Friday, June 4, 2010

Why I am at least cautiously optimistic about the Dawgs in 2010

Can you believe it's only three months to kickoff? I don't know if it's because I'm getting old or what, but time really seems to be flying...seems like it was just yesterday we were beating up on the Aggies of Texas A&M, and now it's already Athlon/Lindy's/Phil Steele season.

I am definitely optimistic about this upcoming season. I define success for the Dawgs as winning 10 games and at least competing for the SEC title...we won 8 games last year, and I think we have an EXCELLENT chance of picking up at least one or two more wins.

Here's why...

- I think we easily pick up at least one more win just based on the schedule.

Looking at out-of-conference scheduling first...Let's say the Tennessee Tech - Idaho State tradeoff is a wash. Outside of that, we lose an away game at Oklahoma State and a home game against Arizona State from our OOC schedule and replace them with a home game against La.-Lafayette and an away game at a bad Colorado team. So, basically the away game at Oklahoma State is replaced by an away game at Colorado (MUCH easier opponent, and also not the first game of the season), and the home game against Arizona State is replaced by a home game against La-Lafayette.

On top of that, the game against the gnats will be in Athens this year. Not that we are intimidated by playing at The Joke by the Coke at all, but it's still a plus.

Let's turn our attention to the SEC schedule...for our SEC west opponents, we lose LSU and pick up Mississippi State. Even having to travel to Starkville (we played LSU at home last season), I think that's definitely an easier road.

Last year, we played Arkansas and UT on the road...they both come to Athens this season.

Now the bad news...Auburn and South Carolina were both home games last year, so we will be on the road for both of those this season. The Auburn game, especially, makes me nervous...I think Cam Newton may end up a star in Gus Malzahn's offense, and we've beaten them 4 times in a row now in a series that's usually a lot more back-and-forth than that.

To sum up...our OOC schedule is TONS easier, we trade LSU for Mississippi State, and we trade a couple of really tough road opponents for another couple of really tough road opponents. In my opinion, one of the extra wins we are going to need to reach 10 is already baked in to the schedule.

So..what do we keep hearing from pundits who think that the Dawgs might NOT be as good this season as last? "Freshman QB and brand new defense", right?

Well, allow me to retort....

- First, let's look at the quarterback position. Now, I have no idea what Aaron Murray is going to be, and you don't either...he's never taken a snap in a game. I've seen his high school tape, which was very impressive, and I've seen him play really well in one meaningless spring practice and just so-so in another meaningless spring practice.

So, let's look at a couple of comparison points.

The last time we went into a season with a RS freshman as our game 1 starter was 2001, with a young man by the name of David Greene (maybe you've heard of him). Here are his 2001 stats (bowl game included):

362 passes, 214 completions (60%), 3,077 yds (256 ypg), 18 TD, 11 INT

I have a feeling that Dawg fans would be pretty happy with those numbers, right?

Yes, David Greene was a special case...mature beyond his years, incredibly smart, understood the offense perfectly, etc. But...can anybody watch Aaron Murray play and not say that, at least PHYSICALLY, he is more gifted than Greene was? I think those physical gifts (stronger arm, TONS more mobility) wipe out at least some of Greene's perceived "mental" edge. For that matter, all we've heard about Aaron from the coaching staff seems to indicate that he is another guy who understands the offense, is a great leader, and is also extremely mature for someone his age.

Another factor in Aaron's favor...his supporting cast is going to be better than what Greene had in his freshman year. Not only did David not have an A.J. Green to throw to, I don't think he even had a Tavarres King or Kris Durham. Terrence Edwards, Damien Gary, freshman Fred Gibson...all nice pieces, sure, but I think we are in much better shape now at the WR position, and that doesn't even include the tight ends. Randy McMichael was very good and made tons of big plays for us, but I don't think he was as good as Orson Charles is right now...and then behind him we have 3 other All SEC caliber tight ends in Aron White, Arthur Lynch, and Bruce Figgins.

The running back position is not even close...David had nothing approaching the two-headed monster of Ealy and King in the backfield his freshman year. Verron Haynes (besides doing THIS) came in at the end of the year and played very well, but it was a position in flux all season long.

I think the offensive lines are comparable, though this one is more seasoned than that one was...Greene's offensive line didn't really come into their own until the 2002 SEC championship season.

