Thursday, August 28, 2008


I'll be brief... ***UPDATED***

Georgia will score a bunch of points. Georgia Southern will not score very many points. DAWGS will win 48 - 7.

Defensive Goals:
  • Hold GSU to less than 50 yards per quarter - at least up until we play all of the guys who will not be listed in our programs. Half way through the third quarter, GSU was scoreless and had right at 100 yards. After that point, they scored three times and rolled up 190 yards in the final 22 minutes. So I think our top defenders held them under 50 yards per quarter on average.
  • 6 or more sacks. We had three. Lots of QB hurries but the mobility of the GSU QBs allowed them to avoid the sack a few times.
  • 2 interceptions. We had one (Ellerbe) and Reshad Jones dropped a sure pick.
Offensive goals:

250 yards rushing. We had 212 and came up a bit short.
250 yards passing. We had 323.
No fumbles. We put two on the ground and lost one.
No interceptions from Stafford. No interceptions.
No sacks. There was one sack that I thought was Stafford's fault because he seemed to have time to throw it away. But, on a different play he also deftly sidestepped a blitzing LB to avoid getting crushed.


Footie Picker - Weekend 8/30

This is my second year in a pick 'em league with some friends. Last year I finished in the middle of the pack. Looking for "substantial improvement" this season. Here are the picks for this week in Bold and Gold.


MIAMI (OHIO) 4 Vanderbilt Nope

*GEORGIA 34 Georgia Southern Nope
FLORIDA 34.5 Hawaii Yep
Virginia Tech 9.5 East Carolina (in Charlotte) Nope
MICHIGAN 3.5 Utah Nope
Southern Cal 20 VIRGINIA Yep
AUBURN 26.5 UL Monroe Nope
OLE MISS 8 Memphis Yep
Clemson 5 Alabama (in Atlanta) Yep
Missouri 9 Illinois (in St. Louis) Nope (just missed)



Tennessee 7.5 UCLA Nope - nice one Vols!

5-8 on Week One. I have no idea how I will be able to sustain this proficiency.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dear World Wide Leader

(I borrowed this idea from the fellas over at Dawgs On Top)

Dear ESPN,

Please have Mark May clean out his desk and all that shit on top of it, including his Jackie Sherrill Bobblehead Doll, his Stacy Lattisaw cassettes and his little magazine on NCAA 2009 cheats. Reassign him to Guantanamo Bay to cover the Detainee Flag Football League for your Al Jazeera sports affiliate. One way ticket only, please.

Do NOT fire Lou Holthh but take him out of the studio. Pay him handsomely for preparing insane non sequitur-laden pep talks.

Definition of hypocrite = person who complains about the amount of sex and violence on their TV. Really? Damn, and I thought it was a person who complains about too much noise coming from his gasoline-powered turtleneck sweater.

It never gets old watching Lou spit his way through many life lessons and rules to live by while also motivating us to go out and use our bodies as missiles against other humans. So yeah, keep him around for that.

Senator Blutarsky Asks, "How Fabulous Are The Freshmen?"

Over at "Get the Picture" Senator Blutarsky comments on an article by Marc Weizser from the ABH which points out that 10-12 true freshmen may play this year. Since 2003, no more than 6 freshmen have made it onto the field. So, in light of the fact that Coach Richt is unafraid to play this many freshmen this season, the Senator poses two questions (or maybe one question with two parts):

1. What does this say about the level of talent in this freshman class?
2. What does this say about what Coach Richt thinks his team can accomplish of this season?

Here are my thoughts...

Our two-deep depth chart has only 11 seniors and 10 or 11 juniors.

Our starting line-up for the GSU game will feature Seniors Tripp Chandler and Mo Massaquoi on offense and Wynn, Owens, Lomax, Ellerbe and Byrd on defense. Punter Brian Mimbs is also a senior and Brannan Southerland would be a third senior starter on offense if he was not injured. So 7 out of 22 starters are seniors. Over half of the two-deep are Sophomores or freshmen. We are not as young as last year, but we still have a ton of youth that will be on the field.

