Over the weekend, Tyler Dawgden mentioned that he had been asked to take part in a six-question roundtable regarding the Georgia Bulldogs. If I received an e-mail about this that I accidentally overlooked, I apologize, but, since the propounder of the questions has linked to it here, I thought I’d take a moment to offer my answers, which are provided without the benefit of my having read others’ responses beforehand:
1. Which game is more critical for Georgia to win: Boise State or South Carolina?
With all due respect to the Boise St. Broncos, this one isn’t even close; if I knew the ‘Dawgs were going to open the season at 1-1, I’d rather beat the South Carolina Gamecocks every day of the week, and twice on Saturday. As the Virginia Tech Hokies learned last year, coming up short against the Broncos may sting in the national rankings, but it doesn’t impact the ability to finish first in the conference standings. Georgia could recover from a loss to Boise State, but a loss to South Carolina would put the Red and Black behind the eight ball in the SEC East from the get-go. The game that opens the season in Atlanta matters a lot, but not as much as the game that will determine whether Georgia gets to end the season in Atlanta.
2. Other than Isaiah Crowell, which incoming freshman do you think will have the biggest impact in 2011?
Prior to the emergence of Kwame Geathers, I would’ve said Big Bad John, but now I think it may be Ray Drew. The Pastor of Disaster proved himself as a team leader before he’d ever signed his letter of intent, and, with Justin Houston gone, he has a shot to step into that role as a difference-maker on defense.
3. Who are some under-the-radar guys that you think will step up for Georgia this year?
With Akeem Dent, Darryl Gamble, and Houston gone, fan focus on the linebacker corps is concentrated on returning starter Christian Robinson and G-Day standout Alec Ogletree, but I expect to be impressed by more of Kirk Olivadotti’s charges than just these. At the top of that list is outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, the transfer from the USC Trojans who will take over for Gamble at the "Sam" spot and assist the Bulldogs’ cause as a cover man, pass-rusher, and run-stopper.
4. What makes you most excited about seeing Georgia play this year?
Hey, I was in Memphis for the Liberty Bowl, so I’m looking forward to any opportunity to get the bad taste of that experience out of my mouth. Actually, my response to the final question addresses this one, as well: I’m looking forward to seeing the defense improve in its second year in Todd Grantham’s 3-4 scheme and watching Aaron Murray continue the career at quarterback that got off to such a promising start last year.
5. What makes you the most nervous about seeing Georgia play this year?
Have you met me? What makes me the most nervous about seeing Georgia play this year is the fact that I possess a healthy brain that remembers 2008, 2009, and 2010. Well, that, plus the lack of depth on the offensive line, the dearth of healthy bodies in the defensive secondary, the absence of a proven gamebreaker at tailback, and the scarcity of realized potential in the receiving corps.
6. Athlon Sports has rated the Dawgs at #14 and Phil Steele has them at #9 in their pre-season polls. Both have Georgia winning the SEC East and playing in the Capital One Bowl. What needs to happen for Georgia to live up to these lofty expectations?
First of all, the defense has to take the same giant step forward in its second season in the 3-4 system that the Alabama Crimson Tide’s did in their second campaign under Nick Saban. Secondly, the offensive line needs to stay healthy and gel quickly to give Murray the time to do what he has the skill set to do. Murray can make this offense work, as long as he isn’t forced to run for his life on every down.
Thirdly, Mike Bobo needs to get out of his own head. The Coach Bobo who called the 2006 Chick-fil-A Bowl, the 2007 Florida and Auburn games, the 2009 Georgia Tech game, and the first quarter and a half of the 2010 Auburn game needs to quit outsmarting himself, forget about balance for balance’s sake, and proceed from the premise that the ‘Dawgs should do what works until the opposition proves it can stop it rather than do what doesn’t work under the assumption that it will be successful eventually.
Finally, Georgia has to take the field in Jacksonville and play the guys in the jerseys instead of the name on the jerseys. The Bulldogs’ marked lack of success against the Florida Gators in the 1990s was one thing; those Steve Spurrier-coached Gator squads dominated the SEC like no team had since Bear Bryant in his heyday. Since the Evil Genius left Gainesville, though, Georgia has squandered ample opportunities to play Florida on equal footing. There’s no reason the Red and Black shouldn’t beat the Orange and Blue this year, but, then, there was no reason the Classic City Canines shouldn’t have beaten the Sunshine State Saurians last season, either, and we all know how that turned out, don’t we? Georgia has to get over itself in the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party. In the 1990s, Florida won in the Gateway City; in the 2000s, Georgia has lost by the St. John’s River. The Bulldogs have got to stop giving away games the Gators would not themselves be able to take if they were not served up on a silver salver by the team in silver (or, occasionally, black) britches.
Those are my answers to the College Football Zealots’ questions. What do you think? Let us know in the comments below.