BHB’s Bama-GEORGIA Preview:
Han Vance on SEC football: The top two football programs in the SEC are not in Baton Rouge, where a depleted roster and org chart somehow still has drunken fans clinging to a false narrative wrong notion of a sudden dynasty. Just add Joe. Generally, teams take at least a small dip when they lose the #1 overall NFL draft pick. When they have just five starters back and a new defensive coordinator and lose the passing game guru who was the real key to it all (while not even the head offensive coordinator, last year at LSU) and a quarterback who set the national all-time passing record on the top offense in NCAA history while he won the rare combo Heisman/Natty, plus wave goodbye to the top running back drafted who is currently leading the NFL in rushing yards, then the top-awarded receiver in the country opts out…the party is OVER.
The model of SEC consistency, good and less than all the way great, Georgia has had three straight 11-1 regular seasons and is the only SEC team to finish ranked as one of the top seven teams for three straight years and the only member institution to win its division three times running. While strong SEC East runner-up Florida has finished as a Top 10 team two straight years, meanwhile being dominated by UGA three straight (and 6-of-9) in the stadium formerly known as the Gator Bowl. In the last three seasons alone, Georgia has played in three SEC championship games, two Sugar Bowls, the Rose Bowl and the national championship game (where they lost in overtime). Factually, no program other than mighty Clemson has quite this deep of a points-of-light recent resume. Considering these topical points, the real travesty of no national championship (since the 1980 season) resonates really loudly. Georgia visits Alabama, where the Dawgs are on a two-game winning streak on the capstone, the last over Nick Saban and both over ranked Tide teams. In the last two meetings versus SEC and national standard bearer Alabama, Georgia actually led or was tied for 119 of 120 game minutes.
Alabama is good at football.
The Tide have won five straight over Georgia, but the two SEC powers did not play at all in the 2019 calendar year, when Bama was first blown out in the national championship game, then finished third in the SEC West as an encore, missing the (CFP) College Football Playoff for the first time since its inception. The 2017 national championship season feels even longer ago to Tide fans than it does to Georgia fans, as they have lost their biggest games since then to all teams that do not wear the red-and-black. Even Auburn beat them last season.
I project the two to play twice this season and they could quite feasibly play an all-college record three times. In one season! How? If Bama beats Georgia in SEC Week 4 as is nationally projected, in the clearly lesser state to our west, and then Georgia beats Bama in an SECCG rematch in downtown Atlanta – where I’ve noted UGA has sadly and also unnecessarily struggled – Alabama has the national reputation and powerful platform possessing coach to enter the CFP as a non-champion, again. They’ve done it before. Heck, they made the national championship as a non-divisional champ when there were only two teams, so you know four is quite probable.
Returning and proven productive skill position weapons at QB, RB, two WRs and all-SEC kick/punt returner give Alabama an obvious edge over a retooling, but talented, young Georgia offense and special teams. That’s how you make your points.
UGA can’t come close to matching the 2020 Tide in explosive experience edge. And, their offensive coordinator and system remain in place, while Georgia has just begun to practice an all new system with a new and unnamed QB, new RBs with no 100-yard games or long bust runs on their resumes and after losing 4-of-5 offensive line starters and their O-line coach. A new play caller was required after last season’s annual huge, glaring Kirby gaffe – the promotion of his energetic friend James Coley to offensive coordinator. The fans not being in a packed stadium at full throat gives Georgia more of a shot, on the other hand, and the Georgia defense could be number one in the nation again. Georgia gave up just 12.6 points last season, best in the whole FBS, but played a must-be-a-record four backup quarterbacks and in two games that were in heavy driving rain. When teams had to run, the defense gave up just 75 yards rushing (its best since 1981) last season. The team yielded 276 total yards per game, the school’s best there since 1971, leaving it number three in total defense after the postseason.
Georgia entered the postseason number one in “total defense” (which is always yardage yielded per the NCAA stats measurable’s rules, so don’t try to foolishly argue otherwise), then was slowly but soundly shredded by best-ever LSU, in-state. A big reason for this was that top player Swift was an injured decoy non-factor in the game, previously top un-guardable WR Lawrence Cager was out for the year, our kick/punt returner and third option receiver Dom Blaylock was lost for the year to injury in the first half. While eventual number one receiver George Pickens sat out the first half with suspension from a fight in the big blowout Georgia Tech game, which itself looked like a draw. You didn’t come to Georgia to get popped pretty good in fistfights in The ATL, Pickens. Grow up, dude.
Of those players mentioned above, only Pickens returns and my favorite for starting QB all along since he was granted eligibility J.T. Daniels is not yet cleared for game contact. Do you think the school won’t miss its all-time passing percentage leader in 2020?
With no offensive production skill left playing, on an already somehow bad offense that routinely couldn’t get out of the 20s, way too much was on the defense in the SECCG. This could be what the Bama game looks like, too. I projected D’Wan Mathis to someday start for Georgia at QB on the day he was signed, before he had brain surgery. That day may be 9/26 at Arkansas. Rivals Tennessee and Auburn visit a quiet Athens Between the Hedges, between the two road trips.
Georgia by 10 in the rematch in GEORGIA (but if they play three times, I’d have to take a Nick Saban-coached Tide in the CFP).
*WHAT I’M LISTENING TO: 33N83W ~ A podcast which features conversations with powerful and notable University of Georgia alumni, students and others, each who have dedicated themselves to UGA with the aim of showing the reach and strength of the alumni network. And, to remind everyone why it’s so great to be a Dawg. Hosted by San Diego resident Tara Shah, (a peer-alum of mine from both Marietta High, where I went my freshman year, and of UGA where I attended 1990-1993 + 1996-1998). Great show!
**COMING SOON: Dawg Days of Fall ~ my new football podcast. Tweet for me there is @dogdaysoffall1; our Instagram: @dawg.days.of.fall; and our Facebook page: Dawg Days of Fall.
***NEW FOOTBALL SUPPORTERS GROUP (just like soccer fans do the whole world over): Canine Crew ~ We have an inchoate Facebook group of same name, will be the life of the (’21) party.