Archive for August, 2015

First Year QBs Have Success In College Football

The college football world is bearish on the SEC having success on the National Stage this season because of all the uncertainty within the Conference at the quarterback position. Adding fuel to the fire to this narrative is the amount of talent, ease of schedule and the great coaching at Ohio State; with all this, the SEC is being written off as yesterday’s news.

Only Mississippi State-a team who is a consensus last place pick in the SEC West-doesn’t have uncertainty at that position. I guess you could throw Missouri in that mix, also; they are picked to finish third in the SEC East.

The uncertainty at the quarterback position is one of the biggest demerits for Georgia going into this season. This is uncharted water for the Bulldogs under Coach Richt. The only other year there were this many QB questions was 2006-and even then you knew at some point it was going to be Matthew Stafford’s job.

But how important is the starting quarterback to win it all in College football?

Normally, I would say very. You need a few other things to win it all in College football: luck, a good running game, a good defense, and a favorable schedule. Notice I didn’t say coaching (See: Chizik, Gene).

But dig a little deeper, and you’ll see that every season since 2009, one (and sometimes multiple) teams vying for the National Championship have done so with a freshman or first year starter at quarterback.

The last time you had two quarterbacks with experience facing off in the National Championship was back in 2008-Sam Bradford and Tim Tebow. Since then, however, it hasn’t been the case.

In 2009, Greg McElroy was in his first year as a starter at Alabama. Alabama faced off against Texas and Colt McCoy, who had a storied collegiate career.

In 2010, both Auburn and Oregon made it the BCS Title Game with first year starters. In 2011, Alabama won it in A.J. McCarron’s first year starting, beating LSU who had a quarterback controversy all season with Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson.  That LSU team was possibly the best team we’ve seen this decade, and they didn’t even win it all.  They are easily the best team to not win a National Championship in the BCS era.

In 2012, Notre Dame made it to the title game with Everett Golson in his first year as a starter.

2013 saw Auburn and Florida State face off. Jameis Winston was a redshirt freshman and Nick Marshall was a converted cornerback in his first year starting at Auburn.

Last season, while Florida State and Oregon had established signal callers, Alabama and Ohio State made it to the Playoff with first year starters, and in Ohio State’s case, won it all with a freshman who had just a few starts under his belt, period.

Going back to 2000, Heisman winners and established collegiate quarterbacks littered the National Championship scene: Jason White, Chris Weinke, Jay Couch, Matt Leinart, Vince Young, Tim Tebow, Sam Bradford. There are some all-time greats that hoisted the Crystal Football.

But recent history has proven that having an established starter under center isn’t part of the recipe for a Championship season.

It would help, but it isn’t mandatory.

This doesn’t mean I am saying that a team from the SEC will win it all in 2015, and it certainly doesn’t mean that I think Georgia will do so. The teams in the SEC have blemishes. In Georgia’s case, I would be as much concerned-or more-about the defensive line stopping the run.

But don’t write off Alabama, LSU, and even Georgia just because the questions at the quarterback position.


Top Thursday Night Football Games in 2015

I love the Thursday night college football games.  Don’t misunderstand that love for ever wanting Georgia to play in one.  These little appetizers are often fun matchups to get you ready for the upcoming weekend, and since they usually involve teams that have no bearing on Georgia, it can be stress-free and you can watch it for simply the enjoyment of football.

This season, there are some clunkers, but there are some interesting games as well.  Here are the ESPN Thursday night football games ranked:

14. South Florida at UCF, 11/26

Thanksgiving night used to give us the Egg Bowl, or Texas A&M-Texas.  Last year we were treated to LSU at Texas A&M.  We aren’t in Kansas anymore.

13. Cincinnati at Memphis, 9/24

Almost put this one at the bottom, but I don’t know.  Who cares.

12. ECU at UCF, 11/19

ECU is a good squad, as is UCF.  Will be fun.

11. North Carolina at Pitt, 10/29 (DH)

Only put this one ahead of ECU/UCF because it involves two Power 5 teams.  That is about it.

10. Miami at Cincinnati, 10/1

If Miami under Al Golden is going to be good, this is the year.

9. Cal at UCLA, 10/22

Cal will put up some points.  They aren’t very good, but they can hang with UCLA with their offense.

8. North Carolina vs. South Carolina, 9/3 (DH)

A good chance to see how South Carolina looks early in the season.

