaign has been filled with twists and turns. Conference championship weekend should be no exception.
Predictions (Automatic Qualifier Conference Championship Games Only).

ACC: Florida State 34, Duke 13.
Big Ten: Ohio State 34, Michigan State 21.
Pac-12: Stanford 31, Arizona State 17.
SEC: Missouri 35, Auburn 28.

Fact or Fiction: Georgia Bye Week

Nine weeks into the college football season and Bulldog Nation has been reduced to the following math equation:  Questionable targeting calls + a loss at Vanderbilt = the following image…

fair_weather_uga_fanThe Georgia Bulldogs get a week off before their annual gridiron war with the Florida Gators.  According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, what is normally a pivotal SEC East game has become the “World’s Largest Outdoor Pity Party”. Georgia and Florida have combined for six losses before the end of October.

As a result, it is time for a round of fact or fiction to ease the pain.

The Winner of the Georgia-Florida Game is Still a Factor in the SEC East.  Fiction.  No matter which team wins in Jacksonville, the Florida Gators still have to play the South Carolina Gamecocks, and the Georgia Bulldogs must contend with the Auburn Tigers.  New Auburn head coach, Gus Malzahn, has the Tigers at 6-1, and they beat Texas A&M in week eight.

 Alabama Will Earn Their Third Straight BCS National Championship.  Fact.  Nick Saban has proven discipline leads to dominance.  There is not a team in college football more consistent than the Crimson Tide.  Alabama does not have many more hurdles to overcome to get to Pasadena, California.

Ohio State Will Challenge the Tide.  Fiction.  Ohio State is a great offensive team, however, the Buckeyes do not have much of a defense.  Even if Ohio State gets through the regular season undefeated,  Buckeye fans must root for both Florida State and Oregon to lose.  Keep an eye on Urban Meyer folks, he is likely to start beating the opposition by as much as possible to rack up style points.

Florida State is Back.  Fact.  The Noles destroyed Clemson, and left the Tigers laying in Death Valley.   Quarterback Jameis Winston may not be ready for the BCS stage yet, but Florida State is talented enough to beat anyone, including Alabama.  Unfortunately for FSU, if they do play Alabama for all the marbles, Nick Saban will have plenty of time to prepare for Famous Jameis.

Long Live the BCS!  Fiction. The notion that anyone will miss the Bowl Championship Series is almost as ridiculous as the claim that a playoff would adversely affect a student athlete’s ability to study for an exam.  The playoffs will make money, the television ratings will be phenomenal, and the passionate fans of college football will finally get the finale we deserve.