So I think I can make the case that Aaron Murray has a very good chance to be as successful as David Greene was in his freshman year. But, if you think that may not be the best comparison, let's look at some more recent numbers...Joe Cox's stats in 2009:

331 passes, 185 completions (56%), 2,584 yards (199 ypg), 24 TD, 15 INT

Wouldn't you think Aaron Murray could maybe land somewhere in the middle of those two, adjusting for the fact that he will probably have fewer attempts because of the running game? Let's say something like:

290 passes, 165 completions (57%), 2,310 yards (178 ypg), 20 TD, 12 INT

If he is able to pull that off (and honestly, I think I am being pretty conservative there), then I say the "Freshman QB" excuse for the Dawgs this year turns out to be basically a wash. I mean, I love the Ginger Assassin, but he was basically a freshman at the position last year, as was his first meaningful experience as a college QB, and you could often tell it.

- Now for the defense...I'm just going to put it like this: brand new scheme or not, is it reasonable to expect this defense to be WORSE next year than it was in 2009? 37 points vs. South Carolina...41 points vs. Arkansas...45 points to a mediocre Tennessee team...41 points vs. Florida...34 points vs. Kentucky, for crying out loud...

If the 2010 produces results that are the same as last season I'm going to be bitterly disappointed...which means that at worst, the "brand new defense" excuse should be considered a wash as well.

That's a whole lot of words, just to say this...I think the schedule sets up for the Dawgs to get from 8 wins to 10 pretty easily, and I think that what are considered to be our biggest "question marks" are at worst a wash vs. last season, and at best they may even turn out to be upgrades.

Now the real question...if we win 10 and lose three, who are the three losses going to be against? Because, although I will most likely be happy with 10-3, who those three losses come from will go a long way in determing the ultimate success level of this team.

My WAY too early prediction? We lose to South Carolina (first true test of the season for Murray, on the road, noon start, early enough in the season that the 'Cocks still think they may actually be good), Auburn (for reasons already specified), and Florida (out of habit).

Win the bowl game, and we are 10-3, 5-3 in the SEC, probably playing in the Capital One or Outback bowl.

What say you, Dawg fans? Would that be a good enough year for you to qualify as a "success"?


P.S. - to the Anonymous poster who has been trolling every Dawg blog and spewing your nonsense after every similar post to this one...just prepare to have your comments deleted if you show up here again.


Anonymous said...

I think I will be pleased with 10 wins, but as others have said, it will depend on how we play and look. If our defense plays like it has in the past few years and we somehow squeak out 10 wins, I will be disappointed. I agree with you, though...I think we will be an improved team in all aspects. I am expecting some issues on defense (some blown assignments), but I am expecting more aggression and better tackling. We will be fine on offense. For recruitniks like myself, do you remember how exciting it was when Aaron Murray committed to us? I am just as excited to watch him mature and become the next great player at Georgia! GO DAWGS!! GATA

Anonymous said...

With three losses you might get to go to the Poppalugi Bowl!

Anonymous said...

I hope that we can do better than that 10-3 after the season is over.

We have an excellent defense, and powerful special teams.

As you point out, we have an easy schedule, as easy as it ever has been for our beloved Dawgs.

A loss to South Carolina would really hurt. A loss to Florida would rub salt in that wound. A loss to Auburn with all their players from this state too would be just too many losses for us to expect to be in The SEC Championship Game. 2 of those teams do not appear to be a Top 25 team right now. And, the 3rd one appears to many of us to be offering us as big an opportunity to beat them this up-coming year as any year.

Phil Steele said we could run the table.

Darren said...

The problem with Auburn is you never know what you're gonna get. From what I'm reading, defence is going to be a major problem for them this year, worse than last year, and that's a defence in '09 that blew large leads to both Georgia and 'Bama. Plus, if the JU-CO transfer QB goes down, it's SLIM pickins behind him.

AU is getting better, but I'd wait and see just how much...

As for the Dawgs, as a casual follower on the outside looking in, the season will depend on whether the QB can stay upright for the whole season. One kill shot, and the depth behind him is non-existant.

I'm a 'Bama fan, but have no beef with the Dawgs. I'd like to see them do well and have a great '10 season.

Anonymous said...

But what he is asking you here Bama fan, and thanks for stopping by, is losing to South Carolina, Auburn and Florida and therefore no hope of getting back to The SEC Championship Game for year 5 in a row for UGA, going to be a great season for us ?

10-3 in other words, is that great he is asking us here in this blog ?

For a team with 15 seniors plus we know AJ Green is leaving and have heard rumors that Houston, Glenn, and Boykin are leaving after this season too. Is 10-3 with this soft easy schedule going to be considered great for UGA this season Bama fan, please sir ?

Scott said...

Well, actually, I wasn't saying 3 losses would be "great", especially 3 SEC losses...but I would say it would be a "success", based on the fact that we DO have a freshman QB and a brand new defense.

In my mind, the only GREAT seasons are championship seasons...any other success has to be measured in degrees.

Darren said...

I would say, at this point, a 10 win season for the Dawgs would be a VERY good season.

As Scott said, a new QB and a new defence, both in the same year, is alot of change for any program to undertake. They'll be some growing pains along the way.