To answer your questions:
1. This year’s crop of freshmen has tremendous star power with at least 6 or 7 guys likely cracking the two-deep by mid-season. Glenn, Green, Jones, T. King, Dowtin and Rambo. Richard Samuel is neck and neck with Caleb King as Moreno’s back-up and if either Moreno or King gets nicked up, he is on the two deep. And of course, kicker Blair Walsh is a frosh. These 8 guys will all contribute on a team that returns 17 starters from the 2nd ranked team in the country that won its last 6 games by an average of 17 points. So it ain’t like the returners are chumps. WOW.

2. Crystal Football!

This is a Keeper

This post had me laughing so hard that I woke up my wife around midnight last night. (HT to Doug Gillett who gives a HT to his buddy Kevin W.) I don't know if it is just that damn funny or if I am just that damn base. Either way, I had to share it.

Here is an excerpt:

No. 8 of Gump for Heisman's 10 Things To Look Forward To This College Football Season...

8) Your girlfriend/wife questioning your sanity

Somewhere between the broken remote control and you shouting repeated obscenities at a 37”-inch Samsung LCD TV, it’s bound to happen.

‘You’re crazy.’

She’s right. You are fucking crazy. You’re bat-shit. And you know it. Then again, it’s the fall. 90,000 other people in hundreds of American cities go bat-shit every Saturday.

She just doesn’t understand. She’s a woman. And women are irrational. Women are so irrational they don’t understand why you spend 15% of your salary on season tickets and love your starting quarterback and hate your starting quarterback and love your starting quarterback and let the actions of 19 year-old strangers dictate your mood for one-fourth of the Caesarian calendar.

They just don't get it. Crazy bitches.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's The Defense, Stupid

Monday night on CSS, I watched an evening dedicated to the Dawgs. They replayed the Spring Game and had interview segments with coaches, players, ex-players, etc. In a one-hour span, I heard Bob Neal say the same thing three times. In paraphrase, here was his comment:

"When I look at how good a team might be, I look at three things. Number one - schedule. Number two - quarterback. Number three - coach."

Now I don't necessarily want to dump on Bob, but his three keys seem to ignore defense. Hasn't he gotten the memo that defense wins championships? Well, in his defense (pun intended), most pundits overlook the value of defense because offense is sexier and sells better. Still, a quick survey of the last several National Champions profoundly illustrates how great defense brings home the crystal football.

LSU has won two since Y2k and in both cases they were led by stout defenses.

Despite the irrefutable genious of Urban's spread offense, Florida won almost exclusively because of a great defense that sent 9 players to the NFL.

Oklahoma won their recent title with a defense that kept FSU out of the end zone.

Miami, well pick any of their fistfull of rings - defense, defense, defense, defense, and defense.

Alabama in 1992 - let's see, ummm, was it the QB play of Jay Barker or could it have been the defense that gave up only 109 points in 12 games and held teams to less than 200 net yards per game.

Ohio State's title came by way of great defense all year long and especially against Miami in the BCSCG.

USC had great offenses, but Pete Carroll is a defensive coach and it wasn't until he built great defenses that USC became a perennial title contender.

Having said all of this, my optimism for a great season this year for UGA is because we have great players on defense. We are returning 9 starters. We have 5 tackles who will rotate freely and no one will run in the middle. Rushing numbers between the tackles will be in the range of the Stroud/Seymour era. Our two best LBs - Ellerbe and Curran - compare to any pair in the SEC. Our 5 best DBs form what is probably the best nickel package we have ever had at UGA. We have depth all over the board. When Vance Cuff and Akeem Hebron are third team guys, you have tremendous depth.

To counter Bob Neal, I would say that when I look at a team's chances for success, I look at (1) a defense that can stop the run, (2) a defense that can pressure the QB, (3) an offense that will neither keep the defense on the field all day nor put the defense in bad field position time after time.

I love me some defense!

