Though the new year did not get off to the best of starts for the Georgia Bulldogs, 2012 nevertheless is upon us, and with the turn of the calendar page comes the first edition of Dawg Bites for what promises to be a banner year. Here are four topics of note that are worth your attention this Wednesday morning:
1. You can’t spell "classy move" without S-E-C. The league office in Birmingham has announced that the week of January 15 through 22 will be declared "We Back Pat" Week. Last November 27, following her diagnosis at age 59 of early-onset Alzheimer’s-type dementia, Tennessee women’s basketball coach Pat Summitt established the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund to promote research, support services, and awareness with respect to the disease.
The 17 women’s basketball games and twelve men’s basketball games taking place that week will bring attention to the Fund and its objectives. Five Georgia Bulldogs basketball games will take place during "We Back Pat" Week. There has been a pronounced lack of good news on Rocky Top recently, and the best news our conference mates in Knoxville could receive would be word of a breakthrough in the treatment of this disease. Fortunately, such breakthroughs often are right around the corner, so, please, donate to the Pat Summitt Foundation Fund if you can. Andy Landers’s Lady Bulldogs will face Coach Summitt’s Lady Vols at 7:00 p.m. Eastern this Thursday.
2. I don’t want to talk about it. All right, let’s talk about it, but then we’re done talking about this, you hear me? Except, you know, probably not. Proclaiming the Outback Bowl “[m]ore of the [s]ame for the Dawgs,” Team Speed Kills characterized Georgia’s 2011 campaign as “a season in which most of the biggest games got away from them” that has led “to wonder just how much has actually changed.” I respectfully disagree.
I will grant the obvious and unexceptional point that the Bulldogs lost to the toughest teams they faced; so did most teams other than Louisiana State, but Georgia faced more of them than many teams did. Seeing as how the Red and Black beat the Tennessee Volunteers, Florida Gators, Auburn Tigers, and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in the same season for the first time in 30 years, though, it’s hard to argue that “most of the biggest games got away.” Likewise, when it comes to “how much has actually changed,” the 2010 Bulldogs went 1-4 in games decided by eight points or fewer, went 1-4 in true road games, and lost to the Colorado Buffaloes and Central Florida Knights, while the 2011 Bulldogs went 3-2 in games decided by eight points or fewer, went 4-0 in true road games, and didn’t lose to a team that finished with fewer than eleven wins. Team Speed Kills is quite right that the Red and Black aren’t where they need to be, but they’re quite a long way from where they were.
The more reasonable criticism of the Bulldogs’ second straight postseason setback came from Bill Connelly, who asked: “Mark Richt is one of my favorite head coaches, mostly because he has won games at a mostly high level, reflected pretty high character overall, and, in 2011, survived some generally ridiculous hot-seat rumors to win double-digit games and another SEC East title. I say all this to qualify the following question: Coach Richt, why in the hell were you playing to set up a long field goal in the first overtime??”
Actually, Senator Blutarsky has something of an answer for that inquiry, offered in response to B&B Michael’s unflinching exegesis (which was born of Michigan fans’ innate disdain for Michigan State), but, for me, the final word upon the subject was uttered by Tyler Dawgden, who opined that “the safe play is to go to what is working, not what hasn't. That isn't conservative, that is stupid. I'm not laying blame at Blair's feet, either. Kid has the yips. That is just the way it is. Also, he isn't responsible for blocking the middle of the line on a place kick.”
One aspect of this that interests me is the question whether we prefer the aggressive Mark Richt who went for it on fourth down early in the Outback Bowl or the conservative Mark Richt who tried to play it safe in overtime; both decisions, after all, ultimately cost the Red and Black three points that would have been the difference between victory and defeat, rendering them equal yet opposite causes of the setback. Of which decision are you more critical?
3. Decisions, decisions, recruiting . . . and otherwise. Presumably, you’ve already seen MaconDawg’s latest rundown of all the actual recruiting news. In the category of recruiting non-news, Mike Davis doesn’t like Florida---then again, who does?---but he is still considering more or less the rest of the SEC East, with no clear-cut frontrunner. Meanwhile, Davis’s is not the only decision that will impact the ‘Dawgs this offseason.
4. Look at the bright side! Yes, there’s a bright side. As I overlooked but tankertoad noted, the Georgia women’s basketball team opened SEC play with a win, earning SEC freshman of the week honors for Erika Ford. Four Bulldog football players have been invited to the Senior Bowl, the Georgia men’s tennis team will enter the spring as the SEC’s highest ranked squad at No. 4 nationally, and Jenna Buckley has decided to return to the Red and Black women’s soccer team for her final year of eligibility. Moreover, the Georgia Diving Invitational and Shootout, which is nowhere near as violent as it sounds, got underway on Tuesday, and three Athenian divers made the springboard finals on the first day of the three-day event. Last, but by all means least, Terry Bowden has been doing his best impersonation of a Georgia football player.
That should get you up to speed. Feel free to dive into your Wednesday morning fully briefed.