Welcome to football season, people. If you’ve been tracking with me for the past week, you’ve probably figured out that it must be football season again. Which means that for the next three months a goodly portion of the content here will be all about football, and Georgia football in particular. Early indications are that 2011 is shaping up to be a long and dismal year for Georgia. Mark Richt, the head coach, is in trouble and may be gone by the end of the season. So if anti-Mark Richt diatribes are not your thing, you may want to check back after Thanksgiving.
Having said that…
Mark Richt has spent the better portion of this week dodging questions about his job and about whether he felt the pressure and whether he felt that this coming game against South Carolina was a “must-win”. He deftly dodged the questions with responses like this: “We look at every game like it’s a must-win. So however you want to spin it, you can spin it. You guys spin it any way you want to anyway.”
Coach Richt: Since you won’t answer the question, I will. Yes, South Carolina is a must-win. Richt’s very job is on the line here, and I am sure he feels it at some level.
I don’t mean that if Georgia loses to South Carolina then Greg McGarity will call a press conference on Sunday or Monday and announce that Richt is fired. That is not how these things work.
What I mean is that an awful lot of Bulldog faithful are at a tipping point right now. Lose this game, and they will become set in the belief (if they aren’t already) that Mark Richt’s best days are behind him, that he is incapable of doing any better than he is doing now and will only continue to get worse, and that Georgia will not get better until a new head coach is in place. Once you’ve reached that point, there is no going back; Richt is as good as gone and it becomes a question of when.
AJC sports columnist Mark Bradley expresses a similar viewpoint: Win or lose this week, Richt can never again feel totally secure in his position at Georgia.
So now on to the game.
“Dogs in an upset” has become something of a chic pick lately among the professionals who get paid to opine about all of the goings-on in the world of college football. There are good reasons for this: South Carolina has, over the years, had a penchant for choking when expected to do well. The current assemblage is extremely talented yet extremely beatable. We saw as much last year when South Carolina won the SEC East and then proceeded to drop their two postseason games by a combined score of 82-34. Also, South Carolina has to travel to Athens. Usually that doesn’t work out very well for the visiting team. Usually.
But I’m just not feeling it. I wasn’t feeling it before the start of the season, and after watching Georgia LAY AN EGG in its season opener against Boise State, I am DEFINITELY not feeling it now.
Georgia’s defense has improved under Todd Grantham from what it was under Willie Martinez. On paper, at least. But they have picked up this annoying habit of giving up these crazy plays where the nearest defender isn’t even in the same solar system as the guy with the ball. South Carolina benefits from one of these plays as Marcus Lattimore breaks away and scampers untouched on a RIDONKULOUSLY long touchdown run in the first half.
Stephen Garcia is a complete and utter knucklehead, but he manages to make just enough non-knuckleheaded plays to keep the not-so-high-flying Georgia offense off the field and off balance all day long. (As if the Georgia offense needs any help from Stephen Garcia: they are doing an excellent job of keeping themselves off the field and off balance.) Marcus Lattimore’s first half breakaway TD proves to be the deciding score.
Last week Georgia kick-started Boise State’s drive to the BCS championship. This week is Georgia’s week to jump-start South Carolina in their drive to the SEC East championship.
Prediction: South Carolina 7, Georgia 0.