In matters of football, as in most other matters, I am an empiricist. That is to say, I believe that the best predictor of what an individual or group will do in the near future is what that individual or group did in the recent past. Given a sufficient sample size, I find that this is a fairly reliable way of knowing how things will go in a given situation. We all need a way of looking at the world, and that is mine.
And it is because of that worldview that, as I sit here on a beautiful fall morning following an ugly late summer type of night, I am thoroughly convinced that the 2009 University of Georgia football team will continue to play close games against fair to mediocre competition whilst losing to any reasonably good football team that has made the conscious decision to play reasonably good football. Why? Because a full one-third of the way into the 2009 campaign, that's exactly what we've done.
At this point it should be obvious that this team's most glaring weakness is its abysmal turnover margin. Scratch that, that is the second most glaring weakness. This team's most glaring weakness is its offense's inability (or wilfull refusal) to take care of the ball on its own side of the field. It's one thing to screw up. It's quite another to screw up at the worst possible time over and over again. The Georgia offense has committed 11 turnovers through 4 games. That's pretty bad. However, none of the 11 has come on a play which began on the opposition's side of the field. Not .One. That's a statistic almost to incredible to be fabricated. In case you were curious, the closest we've come to turning it over on the side of the field where it hurts you the least was a Joe Cox interception at Oklahoma State from the 50.6 of the 11 came on plays beginning insdie our own 30.
That's gosh awfully crappy ball security. It is so bad as to defy description. If Chris Brown were on the team we'd have to kick him off because we apparently have no room for anything that smacks of smart football. Coaches are fond of saying that some teams "can't stand prosperity." Which is an efficient way of conveying that they get a break or make a break happen and then proceed to lose all mental focus, thereby squandering the good break. This team has so far masterfully exhibited a penchant for squandering or nearly squandering second half leads, early momentum, charm, daring do, je ne sais quoi, income tax refunds and negative ebola diagnoses. As a group they resemble nothing so much as a shiny red Ferrari racing through a muddy field. There's a lot of spinning and smoking and the occasional burst of speed. But in the end we just can't seem to get any traction.
Take for example Joe Cox. After turning in perhaps the best quarterbacking performance of the Mark Richt era against Arkansas on the road, he looked a lot like the new Brandon Cox, a guy who is perfectly capable of running his team's offense with ruthless efficiency, except when he's not. All night he looked frustrated, out of sorts, and generally listless. Including when he made reads and throws which made it appear that he'd taken the entire preceding week off. While the final stat line doesn't look so bad (17 of 31 for 242 yards), the 2 second half interceptions were not just picks but bad picks, the kind of poor decisions deep in your own territory that should lose your team the football game. The fact that they didn't is one of a variety of reasons that Joe Cox should be taking A.J. Green to breakfast today at the location of his choice. When someone saves your bacon, the least you can do is pay for theirs.
All of which brings us to the present. Four games into the season, as a general rule, your football team is what it is, Sure, there's still time for some guys (like Bacarri Rambo, who overwhelmingly justified our choice of gameday cocktail with his performance) to step up. And there's time to sort out playcalling issues, audibles and other similar miscellany. But nothing I have seen indicates to me that we will stop putting our defense (which has enough trouble forcing punts with 80 yards of field at its collective back) in horrible positions, nor that we will actually come out, get a lead, and then hold it for 60 minutes the way Alabama did to Arkansas. Nothing which has occurred on the field on the past four Saturdays indicates that this team is capable of putting together the type of first snap, last snap, every snap effort required to beat a team as explosive as Florida, or even Gene Chizik's surprising Auburn squad.
In six days we will play an LSU squad that struggled to beat Washington on the road, ground out a win against Vandy, and needed a goalline stop to escape Starkville with a win. I am a lot less worried about what LSU will do to beat us than what we will do to beat ourselves, which is a frightening prospect 33% of the way through the season. Right now you and I are fans of a football team that could quite easily be 0-4, and that's a scary place to be with the Bayou Bengals coming to town.
Admittedly, both coaches and players have acknowledged that turnovers are the proverbial racing slicks on a mudbogging Ferrari for this football team. But that only goes so far. I acknowledge that I should work out more and watch what I eat. I should finally learn to distinguish some of the great pieces of classical music so that when I hear them at boring dinner parties and receptions I won't feel like such a low brow interloper. I should learn how to grow organic cotton so I can learn to weave my own high thread count sheets.
But I probably won't because I've come this far in life with a stubborn cheeseburger habit, passing familiarity with Tchaikovsky, and no weaving skills of which I am aware. And this team probably won't cut down on their drive-killing, soul-crushing turnovers. To be sure, hope springs eternal in the heart of a college football fan. But the empiricist in me is simply waiting for the other shoe to drop, and wondering which of our offensive players will be the one who drops it.
Your expressions of optimism vis-a-vis our self-destructive tendencies are encouraged in the comments. Please? Anybody?