Wednesday, October 26, 2011

WLOCP: mental case studies

I used to enjoy making predictions on Georgia football. The blog was actually born from the idea of providing a Friday prognostication before games. The last couple seasons though have made that harder. And the WLOCP is not a comfortable forecast at all for Georgia fans.

Because as many years before, Georgia is the better team in 2011. And that doesn't mean a damn thing. Coach Richt has brought the better team to Jacksonville on several occasions; winning two of those, but losing the others. 

The common thread is a fine line - mental toughness. Is the team mentally tough enough to overcome adversity on the banks of the St. Johns? Are they prepared for 60 minutes of tackle football? Or more in the case of last season? Because having the better quarterback isn't enough in this game. Gaining more yards isn't always enough either.

Get your head in the
game son.
Let's look at two historical examples, one in which we lost and one in which we prevailed.
2002 - What might have been? 
The game against Florida was the only blemish on this season's record. The #4 ranked Dawgs had been able to manage close games against Clemson, South Carolina, Bama and Tennessee, but the offense never seemed to function on all cylinders. When DJ Shockley spelled David Greene it provided a spark for Ron Zook's team as Guss Scott turned an interception into 6 points. That would be all the offense Florida needed until the 4th quarter when Van Gorder's defense (which had only given up two field goals so far) finally buckled under the weight of a long drive, making the score 20-13.
Notes - You could make a strong argument that Georgia had two better quarterbacks in the game and still managed to lose. We were +2 in turnover margin thanks in part to Rex Grossman. But it was DJ's costly interception that kept Florida in the game when we were winning the game on the ground. Georgia went on to a Sugar Bowl and a near perfect 13-1 record, after beating Arkansas for the SEC title. 

2007 - Making a statement
Known for its penalty flags more than anything, the game in 2007 should be notable to Dawg fans for one reason: we scored early and we scored often. After drawing first blood, Richt's team only became more thirsty. Stafford's offense lead the way with 14 points in the 1st quarter, 7 each in the 2nd and 3rd and then finished strongly with another two touchdowns in the 4th quarter. Moreno carried the ball 33 times! For 188 yards!!! 
Notes - In short, we stuck our cleat on their throat and didn't let up. We went on to another Sugar Bowl, but thanks to losses to Carolina and Tennessee couldn't get a shot at LSU in the GA Dome.

I could've gone by just what I saw on paper and predicted every WLOCP of Coach Richt's tenure and would've said we'd win at least six of them. I'd have been wrong four times. The mind doesn't translate to paper and it is impossible to predict. Does Isaiah Crowell have the mental and physical toughness to do what Knowshon did in 2007 and carry the workload without wearing down or turning the ball over? I hope so. I think so.

On a larger scale, have the off season attitude adjustments and locker room cleansing been enough to translate into better game management in Jacksonville? Can we now avoid the brain farts, dropped balls and key turnovers? 

Again, I hope so. I think so.

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Other WLOCP prep readings:


JaxDawg05 said...

Talent, toughness and game plan haven't decided the WLOCP in a LONG time. Turnovers are the stat that determines the winner of this battle. He's to hoping UGA holds onto the ball on offense, takes it away on defense and executes an offensive plan just like it did in Knoxville this year. Go Dawgs! Oh, it's Wednesday and I hate Florida.

sgrantham37 said...

Really? You think the Dawgs have been the better team in 6 out of Richt's 10 years? I would say it's closer to 3.5 (stay with me...)

2004 (won that one)
2007 (won that one)

As for the half game...we would have been better in 2005, if not for the injury to DJ, and I MIGHT accept 2008, although I think we overestimate the talent on that Georgia team because we lend more weight to the offensive side of the ball.

Which years do you think we were better and lost? I would agree with 2002, although that was a team that was really still learning how to win at that point.

Bernie said...

Those you listed. Plus I added 2003, 2005 and 2008. Even w/o DJ I think we were a better team in '05. And I get your point about the 2008 team.

Six of one, a half dozen of the other I guess. But the bottomline is the more talented team hasn't always won, at least when it is us.

Bernie said...

Turnovers, but not always the margin. Like in '02 when we were +2. They just turned theirs into points.

Some things are so easy to hate.

sgrantham37 said...

I'm with you...I was just sort of continuing a conversation that has been going on at both The Senator's blog and Braves and Birds, which were in reaction to Jeff Schultz. The echo chamber of the internet strikes again..

I think we have usually been the worse team, and we have usually lost...but I also think that in the years where the teams are pretty close we almost ALWAYS lose. Which is concerning to me, because I think the teams are very closely matched this year, especially if Brantley plays and Mitchell doesn't.

Bernie said...

I saw The Senator's post, but I tend not to read anything on that "news" site. I agree that since this two decade depression started that we've generally had the weaker team. I think it's been less that way since CMR arrived. Which is overall what concerns me. I'm hopeful this year is different.