Tuesday Triathlon Talk

Swim 1.2 miles - Bike 56 miles - Run 13 miles

For the past three summers, I have been doing triathlons. Mostly sprint distance. But I finished the season last year with an Olympic distance race. In May of this year, I started the season with an Olympic triathlon and plan to finish it with a Half-Ironman distance race on October 4th. The Half is going to be right here on Amelia Island and will be an inaugural event titled "Atlantic Coast Triathlon." I am lucky that it coincides with the Dawgs off week. Needless to say, if it was the same weekend as the UT game, I would not be doing a Half this year.

I have had a recent set back with a strained lower back and had to take two weeks off. Today, I resumed my training and look forward to hopefully staying healthy for the next 6 weeks. I really want to finish this Half this year. It is what I have been training for since January when I was going to the Rec Center pool in the 6:00 am darkness when it was 40 degrees outside but 80 degrees in the water.
I know I won't be fast, but I just want to finish it.

I have added a few fitness related links in my blogroll. One is "Crossfit Amelia Island" and that is where my wife spends her work day coaching and training. She also teaches spinning classes, competes in road races, adventure races and some triathlons. It is really because of her that I got into triathlons. She inspired me to get back into the shape I was in back in my old UGA Rugby days of 1992-1996. It has worked out pretty well. Since this is my other passion, I figured I should blog about triathlon on ocassion.

So what does this have to do with UGA football? Not much. But, if anyone reading my blog is interested in races in the North Florida area, there are plenty and they are always fun. We believe that the race here on Amelia Island can become an excellent destination race for triathletes from all over, not just us locals. Speaking of which, we do have a superb triathlon group here on the island. Many are fast, but they let me into the group anyway because I rarely miss a beer drinking outing. However, I was required to make a few long Saturday bike rides to earn my stripes. Now, after recent rides of 40, 50, 50 and 70 miles, I almost feel like I belong.

I can think of one Dawg connection that is triathlon related... former UGA receiver and punt returner Chris McCranie participates in many of our local triathlons. He lives in Jacksonville with his wife Jennifer - a sweetheart from my hometown of Douglas. They have a one year old boy that is unmistakeably Chris's baby.

About the only other Dawgly relevance I can think of is that I will have to moderate my game day festivities between now and October 4th. I suppose that means that I will be off the chain at the Tennessee game. Oh, shit!

Monday, August 25, 2008

Who Will Lead the Dawgs in Sacks?

This is a puzzle, IMHO. The Dawgs defense returns 9 starters, but one of the two that must be replaced is sack leader Marcus Howard who had10.5 in 2007. Here is a list of the 42 sacks compiled by our defense last year. Among the returning players are:

Geno Atkins - 7.5

Jeremy Lomax - 4.5
Dannell Ellerbe - 4.5

Rennie Curran - 3.5

Roderick Battle - 2.5

Kade Weston - 2

Jarius Wynn - 1

The sack leader this season will be from the front four, most likely an end. So who are the candidates?
Jeremy Lomax, Roderick Battle, Jarius Wynn, Justin Houston, Geno Atkins, Corvey Irvin, Demarcus Dobbs, Neland Ball. Certainly we will have some sacks from other players, but the leader will come from this list.

Normally you would not expect the sack leader to be a tackle, but Geno Atkins penchant for penetrating the backfield makes him a viable candidate. Indeed, 14.5 of his 41 tackles last year were behind the line of scrimmage. That is better than one-third. I hear that Corvey Irvin is the quickest and most athletic of the tackles, so I have him
on the list. I think we can rule out Jeff Owens and Kade Weston.

From the edge, we have Lomax and Battle returning with significant experience. Battle started every game last year and registered only 2.5 sacks among his 24 tackles. However, Lomax started no games but got to the quarterback for 4.5 of his 16 tackles. It appears that Lomax is fairly adept at getting to the quarterback and should post better numbers with increased playing time. Jarius Wynn had one sack in 9 tackles while Demarcus Dobbs had only one tackle all season. IN the spring game, Justin Houston showed impressive speed off the edge and will lead this team in sacks at some point, but will it be this year?

