After the first trimester of the season, the Dawgs sit at 4-0 with an average margin of victory of 31 points. Our offense is averaging 530 yards per game. For the first time in school history (120 years of football) the Dawgs have scored over 40 points in four consecutive games.
Our defense has played good overall but great in the second half giving up an average of 4 points per game in the second half. The defense has yielded 343 yards per game, which is not stellar. But, Alec Ogletree and Baccari Rambo have yet to touch the field and Sanders Commings and Chase Vasser missed the first two games.
Georgia started the season ranked #6 in the AP and USA Today Coaches Polls. After one week we were leapfrogged by FSU and dropped to #7. Then USC got Stanforded again and we moved up to 5 and 6. Then Oklahoma got Big Game Bobbed and we solidified #5 in both polls. Now sitting above UGA is Alabama, Oregon, LSU and Florida State.
Georgia fans have much to be excited about and the first four games have gone as good or better than expected especially considering that we have missed so many starters from the defense and since we put Isaiah Crowell on a bus to Alabama State this summer. The young running backs - Todd Gurley, Keith Marshall and Ken Malcome have played exceptionally well and the new, young offensive line is shaping up and opening holes as well as pass protecting.
Now... for the reality check...
The four teams we have beaten are a combined 5 and 10 with exactly one victory against a Division 1A (aka FBS) opponent, which was Missouri's win over Arizona State. However, Vanderbilt led both unbeaten South Carolina and unbeaten Northwestern deep into the fourth quarter before succumbing to both.
Our offensive line has played well enough and appears to be getting better each week which is a tribute to the kids and Coach Will Friend. But, there isn't much experienced depth so staying healthy up front is critical.
Our defense has allowed too many passing yards to mediocre passing attacks and has given up too many big plays to Buffalo, Missouri and FAU. Will the return of Ogletree and Rambo fix that? We will know soon enough. Tennessee's Tyler Bray likes to throw deep and has two bona fide big play receivers in Justin Hunter and Cordarrelle Patterson. The return of Rambo will allow Sanders Commings to move back to corner where he belongs. But now we are hearing that Malcolm Mitchell will play more offense going forward. That remains to be seen, but what would be a welcome addition on offense may be an unwelcome subtraction for the defense.
Special teams play has been better than last year but hasn't been superlative thus far. With the exception of Gurley's 100 yard touchdown on a kickoff return and Mitchell's 22 yard punt return in the first quarter against Vanderbilt, our return game has been uninspiring. Rhett McGowan has actually looked good averaging 21 yards on two punt returns. But, if you remove McGowan's two returns, we are only averaging 7.36 yards per return. On the flip side, we are only surrendering 7.67 yards per return, so that is a positive. And we have blocked one punt. Our kickoffs have been the best in a long time thanks to the new kickoff rules resulting in 15 touchbacks in 33 tries. On the other 18 kicks, the opponent is only averaging 19.83 yards per return. I don't have the precise statistic but I would guess that our opponents average field position after kick offs must be inside the 25 yard line. That is a huge improvement over the old Jon Fabris directional kicking challenge. I have no criticism of our kickoff returns because after Gurley showed what he was capable of in the first game, he has not had many chances with nearly half of our kick returns being handled by up backs Merritt Hall and Kyle Karempelis. Combined, we are averaging 23.92 per return, which includes Gurley's 100 yarder. I would be remiss if I didn't add that Georgia has stopped the one and only fake punt it has seen this season. Let's hope that becomes a trend.
Extra points have been an adventure. That needs to settle down.
At the end of one trimester, Georgia is wholly deserving of its #5 ranking, but it is hard to make a case that we should be ahead of any of the 4 teams in front of us. To be fair, I think Kansas State has a decent argument that they should get some top 5 votes. The others, South Carolina, Notre Dame, Stanford, West Virginia, Texas and Florida will have plenty of opportunity to make their case soon enough. As for Georgia, the upcoming slate of Tennessee, South Carolina, and Florida will make or break their stature as a Top 5 team. For those fans worried about teams ranked ahead of us, you can ignore Alabama and LSU because if we take care of our business we will have a shot at one of them in Atlanta. Oregon is a very good football team and has several testy games remaining. However, FSU has already overcome their most significant challenge of the season until they face off with their bitter rival Florida at the end of the season. Again, if we take care of our business, we may all become big Gator fans on November 24th. I held my nose as I typed that.
All of this conjecture is somewhat meaningless but I am already hearing/seeing some of our Dawg fans complaining about LSU staying above us in the rankings and fretting that if we stay undefeated we could be left out of the MNC if Oregon and FSU remain unbeaten. To all of that, I advise... enjoy each game as they come to us. We have Tennessee coming to Athens Saturday. We are 18-21-2 against the Vols all time. And we are 12-15-1 against them in my lifetime. I can assure you that I have not witnessed enough Georgia wins over Tennessee for it to get old. I savor each and every one. I am hoping and expecting to enjoy another Georgia victory this Saturday between the hedges and that is what I am worried about. After that, I will worry about South Carolina. So, here we are at 4-0, right where we wanted to be and with lots of optimism for what lies ahead. Enjoy the ride, friends. it could get bumpy at times, but the journey is probably more important than the destination. Tune back in after the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party for the Second Trimester Report.
Go Dawgs! GATA!