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You're On Notice, Dawg! Week 14

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We can only control one thing this week: this state, and our status vis a vis continuing to run it.

UGA Sports Communications

Good evening, Dawg fans.  If you're anything like me, you had a Saturday full of mixed feelings.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching our Georgia Bulldogs completely demolish a solid I-AA team in the early game, and I also felt good for the Arkansas Razorbacks, who likewise completely demolished an Ole Miss squad in the afternoon game.  Unfortunately, those good feelings were tempered by a night ESPN game where Missouri, as calmly and as blandly as possible, handed Tennessee their 5th loss of the season, thereby ensuring that we did not start booking our hotel rooms MARTA tickets in Atlanta for two Saturdays hence.

So, the game that we couldn't control didn't break our way yesterday, but there's absolutely nothing we can do about it now.  We will, however, ultimately know our SEC fate before we kickoff again, because Mizzou plays the suddenly-resurgent Razorback squad in Columbia on Friday. (And that's not entirely a bad thing, since Mizzou's other two losses this season, oddly, have come at home.)  If the Hogs win, then we start worrying about our team looking ahead to the SEC Championship Game against Alabama or Mississippi State.  If the Tigers win, then we start worrying about our team suffering a letdown because they, essentially, don't have anything left for which to play this year.  Either way, there will be plenty #Munsoning to go around.

Here's the thing that's really important to remember, though:  no matter who wins any football games that are played on Friday night, we're still playing Georgia Tech on Saturday. This is Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate week. Most of the young kids nowadays don't understand how deeply-ingrained a rivalry this is, but trust me... all it would take is one loss to the Nerds from North Avenue to remind you how much you, absolutely and unequivocally, do not ever want to lose to Georgia Tech.

We Run This State.  We want to continue running this state.  Therefore, I'm letting the following people, places, and things know that, for Week 14 (Clean, Old-Fasioned Hate week), You're On Notice, Dawg!

In no particular order:

on_notice_20141123

1) Steve Spurrier - Why Steve Spurrier? Because he hates us, we hate him, and because I have it from a very authoritative source inside the South Carolina administration that although he's planning to retire after this season, he's also planning to launch a new career after that as a "beating Georgia consultant." In fact, he's already got a consulting contract signed with every team we play in 2015.  Friggin' Spurrier.

2) All the seniors - Call me a creature of habit (and you'd be correct), but when we get to Senior Day at the end of the year, it just makes the beginning of the game feel a little bit "off" to me. Instead of having the Redcoat Band line up and create the tunnel with the team running through the big "G" banner, we set aside some time for the seniors to run out individually, be greeted by Mark Richt and their families, and then the rest of the team runs out the side entrance just like they do when they're coming out for the second half. More than once, rightly or not, I've blamed the awkward-feeling Senior Day pregame festivities when we start slowly in our final home game of the year.  We haven't been doing the things that we've been doing all year, so it's it understandable that our other things that depend on routine and doing the same thing over and over start to break down a little bit, right?

Now, don't get alarmed... I'm not calling for Mark Richt to cancel Senior Day or anything.  Every single one of those Bulldog seniors have earned the right to run out of the tunnel by themselves and receive an ovation from a grateful Dawg Nation for their blood, sweat, and tears during their 4 or 5 years at UGA. What I will say is this, though:  the seniors need to be leading the charge to keep the awkward pregame ceremonies from messing up our normal mindset and execution.

Not only that, but not a single member of this Georgia team has ever played in a loss to Georgia Tech.  And this year, our extremely slim CFB Playoff hopes depend on us not just beating Tech, but beating them down like we did against Auburn. I'm not saying we should go into the game with the mindset that we're going to school these fools, because that's what we did against Florida, and you saw how that turned out.  (And this Tech team would probably beat Florida by about 4 touchdowns.) No, these seniors simply need to act like seniors should act.  They need to keep the team focused on executing consistently and exceptionally on every single play. Never let up, and never lose focus.  If they do that, and the team responds well to that leadership, we'll get where we need to go this Saturday.

3) Collin Barber - Or, well, I think Barber is on notice.  Whomever is our starting punter is on notice, and we've only punted the ball 3 times in the last 3 games (all against Auburn), so it's hard to be certain about this.  But one thing I do know is that Barber had been doing a decidedly inferior job punting the ball in 2014 before we apparently decided that punting is really just optional.

In fact, I can't tell you exactly where Collin Barber is ranked nationally in punting, because I get my statistics primarily from cfbstats.com, and they only rank the punters that have at least 3.6 punts per game on the season. After yesterday, Barber's punts-per-game number is down to 3.4, so he's officially off their list.  The fact remains, however, that for the year, Barber's punting average is 39.13 yards per punt.  That would be good for 95th on the cfbstats.com list, behind the punter for UConn and Army.  He's slightly ahead of the punter for Central Michigan and Temple, though... so I guess he's got that going for him.