I think the top three guys will be Lomax, Atkins and Houston. I don't see any of these guys achieving double digits but I hope I am wrong about tha
t. So how many sacks to expect? Here is a look at the past 6 sack leaders, all of whom were tremendous talents who moved on to the NFL:

2007 Marcus Howard - 11.5 (Team - 42)
2006 Charles Johnson - 9.5 (Team - 33)

2005 Quentin Moses - 11.5 (Team - 34)

2004 David Pollack - 12.5 (Team - 37)

2003 David Pollack - 7.5 (Team - 30)

2002 David Pollack - 14 (Team - 45)

It will be fantastic if we have a player burst on the scene like Pollack did in 2002, before every Defensive Coordinator learned to double-team him and to grab his jersey when that failed. I think we are more likely to see a leader in the 7-9 range with the next guy close behind. With that said, I will predict the following:

Lomax will lead the team with 8.5 sacks and Atkins will be second with 7 sacks. Houston will contribute 6 as a back up.

So, what are your thoughts? Care to take a stab at this?

The SEC is Better that the Big Ten - In Song

Ryan Parker Says it quite well... (the volume defaults to low, so click the volume icon to increase)

Did you catch the reference of back-to-back-to-back at the end? The Good Lord willing!


Sunday, August 24, 2008


Much of Georgia's hopes for a dream season rest on the arm of Matthew Stafford and the legs of Knowshon Moreno and his capable back-ups. The term "Heisman H
opeful" has been applied to each UGA star. This has me wondering what are reasonable expectations for the Dawgs in terms of passing and rushing output. So I looked at the numbers from 2004, 2005 and 2007. I have excluded 2006 because we had an unsettled quarterback situation and the loss of our best RB half way into the season. I believe that what to expect this year can be reasonably projected from the results of 2004 (senior starter at QB, stable of capable RBs), 2005 (senior starter at QB, stable of of capable RBs) and 2007 (improving second year starter at QB, stable of capable RBs.) These projections obviously assume that Stafford and Moreno escape injury all year.


2004: David Greene, DJ Shockley, et al combined for 201 completions on 363 attempts for 55.4%, 2972 yards (8.2 per attempt), 24 TDs. There were 30.3 attempts per game for 247.7 yards per game.

2005: Shockley, Tereshinski, et al combined for 201 completions on 363 attempts for 55.4%, 2977 yards (8.2 per attempt), 26 TDs. There were 27.9 attempts per game for 229 yards per game.

2007: Stafford, Cox, et al
combined for 199 completions on 365 attempts for 54.5%, 2579 yards (7.1 per attempt), 20 TDs. There were 28.1 attempts per game for 198 yards per game.

Notice how similar the numbers are in 2004 and 2005. The main difference between 2004 and 2005 was that we played only 12 games in 2004 and 13 games in 2005. That accounts for the lower attempts and yards per game in 2005. Also note that Shockley missed the Florida game or the statistics would have certainly been a little better.

Now, compare Stafford's sophomore season to the previous two. The attempts per game at 28.1 were nearly identical to 2005 and only 2 passes fewer than 2004. The total yardage was down by 400 yards and the yards per game was down by roughly 50 and 30 yards compared t0 2004 and 2005. TDs were also down by 4 and 6 scores. What can we extrapolate from these figures?

I think we can expect attempts to be no more than 30 per game. I also expect to see Stafford's completion percentage to improve to no less than 60%. If that happens, his total yards and yards per attempt will go up. I think he will average around 230 y
ards per game based on an uptick in completion percentage and a better yards per completion based on more deep threats at receiver and a more experienced offensive line that should give Coach Bobo enough confidence to call for more deep balls. Based on this, he should have about 2760 yards in the 12 game regular season and could add another 230 to 460 yards depending on whether the Dawgs make the SECCG. If so, he would have about 3220 yards. His TDs will only go up to about 25 at most because of our preference to run the ball inside the red zone.

I suspect that Stafford's best line will look something like this:

235 completions on 392 attempts for a 60% completion percentage. 3220 yards for 230 yards per game. 8.2 yards per completion and 25 TDs.

