Friday, August 12, 2016

As the Dawg Abides - the 2016 schedule, part one

Originally posted at BullDawg Illustrated

This week we no longer find ourselves inching towards the start of a new season, but walking with a steady gait directly towards it. And soon we’ll be at an all out sprint. So let’s take a look at the schedule.
Ultimately a team is defined by how well they develop as the season progresses. This development is impacted by things such a big road win, or a devastating loss. And it’s also affected by injuries, play calls, morale, Penn Wagers’ former bunkmates, and at times, even rogue memorabilia dealers.
And especially since this is the dawn of a new era for Georgia Football, I’d prefer to look at the schedule through the lens of how it may (or may not) impact the Dawgs’ development. So of course, we start in Atlanta…
Whether we win or lose to UNC in the opener, by Labor Day we’ll know a lot more about this football team. More importantly, Coach Smart and his staff will know a lot more about them. That’s the benefit of a quality opponent right out of the gate. So I think the only thing that could possibly happen in the GA Dome against the Tarheels that would really impact this team negatively is to completely wet the bed.
And I just don’t see that happening. That’s the main gripe from the previous coach, so given the new coach’s energy and business-like attitude I just don’t think UNC runs us out of the building. This Georgia team will face a tough task stopping the Tarheels from scoring, and could find trouble putting points up as well.
But these are two good teams overall, so I expect a good game that will be decided by a touchdown or less. If we knew more about our place kicking situation, I might even pick Georgia here. But it feels more 50/50 here in mid-August.
The two following weeks should be easy wins. Nicholls State will be yet another Welcome Home Kirby affair for his first real game ‘tween the hedges since he was our running backs coach in 2005. And then a trip to Columbia West where the Dawgs have always played well. Chubb should be in full stride well before he boards the plane and we remember what he did the last time he was there.
That means we are 2-1 (or maybe even 3-0) and feeling pretty good heading into Oxford. By now we should have a steady hand at quarterback. I’d be surprised if Eason isn’t the clear #1 at this point and the defensive roster should be bolstered somewhat given that the youth up front is a little more seasoned as well as the possible return of a couple athletic linemen in Jonathan Ledbetter and Julian Rochester.
To beat the Rebels (or whatever they are calling themselves this season) on the road after travelling all the way to Missouri for a night game the week before would be a big upset. But right now it looks like a tall task. I’d like to see this as another 11:00am local kick. That helped us in 2011 the last time we played in Oxford. You have to think this is the third best SEC matchup that weekend for television. Florida-Tenn will certainly get the prime spot and LSU-Auburn next. Which probably puts this one as an ESPN2 night game or an SECN 4:00pm kickoff.
We’ll see, but at best I see Georgia 3-1 and likely 2-2 heading into a major showdown against Tennessee at home the next week. This one is going to be a major tilt and is sure to be under the lights after a full tailgate! The Volunteers will be coming off a home game against Florida. At worst they should be 3-1 and if they can manage not to wet the bed again against the Gators they should come into Athens undefeated.
Take a step back and you can already tell that there will be a lot of pressure of Butch Jones in this game. This is the season he’s been laying bricks for and those hillbillys have everything invested in 2016. If Smart can counter with a calm, cool, and collected approach there’s no reason this can’t be a fourth quarter game. By the fifth game of the season this team should have its identity and be really ready to sink their teeth into somebody.
I’m glad Tennessee is in this spot on the schedule. Just as glad as I am this year we don’t have to play on their Neyland (quote) turf (unquote).
Last season Georgia became Butch’s signature win on Rocky Top. Can he twist the dagger in our sides by making us his first signature win on the road? Right now, albeit without having seen this Georgia team play under their new head coach, my answer would be “No”. I think Georgia wins with its offensive line and Chubb having the kind of night he should’ve had last year against Tennessee. I think this one is circled on the schedule by the entire Dawg Nation!
Right now I see us waking up on October 2nd with the SEC race on its ear and a lot of media pundits wondering why such a shade of orange looked so pretty back at Media Days. They should learn to not participate in felonies while driving a Prius no more than they use their private regions to drink boxed wine.
Which brings us to yet another trip to a town called Columbia as the Dawgs head east this time for a chicken dinner. South Carolina will be four games into their SEC schedule at this point and likely looking to regroup after an inauspicious start (@ Vandy, @Miss St, ECU, Kentucky, and A&M....I can see two wins in there for the Gamecocks, maybe a third if I squint real, real hard).
Muschamp’s first run in Chickumbia will have to be done with players Spurrier half-heartedly recruited and then walked out on. They’re going to have trouble scoring points and they’re going to have trouble tackling. Meanwhile, coming off of Tennessee, the Dawgs will either be ten feet tall and bullet-proof, or mad as all Holy Hell.
In other words kids, look forward to plenty of Mad Muschamp Memes on your local internet shelves October 9th!
To recap part one, mostly due to some youth on defense,lack of quality depth overall, what I expect to be a freshman at quarterback, and a very big question mark in the kicking game, I think we limp out to a 2-2 start before we gain our footing and all the off season work really starts to pay off.
This is a manageable schedule as a whole. But the front end has its challenges. Which is why I see Georgia heading into Homecoming at 4-2, 3-1. "But, that's just like, my opinion man."

Come back tomorrow for the second half, that includes a lot of SEC speed as well as a huge out of conference game...against the Ragin’Cajuns!
(Yes, you too engiNerds.)

Go Dawgs y’all!
the Dude caucasian