7.TCU at Minnesota, 9/3 (DH)

Minnesota has gone 8-5 for three straight years, and was a fluke upset from Illinois away from going 9-4 last season.  Coach Jerry Kill has the Gophers playing pretty good B10 football, and it is just easy to root for him with his health problems.  I think TCU will light the Gophers up on Opening Night, but I expect the Gophers to come ready to play.

6. Washington at USC, 10/8

 USC is the West Coast’s version of Ohio State, and anytime they can lose would be extra sweet.

5. Mississippi State at Missouri, 11/5

Hopefully this game won’t have any scoreboard watching implications involved, and Georgia is coming off effectively clinching the SEC East after Jacksonville.  But this game will probably have the Bulldog Nation pulling for the other Bulldogs.

4. Virginia Tech at Georgia Tech, 11/12

It’s time for Virginia Tech to get back to respectability. They always play Georgia Tech tough.  The Hokies’ defense is one of the few SEC-like defenses Georgia Tech plays regularly.  See how the Yellow Jackets do before they come to Athens.

3.UCLA at Stanford, 10/15

Quite possibly a preview of the Pac-12 Championship game.  I think Stanford is going to be really good this season.

2.Clemson at Louisville, 9/17

If Louisville gets past Auburn in Week 1, this will have added luster.  A good ACC matchup.

1. Oregon at Arizona State, 10/29 (DH)

This should be a fun, mindless game involving two teams that can put up points.  This will be a track meet, and it will serve as a fun, harmless, and entertaining appetizer going into the Cocktail Party weekend.

What To Look For In The Starting QB

What do you want in your starting quarterback?

First and foremost, you want someone who isn’t going to turn the ball over.  At a Bulldog Club meeting one time, I heard Coach Richt say the goal of the quarterback should ensure every possession end with a kick-a punt, field goal, or PAT.

Last season, after the Tennessee game, I was on the ledge.  I thought that the time to bench Mason had come, throw Brice Ramsey to the wolves, and help him develop.  My thought, at the time, was that the good running game with Gurley would help Ramsey’s development.

When the situation with Gurley happened, I backed off.  I thought that you needed the stability on the offense in unstable times.

What was the main reason I thought Mason needed to take the back seat?  I didn’t think he could lead the team on a game winning drive late in the game.  I didn’t think he could take the game in his hands and win it, like David Greene, Matthew Stafford and Aaron Murray showed us so many times in the past they could do.

No matter how good your team is, and no matter how good the running game is, in the SEC, the quarterback is going to need to engineer a game winning drive.  The teams are too good and the margins are too thin.  You are going to have to come from behind and throw that touchdown pass with a few minutes (or seconds) left on the clock. Think of all the great teams the last few years-the Alabamas, Auburns, the LSUs-they all relied on their quarterback to win the game for them at some point.

I didn’t think that Hutson Mason had it in him.  I was wrong.  Though Georgia ultimately lost, Mason led what should have been a game winning drive against Tech, and hit Malcolm Mitchell in the end zone in the final moments.

Mason did what I thought he couldn’t do.  I was glad to be proven wrong.

So as the quarterback battle rages on for the rest of fall camp, the main attribute should be, “Can this guy lead the team to victory?”

After, of course, not turning the ball over.


Viewing Guide for Non-UGA Weekends

First and foremost, my allegiance is to the Georgia Bulldogs.  But Fall Saturdays are special days to kick back and sit in front of the TV and watch football all day.  The days when Georgia doesn’t have a home game are good to watch other SEC or Conferences’ games, but if the Dawgs are on the road, usually you worry about the upcoming Georgia game. There are several days when Georgia isn’t playing, or they have an easy game where you can get home early enough to enjoy the rest of the games for the day.

So, here is your viewing guide for Saturdays when you really don’t have to worry about the Dawgs.  A * means it is the Game of the Day.

September 5 (Louisiana-Monroe)

Alabama vs. Wisconsin:  Good early season test for the Crimson Tide.

*Auburn vs. Louisville:  The Chick-fil-A Kick Off Game…can the Georgia Dome already be demolished about 4:00?  At least the Louisville sideline?  Louisville should have a good defense, so it will be a good test for Auburn’s retooled offense. 

Texas A&M vs. Arizona State: Should be a lot of points here.  Good opportunity for Chavis’ new defense.