Further reading: this is a good article about Stafford's numbers from PWD at Georgia Sports Blog.


Freshmen Thomas Brown, Danny Ware, et al combined for 1882 yards on 463 attempts for a 4.06 average. There were 38.6 attempts per game for a 157 yards per game average and a total of 16 TDs.

2005: Sophomores Thomas Brown, Danny Ware, Kregg Lumpkin et al combined for 2108 yards on 455 attempts for a 4.63 average. There were 35 attempts per game for a 162 yards per game average and a total of 16 TDs.

2007: Senior Thomas Brown and freshman Knowshon Moreno et al combined for 2304 yards on 509 attempts for a 4.53 average. There were 39 attempts per game for a 177 yards per game average and a total of 32 TDs. Moreno accounted for 1334 yards on 248 attempts for a 5.38 average and 14 TDs. He averaged 19 carries and 103 yards per game.

Moreno was responsible for roughly half of the carries in 2007 when he shared duty with Thomas Brown. I think we should expect Moreno to get more carries this year, but just how many more will depend upon the progress and productivity of the talented fleet of backs in reserve (Caleb King, Richard Samuel, Kalvin Daniels, Dontavius Jackson.) I think about 60% of the carries per game is the most he will average. That would put him at 23 carries per game.

I expect his yards per carry will edge slightly upward based on three things: (1) Knowshon gained valuable experience in the league last season while splitting the carries and has had the entire off-season to prepare himself to be the work horse, (2) Coach Bobo now has a year of experience calling the plays and has had 8 months to figure out the most productive package for Moreno, and (3) improved production in the passing game leading to more opportunities for play-action. The one thing that mitigates against increased yards per carry in the first several games will be the absence of Brannan Southerland. But, I am confident that the coaching staff has made adequate adjustments to ensure that Moreno will be able to find running room. Accordingly, I expect Knowshon to average at least 5.6 yards per carry. This would translate to an average of 129 yards per game and between 1677 and 1806 yards for the season - depending on whether we play 13 or 14 games.

The one area where I think we will see the biggest jump in his production is TDs. Last year he had 14 of the 32 rushing touchdowns. Brown had 10, Southerland 5, Stafford 2 and Munzenmaier 1. This year, until Southerland returns, the fullbacks will not be getting the call at the goal line. Last year, Thomas Brown had the toughness and desire to fight his way into the endzone. We do not know yet if the current crop of tailbacks behind Moreno have a nose for the goal line like Brown did. I think this means Knowshon will get the ball much more often in the red zone this year compared to last year. I believe that 22 TDs is not an unreasonable number and would not be surprised if he had a few more.

I project that Moreno's best line will look something like this:

1806 yards on 322 attempts for a 5.6 average and 22 TDs.

Combining these projections, we should expect our run:pass ratio to be around 39:28 for the season which is 58% rushing and 42% passing.

Are these stats good enough for eventual Heisman consideration? If the Dawgs are undefeated when the award is handed out at the Downtown Athletic Club, then the answer will be yes. Otherwise, no.

So, what am I missing and what did I get wrong? I would appreciate your input.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008


Coming out of Brookwood High School with a zillion tackles, Rennie, at 5'-10" was too short to make the grade at big D-1 schools, right? Not so much! Last season, Rennie learned on the job combining for 50 tackles in the final 8 games of the season after having only 3 tackles in the first 5 games - two in which he did n
ot get on the field. In the final 6 games, he had 42 tackles, averaging 7 per game. That included a 13 tackle performance against Kentucky. Here are his game-by-game statistics according to
OK State - 1 assist.

S. Carolina - did not play.

Western Carolina - 2 solo.

Alabama - did not play.

Ole Miss - no tackles.

Tennessee - 5 solo, 2 assists.

Vanderbilt - 1 solo.

Florida - 4 solo, 1 assist. 2 tackles for loss.

Troy - 4 solo, 1 assist. 1 sack.

