In the spirit of enhanced sharing of information and the free flow of the internet, Dawg Sports and House Of Sparky have interviewed each other to find out if the grass really is greener on the other side of the Mississippi.
T Kyle King is a very respected blogger, and Dawg Sports is the best Georgia blog out there. Without further ado, lets get to the House Of Sparky Hot Seat, where Kyle has agreed to answer all our burning questions. As for my answers to his questions, they are located at Dawg Sports.
Georgia showed a lot of guts against South Carolina on Saturday, but failed to impress fans of college football who saw it as a less than dominating performance. This is also shown by their slide from #2 to #3 in both polls, as the voters were disappointed in the closeness of the game. Take your Georgia hat off and discuss the team's performance, and then put the hat back on and give us your biased take.
First of all, I don't fault the voters on this one. I voted Georgia No. 3 on my BlogPoll ballot, as well, although this was due to the fact that Southern California and Oklahoma looked extremely good rather than because the Bulldogs looked particularly bad. An SEC game that ends 3-2 is hallmarked by inept offense; an SEC game that ends 14-7 is an old school classic.
I certainly can understand how, from a neutral perspective, the Red and Black's accomplishments so far this season appear comparatively meager. Georgia Southern is a Division I-AA team, Central Michigan has a penchant for giving up gaudy point totals to BCS conference teams on the road, and South Carolina has lost seven of its last eight games, including six conference contests in a row. Given the closeness of Georgia's game against the Gamecocks, I won't fault a neutral observer for dinging the ‘Dawgs in the rankings.
Nevertheless, I believe any doubts about Georgia are premature. 80,250-seat Williams-Brice Stadium is a tough place to play and close, low-scoring defensive struggles historically are the norm between the Bulldogs and the Gamecocks. Half of the Georgia-South Carolina games played in the last 20 years have been decided by a touchdown or less, including six of the last eight. The Classic City Canines always get the Palmetto State Poultry's best game and Georgia found a way to win with three stout defensive stands at the end.
Many elite teams seem to have that one opponent with whom they struggle despite routinely having a marked talent advantage. Even when the Irish have been good, Notre Dame has found it difficult to beat Michigan State in South Bend. Texas always seems to need a furious second-half comeback to beat Oklahoma State. Vanderbilt often gives the Gators a scare. For Georgia, the game that annually seems more challenging than it should is the early-season outing against South Carolina.
Even so, the closeness of the Bulldogs' tussle with the Gamecocks is seldom indicative of the quality of the Georgia squad. The ‘Dawgs had to overcome a 16-0 deficit to pull out a 20-16 win in Columbia in 2004, but that Georgia squad went on to beat Louisiana State and Florida to finish with ten wins. The Red and Black lost to South Carolina at home last season, yet the Bulldogs were as impressive as any team in the country during the second half of the year.
The bottom line is this: Georgia beat South Carolina by margins of 7-0 in 1966, 21-20 in 1968, 20-12 in 1976, 13-10 in 1980, 13-7 in 2002, and 17-15 in 2005. The Bulldogs won six SEC titles and one national championship in those half-dozen seasons. There's no reason to think a close call against South Carolina means anything at all.
To find out more about the Bulldogs, continue reading...
Safety Reshad Jones appeared susceptible against South Carolina, failing to help cover on Moe Brown's 34 yard touchdown and giving up big penalties at bad times. Does his performance, game-ending interception notwithstanding, worry you at all, or is this just a case of a talented young player developing on the field?
Hopefully, it's the latter, although the secondary (outside of Asher Allen) is the biggest area of concern for the Georgia defense. Heading into Tempe, all of us among the Georgia faithful are acutely aware that the Sun Devils lead the Pac-10 in pass offense and pass efficiency, and that Rudy Carpenter stands atop the league in passing yards per game, quarterback rating, and total offense.
It's reasonable to suppose that a player as talented as Reshad Jones is, like Alyssa Milano on "Who's the Boss," simply going through growing pains in the public eye. Jones came out of high school rated as the country's top defensive back by PrepStar and he was named the team's most improved defensive back at the end of last spring's drills. The penalties definitely need work, but his game-sealing pick was no fluke; he narrowly missed getting the interception one play earlier.
I have confidence that Willie Martinez, who is Georgia's secondary coach as well as the Bulldogs' defensive coordinator, ultimately will develop Jones into the next Bruce Thornton, who looked confused and out of place in his first year in the defensive backfield but eventually matured into a Red and Black stalwart. Until Jones turns that particular corner in his development as a player, though, I take solace in the knowledge that, while the ‘Dawgs rank eleventh in the SEC in pass defense, they have given up just two touchdown passes in the last six quarters.
3. Georgia hasn't traveled this far west in many, many moons. We know now that UGA fans are going to travel very well to this game, and they have purchased plenty of ASU season tickets just to get into the stadium. Just how big of a deal is this game to Georgia fans?
I have to provide a bit of context before answering that question. Vince Dooley spent 25 years as Georgia's head football coach (1964-1988) and 25 years as Georgia's athletic director (1979-2004). Coach Dooley was and is a beloved figure in Bulldog Nation, but he was not perfect and Vince didn't like to travel. He became the head coach in 1964, he took his team to Ann Arbor for a previously-scheduled showdown with the Wolverines in 1965, and, after he won SEC titles in 1966 and 1968, he was in a position to have a greater influence over Georgia's slate. He used that influence to keep the ‘Dawgs closer to home.
