Trail of the Bulldog Tooth

[Those of you who are just now beginning to track with me:  If you are wondering about the name “Bulldog Tooth”, go back and read the introduction to the first ever Bulldog Tooth post, written in summer 2004 and published retroactively when I started this blog.  That will explain everything.]

So you think that the 2009 Georgia Bulldogs are thoroughly and utterly incapable of losing at least four games?

Uh…yeah.  And Michael Jackson faked his death and his upcoming comeback tour will be the biggest in music history.  And Mark Sanford was just going down to Argentina to do some sightseeing.  (Yes, that is another cheap dig to try to draw pageviews to this site.  And you know me, I’m all about the pageviews.  Gotta problem with that?  Deal with it.)

The biggest difference between the 2008 edition and this year’s team is that this year’s team is down a quarterback and a running back.  Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno both defected to the NFL as underclassmen.  Matthew Stafford went to the Detroit Lions as the #1 pick.  Knowshon Moreno fared only slightly worse, winding up with the Denver Broncos.

The last time that Georgia lost its top two offensive playmakers to the NFL draft as underclassmen was in 1993, when running back Garrison Hearst and wide receiver Andre Hastings both abandoned ship.  These defections represented a catastrophic breach to the hull of Georgia’s program; they foundered from a 10-2 finish with a win over Ohio State in the Citrus Bowl to a 5-6 campaign which featured a most infamous 0-4 start in conference play.

So do I think Georgia is headed for a similar catastrophe in 2009, foundering from a 10-3 finish with a win over Michigan State in the Citrus Bowl to a disastrous 5-7 campaign?  I don’t think so.  The amount and quality of talent in the Georgia program–and the quality of coaching also–have improved significantly from those halcyon days of Ray Goof.

But you can’t rule out the possibility.  First of all, let me state the obvious:  You do NOT get better giving up your top two offensive playmakers.  It never happens, people.  Especially not when those top two playmakers are of the same caliber as Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno.

Next:  Have you taken a look at Georgia’s schedule this year?  The only plus side to this year’s schedule versus last year’s is that it does not contain Alabama.  Other than that…

Georgia is ranked #16 in the latest preseason polls.  (UPDATE:  The official AP preseason poll is out now and it has Georgia at #13.) Four of the 15 teams ranked ahead of Georgia are on Georgia’s schedule:  Florida (#1), LSU (#8), Oklahoma State (#10), and Georgia Tech (#15).  Sure, Georgia MIGHT manage to steal a win from one of those four.  But I wouldn’t count on any more than that.  And, there are several other games on the schedule which are downright scary:  South Carolina.  Arkansas in Fayetteville.  Arizona State.  Auburn is never automatic.  And Vanderbilt and Kentucky are improving.  Do you recall that in 2007 it took a timely turnover and a field goal on the last play of the game to save Georgia from utter defeat in Nashville?  Really, the only game on this schedule which does not scare me is Tennessee Tech.

The only proven playmaker this team has on offense is wide receiver A. J. Green, but who is going to get the ball to him?  Joe Cox does not impress me much at quarterback.  Except for that winning touchdown drive against Colorado back in 2006, Cox hasn’t done anything.  Of course, he really hasn’t had the opportunity to.  And that’s the thing.  If Cox were really that good, don’t you think he would have pushed Stafford for more playing time over the last two years, the way D. J. Shockley did with David Greene back in 2003 and 2004?  And if Cox doesn’t work out, we have…Aaron Murray, Zack Mettenberger, and Logan Gray all waiting in the wings.  I know all the opponents on our schedule are positively quaking with fear over that.

As for running back, we simply don’t have any.  Caleb King and Richard Samuel have yet to distinguish themselves.  There is one more, but for the life of me I can’t remember his name right now.  And that shows you how much he has distinguished himself.

And then on defense, we have…Willie Martinez.  ‘Nuff said.

This Georgia team is capable of finishing anywhere from 10-2 to 1-11.  I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle between those two extremes.  So out with the bulldog tooth and on with the predictions.

Oklahoma State: Opening the season in Stillwater will be a very dangerous assignment for Georgia, especially considering that Oklahoma State is ranked No. 10.  Oklahoma State has been known to be weak on defense, so Georgia’s offense, ragtag as it may be, should be able to put a few points on the board at least.  Oklahoma State gets lots of props for their offense, but they have yet to prove themselves against an SEC defense.  But then, not every SEC defense has Willie Martinez as its coordinator.