September 26 (Southern)

UCF at South Carolina:  Georgia should be Carolina; UCF won’t be a pushover.  See how the Gamecocks respond.

Mississippi State at Auburn:  Key early season game in the SEC West.

Texas A&M at Arkansas:  If one of these teams wants to break through the glass ceiling, here is the first chance.

*Tennessee at Florida: Can Tennessee snap their skid?  If Tennessee is ready to contend in the SEC East, here is their first litmus test. Florida is still down, but we will see how they do with a new coaching staff. 

USC at Arizona State: I’ve seen USC be mentioned in Playoff discussions…this game might go a long way to decide the Pac-12 South. 

UCLA at Arizona:  See above. 

October 24 (Bye)

Not a whole lot on the slate today…

Auburn at Arkansas:  This will tell us if Arkansas is legit.

*Florida State at Georgia Tech:  Tech already faces Notre Dame, North Carolina, Duke and Clemson.  Florida State will have already faced off with Louisville and Miami (LOL).  Key ACC game.  It will be a good test for Justin Thomas. 

November 21 (Georgia Southern)

Typically a weak Saturday, the weekend before Thanksgiving, but there are some good ones…

LSU at Ole Miss:  LSU is my dark horse playoff team.  LSU will either be playing for a spot, or fighting for Les Miles’ job. 

Tennessee at Missouri: UGA will be out of SEC play at this point.  Hopefully this game will be an afterthought and it won’t have any sort of implications other than for Bowl tiers, and Bulldog faithful won’t have to be scoreboard watching.  But it probably will important.

*Michigan State at Ohio State:  Huge game in the Big 10.

Michigan at Penn State:  Chance for Harbaugh to get a signature win in the Big 10.

USC at Oregon:  Potential Pac-12 Championship game, with even bigger implications.

TCU at Oklahoma:  TCU and Baylor is the next week, but this one could decide the Big 12.

Important UGA Game NO One Is Talking About

If you talk to anyone about Georgia’s 2015 schedule, and ask them what are the key/biggest games, you’ll get a pretty standard answer. Alabama is the biggest game, likely a College Gameday type of game. Or, some would say Tennessee or Missouri games to solidify the SEC East. Some might say Florida is the key game, due to the rivalry and revenge factor. Others would look to our neighbors to the east and say you just have to win against South Carolina. Of course, Georgia Tech is a MUST win.

I won’t argue with the aforementioned games as being important, big games. But I think the game that will hold the answer to the question if Georgia is going to have a successful season actually isn’t one of those more marquee games.

It is the Vanderbilt game in week two.

Now, I am not going to be like the folks at Saturday Down South and predict a Vanderbilt upset. Even the most jaded among the fan base wouldn’t logically make that bold prediction.

This 2015 Vanderbilt squad isn’t the competently run teams under James Franklin, nor the pesky, well-coached teams under Bobby Johnson. Poor Derek Mason just doesn’t have it going there, and I doubt this is the year for them to get back to respectability.

Quick tangent-I truly believe that James Franklin should have won SEC Coach of the Year in 2012 or 2013 when he guided Vanderbilt to consecutive 9-4 records, with bowl victories. But that is neither here nor there.

No, lowly Vanderbilt shouldn’t provide much resistance to the Bulldogs in Nashville on September 12. The Vanderbilt game should be a good opportunity for a final tune to prepare for South Carolina.

But Nashville has been a shop of horrors for Georgia in recent trips, even when Georgia has had good, or great, teams.

Remember the 2003 game? If you don’t, then it’s OK. It wasn’t on regular TV, and I remember listening to Larry Munson’s call in my dorm room. 4th ranked Georgia limped to a 27-8 victory, but trailed at the half 0-2 on a safety. Eh, not exactly an inspiring performance.

2005 and 2009 were dominant performances, as they should’ve been.

In 2007, the 24th ranked Bulldogs were nearly upset and escaped with a 20-17 win. We all remember that game. We also remember that Georgia found its stride shortly after and finished #2 in the country.

2011 was another unnecessarily close nail biter, and that is more remembered for Drew Butler saving a touchdown on a bad snap, and Todd Grantham and James Franklin nearly fighting.

