If ever America needed a weekend of college football, it's now. Lost in the crescendo of sadness surrounding events out of State College, PA over the past 72 hours or so has been the fact that there are some important college football games being played on Saturday, and for that I'm grateful.
It's about this time every year that I come to realize that college football's lease hath all too short a date. We're 3/4 of the way through the season, which is sad in a way. In another way this is always the weekend which, in my mind at least, is closest too the Platonic ideal of college football. The first few weeks of the college football season for me are usually consumed in wondering how good this iteration of the Georgia Bulldogs will be. You never really know until about this point. Until this juncture it's entirely possible to be good but not lucky, lucky but not good, even unlucky and not good (known to theoretical physicists as "the Goff/DiNardo Confluence". Also, I write about college football. Not for a living, but seriously nonetheless. So I spend a lot of time early on trying to figure out what the emerging storylines are. What teams and players I should be paying more attention to. What type of foliage Les Miles is opting for these days as part of his raw food diet (Answer? Nick Saban's evergreen, herbacious soul. Miles chewed that sucker up) In other words a lot of college football season for me is spent in looking ahead rather than looking around. Ferris would be so ashamed.
But as I sat in Sanford Stadium during the 4th quarter of last week's blowout of New Mexico State, surrounded by 4,000 or so of my closest friends, I began to reflect on what 2011 has become. What this season truly is.This Georgia football team is 7-2 with wins over Tennessee and Florida. Its two losses are a sound defeat by a top five Boise State team that appears every bit as good as its early ranking, and a 3 point heartbreaker against a South Carolina team that I would give my eye teeth to get another crack at now. But that is what it is.
The bottom line is that it's hard to argue with a straight face that Mark Richt's team isn't headed in the right direction once again. We may disagree on the speed of progress, and whether the jalopy he's riding in will die on the side of the road some time soon. But for now, we're headed in the right direction. And for that I am incredibly thankful. With a little help from our Gator friends (you better take a screen grab because I'll damned sure never type that again) we have a chance to lock up a trip to the Georgia Dome for the SEC Championship game. There's a huge recruiting weekend on tap (more on that tomorrow). Leaving larger national events aside for a moment as noted red and black poet Zac Brown would say, life is good today.
I'll be drinking life in on Saturday, because it looks like one of those days which will not be about potentiality, or analysis, but existence. A Saturday in Athens matching a top 20 Georgia squad versus a top 20 Auburn squad with an SEC divisional crown on the line is what college football is supposed to be.
ESPN tells me that Auburn's Clint Moseley is some kind of cold-blooded pigskin assassin. He's had an offweek to prepare for the Georgia defense. The young QB has completed 68% of his passes on the season in two starts. Moseley is right that Todd Grantham will likely try to make him beat Georgia.
And he could, theoretically. I never take this game for granted, no matter what the handicappers say. There have been too many Tra Battles and Ben Friggin' Leards in this series to ever, ever think you know what will happen when the South's Oldest Rivalry kicks off. I'm a little worried about the shallow crossing routes that Florida used to exploit our linebackers' coverage abilities and that we've had difficulty defending at other times. I'm also a little worried because Gus Malzahn exploits overpursuing defenses like no one else in college football. And this season that's kind of been our MO. We'll give up at least one touchdown on some sort of misdirection. Possibly two. Gus Malzahn knows better than to run Michael Dyer straight at Kwame Geathers. He knows he has to loosen things up in the back end of the defense. He needs Moseley to step up.
Clint Moseley could beat us. But only with help. The real key to this game will be Auburn's defense. It gave up 31 points per game in September to the likes of Clemson, Mississippi State, Florida Atlantic and Utah State. In October that total dropped to 25 per game, but that doesn't tell the whole story. The WarPlainsTigerSociologists allowed 38 and 45 points, respectively, to Arkansas and LSU. They gave up 6 to an unBrantleyed Florida team. They went to the half tied with an Ole Miss team coming apart at the seams, before taking control in the second half for a 41-23 triumph. This Auburn team gives up a lot of points to good offenses and relatively few to bad ones.
I don't however think that this Auburn defense, even with a bye week, can stop a Georgia offense that has continued to progress as the season has lengthened. I think we have a better football team than Auburn, we just need to go out and prove it. In the end I believe the Auburn defense will struggle to contain Georgia's fresh-legged skill players. The WarPlainsTigerRiggedSlotMachinePlayers will score a late touchdown to make it look closer than it really will be. Prediction: UGA 31, Auburn 24.
Haters gonna hate, of course. Except for bourbon. Nobody hates bourbon. So in a tradition that
intermittently pops up during this week of the season spans the ages, this weekend's cocktail is Maker's Mark and Coke. I would say more, but is there really anything left to say? Oh yeah. Until later . . .