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

bobby_bowden

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.

steve_spurrier_yell

The SEC Coaching Carousel: Familiar Faces in New Places

mike_slive

Mike Slive, the godfather of SEC football.

Since the SEC coaching carousel has stopped spinning, we thought it would be appropriate to welcome some (sort of) familiar faces into their new Southeastern Conference home.

Pig Sooie
Arkansas: Bret Bielema- The former Wisconsin head coach spent seven years watching Badger fans at Camp Randall Stadium jump around.  Bielema helped Wisconsin become a perennial BCS contender by beating up on the Big Ten. Former Arkansas head coach John L. Smith did little to make Arkansas seem like an attractive destination, but consistent winning will help coach Bielema get more Razorbacks in the hog pen. As documented by Sports Illustrated, the new Grand Poobah of Pig football has been accused of being a bit of a jerk when he gets a big lead.

War Damn Malzahn
Auburn: Gus Malzahn- What a kick in Gene Chizik’s ass this hire had to be. After watching Chizik flounder in two seasons without Cam Newton, Auburn decided to give Gus Malzahn the keys to the War Eagle mobile. In 2010, Gus Malzahn was the offensive coordinator for Gene Chizik when the Tigers rode on Cam Newton’s back all the way to the top of college football and captured the national championship.

Much to Auburn’s chagrin, “Chiz” has completely totaled the War Eagle car since then, prompting Auburn to take away the keys. Hiring Malzahn should prove to be a wise choice for Tiger nation, but anything is better than that prick Bobby Petrino landing another SEC gig. More on Bob-O next week.

From A Joker To A Stoop
mark_stoopsKentucky
: Mark Stoops- The younger brother of Bob and Mike finally gets his opportunity to be a head coach as the Stoops family tree branches to the SEC. Unfortunately for coach Stoops, he takes over a Kentucky program that is unquestionably a basketball school. However, when Kentucky Wildcat fans are not encouraging coach John Calipari to take full advantage of the one year rule to win a championship in college basketball, they are delusional enough to expect Kentucky football to compete in a bowl game on a yearly basis. Good luck, coach Stoops. You are going to need it.

The Ghost of Phillip Fulmer
butch_jonesTennessee: Butch Jones- Butch Jones says goodbye to the Big East, and hello to the Southeastern Conference. Jones will be the third football coach to attempt to scare away the ghost of Phillip Fulmer. We are certainly not Tennessee fans, but it has been fun watching the Volunteers continue to fall after being so impatient with coach Fulmer. Tennessee has the passing game to compete with anybody in the country, but the Vols’ suspect defense and lack of a running game has prevented them from being a factor in the SEC for the last several years.

Will Butch Jones have any better luck in Knoxville than Derrick Dooley or Lane Kiffin? Consider this: Butch Jones never won the outright Big East title at Cincinnati with talent that Brian Kelly recruited. He now finds himself in the best college football conference in America, in the SEC East coaching against three potential top ten teams moving forward. The rocky road is likely to continue in good ole’ Rocky Top.

Georgia – Alabama: Mark Richt Versus Nick Saban

mark_richt_nick_saban It May Have Been Easier For Georgia to Beat an Undefeated Alabama Team
A few weeks ago, we discussed what Georgia must do to win the SEC Championship against Alabama. Texas A&M’s upset victory over Alabama may have made things even more difficult for Georgia, because it served as a wake-up call for the Crimson Tide and their head coach, Nick Saban.

According to Sporting News, when he was asked what Alabama needed to do to rebound from their first loss Saban stoically observed, “Everybody needs to recommit themselves to playing better, being a little more consistent.”  Prior to Alabama’s setback against the Aggies maybe coach Saban was getting a little complacent. There was a possibility that a perfect Alabama team could overlook a Georgia squad that has underachieved for the better part of the last four years.

Georgia Versus Alabama for Southeastern Conference Supremacy
The luxury of looking ahead no longer exists for Alabama.  The Tide rolled over Western Carolina, and took out the trash against Auburn, giving Gene Chizik a 49-0 beating that landed him in the unemployment line. Now, Alabama turns their full attention to Bulldog Nation and the collision at the Georgia Dome. The Bulldogs must play their best game of the season to hand an angry one loss Alabama team a second defeat, because for the first time in 2012 Nick Saban and the Alabama Crimson Tide will have something to prove.

