Let’s face facts. Right about now, our good friend Doug Gillett is a bit down on his luck. Well, I mean, except for the fact that his fake engagement seems to have turned into an actual relationship, which worked out well for him, but which troubles me somewhat because I really had put a lot of thought into the bachelor party we were going to throw for him before his prearranged disengagement from his fauxancee---planned T-shirt slogan: "A Fake Engagement Calls for Fake Breasts"---but, hey, Doug’s a buddy, so I want to do what I can to help him out in his hour of need, provided he agrees to sell me the movie rights to his story, because I’ve already started working on a screenplay for a romantic comedy about two fictional characters I call "Hug" and "Dolly." (Yes, there’s a wedding scene in which the groom takes a toaster oven from the gift table and hurls it out a second-story window.)
Accordingly, as a show of solidarity with Doug, I am going above and beyond the call of duty and friendship by answering Doug’s BlogPoll roundtable questions. Don’t say I never did anything for you, pal. Here are my responses:
1. Without naming names, a few teams seem to have popped up frequently on everyone's "overrated" lists in the preseason, so let's forget about them for the moment and concentrate on a different group: sleepers. Which currently unheralded team are you currently putting at least a few of your chips behind in the hopes that you'll be able to say "totally called that" once they've accomplished big things by the end of the season?
A while ago, I identified three teams that were on the upswing, but I’ve backpedaled on a couple of them, so I’m left with the Clemson Tigers. I expect to see our old rival undergo a revival with C.J. Spiller running behind an offensive line that brings back all five starters. Eight returning first-teamers from a defense that held six of its last ten regular-season opponents under 14 points will keep the Country Gentlemen in a lot of games and Dabo Swinney has brought a whole new attitude to this team. Despite being named after Ferengi roulette, Coach Swinney is an Alabama alum who was promoted from within the existing staff. The last three Clemson coaches to share those characteristics were Frank Howard, Charley Pell, and Danny Ford. How’d that work out for the Tigers? This year, I think it works out in the form of an ACC championship.
2. In a similar vein, pick a sleeper player on your team whom nobody's talking about right now and tell us why we will be talking about them by December.
I have been a big fan of Tavarres King for a while now, and I believe this will be his breakout year. He’s put on muscle and improved his work ethic, and, with every player in the Georgia receiving corps having the opportunity to step up a notch to fill the void left by Mohamed Massaquoi, King (no relation) will make the most of his opportunity.
3. Florida is about as big a consensus favorite as we've seen in recent years, but remember, USC got 62 out of 65 first-place votes in the AP's 2007 preseason poll and still managed to lose to Stanford. Given how difficult it is to go undefeated period these days, where do you think the Gators are most likely to stumble in the regular season?
Since 1933, Georgia and Florida have alternated precise 19-year cycles of dominance over one another, and the Gators’ latest 19-year run (16-3 from 1990-2008) ended last year, meaning the ‘Dawgs historically are due. Since 1965, the Red and Black are 7-1 against defending national champions, including 2-0 against Florida teams coming off of No. 1 rankings the year before. The Classic City Canines have an open date before tangling with the Sunshine State Saurians, and Steve Spurrier proved how important the bye week before Jacksonville really was. Urban Meyer is the kind of coach who tears it up in big games yet stumbles against lesser opponents, and the Bulldogs appear pretty meager this year, especially in light of the way Lane Kiffin drew Coach Meyer’s ire this offseason. Plus, if Mark Richt is right about travel having an impact, the Orange and Blue ought to be tired out after the previous week’s 550-mile trek home from Starkville (where the Gators have not won in their last four trips, by the way). We all know Florida is going to lose one somewhere along the way, and that somewhere is by the St. John’s River. Mark it down: Georgia will beat Florida.
4. Which regular-season game not involving your team or conference are you most looking forward to this year?
That would be the one kicking off in just a few hours. I’ve been rooting for the Boise St. Broncos since the ‘Dawgs shellacked them in Athens in 2005, because that fun and stirring victory gets better and better with age as the WAC’s marquee program enjoys more and more success. I’m curious to see what the Oregon Ducks bring to the table at the end of a transitional offseason, as well. It’s a great way to get Labor Day weekend underway, and, since I’m Stillwater-bound on Friday, I get to stay up late and take it all in, provided I am able to convince my wife to let me watch it (or adjust the color on the set so the field looks green and I can trick her into believing I’m watching something else entirely).
5. In honor of Georgia's opening-weekend opponent and their most prolific booster, let's say you somehow come into T. Boone Pickens money and can buy anything you want for your program -- facilities upgrades, an airplane for recruiting, buy out the contract of that coach you hate, you name it. Where does your first check go?
I would schedule an appointment with Mark Richt, open up a briefcase full of cash on his desk, and say, "How much of this will it take for you to grow a goatee?" Mark Richt + goatee = national championship, guaranteed.