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!