Mark Richt is 2-3 Against Nick Saban
Mark Richt has two victories over Nick Saban in his career. Conversely, Nick Saban has handed Mark Richt three defeats in his time at Georgia. To help Bulldog Nation visualize a win over the Alabama Crimson Tide this weekend, we go back in time to 2007 which is  the last time that Georgia tamed the Tide. Nick Saban was in his first year at Alabama, and Mark Richt looked much younger with a stylish tan. Matt Stafford was a hotshot sophomore quarterback with a big arm, which paid dividends for the Dawgs in this particular encounter.

Georgia Will Need Big Plays to Overcome the Crimson Tide
With the game tied at 20 and headed to overtime, Georgia won the coin toss and went on defense to start the extra period. After an Alabama field goal, Georgia needed just one play to win the Southeastern Conference battle. Matt Stafford hit wide receiver Mikey Henderson to give the Bulldogs a 26-23 win over Bama. Aaron Murray may need similar heroics come Saturday, but this highlight is a cherished memory for Georgia faithful.



Georgia Versus Georgia Tech: 2012 Regular Season Finale

georgia_georgia_techThe Stakes Are High for Georgia Against Georgia Tech
Rivalry week is the focal point for Bulldog Nation as we head into the final Saturday of the regular season. Expectations are sky high in Athens, following two unlikely upsets. As a result of Kansas State and Oregon losing, Georgia is once again in the thick of the 2012 national championship picture.

Georgia Tech Will Play for the ACC Championship
The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets venture between the hedges this Saturday with a lot to gain and very little to lose, so I can only hope that the Dawgs do not overlook the Rambling Wreck as the showdown with the Alabama Crimson Tide looms large. For their part, Tech had something to celebrate this past weekend as well—The Jackets clinched the ACC Costal as a result of Miami forfeiting their postseason chances.

Georgia Tech’s Defense is Terrible
Despite winning their division, Rambling Wreck is an apt description for the way Georgia Tech has played during the 2012 campaign. Tech’s offense rambles down the field and then the defense wrecks everything by giving up a ton of points. In week four against Miami, Georgia Tech climbed out of a 19-0 hole to gain a 36-19 advantage against the Hurricanes. However, the Yellow Jackets proceeded to blow a 14 point lead in the fourth quarter before losing to the Hurricanes in overtime.

Georgia Tech averages 39 points per game on offense. However, they give up 30 points per game. The result is a track meet. Georgia Tech beat North Carolina 68-50 a couple of weeks ago in the highest-scoring game in ACC history. As long as Georgia does not get bit by the turnover bug, Georgia should be able to swat the Yellow Jackets. Bulldog head coach Mark Richt is 10-1 against Georgia Tech and 3-1 against Paul Johnson. The Bulldogs are familiar with the option after playing against Georgia Southern this past weekend, so Georgia should be primed for a strong performance in the final game at Sanford Stadium this year.

Georgia Tech Would Love to Ruin Georgia’s Season
Paul Johnson is a man in need of a signature win. Raining all over Georgia’s SEC Championship parade would certainly be enough for Tech fans to forget the ups and downs of this season. The Dawgs must be aware of every possible fake and trick play, because Tech pulling off an upset in this chapter of “Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate” would catapult the UGA-GT rivalry into a new stratosphere. For what it’s worth, such a result would probably also translate into a busy day downtown for Athens police. Remember, college football preaches sportsmanship, folks.

Georgia Has to Capitalize on Their National Championship Opportunity
Gloom and doom possibilities aside, I expect the Bulldogs to maul the Yellow Jackets on Saturday. The opportunity currently in front of Bulldog Nation is too great to squander at this point in the journey. If Mark Richt is going to be the man to lead Georgia to the Promised Land, Georgia must treat these final three games as a playoff. The first round begins at noon on Saturday.

bobby_bowden

Coach Richt is ready to prove he can win a national title without Bobby Bowden.