Prediction:  Oklahoma State 34, Georgia 27.

South Carolina: Has Steve Spurrier finally found in Stephen Garcia a quarterback capable of implementing his offense?  For his sake, let’s sure hope so.

Prediction:  Georgia 15, South Carolina 12.

Arkansas: Another extremely dangerous one for Georgia.  You just don’t know what Bobby Petrino will have up his sleeve when Georgia shows up in Fayetteville.

Prediction:  Arkansas 38, Georgia 35.

Arizona State: Arizona State did not look all that impressive last year with Rudy Carpenter.  This year, he’s gone and they have to travel to Athens.

Prediction:  Georgia 23, Arizona State 14.

LSU: Sorry folks, LSU really is that good.  Don’t count on John Chavis giving up 52 points like LSU did last year.

Prediction:  LSU 38, Georgia 24.

Tennessee: Lane Kiffin was charged with the mission of putting Tennessee’s program back on the national radar.  He has managed to do exactly that–and he hasn’t even coached a down there.  Let’s just say that it usually doesn’t work out very well for young coaches in the SEC who run their mouths before they’ve shown that they can win.

Prediction:  Georgia 17, Tennessee 14.

Vanderbilt: Don’t forget that the last time Georgia faced Vanderbilt in Nashville, they needed a timely turnover and a last-second field goal to escape a most embarrassing defeat.

Prediction:  Georgia 17, Vanderbilt 13.

Florida: Florida vs Georgia?  Think the Apple iPod vs the Dell DJ Ditty.  Think Facebook vs DesktopDating.com.

A “super-brand” is a company or organization that has broken through its category by becoming the best and by becoming irresistable in the hearts and minds of people.  And that is exactly what Florida has become.  Georgia determines the success or failure of any given football season largely based on how well they do against Florida.  But do you think Florida measures itself against Georgia to determine the success or failure of any given season?  No!!!!!  They now look at Ikea, Disney, Twitter, Chick-Fil-A, and Harley-Davidson.

If there was a mercy rule in Division 1-A college football, it would definitely be invoked in this game.  Look for a mercy rule to be implemented in 2010, and for it to be referred to by everyone as the “Florida-Georgia rule”.  But it won’t be quite as bad as that high school girls’ basketball game earlier this year where one team beat the other 100-0.  Georgia will gain a point from last year.

Prediction:  Florida 48, Georgia 10.

Tennessee Tech: Was this even necessary?

Prediction:  Georgia 34, Tennessee Tech 13.

Auburn: If new coach Gene Chizik wins just six games this year, he will have exceeded his entire total wins from two years at Iowa State.  Will one of those wins come against Georgia?  Methinks not.  But even if he loses this one, Chizik can still take consolation in the fact that he has a very snazzy ride.  (I wonder if he’ll be bringing the limo to Athens?  It might be worth the trip out there just to see that.)

Prediction:  Georgia 19, Auburn 14.

Kentucky: Kentucky is trying to make it to a fourth straight bowl game this year.  But this is going to take some doing.

Prediction:  Georgia 38, Kentucky 28.

Georgia Tech: And to think that Georgia could have had Paul Johnson as their head coach.

Recall that when Vince Dooley bumped himself upstairs to the athletic director’s office back in 1989, Erk Russell, then the head coach at Georgia Southern, was mentioned as a strong candidate to replace him.  As we all know, Georgia did not hire Erk Russell but went instead with Ray Goof.  But if they had gotten Erk Russell, then he would in all probability have brought Paul Johnson along with him as an assistant and groomed him for the head coach’s position.  Erk Russell would probably have coached until about 1992 or 1993, and then handed it off to Paul Johnson.

And with that triple-option offense, Georgia would in all probability have given a much better accounting of themselves during the last two decades.  Certainly Tennessee would not have won nine straight during the 90s.  And Florida would not have won 16 of the last 19 games.  All of those headaches that we had trying to defend the triple option last year, would have been had by Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Auburn, LSU, South Carolina, etc.

Last year Willie Martinez had two weeks to prepare for the triple option, and he still couldn’t do anything against it.  What makes you think Georgia will do any better with only one week to prepare?

Prediction:  Georgia Tech 34, Georgia 23.

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