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Cocktail Thursday and Bad Basketball News.

First, the bad news. The AJC is reporting that Coach Felton has suspended Mike Mercer for 15 games, and Takais Brown and Albert Jackson for 9 games each following an undisclosed violation of athletic association rules. I'm not even going to begin to speculate on what rules they violated, but you don't get rid of your top two returning scorers for 1/2 and 1/3 of the season respectively for no reason. Stay tuned.

As I've thought about this weekend's game against the Vanderbilt Commodores, I've gone back and forth from boundless optimism to bottomless dread. On the one hand I want to believe David Greene when he says that Matt Stafford is a great quarterback, just surrounded with a young cast. I want to believe Tony Barnhart when he says that Stafford's young supporting cast is just "playing young".

But there's another part of me that watched every torturous moment of last Saturday's game, which looked like the first annual George Armstrong Custer Memorial Classic. Ambush. Panic. Blood. It was like Thanksgiving at Britney Spears' house without the pharmaceuticals.

One of the problems with playing freshmen and sophomores all over the place is that they have what is known in statistical terminology (and on Wall Street) as a "high Beta coefficient". That is, they're very volatile over time compared to other, less youthful teams. Like the shares of Guatemalan National Citrus, Inc. in your retirement account, young football teams show flashes of brilliance followed by days in which you are left wondering if anything will ever go right. Investing your faith in freshman offensive linemen is like investing your retriement savings in Serbian manganese producers. Whether you're Chuck Schwab or Mark Richt, it will burn you on at least one day, even if you win out in the end.

I'm still 50/50 on how this young Georgia team comes out. My guess is that we shoot out of the gate like a bottlerocket. We simply have too much to prove not to play like our lives depend on it. But there's a certain tiny voice that tells me that the Vanderbilt team that will hit the field in Nashville is substantially the same (20 returning starters, give or take) as the one that pulled our pants down in front of the crowd in Athens last year, and that I should fear them.

Part of me thinks that we should have a clear physical edge over this Vandy team. But then it occurs to me that when we've been physically superior to Vandy in the past, we've found a way to get outschemed. I then feel called to remember that Vandy is in the midst of a quarterback crisis, only to recall the crisis that is our defense. Back and forth, back and forth.

Hey, did I mention the unbridled meltdown that would result from a loss in this game? I did? Good. Since I'm never going to be able to talk myself into being confident about this one, let's get down to drinking. If you're as undecided as I am at this point, you should kick back on Saturday evening with a 50/50 martini. Start with a chilled martini glass. Fill it with 1 and 1/2 ounces of dry vermouth and 1 and 1/2 ounces of gin. Drop in a cocktail olive and you're ready to enjoy.

Not only is this drink as mixed up as our chances for victory/redemption/sanity in the actual gridiron showdown, but it will also help you blend in seamlessly with the ascot and summer home crowd you'll surely encounter during your tailgate. Back this evening with the latest installment of TMI 2008. Until then . . .

Go 'Dawgs!

Edit: FOB (friend of the blog)Hobnail Boot informs me that Jackson's suspention is only 6 games. Thanks man.