Of course, we don’t need to get into the most recent trip to Nashville, where the Georgia B team lost in horrendous fashion to a hungry Vanderbilt team, 31-27. The dreadful amount of injuries can be blamed, but bad calls had a lot to do. Of course, ultimately, continued errors on Special Teams proved to be the nail in the coffin for Georgia.

If Georgia goes into Nashville and fiddle farts around, sure, the season can still be successful and they can rebound and learn from that.

If Georgia truly wants to be considered among the national elite, and wants to contend for not only the SEC but loftier goals, they should exert their formidable will on Vanderbilt and win with ease.

Good teams win with ease. Great teams step on the throat.

And not go into halftime with a 0-2 deficit, or rely on the punter to save the season.

Before you play the big boys on the schedule, I think we’ll get a good idea if Georgia will continue to be very good, or if they are flirting with greatness.



Clear Example of How Talent Gap Has Closed

During the lean years in 2009 and 2010, Georgia wasn’t a very good football team. They weren’t particularly well coached, and the recruiting approach had left the cupboard bare, relative to our expectations as fans and the other elite teams in the Conference.

Talent has been back where it needs to be and the recruiting has ticked up a notch for future years.

This is no more evident with the situation at punter. Remember back when Drew Butler was on the team?  Drew was one of the best players.

Now, punter seems to be one of the biggest concerns and question marks. Not to discredit the importance of a good punter, because they are very important, but it says a lot when punter is one of the big areas of concern.

Unfortunately, it said even more when punter was one of the few positions of strength.


Random Musings on Fall Camp Eve

I used to start getting jacked up for football about May.  I used to spend countless hours watching old games, reading all the different magazines, and absorbing whatever nuggets I could.

Now, I generally try to wait until August before I start getting giddy.  I figured, if the players are getting into game shape now, it was good enough for me to wait also.  Plus, having a kid makes you devote your time to Elmo and Doc McStuffins.  And there is this pesky thing called a job…

At any rate, players reported yesterday and fall camp begins tomorrow, so consider this Thanksgiving with Christmas just around the corner. The calendar is playing a cruel joke on us this year, with Labor Day being as late as it possibly could be.  Just another week of anticipation!

Here are some thoughts as we begin the preseason in earnest:

  • How will Schottenheimer run the offense?  If there is one thing about an NFL offensive mind, compared to a college offensive mind, it doesn’t get too creative.  Now, Richt (and Bobo) aren’t exactly Picasso when it comes to offensive creativity, but they have their moments.  One thing I have noticed about LSU the past couple of seasons is gone are the days of LSU doing anything too crazy on offense.  I remember watching the LSU-Ole Miss game last year, and although LSU won, it was an ugly game.  For long stretches, it was like watching the LSU tailbacks run into a brick wall.  I kept on waiting for one of those crazy Les Miles plays.  It never happened.   Ricobo (we’ll see how this sticks) were more traditional in their approach, but at times did do creative things to spark the team.  Remember that long run by Aaron Murray against Tennessee in 2013 when everyone got hurt and nothing else seemed to work?

Scoring a ton of points is the new normal in the SEC…but there is inevitably going to be a 24-17 kind of slugfest game, and if the offense is stagnant, will Schotty’s mind be able to dial up           a play to get something going?

  • Someone new at wide receiver? The receiving corps talent and depth is at low point.  Sure, there are some talented guys there.  Malcolm Mitchell and Isaiah McKenzie have explosive speed, and Justin Scott-Wesley has been a target in the past.  But gone are sure-handed Michael Bennett and Chris Conley.  I don’t have stats to back me up, but it seemed like every single reception for Bennett converted a first down.  Of the newcomers coming in, the most highly touted recruit is 5 star Terry Godwin, but he seems like he is more like McKenzie with speed but not a lot of size.   I’d be curious to see if Michael Chigbu from New Orleans can be that guy.  Not often LSU lets one of their in-state guys get away, and he has good size at 6’2″ and 211 lbs.
  •  Obligatory Quaterback thoughts:  This is the talk of the offseson, but I think Brice Ramsey is the man.  He has highly sought after coming out of high school.  If Clemson, Alabama, Ohio State and other big time programs want someone, they are generally pretty good.  And Ricobo have a good track record of developing quarterbacks.  I think Grayson Lambert will provide good depth, but when it comes crunch time, Brice Ramsey is the man.

Surely there are more thoughts, but these are the pressing ones.  Just a little while longer now…