Friday, November 16, 2007

A Dawg's Goal: Keep Doing What Works

It's that time again: the column that forgot to take its Olanzapine and Quetiapine bringing you some bi-polar football prognostication.

(And if you're afraid, sort of like me, that the early kick-off results in sunrise tailgating, skip ahead to the footnote at column's end for some tailgating tips.)

The Rose-Colored View

The Dawgs' offense is on a roll, and there's nothing in the statistical evidence that says UK is capable of stopping said roll. Kentucky comes into Athens 11th in the SEC in scoring D, a mere 0.3 better than last place Ole Miss (whom the Dawgs, even prior to discovering just what a total badass Moreno is and consistently blocking and catching, blew up for 40-plus points.)

While their pass D won't get confused with Florida's secondary (i.e. more willing to let you score than a drunk college freshmen finally out from under her fundamentalist parents' roof for the first time), Stafford should still be able to make more passes than those formerly hapless losers on The Pick-Up Artist (what can I say, in preparation for my favorite shows not having new episodes due to the WGA strike, I've been watching entirely too much Celebreality on VH1.)


(I'm convinced that they created Mystery by cloning a combination of Tommy Lee and Butch Walker, and then giving the resultant homunculus a Canadian accent.)

But the truly beautiful stat going into tomorrow's asscrack of dawn kickoff is this: Kentucky is giving up nearly 200 yards per game on the ground. Brown and Moreno going for 300+ rush yards again? Oh it could happen.

And let's not forget the motivation of paying back the team that tried to knock out a helmetless Matt Stafford and tore the goalposts down last year. Unlike, say South Carolina this season, the 'Cats actually did take some motivation from last year's upset. But it's time to put 'em back in their place.

A lot of ink has been spilled on a lot of dead trees regard Coach Mark Richt's motivational tactics and how they've "keyed the Bulldogs' turnaround". This Saturday's game there's call for a Red-Out in the stands.

(If you think I can't make an alcohol-related joke, you're wrong, as hangovers from drinking too much of the cheaper Johnny Walker results in red eyes.)

But it really boils down to the players having more fun, and then making more plays, then having more fun, and it steamrolls from there. But. If we were to take the fun and put it on some sort of pie chart (I know: not fun) the offense seems to be getting more fun than the D. Kentucky has a great offense, and Woodson is a badass QB, a first-round pick. But if Mississippi State held them to 14, could a seriously pumped up, fun-loving-but-also-hey-media-types-don't-forget-about-us Georgia D shut them out? Well, this is the best-case scenario right?

The Cumberland Report

The absolute worst-case scenario happened to another team just last night. Oregon gained 200+ yds in the first quarter and then bupkis for the remaining three after star QB Dennis Dixon went down and back-up Brady Leaf (yeah, related to the "other" QB named Leaf) tweaked his knee. While an injury to Matt Stafford alone shouldn't bring the offense to a dead stop, injuries could kill this offense. Barring the unfortunate and hopefully unlikely circumstance, the early start won't help.

To your average college student 12:30 on a Saturday is about 3 or 4 hours after you go to bed after a really nice Friday night. And this season the team's had a nasty history of playing flat at home in these early kickoff games (see Ole Miss, see also Western Carolina, see also Troy). The "revenge factor" has been little to no help at all (little help vs. Vandy, no help vs. UT) and of those three teams, UK is demonstrably better than last year's iteration while it could be argued that this year's Vols and 'Dores were worse and at least no better than their prior season incarnations.

And just maybe the real reason the offense gets a lot of love is that the D really isn't that good. Troy and Florida combined for 64 points against the UGA D. If there are no turnovers, UK tops 30 easily. They have more balance on offense than either Troy or Florida if Little is healthy, and probably smart enough to run right at us on 4th and 1 rather than try rinky-dink piddling fancy crap like Urban Meyer and company. Can we keep up if the 'Cats keep scoring and scoring?

(Sophia hopes so.)

The bottom line is this: the Dawgs have gotten back to the top ten by doing certain things--blocking well, being badasses running the ball, and connecting on at least one long ball per game on offense; hitting the QB, sacking the QB and forcing turnovers on D. It started in the second half vs. Vandy and it's worked ever since.

A year ago I was dating a girl even more incredible than UGA winning a national title (your opinion may very, I freely admit bias.) I was open and honest about how I felt and things were great. Then, right around the Kentucky game, I stopped doing all those things that had "worked" for the relationship, and what do you know, things went to crap. I thought that somehow after doing one thing that had worked for a while, I had to change and do something different in order to "not screw up" and screwed up. Don't be like me Dawgs. Keep doing what works.

(Footnote to my somewhat personal inspiring closing paragraph: the first inkling I had that The Girl was something Amazing was an email she sent talking about curing Friday hangovers for early kickoffs with mimosas at Molly O'Shea's. I was smitten then, and there hadn't technically been a first date. So, I highly recommend that tactic to start your tailgating day, or, the favorite of Doug and the G-Day tailgaters: Stella and Krispy Kreme as a bright and early treat.

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