Auburn - 5 solo, 1 assist. 1 tackle for loss.

Kentucky - 12 solo, 1 assist. 1 tackle for loss.

Ga Tech - 6 solo. 2 tackles for loss.

Hawaii - 5 solo, 2 assists. 2 sacks.

I wish I could find out his total number of plays per game. But, he did start in only 5 games: Florida, Auburn, Kentucky, G
a Tech, Hawaii. When you read comments by Coach Martinez, Coach Richt and other players (see the articles linked below) it is clear that Rennie was playing on talent alone in the beginning as he was trying to learn the defense and where to be on each play. I noticed this in the WCU game. He seemed to be running all over the field but did not necessarily seem to be in the right place all the time. Obviously, he was a fast study, as he earned the starting spot down the stretch and became the most prolific tackler over the final 5 games - edging out Danell Ellerbe by 2 tackles (42 to 40.) More importantly, he seemed to be in the right place most of the time and was extremely disruptive while playing at top speed. That is the one observation that really sticks with me... how fast he plays. Indeed, the USA Today article below comments on this very point... Coach Mark Richt marvels at how much faster the defense looks since Curran got on the field, starting three of the last four games.

Curran has that special quality of being able to explode into a tackle with excellent form and at full speed. Thomas Davis was the last UGA player who made tackles with so much speed. From the ABH article below, we get this quote from Coach Richt, "Rennie Curran has really given us a boost with his ability to play with a lot of instinct and speed and he's a direct hitter," coach Mark Richt said. "You're always looking for a guy that can hit somebody square and knock them back and he's been a
ble to do that."

More from Coach Richt in the USA Today article,
"He makes a lot of direct hits, which is why he's such a good tackler," the coach said. "He has that focal point right down the cylinder, and he's able to hit it most of the time because of his speed and instincts. He plays low. He bends his knees well. He stays square to the line of scrimmage. When he's getting ready to make a tackle, his feet are closer than most guys. That's why he rarely misses. And he's strong, really strong." You can get a working knowledge of his strength from watching this video from CES in Atlanta.

Rennie lifting before arriving in Athens. Keep in mind that he was not an early enrollee in 2007.

He showed all of these skills as a true freshman. Now, as a sophomore with much more experience, imagine the possibilities as he plays with speed, aggression and knowledge of the defense. I think we are going to see several double-digit days for Rennie. He has his sights set a little higher... from the ABH article about his high school days...
Curran remembers making 24 tackles in a freshman game, a number he thinks he could reach at Georgia.

"I think I can definitely," Curran said.

I like this quote from the ABH article from Coach Van Halanger...
"He's the nicest kid in the world," strength and conditioning coach Dave Van Halanger said. "Then you see him on the field and he's like Godzilla."

Here are a few good articles written about Rennie Curran:
ABH before the Sugar Bowl
USA Today before the Tech Game

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Introducing The Great One... Cale Conley!!!



By Cale Conley

© 2008

It’s a stat that makes you shake your head: until last week, the Georgia Bulldogs had never been ranked # 1 in any major preseason poll. Not in 1981 as defending national champs, not in 1982 with Herschel back for his Heisman, not ever. Trivia geek alert: the closest the Bulldogs have come was in 1942, when there was no preseason poll but Sinkwich & Trippi’s Dogs were # 2 in the first AP poll of the year.

Since the release of last week’s USA Today Coaches poll putting the Dogs up top, there is of course buzz in the Bulldog Nation, but also a real undercurrent of unease, in fact concern. “It puts too much pressure on us,” I’ve heard uttered. “Now we’ve got a target on our back,” say others. “Only 2 of the last 10 preseason No. 1’s have won it all,” say the aforementioned trivia geeks, who just last year were telling 2007 preseason chart-topper LSU that only 1 of the last 9 teams that started # 1 also finished # 1. LSU, for the uninitiated, is now the defending champion. Score one for the Cajuns.

I’m no Dr. Phil, but I am here to help you cope with being at the preseason pinnacle.