Alabama Losing is Not Good For the SEC’s National Championship Streak

johnny_manziel_throw

The phenom nicknamed “Johnny Football” has taken college football by storm.

Alabama Finally Falls
It is safe to assume that nearly every college football fan located outside of Alabama enjoyed watching the Crimson Tide taste defeat this past weekend. After two months of dominating the competition, Alabama has appeared uncharacteristically vulnerable for the past couple weeks. The Texas A&M Aggies utilized a near-flawless effort from their fantastic freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel, along with timely defense to stun the Crimson Tide by a final score of 29-24. In all likelihood, the victory by Texas A&M on the road in Tuscaloosa will be remembered as the biggest college football story of 2012.

Kansas State Versus Oregon For the National Championship?
Now that the college football world has recovered from the hangover of this exciting upset, the reality of what is left cannot be very pleasing to supporters of the Southeastern Conference. If the season ended today, the national championship game would feature the Kansas State Wildcats against the Oregon Ducks. The prospect of the fighting Collin Kleins taking on the quack attack of Oregon may appeal to other parts of the country, but it would be a hard pill to swallow here in Dixie.

The SEC Needs a Lot of Help to Compete For a Seventh Straight BCS Title
Fans of the SEC must root for both Kansas State and Notre Dame to lose. Oregon is exempt from this jinx because the Ducks have a good track record in Bowl Championship Series games. If Notre Dame and Kansas State both stumble, the SEC Championship Game becomes a winner-take-all war between the Georgia Bulldogs and the Alabama Crimson Tide for the remaining spot in the BCS title game.

national_championship_trophy

The SEC has been home for the BCS trophy since 2006.

There is Not a Southeastern Conference Bias in College Football
I freely admit being a Southeastern Conference homer. I have enjoyed watching the SEC dominate college football for the better part of the past decade. With that said, perhaps I should accept the fact that the Southeastern Conference dynasty may have an off-year. After all, the rest of America had to sit through a Southeastern Conference-only national championship game this past January. It would be fitting to some fans if the SEC is denied the opportunity to compete for a seventh national championship in a row after the Southeastern Conference hogged both spots in the title game last season.

A Change Would Do The BCS Good

The underwhelming aftermath of last week’s BCS National Championship Game looms as the college football offseason is in full effect. Alabama shut out the LSU Tigers  by a final count of 21-0, leaving many fans to turn to the NFL playoffs in hopes of a more satisfying conclusion to football season.  While there is little debate that Alabama and LSU were the two best teams in college football this past season, the argument surrounding the BCS system that yielded that rematch has become just as important as the student athletes on the field.

Popularity Contest. The popularity of college football has soared in recent years, landing conferences such as the SEC billion dollar television deals. Along with the Longhorn network, the Big Ten and the Southeastern Conference each have their own television network. As a result of more money pouring in, the NCAA is being pushed to make changes to the BCS format as reported by ESPN.com  

Television ratings were brought to the forefront by TheBigLead.com when ratings were universally down for the bowl games in late 2011 and early 2012. Viewership was  down for the Bowl Championship Series as well, and the rating for the much ballyhooed BCS title game narrowly missed being at an all-time low according to USAToday. Continue reading

Former Atlanta Falcons and UGA Defensive Coordinator Brian VanGorder Heads To Auburn- Alabama Dominates LSU

nick saban

This must feel like forever ago to LSU fans.

There is a lesson to be learned from the Alabama Crimson Tide’s domination of LSU in New Orleans–Don’t bet against Nick Saban twice. It was a foolish thing to do, especially when one considers that the Alabama head coach had over a month to prepare for an LSU team that he was already very familiar with en route to his third national championship. Alabama blanked the Tigers in the rematch by a final score of 21-0, as the Tide earned sweet redemption for their only loss of the season. The victory gave the University of Alabama their second national title in three years.

Picking Up The Pieces
As for the Tigers, LSU seemed to believe they could win the game last night on hype alone. Once the game kicked off, the Tigers did not look anything like the team that finished the regular season unbeaten on their way to dismantling the Bulldogs in the Georgia Dome for the SEC championship. However, the Bayou Bengals now have an entire offseason to figure out what went wrong. Alabama and LSU will likely begin the 2012 season ranked #1 and #2 which spells trouble for the rest of the Southeastern Conference.