At the end of the day, IMO, it will boil down to getting over the Flordia hump. Every year is suppose to be 'THE' year for USCe, but the QB Genius never has a QB, and Tennessee is a mess, and will be for 2-3 years (at least).

To me, It's all about building the program in steps, sometimes baby steps. A 10 win season this year, go in to '11 with a seasoned QB and a defence that is hitting on all cylinders, momentum from the usual good Georgia recruiting class...I think the Georgia program looks good long term.

Anonymous said...

10 years this program has been here.

10 years.

10-3 isn't what I expected after 10 years.

3 losses. Auburn South Carolina and obligatory Florida.

Darren said...

Well, with all due respect, and I sincerely mean that, you are either dilusional or unrealistic.

The fact is, whether you or any fanbase likes it or not, programs come and go. There is an eb and flow to college football.

Keep these names in mind: Notre Dame, Nebraska, Miami, Oklahoma, Nebraska, USC, Alabama (until the past two years. Heck, we lost at HOME to La-Tech), starting to get the idea???

Programs come, they go. They get hot, they have a crummy run of recruiting. The coach is hot, he leaves...

The WORST thing that could happen to the Georgia program is unrealistic expectations which leads to Richt leaving. How's that better the program? Where was Georgia's program before Richt showed up?

Geez...Have patience. The program is on the upswing, CLEARLY! Isn't that a GOOD thing???

Darren said...

I named Nebraska twice...sorry :( I was on a run :)

Anonymous said...

Is it unrealistic Darren, to want to be better than 10-3 after 10 years of recruiting, meaning that for the 1st 5 years we were good and that for the last 5 years, we haven't even been to The SEC Championship Game ?

29-6 Florida vs SEC the last 4 years
23-11 Alabama vs SEC the last 4 years
21-12 LSU vs SEC the last 4 years
20-12 Georgia vs SEC the last 4 years

I would dearly love to hope that the program is on an up-swing.

Is it ?

Scott said 10-3 with loss to Auburn who hasn't been all that great and probably won't be all that great this season - not named in the Top 25 for this up-coming season, loss to Florida who is supposed to be offering everyone in The SEC East our best chances at beating them this season, and a loss to South Carolina who hasn't been all that great and probably won't be all that great this season - not named in the Top 25 for this up-coming season.

We have a soft easy schedule. We play 1 team ranked in the Top 25 all season.

We have continued to have losses to teams who are not that great. Teams who do not end up at the end of the season ranked teams, but they beat us.

We struggled in recruiting in this state on offense 2010.

Every single article you read, says that Coach Richt feels that his offensive coaching staff has issues and needs help / replacing.

Everywhere you turn, there is discussion of just how this program is not on an up-turn, yet we have this season 11 returning starters on offense, the 2 best kickers in America returning on any team in the nation, and a defense which obviously is high on talent and with a top coaching staff. We have an easy schedule, however, and according to both you Darren and to Scott, we are going to go 10-3 which means with 3 SEC losses, no SEC Championship Game appearance for the 5th year in a row this up-coming season.

After this season, we lose 15 seniors and there are those who say as many as 6 juniors who are NFL draft eligible, might also leave. These are all the starters across the board on the entire football team are maybe gone at the end of this season. How good are we going to be in 2011 without 20 of the starting players ?

Unrealistic ? I think Darren with all due respect sir that you are being unrealistic to state in public that we are on an up-swing. We certainly have not been the last 4 years in The SEC - can't we hope to be better than 4th in our own conference ? We certainly at 10-3 are not improving upon that this season, either. And, after this season, we lose nearly every starting football player on both sides of the football. How good are we going to be in 2011 without them ?

It is very easy to go look at the 15 seniors and everyone knows AJ Green is gone after this season, Houston is gone, Boykin is clearly gone, Jones is looking good for a high draft pick at this time, with a good season this year, Rambo might be too - but at least the 1st 4.

Up-swing ? What up-swing ?

Darren said...

I think Grantham is better.

Grantham will bring much needed dicipline, cutting down on stupid penalties. Free yards to the opposing team is a killer.

I think blue chip prospects want to play in a 3-4 (which is what most NFL teams either run or a going to), so that will improve recruiting. That's better.

The above will create a buzz about the program, which will lead to better overall recruiting.

Despite what everyone thinks, Richt and co. haven't forgotten how to coach offence.

With all due respect, no Joe Cox is addition by subtraction.

Tennessee is down, and Fla and USCe have drama queens for head coaches. There's something to be said for the steady leadership Richt provides, both on and off the field.

I could go on, but I'm bored with this. Why, as a 'Bama fan, am I on a blog defending the Georgia program to Georgia "fans"?

Good luck.