In LSU’s journey of last year lies the explanation why no Bulldog, anywhere, should despair or wish for anything different than the preseason # 1 ranking if, in fact, it is a national title that we want. The reason is simple, but not one many in DawgWorld wish to speak aloud:

Like loaded LSU a year ago, THE 2008 DOGS ARE NOT GOING TO GO UNDEFEATED.

Repeat it with me no matter how much it may pain you, oh sergeant at arms of the Dacula Optimist Club and keeper of the eternal 1980 memorial flame:


If you really think they can, God bless you. I mean really, God bless you. And if they do, at least two things will be clear: (1) it won’t matter what or where we were ranked in the preseason because we had the greatest team since probably Nebraska in 1995 and the talent just took over and we were destined to win it all from the start, like Presbyterians, and (2) my mojo hex of declaring something so vociferously as impossible that it actually comes true has actually worked (and by the way, I am currently Presbyterian, and pray for an undefeated season). But I digress.

The Dogs really won’t go undefeated as bad as we all want to channel 1980 again only because the schedule just won’t let us. Everybody is talking about our “tough schedule” from Lee Corso to the ladies on “The View” (I made that part up), but I haven’t seen any historical research or real data about just how tough it is. For kicks and giggles, I actually did some research, compiled what some may call “data.” But first, an observation.

The SEC is loaded top to bottom, but let’s face it, in the modern era, there are six Hall’s (Georgia, Alabama, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, LSU) and six Oates’ (Ole Miss, Miss State, Kentucky, Vandy and the two teams I’m still not 100% sure are conference members, Arkansas and South Carolina. Could we possibly trade them for Clemson and Texas? Can you imagine? But again I digress.)

Since 1990, only two members of the SEC elite have played and beaten all five of the other members of the conference’s elite in the same year. One was Tennessee, in ’98, which goes down as one of those “Presbyterian-team-of-destiny-wouldn’t-be-denied” kind of things like I was talking about before could happen this year, but won’t (by the way, the Vols’ closest call came at Syracuse, in week one, where they squeaked by 34-33). The other team was Florida, in 1991, in Spurrier’s second year -- before Fulmer and Krispy Kreme kicked in to make Tennessee a power, while pre-Zaxby’s Goff was at our helm, while LSU was suffering from a bad case of Curley Hallman (remember that guy?), and while Pat Dye was still running the power-I at Auburn, just without Bo Jackson or Brent Fullwood. That Gator team swept the then-watered-down other elite and went undefeated in the SEC mainly because Spurrier was offensively about 10 years ahead of his time and had speed before speed was cool, but even that squad did not go undefeated, even in the regular season. Why? Because facing all that other SEC mess, they went on the road, in week three in a hostile out of conference environment (Syracuse), and got bushwhacked pretty badly, 38-21.

Anybody jumping ahead here?

Like the 1991 Gators, the 2008 Dogs face all five of the other elite, including LSU and Auburn on the road. Unlike 1991, all five of those teams are or will be in the top 20 and have actual head coaches. Plus the ’08 Dogs have Spurrier on the road at his new digs in Columbia in a classic trip up game, like every South Carolina meeting, then a flight to the desert to play a ranked out of conference team (Arizona State) in, you guessed it, week three, a la Syracuse and the Gators in 1991 and sorta-kinda-like Tennessee in ‘98. There are no Mississippis, no Arkansas, and even Kentucky and Vandy have improved and can no longer be overlooked. And then there’s a season ending meeting with a Tech team with a new gimmick offense, likely nothing else to lose at that point, and the law of averages on its side (Georgia has never beaten Tech 8 straight times, and the current win streak is at seven. Get out your slide rule! Yikes!).

But wait, there’s more. Go through that gulag and the SEC Championship awaits, where even if we beat them all the first time we’d have to re-defeat either LSU, Auburn or Alabama in Atlanta to take the title, the apparent prerequisite to a national title shot.

Not to be Debbie Downer, but doesn’t that put a little more meat on the “tough schedule” bone and give you some reason why I resorted to all CAPITAL LETTERS just a few paragraphs ago to proclaim that even the calming influence of Mark Richt and a bevy of talent cannot guide us home unscathed?

