The people have spoken, and resoundingly so: "Manic Kyle" received 77.8 per cent of the 216 votes cast in yesterday’s poll to determine whether I should be upbeat or dour heading into tomorrow’s game against the Oklahoma St. Cowboys. Peppy and happy it is, then! (However . . . no streaking.)
Still, I have done what I could to get myself psyched up into the mode of Beavis with his T-shirt pulled up over the back of his head, spiking my coffee with a little tequila. (That’s a joke. I couldn’t sleep Wednesday night, so I stayed up and watched part of what may be Jack Nicholson’s worst movie, "Wolf," which was on AMC and contains a reference to pouring tequila into coffee. Trust me, I’m kidding; I would never do that, and, if you ever see me drinking tequila, go ahead and bring the car around, because it’s just about time to drive me home. The only time I have ever had another type of alcohol pass through my gullet after tequila is if it was moving in the other direction. But I digress. . . .)
Since this will be the fall’s first game for both teams, there are no reliable statistical data for either squad, so we are left to sort through the minutiae of history in search of favorable morsels, with respect to which I will endeavor, as always, to bring you not a smattering of knowledge, nor a dollop of insight, but, rather, Too Much Information:
Odds & Ends:
Saturday’s showdown marks the fourth series meeting between Oklahoma State and the Georgia Bulldogs. The Red and Black won all three previous games, including the 1947 game in Stillwater against what was then Oklahoma A&M. The Classic City Canines’ average margin of victory over the Cowboys in the prior clashes between the two is 29-11.
Oklahoma State’s football teams have answered to numerous nicknames over the years, including Cowboys, Agriculturalists, Aggies, Farmers, Tigers, Waddies, Cowpunchers, Cowpokes, and Pokes. Since they’ve been known, by turns, as both the Farmers and the Cowboys, I’m pretty sure there should be a Broadway musical about how the OSU players should be friends with themselves. As for calling themselves the "Pokes," well, I know what Augustus McCrae meant by that term.
The Bulldogs have never lost the season’s first road game under Mark Richt.
In 2008, Georgia lost to the Alabama Crimson Tide, the Florida Gators, and the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, marking the ninth time in school history that the Classic City Canines have gone 0-3 against that trio of opponents in a single autumn. (It happened before in 1928, 1949, 1952, 1953, 1961, 1962, 1963, and 1977.) In the seasons that followed those eight campaigns, the Bulldogs went 6-1-1 in the fall’s first game against a team currently belonging to a BCS conference other than the SEC.
The Feel Good Stat of the Week:
Much has been made of the fact that the ‘Dawgs lost a pair of first-round draft picks in Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Rockwell Moreno. The departures of two players worthy of selection in the opening round of the NFL draft represent too great a sacrifice for the team to overcome, or so the thinking goes.
The reality, however, is just a bit different. Georgia has lost two first-round draft picks in a single year on five separate occasions, most recently bidding farewell to Champ Bailey and Matt Stinchcomb in 1999, to Richard Seymour and Marcus Stroud in 2001, to George Foster and Johnathan Sullivan in 2003, and to Thomas Davis and David Pollack in 2005.
In the last four seasons immediately following the loss of two first-round NFL draft picks, the Bulldogs have gone 4-0 in openers, have gone 14-3 in non-conference games (including a 4-1 regular-season mark against teams from other BCS leagues), and have won their last two marquee games to start the campaign (at Clemson in 2003 and against the Boise St. Broncos in 2005) by a combined 78-13 margin in games that were expected to be competitive, but weren’t.
The Bottom Line:
Certainly, the Cowboys’ travails over the last few days have been far less than optimal, although Oklahoma State is a highly-ranked Division I-A football program in a major conference, so it would be a mistake to assume they lack the horses to replace the players who recently have been lost.
The question in this game is the same as the question in the 2005 Boise State game, the 2006 Sugar Bowl against the West Virginia Mountaineers, the 2007 Oklahoma State game, the 2008 Sugar Bowl against the Hawaii Warriors, and the 2008 Arizona State game. Is Georgia’s opponent the real deal or a mere chimera? In four of those five instances---at least on the night the game was played---the answer was resoundingly on the side of pretender rather than contender.
Mike Gundy’s struggles against ranked opposition suggest that the Cowboys, while a solid squad, are not quite ready to take that next step. Mark Richt’s strong road record, particularly against top 25 teams, and his club’s quality performances in legitimate opening games suggest that this is precisely the sort of situation in which the Bulldogs are at their best and the Pokes are not. Both programs’ historical trends will be borne out in Stillwater tomorrow.
My Prediction: Georgia 38, Oklahoma State 28.