Saturday, August 13, 2016

As the Dawg Abides - the 2016 schedule, part two

Originally posted at BullDawg Illustrated

So, I made a bold schedule prediction yesterday of Georgia heading into Homecoming against Vanderbilt sporting a record of 4-2, 3-1. If you missed that post, go and catch yourself up on how I see the team developing from an opener in the Dome all the way through their second trip to a Columbia. Now it's time to pore over the second half of the Dawgs' 2016 schedule.
I’m not going to go so far as to label our 2016 Homecoming contest against the Commodores as a “trap” game, but you can envision a scenario where both fans and players are looking past these guys. Vanderbilt only tabled four wins last year, but there were some true signs of life. Especially within the conference. Hell, they came a lot closer to beating Florida than we did. Meaning they at least got off the bus.
Weird things happen against Vandy too. Sometimes even the punter has to make a tackle to save the game. But the talent gap is just too wide here. And heading into a bye week before the trip to Jacksonville, the stakes will be too high for Georgia to lose. Surely we pull away in the second half, and the coaches use the opportunity to get a look at some players that might otherwise be buried on the depth chart.
(If you read between the lines there, then yes! Yes, I just predicted Elijah Holyfield would have his first career 100 yard game on a lovely Homecoming afternoon in Athens.)
The only way the Bye Week beats us is if Isaiah Crowell visits from Cleveland and plants some synthetic mary jane in Eason’s locks of love. Seriously, one of the things to watch during the season will be how differently things feel during an off week. The team should be pretty hungry at this point and feeling pretty good about their chances at a return trip to Atlanta. The off week can get some bruises cleared up and maybe there will be another Kirbycopter sighting on the recruiting trails.
Oh Jacksonville! Richt gave us some memories during his time, but it took a while to find some good ones. How will Kirby Smart start his series against the hated gators? One thing Smart has in his first year that Richt didn’t is a true appreciation for the magnitude of this game. He went 1-3 as a player against Florida. He knows he can’t repeat that record against Florida as Georgia’s coach.
Both teams have off weeks before the WLOCP, so the first quarter should go for whichever team has game planned best and made the most of the time off. The team that wins will have made the right adjustments for the players to make the plays.
That last sentence probably has you saying, “Well...duh!” But I left it there for a reason. This game is why I hope Eason starts the season against UNC. This is a game where we need a big time arm that is attached to a player who has seen enough defensive schemes to process it all under the lights. A few throws that we’ve seen Eason make (albeit mostly at GDay when there was no real rush) could go a long way towards giving Chubb and Michel room to break some ankles, move some chains, and score some touchdowns.
Truly, this far out it’s both hard to predict a win or a loss. So much could change between now and then. My forecast here for October 29th is similar to mine yesterday for UNC in the Dome - 50% chance of sunshine and 50% chance of gloom. Since I’m all but certain to type a post for a beatdown on Friday, October 28th, today I’ll lean towards another loss.
I hate Florida. I HATE them.
Off to Lexington! Nothing heals the wounds from a trip to the banks of the St. Johns like some of Kentucky’s finest bourbon. Dawgs roll big enough for us all to fit in a few extra distillery tours.
Entering the homestretch we hope the quarterback’s confidence is solid, and special teams are cohesive enough to swing a game in our favor, and/or prevent a critical mental lapse. We find ourselves back in Athens after a long month and desperately needing another SEC win to stay in the Eastern race.
Auburn comes to town possibly in their own desperate straits. Unless Coach Malzahn still has some magic up his sleeve, the War Plainsmen could be fighting for bowl eligibility. Meanwhile, Smart’s Dawgs are ready to enjoy a three-game homestand to finish the regular season and maybe help Chubb get over the 2000 yard mark.
This is the point in the season where the team is tired and physically battered, but they don’t have a moment to rest. It’s also the point in the season when you hope the second and third teamers have gotten enough action to make a difference.
The offensive line for instance. If a starter has to come out before a key fourth quarter drive, we’ll need to depend on a backup to help control the line of scrimmage. That’s a scary proposition, one Bill Connely recognizes in his Georgia preview:
“Perhaps the biggest concern is what the heck happens if someone gets hurt up front. In Brandon Kublanow and Greg Pyke, UGA boasts two linemen who have earned all-conference honors, and left tackle Isaiah Wynn is solid and experienced. Rhode Island transfer Tyler Catalina adds depth, but if any of the top six players goes down, Georgia will have almost no choice but to throw a youngster into the fire.”
It will be interesting to see how this young team finishes under its new coach. It’s hard not to expect a bad showing at this part of the season. Which is why I’m glad we get Auburn at home. Hopefully it’s a night game and Sanford provides some pep in the team’s step.
I think the key to beating the Tigers will be how much our linebackers develop in the first nine games and how well our secondary can tackle. A big game from players like Bellamy and Carter and a healthy ground attack could give us our seventh win of the season.
Then a cajun cupcake gives us our eighth.
Which brings us to Clean Ol’ Fashioned Hate. Sure, it’s a misnomer because there’s nothing clean about it, not when there's cut blocks and zebras telling us Jasper's knee wasn't down when I had time to wait on an Orbit bus and take it from the Arch to south campus parking before the ball came out of his hands!
But we all know his knee was down and I'm not going to belabor the point any further. (At least not it's time for some leftover turkey and dressing.) Because the Dawgs give the state’s biggest Johnson a thorough beating in his last game as the engiNerds’ coach.
It’ll be sad to see him go. But I don’t think it will be sad to see an eight or nine win season for Smart’s first in Athens. If the team uses those first couple games to come together and some key younger players develop quickly, I can even see ten wins in there. But here in mid-August eight and probably nine seems more likely.
But again...that's just like, my opinion man.
Go Dawgs y'all!

the Dude caucasian

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