Best Case Scenario At Hand

Nothing is more emblematic of SEC dominance over rival conference, the ACC, than the GEORGIA-Georgia Tech series. UGA is 100 years older and used to use the oldest on-campus stadium still in existence, Bobby Dodd’s Stadium at Grant Field, for home games when we wanted to play in Atlanta. Now, we do so in the Georgia Dome, where I project us headed for another Chick-fil-A Bowl this year. We need to improve our record in the Atlanta Falcons’s house but that is another story.

This is more about what we need and where we are as a program right now. We were a play away from a national title game appearance last year and fell way down to 8-4 this season for three reasons: 1. We gave up the most points in school history, and have played ball since 1892; 2. Special teams gaffes; 3. Injuries.

Two of those three are in Coach Richt’s control, and a head coach in his 13th season shouldn’t have a talented program struggle that badly in two-thirds of the sides. Defense was bad, special teams was awful, and offense was good until we got hurt. That’s a bad year, Dawgs fans. That’s basically just a bad year. I wonder if Brian Van Gorder is available and won’t cry a single tear when Grantham shifts to the NFL. BVG’s Ds carried UGA for years. Years that netted SEC rings. It wasn’t junk defenses tricking people. We were solid and always in position.

We did beat Florida for a third straight time. We beat scrappy LSU. We kept Tennessee at bay. We broke the three-year streak of Cock wins by beating a top 10 South Carolina team by eleven. We beat Georgia Tech for the twelfth time in thirteen tries and have won 19-of-23 over our state rivals since they won it all my freshman year of college (’90).

Considering how thoroughly we figured Auburn out in the 4th quarter defensively and that we haven’t given up run yardage on the edge since, improving in SEC total team defense to 7th while facing the number one running team in the NCAA over the past five seasons (Tech). Considering we realized Aubie could in no way slow our short passing game and Hutson Mason runs it as well as all-time SEC passer Aaron Murray. Considering they beat us on a hail mary on 4th and 73 after giving up a 20-point lead with lots of three-and-outs. I can honestly say we’d beat AU-barn fairly handily if we played them again. Main reason: we finally gelled as a run defense in that 4th quarter, and they point blank can’t throw the ball. Unlike BAMA who played them evenly, we definitely had Aubie beat and just didn’t execute on a single play. Bad fundamental coaching by Grantham on that, BTW.

BAMA, mighty mighty AL-A-BAMA! They won one SEC West in the past four campaigns, while Auburn and Georgia each won multiple division crowns. Since 2010, they are 7-5 in November games against FBS teams. That doesn’t sound all that dominant, when you look at say, for example, what Nebraska did mid-1990s. Saban and AJ were great. But they surely weren’t the greatest ever. Best teams they beat this year: #15 LSU (we beat them, too) and 4-loss no-wins-over-ranked-teams worst D in the country Texas A&M (barely). Dominant? Not exactly in the SEC but no one can take their title runs away. Except the NCAA, still investigating the “lots of evidence” Fluker case. BAMA’s run? Over.

Dawg Days ahead depend on what happened happening. Murray had to get all those records and try his butt off and get hurt and get Mason in for real field action before next year. We open with Clemson and then at South Carolina. A no experience QB couldn’t be, wouldn’t be 2-0. Mason should be 2-0 entering the season, with real game experience in three games: Kentucky = joke. But Tech was real. We had a big-shoes-to-fill 20-0 moment, when the Jackets were unable to get to the edge running but surprised us with Vad Lee’s career best passing day.

One big rivalry game after coming back from down 20, we came back from down 20 versus a rival again. The single biggest comeback win in school history belongs to QB Hutson Mason. A big bowl win will propel us to preseason top 10, maybe even top 5. Can we live up to it?

His weapons next year: our best wideout Malcolm Mitchell, a healthy and much more versatile Todd Gurley, spelled by speedster Keith Marshall, and the team’s leading receiver at time of injury Justin Scott-Wesley. Conley and Bennett will be seniors. The line won’t get everyone back but will be plugging in guys who have started games and played well. The D will lose only one starter and has a big space clogger coming in from North Carolina on national signing day. The special teams gaffes stopped (when it was too late to win big this year). We should be able to top the Palmetto teams as they are losing so much talent. We could be undefeated and heading to the heartland to face SEC East champs Mizzou and struggling Arkansas (in Little Rock).

We could win it all in 2014. Winning the SEC, not the East but the league should be our goal. That will virtually guarantee a spot in the four-team playoff, which is nothing but a plus-one on what we have now, where the SEC looks to get locked out for FSU and Ohio State.