Soft Schedule: Salve or False Hope?
This reminds me of Donnan, this reminds me of Richt, this reminds me of Dooley. We are 4-2 with only one quality win, that over a two-loss team (UNC, RPI of 26) and playing Vandy (2-4) at noon Saturday before taking a week off. We are “pretty good” and will be 5-2 and ranked again when Cocktail Party week dawns. Need that one.
When Tennessee and Florida were both so strong for what felt like so long, the SEC West was up-and-down. When we got the leg up on Tennessee and Florida, South Carolina emerged a state over as a dominant rival, while the West ruled the Southland with an iron fist.
Writing a book on the “Richt Era: 15 Years in Athens” (releasing FRI 11/11 6:3o-7:30p at Avid Bookshop on Prince Avenue in Athens), it has become so much clearer to me why great guy Mark Richt was fired after averaging nearly ten wins per year. The schedules Georgia plays aren’t exactly mostly murderous, and the big wins just weren’t often enough to offset the big losses. Ten years no league trophy with just 5-of-15 at Jacksonville (1/3rd, with two consecutive bad losses after three of his just five total series wins). We went 2-of-5 in SEC title games, but with both those wins coming in Richt’s first five years a longer slight downtrend was plainly evident.
Can Kirby crack through? First, he would have to simply match Richt. Unlike Donnan, Richt did win the SEC twice. Richt’s second team was a dominant 13-1. Two other Richt teams were a few plays away from winning it all. Once over every five year period, UGA peaked and came close. Didn’t get there, though. While Bama has won 4-of-7 national titles, they were straight garbage in modern play until 2008. Their defensive mastermind Kirby Smart came home, yet without him the Tide lead FBS in defensive efficiency halfway through the year. UGA’s defense looked better prepared to me under now-Bama DC Pruitt.
Sure, it’s just the middle of year one. But Donnan was losing four games every year when he got canned and Richt came in, so by that measure Richt inherited an inferior program. Conversely, Richt left Kirby a team that won ten two years straight, averaged ten over five years and won 9.6 for a decade and a half on average.
Extrapolate our current 4-2 out and we go 8-4 this regular season. While Richt won nine his first year before a bowl. Can Kirby simply keep pace? He may have to upset either Florida or Auburn to do so, because at the minute both would be favored to beat #GEORGIA.
After Saturday’s win, Smart stated that he thought a holding call was going to stop the clock at the end of the first half in Columbia with Georgia in range for a Blankenship field goal. What??? Then he rephrased: “To be honest with you, it was just mismanagement.”
Instead of calling one of two timeouts left, he left the points on the board, his second huge clock management mistake in consecutive football halves. Better fix that and get a much cooler head in-game, because a calming I’m in total control presence isn’t there on our sidelines. Vandy doesn’t roll around every week and that was luckily against a total crap South Carolina side. They are so far down we beat them without passing (UGA’s lowest passing output since 1990).
“The Man” in Athens shall fall: first it was Nick Chubb, then Joystick, then Eason. Each of our three anointed UGA football saviors has played poorly after stepping into the spotlight this season. Get all three going, together with Sony Michel and a heavy dose of our deep and talented tight end core, and we could possibly win out. Our big SEC rivalry games are still upcoming. After the gauntlet of Ole Miss (blowout) and UT (heartbreaker), the defense won’t be overmatched the rest of the way, because Georgia’s schedule this year is soft:
UNC: 2 losses / Nicholls State: FCS / at Mizzou: 3 losses / Tenn: 1 loss / at S Car: 4 losses / Vandy: 4 losses / (needed) Bye / COCKTAIL PARTY vs UF 1 loss / at Kentucky 3 losses / Auburn 2 losses / Louisiana-Lafayette 3 losses / Tech 3 losses
Here’s the thing, get it going now and next year could be glorious. Tennessee loses some key guys. We replace UNC with a trip to Notre Dame, who have fallen back on hard times. Instead of at Ole Miss, which was melting my face at 100 degrees (almost) with us trailing by 50 (almost…it was 45-0 nothing, y’all!), we get a home game with Miss State. Florida isn’t a finished product. Auburn and Tech aren’t there with five losses between them already. We didn’t switch this year’s South Carolina game to Athens, for back-to-back dangerous trips to Columbia. We are in our usual “pretty good” spot, actually…if we can suddenly mature at coach and quarterback. We could be Great.