(Author’s Note: What follows is, after the fashion of our favorite football coach, somewhat tongue-in-cheek . . . which is to say, the exaggerations that follow are, like Mark Richt’s mention of the relative humidity in the Sunshine State, hyperbolic expressions of beliefs the speaker genuinely holds at the most basic level, albeit not to the extreme extent indicated. If this also happens to remind you of anything else you may have read here recently, well, such a resemblance probably is not coincidental.)
Summer is upon us and optimism is in abundance, from donkeydawg to charlottedawg and from DavetheDawg to Doug Gillett (who is a loyal Bulldog fan, despite not having any variation of "Dawg" in his handle).
Well, I, for one, have tried my hand at viewing the glass as
full half-full anything other than empty not broken into sharp jagged shards, and the experienced left me burned, bloodied, and convinced that Larry Munson was overly inclined to look on the bright side. Move over, Wallace "Weeping Wally" Butts; step aside, Vince Dooley . . . the dour doubters, dejected doomsayers, and Chicken Littles of Bulldog Nation are about to crown a new King. (See what I did there?)
Seven weeks ago, I was bold enough to declare that Georgia was going 7-5. I’ll be straight with you, folks: I have the 2009 schedule magnet affixed to my refrigerator, and, every time I look at it, I get a shiver up my spine. I think the bottom’s about to fall out, people.
The Bulldogs open against a current Big 12 school in a venue other than Sanford Stadium. The Red and Black have done so twice in their history, opening the autumn against Texas in Atlanta in 1957 and in Austin in 1958. Both outings ended in Georgia losses to start seasons that ended with the ‘Dawgs finishing under .500.
The Classic City Canines’ second opponent is South Carolina, which kicks off the campaign in a Thursday night game on September 3 and therefore has nine days in which to prepare for the ‘Dawgs. Georgia’s third opponent is Arkansas, which has an open date the Saturday before facing the Athenians. The Bulldogs’ last opponent is Georgia Tech, which also has a bye week prior to ending the season against Georgia. (The comically soft "gauntlet" the Yellow Jackets must run in the stretch leading up to their date with the Red and Black consists of Virginia, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest, and Duke, so the Ramblin’ Wreck starters should play a combined total of about eight quarters’ worth of football in the five weeks prior to Thanksgiving, which should give them a lot of clean old-fashioned rest.)
Many other Georgia opponents might as well have open dates before taking on the ‘Dawgs. Auburn faces Division I-AA Furman, Arizona State meets Louisiana-Monroe, and both Florida and L.S.U. catch Mississippi State seven days before squaring off with the Red and Black.
As if all that weren’t bad enough, now Joel’s even got me worried about Lane Kiffin, for crying out loud!
Joel, you had me at Kristin Davis. Adding bacon and "Kyle hates Auburn" was just piling on, really.
The 2009 Bulldogs must replace a number of star players at key positions, so there are bound to be some growing pains, but the new starters had better do their growing in a great big hurry. Georgia opens the season by playing seven straight games without a break and only three of the Red and Black’s first eight games are between the hedges.
That would be bad enough even against a manageable slate, but this year’s schedule is far from manageable.
To make matters worse, we had no sooner begun to feel a modicum of confidence about the defensive end spot than Justin Houston got himself suspended for the games against the Cowboys and the Gamecocks. The ability to apply pressure with the front four without an inordinate amount of blitzing is the lynchpin of the Brian VanGorder/Willie Martinez defensive philosophy; what basis do we have for believing that the ‘Dawgs will be better at it this year than last?
All right, I’m not truly as down as all that, and nothing would please me more than to have the team prove me wrong, but, where Doug sees the possibility of a ten-win season including a bowl victory, I’m beginning to wonder whether we’re staring down the barrel of a five-win season and no bowl eligibility. At best, we could be looking at a 1985-type season, in which a so-called "upset" over the No. 1-ranked Gators (I consider a win in Jacksonville inevitable, making the Florida game the only "guaranteed" Division I-A win on Georgia’s schedule) is required to reach seven victories for the fall.
Does anyone want to try talking me down (or, rather, up) from that position?