Dawg Days Ahead?–Brian VanGorder returns to the SEC
Georgia has aspirations of competing with Alabama and LSU for a championship next year. For what it’s worth the Bulldogs are ranked number six in Mark Schlabach’s Way Too Early Top 25 on ESPN.com. After Monday’s developments Bulldog Nation will have to face an old friend beginning next season as well. Orlando Ledbetter of the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports Brian VanGorder is the new defensive coordinator for the Auburn Tigers. Continue reading

Examining Georgia’s Outback Bowl loss to Michigan State – Plenty of Blame To Go Around

mark dantonio

Did Mark Dantonio and the Spartans out coach the Bulldogs in critical situations?

A few days removed from Georgia’s second straight bowl debacle, Bulldog Nation is searching for someone to blame for the Bulldogs’ new year lump of coal. However, there are multiple parties at fault for what happened in the final two quarters (and three overtimes) in the 2012 Outback Bowl. The most frustrating aspect of Georgia’s latest collapse is that all of the usual suspects were involved. As the old adage goes, those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it.

The Offensive Line
One of the most painful things about the Outback Bowl was watching Georgia’s offensive line get pushed around and give up about a dozen tackles for loss against the Michigan State defense. William Gholston led the charge as the Spartans dominated the line of scrimmage. The Dawgs averaged just 1.3 yards per rush in the game. True or not, the perception is that the Big Ten is the slow conference and that SEC speed and athleticism  dominates when the two conferences meet head-to-head in bowl games which makes the Bulldog loss a bitter pill to swallow. According to the Wall Street Journal, since the year 2000 the Big Ten’s record in bowl games after Michigan State’s win stands at 33-51. 

Mike Bobo was a fine college quarterback. He has been in over his head as offensive coordinator.

Mike Bobo’s Playcalling
During Georgia’s ten game win streak the offense was able to put up great numbers– against lesser competition.–  Unfortunately, when the Bulldogs were faced with an opponent that could match up with them physically such as in all four of their loses,  the results were pedestrian at best. The 2011 Georgia Bulldogs did not beat a single team in the top 20. Against Michigan State Georgia never seemed to give any thought to running outside, as the Dawgs were stuffed time after time between the tackles. Georgia had a chance to put the game away in the fourth quarter after a turnover gave them the ball in Michigan State territory with the Bulldogs ahead by four points.  An inexplicable play action pass in the third overtime was the straw that broke the Dawgs’ back. Continue reading

Dawgs Go Bowling in the Outback – Georgia vs Michigan State (January 2, 2011)

Georgia Michigan State Outback Bowl

The Dawgs and Spartans meet in a rematch from 2008.

The Georgia Bulldogs will play the final game of their 2011 campaign on the second day of 2012. The Dawgs  face the Spartans of Michigan State in the Outback Bowl on Monday afternoon. Momentum is key for Bulldog Nation as a new year is on the horizon between the hedges. A victory for the Bulldogs will likely mean a top 15 finish and a possible spot in the top ten at the beginning of next season. With all the talent that Georgia has coming back, a strong showing in the Outback Bowl is critical for the Bulldogs to build on their success going into next season.

However, beating Michigan State will be no easy task for Georgia. Both the Dawgs and the Spartans come into the bowl match-up with a 10-3 record, but Michigan State was four points away from representing the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl. Sparty is lead by their senior quarterback Kirk Cousins, and everyone involved with the Michigan State football program is well aware that the Spartans have not won a bowl game since 2001.

As for the Bulldogs, Georgia does not need to look any further than New Years Eve 2010 for inspiration. Georgia lost 10-6 to the University of Central Florida Knights in the Liberty Bowl last year. Other than the homecoming loss to Vanderbilt in 2006, last year’s bowl debacle was the low point of Mark Richt’s tenure at UGA. Both Richt as well as Bulldog Nation will have waited over a year for the opportunity to get that terrible taste out of their collective mouths. Continue reading