Who will we lose to, you ask? I’m bold, but not that bold. I personally think Arizona State, Auburn and of course Florida -- and maybe two of those three -- rank highest on the list of upset suspects, but that’s as far as I’ll go. Hell, it could be Central Michigan, the two-time defending MAC champs, for all I know, and at least that would not be a conference loss.

Rather than speculate, what I’d rather do is get to my point. If you accept my somewhat-historically annotated premise that an undefeated season is probably out of reach despite all best efforts and absent real destiny, then what we are really playing for at this point is “track position” (to borrow a NASCAR phrase) when the inevitable stumble occurs. The rule of track position is get to the front of the pack and into clean air, so that later, when you need to get back into the race after a problem, you have far fewer backs to climb over and some energy left to do it. Fortunately, we find ourselves on the poll from the start (yes, that was a pun. Involving NASCAR. Perhaps a first.).

Does anybody believe that if LSU starts lower than # 1 a year ago that they weather two losses down the stretch and still make it to the title game for the annual SEC whitewash of Overrated, excuse me, Ohio State and a national championship? Surely not. They had to start at the top to end at the top, and like purple is the new black, we are the new LSU.

So, from my view, pragmatically, realistically, historically, there is no better position for the Dogs than number 1 preseason at this point in time in the college football universe, if for no reason than it gives us more room to fall softly when a loss occurs. And if we do somehow go undefeated a la Tennessee in ‘98, no one will unseat us anyway, so it’s all good. In highly technical terms, that’s called a “win-win.” So do not fret about targets or pressure or 10-year statistical compilations. Instead, take a gander at the big picture, the ring on smirking Les Miles’ hand, imagine all the high school recruits looking at the cover of SI as they ponder their college choice, and be thankful we are where we are at the start. It may be the key to a happy ending.

Feel better about being number one? At least I do.

Cale Conley is a UGA graduate and the author of War Between the States: The History of the Georgia-Florida Football Rivalry, originally released in 1992. He is currently working on an update of that book to be released in time for Christmas 2008, so put it on your holiday wish list. When not obsessing about college football, he’s a lawyer in Atlanta, and can be emailed directly at If you want to pre-order a signed copy of War Between the States (2nd Edition) now, shoot him an email and he’ll set you up. (Ed. And UGA School of Law classmate of Hunker Down Dawg and fellow member of the 1994 Law School Softball champions.)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


A few thoughts going into the first week of practice...

Pre-Season Ranking: So we are Number 1 in the Coaches Poll and on the cover of Sports Illustrated. Bullseye, jinx, big head, blah blah blah. While I think pre-season polls are as close to useless as a one-legged man at an ass kicking contest, it is better to be number one than any of the other integers. I embrace it and hope that the coaches and players can keep it in proper perspective as they prepare for the first couple of games of the season. Let's be honest, we all have the highest expectations for our team this season and whether we are currently ranked 1, 2, 3 , 4 or 5 is mostly inconsequential at this point. We know that out of the top 6 teams, no more than two of them can be undefeated by the end of the SECCG. Still, it is best that we are in a position that we can completely control our own destiny from day one. Embrace it. Own it. Prove it.

Off The Field Issues: I am done with them. As Rafiki says in The Lion King, "It's in the past." Practices have started. These kids now have no more idle time to find trouble. As Matthew Stafford admonished the team Sunday... it is time to focus on football.

Pre-Season All SEC Team: Even more so than pre-season polls, this is a total exercise in futility. However, it will be interesting to go back after the season and see who the surprises were. I firmly believe that Rennie Curran will finish higher than the third team. I can't wait to watch this missile play defense this season.

Rennie improved dramatically throughout his freshman season to the point where he was making more plays than any other defender by the end of the year. He could average double digits in tackles this season and many of those will be tackles for losses. He has the nose for the football and is our next great one like Hoage, Champ, Boss, Pollack, etc.