It is finally game week and we are on the cusp of college football. After a long, hot summer, cooler mornings mean football is here. Our beloved Bulldogs are sporting a nice #6 preseason ranking, and they are getting near unanimous praise from all the pundits.
Georgia fans grew up listening to Vince Dooley and Larry Munson, so we know how to poor mouth ourselves with the best of them. Plus, we have simply been let down too much. We are jilted, scorned lover.
I think the Bulldogs could have a special season and live up to its preseason hype. Here are the three keys to the 2012 season; if these things happen, we could be in store for a magical season (the defense being great is a given).
The Offensive Line Avoiding Injuries-There has been a lot made over the inexperience of our offensive line. Experience and depth on the offensive line has been an issue forever, it seems. At least since 2007, the biggest concern for Georgia seems to be the offensive line. Last year, there were 3 seniors on the line, and Georgia’s line gave up a ton of sacks. Consequently, back in 2007, the line was made up of a bunch of freshmen (3 starters at one point), including left tackle, and the Dawgs went on to finish #2 in the country.
Georgia must replace several starters, including center and left tackle. It is almost a lock that John Theus is going to be a starter. The rest of the line looks like Kenarious Gates, Dallas Lee, Chris Burnette. Watts Dantzler is also in the mix.
I am not overly worried about the starting 5. Those 5 guys we have can go toe to toe with anyone. It is the rest of the unit that scares the living hell out of me. We are one injury away on the offensive line from the season aking a catastrophic turn. We avoided such bad luck last season, but can we really expect to get lucky twice? The health of this unit will be the number one key.
2. Some semblance of a consistent running game-On my list, you will not find Aaron Murray avoiding turnovers anywhere. I think that with a strong running game, a lot of the ills that plagued Murray last season will go away. A lot of talk can be made of Murray choking in the big games, but that is over stating things.
Seven times last season, UGA had rushing yards well below the opposing teams rushing defense. Taking out the powder puff games against Coastal Carolina and New Mexico State, UGA only had good performances against Auburn, Florida, Mississippi State and South Carolina. Even against Boise State, Georgia had 157 yards rushing. 80 of those yards came on a reverse to Boykin, and 18 came on a reverse to Malcolm Mitchell. That would equal 59 yards rushing. If you thought that was bad, then don’t look at the bowl game; Michigan State held Georgia to 51 yards rushing. In the last two games, Georgia had a combined 129 yards on the ground.
I covered all this in greater detail in March. Go back and see for yourself how inconsistent the running game was in 2011.
Georgia runs to set up the play action; Murray has good numbers when throwing out of the play action. I know we lost Crowell, but we gained Gurley and Marshall. Between those two freshmen and Boo Malcome, Georgia needs to find a consistent running game. I don’t care who it is toting the rock. I don’t care if it is by committee or if one player runs it 25 times a game. We just need something that is consistent, and will show up.
3. The return of the Road Warriors
I watched the UGA at Tennessee 2001 game last night and do you remember when Georgia teams used to go on the road and win the big game? Fans used to praise Richt’s calm demeanor as Georgia would go on the road and win in the hostile environments (now his calm demeanor is used against him).
Remember this beauty:
That road swagger has gotten lost. Oklahoma State in 2009 was a game that UGA used to win. In 2010, 6 out of 7 losses came away from Sanford Stadium-including losses at Colorado, Mississippi State, and top ranked Auburn. Going on the road and beating ranked SEC opponents was the MO for Richt and Bulldogs. That hasn’t been the case it seems.
The entire month of October, Georgia plays on the road. 3 games-two are away and the neutral site game in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs’ home schedule this year is weak. Vanderbilt might be the most challenging home game for the Bulldogs. Certainly, Tennessee and Georgia Tech are capable of pulling off an upset if the Bulldogs are asleep at the wheel. But all the real losable games are away from Athens-Missouri, South Carolina, Florida and Auburn. For Georgia to live up to its lofty preseason goals, it is going to have to recapture the road magic and win in Columbia, MO, and Columbia, SC.
There are other things that could happen to make UGA stumble or succeed this season. But to me, if Georgia’s offensive line can avoid injuries, the running game can be consistent, and if we can get back to winning on the road again, then the Bulldogs should be making a return trip to the Georgia Dome the first weekend in December.