To be fair, there were extenuating circumstances. Georgia Tech left the SEC in the mid-1960s, so the Bulldogs now had to face a full conference slate plus an in-state out-of-conference rivalry game with the Yellow Jackets at the end of the year. South Carolina (which would not join the SEC until 1992) and Clemson also were longstanding rivals from outside the league, with whom the Bulldogs clashed very nearly annually throughout Coach Dooley's tenure.
Nevertheless, Georgia had built up a national reputation by traveling during the 50 years between 1916 and 1965. After the Bulldogs went undefeated in 1920, the team's coach and the school's athletic director, Herman Stegeman, was able to use his national connections to line up dates with the major powers of the day. Throughout the 1920s and ‘30s, the Red and Black regularly went on the road to face the likes of Fordham, Harvard, Holy Cross, NYU, and Yale. Georgia even went to Los Angeles three times to take on the Trojans, who have never come to Athens.
In short, the Bulldogs have a long tradition of scheduling nationally, which helped to establish the program in the early days but which was squandered during the 40 years in which Vince Dooley oversaw Georgia's non-conference slate. Fortunately, when Damon Evans took over as athletic director, he immediately made moves to restore that lost element of our heritage, setting up home-and-away series with Arizona State, Colorado, Oklahoma State, and Oregon while trying to schedule such schools as Cincinnati, Michigan, Notre Dame, and Oregon State. While he was at it, he arranged a trip to Louisville and got Clemson back on the schedule, as well.
How big a deal is this game? A win would put an end to such silly statements as Stewart Mandel's declaration that Georgia is not a national power and the simple fact that the game is being played represents a restoration of a long-dormant practice that more schools are following, and ought to follow. When the Bulldogs take the field on Saturday, it will represent the first time in our current athletic director's lifetime that Georgia has played a regular season road game outside the South; put differently, this will be the first instance since 1965 that the ‘Dawgs have crossed what ceased to be a national boundary in 1865. This has been a long time coming.
The last time the SEC invaded Tempe, LSU shocked ASU with an incredible 4th quarter comeback that was against all odds. How do you view the Pac-10 as a conference this season?
That's hard to say, particularly after such a rough weekend for the league. Obviously, some of it had to do with mismatches (Oklahoma at Washington), some of it had to do with the difficulty of winning on the road outside your own region (Cal at Maryland, Oregon at Purdue), and some of it had to do with looking ahead to the next opponent (well . . . you know).
Last Saturday's struggles aside, the Pac-10 is a deep league from top to bottom. While other leagues have their perennial cellar-dwellers (Duke in the ACC, Iowa State in the Big 12, Temple in every conference they've been in), Stanford in the Pac-10 and Vanderbilt in the SEC have shown the ability to leap up and bite the big boys often enough to demonstrate that there are no easy Saturdays on the West Coast or in the Southeast.
I will grant that some of the respect afforded the Pac-10 from some of the folks in my neck of the woods is grudging, but it is respect. Such results as those from USC's Arkansas and Auburn series and Tennessee's trips to take on California and UCLA speak for themselves. The Pac-10 is a solid and deep football league, one weekend's worth of aberrational outcomes notwithstanding, and it is to the conference's considerable credit that, when the twelve-game regular season was made a permanent fixture of the college football landscape, the Pac-10 used the extra outing not to pad the member institutions' slates with patsies, but to return to the true round-robin conference schedule that temporarily went by the wayside when Arizona and Arizona State were added to the old Pac-8.
Besides, at a time when even the boys at Berkeley are forcibly removing hippie demonstrators so they can cut down trees to build new athletic facilities, we in SEC country (many of whom think "Easy Rider" had a happy ending) can relate to Pac-10 partisans as kindred spirits. Y'all are all right by us.
We know that quarterback Matthew Stafford claims to be 100% after his apparent injury on Saturday. What do you expect to see from him this weekend, and is it possible that his mobility will be affected?
Unless the extent of his injury was undersold considerably, I don't expect him to be hobbled. A couple of nice runs against South Carolina aside, Matthew Stafford is not by nature a mobile quarterback, so his wheels aren't much of an issue, and every appearance is that he will be at full strength on Saturday. Now let's just see whether his receivers catch the ball . . .
Finally, are there any Georgia Bulldogs that Sun Devil fans haven't heard much about yet? What can you tell us about them?
If you're not yet familiar with Rennie Curran, you're about to be. The sophomore linebacker earned SEC defensive player of the week honors in Columbia by registering six tackles, a sack, two quarterback pressures, and a forced fumble. So far this season, Curran holds the league lead in sacks among linebackers and tops the team in tackles and tackles for loss. The frequency with which Curran helps Carpenter up off the ground will have a lot to say about which way this game goes.
Offensively, true freshman A.J. Green looks like what Georgia has not had truly or consistently since at least the days in which Eric Zeier was lining up under center instead of broadcasting from the booth . . . a game-breaking wide receiver. To be fair, the 6'4" South Carolinian has not yet entered the same territory that caused Larry Munson to exclaim of Herschel Walker, "My God, a freshman!" Nevertheless, Green led all Bulldog receivers with three catches for 61 yards against the Gamecocks and he trails only senior flanker Mohamed Massaquoi as the most prolific Georgia receiver this fall.
Thank you very much, Kyle! Best of luck this season.. after Saturday, of course.