Thursday, October 05, 2006

More Football! More Upbeat, but Less Pictures

Ok, I’ll admit it: my last football post wasn’t entirely optimistic, or serious. Here instead is a more optimistic (if not entirely more serious) take on the upcoming Dawgs vs. Vols-with-a-dead-overgrown-sewer-rat-mascot game.

For UGA, this game boils down to two things: can you tackle, and can you catch the football?

Do enough of those things and we go to 6-0. Do too little of a combination of the above, and the chances of falling to 5-1 increase.

Do neither? Well, unless Mikey Henderson returns 3-4 punts/kickoffs for TDs we won’t have a shot.

The defense is number one in the nation in scoring D, and pretty good in the other areas. Oftentimes, this has been the best-looking D UGA fielded under Coach Richt. Sure all those Van Gorder Ds kept teams out of the end zone more often than not, but performances like the UAB game, where even getting in field goal range was mostly denied to the Blazers, didn’t happen.

The question is twofold: 1, is this D that much better as a unit than the others, or 2. are the Os they play that much worse? Well, OU might say, stats be damned as far as UAB’s offense goes, but I’m not going to compare the Spurrier offense the Dawgs shutout to the one that pushed Auburn to onside kicking. Mobile, decent-armed Newton is just better than average-armed, immobile…whatever-his-name-was.

But Ole Miss and Colorado aren’t exactly offensive powerhouses. And the tackling (and in the case of early in Colorado, the gap control and pursuit angles) was lousy against them. Obviously, tackling is key again UT (see old UT footage, or the Cal game, for what happens to poor tackling Ds vs. UT’s offense. The Tee Martin/Casey Clausen “Throw the screen or short route and hope for poor tackling” offense is back in Vol land, and they love it. Well, except for that Florida game…) Danny Verdun-Wheeler admitted to some indecisivness vs. Ole Miss, which helped Indiana transfer BenJarvis Green-Ellis become the second former Indiana football player with a hyphen in his name to do something notable in football outside of Indiana (for those keeping score at home, the first was named Randal-El.) But the good news is now D. V.-W. is coming off the bench, and a healthy Jarvis Jackson will be rooming the field from the Mike LB position on Saturday.

UT RB Arian Foster returns from the injury he suffered against Air Force, but won’t start, which means freshman RB Coker starts. Wait, don’t panic fellow Dawgs. I realize when you see the words “UT” “Runningback” (or abbrev. Of same) “freshman” and “coker” it conjures up Jamal Lewis. But there’s no drug-running ring with this kid (well…so far) and hopefully no 200+ yd. rushing performance either.

And then there’s Danny Ainge’s nephew, Erik. It’s pretty much a toss-up now about which has been written about more ad nauseum: Ainge’s famous unlce, or his improvement under Cutcliffe. But don’t let his pretty new stats fool you: for the real Ainge, look at the UF game. Sure, he’s not going to try and bounce a pass to a player on the goal line like the year before, but he’s not Peyton Manning either (though he did lose to Florida, so they’ve both got that going for them). Tackle the WRs when he competes those 4-7 yd outs and he’ll get his 60+ completion percent, but 5.something yards per completion shouldn’t hurt us. And if our young DTs can keep playing at the same level, we should bottle up their run game.

On the other side of the ball, it really all boils down to whether or not all the extra time with the Tennis Balls and Juggs machines this week has paid off for the wideouts. The return of JT3 may mean better decision-making at the line and under center, but you could sneak Tom Brady into a UGA jersey and it wouldn’t matter if the drops continue.

Personally, I think the WRs are sick of hearing about the drops, and even sicker at hearing about being underdogs at home, despite the whole being-ranked-higher-in-the-polls-and-recent-ownage-of-UT factor.

Lumpkin got 100+ yards with no passing game. Throw in a successful passing game, especially if a 40+ yd pass or two is completed, and he may run wild. But, throw out even the threat of a passing game (say whatever combination of JT3, Stafford and Cox gets in the game combines for 50% or so completions and around 200 yds passing) and the Dawgs should be just two-dimensional on offense enough to take it to a just-back-from-injury Aaron Sears and suspect Vol defensive interior.

Win, and that Top 10 rating, which pundits have decried for two weeks now, is justified. Lose, and well, as Erk once implied “that’s not an option.”

The Dawgs are backed into a corner. Do that to a Dawg and usually, he bites.

In a perfect world, the Dawgs whip UT so bad that they sell Smokey to China Boat out of sheer embarrassment at the ass-whipping they endured, and Fulmer (since no self-respecting UGA fan would want to eat sewer-rat with rice) gets hungry two minutes after eating him on the bus ride back to Knoxville. And the UT tutors defect to become Auburn sociology professors.

In the real world it will more like go like: UGA gets first blood, 7-0, but then falls behind 10-7 on a Vol FG and TD, one of which setup by an offensive mistake. Then they get mad at halftime: final score UGA 24, UT 10.

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