Hopefully our recent form will hold and we won't need to be relying on the punter to win the field position battle for us against the Yellow Jackets. If we do need him, though, we need to hope he's been using all his down time in the past 3 weeks to get better at getting that ball farther down the field.

4) Assignment defense - The key to stopping Georgia Tech's triple option attack isn't brain surgery.  It isn't rocket science, either. It's as simple and as fundamental as it gets in football, but it's a bugger to execute.  Every defender has a potential ball-carrier to which they're assigned.  And if your assigned man ends up with the football, you have to tackle him.  Sounds easy enough, right?  Well, just ask Clemson about that. Or Virginia Tech.  Or Miami.  Or anybody else that Tech has beaten this year.

Paul Johnson's squad might run a high school offense, but they run it better than any other team in the country.  And unfortunately, our defensive coordinator is also seeing Tech for the first time, since FSU didn't play them last year. And even more unfortunately, we didn't do a great job of keeping our assignments crisp yesterday against Charleston Southern.  (We mostly kept them from scoring, but that's just because we're bigger and faster than the Buccaneers' players.  We won't have as huge an advantage against the Yellow Jackets.)

The key is staying with your man and wrapping him up in a solid form-tackle when you get close to him.  Well, that, and avoiding having your knees shattered by the borderline-unethical cut blocks they throw at you on every play. But the bottom line is that we need to play solid fundamental defense on Saturday. Our defense has been getting better throughout the year at the fundamentals, so that's encouraging.  But we can't simply let Tech dominate possession and score at the end of every drive, or we might end up with a big problem on our hands.

5) Bowls with SEC tie-ins - Looks like even a game like the Compass Birmingham Bowl is going to have some decisions to make this year. With 1 game left in the regular season, 11 SEC teams are currently bowl-eligible, including every team in the SEC West.

If Tennessee beats Vanderbilt this week (for the record, I hope they don't, because screw them for making me cheer for them and then losing) and Kentucky can somehow manage to beat Louisville, then everybody in the SEC would be bowl-eligible except Vanderbilt. The SEC has 9 bowls contracted to host teams other than the bowls selected by the College Football Playoff Committee. If we assume that however it happens, 2 SEC teams end up in the 7 CFP-controlled bowl games, that means 11 SEC teams would be accounted for, and 2 would have to find bowl homes of their own accord. I haven't looked around yet to see which bowls those potential drop-outs would possibly aim for, but it would be an interesting quandary.  There have been far more years recently where the SEC hasn't been able to fill all its bowls than years in which we were able to fill all of our slots.  Hooray parity?

6) Fans who sold their tickets to Auburn fans - This is old news now, I know, since we pasted the Tiglesmen two games ago.  And there are always going to be a handful of opposing team's fans scattered throughout the stadium as various UGA ticketholders decide for whatever reason to sell their tickets on StubHub and fans of the visiting team pick them up.  But come on, folks.  The scale of the problem was just stupid against the Aubies.

On any given Saturday, there are regularly about 2 or 3 fans of the visiting team within earshot of my seats in the east endzone. But against Auburn, there were at least a dozen, if not more. (And the anecdotes I've heard indicate that the problem was not localized to my area.) If you're going to go to all the trouble to buy tickets and then just sell them to any Alabamian who saves all year to pony up enough dough to troll another fanbase in their own stadium for about 10 minutes in the first quarter... you need to think about whether or not you need to be buying tickets in the first place.

That Auburn game was easily the biggest SEC home game of the year for the Dawgs, and arguably the biggest home game period (though, in fairness, Clemson was probably the biggest at the time).  And a shocking number of UGA season ticket holders decided, "Nah, I'll pass."

I know that I'm coming from a different place, since I haven't missed a home game since 2003 and have missed family Thanksgiving gatherings to attend Georgia home games that we knew were going to be walkovers, but still... I just don't get the logic.  Why buy tickets and then sell your passes to the biggest game of the year... and to the opposing fans, no less?  it just makes no damn sense.

If I show up Saturday and those same seats are occupied by nerds, I'm prepared to say that you people not true Georgia fans at all. If you buy tickets, go to at least some of the damn games, or don't buy tickets at all.  There are other people that want them and will gladly sit in those seats and cheer for the Red and Black.

7) Students with tickets (and those that should have tickets) - Late last week, the University announced that they were making some additional tickets available for sale to the Tech game due to a large number of student returns. Now, in concept, I'm not totally disgusted by this prospect.  I mean, the student ticketing system worked just fine, many students decided that the Tech game just wasn't worth interrupting Thanksgiving for, so they turned in their tickets.  So, instead, some fans that actually want to be in the stadium that day will be cheering their fool heads off for the Red and Black as they take the field against our in-state rival.  That's perfectly fine... I'd rather have fans who want to be there instead of students who feel like they're being forced to come.

My problem is why the hell the students just don't care about the Tech game in large enough numbers to sell out the student section, even for a noon kickoff. I know that Mark Richt has only lost once to the Engineers in 13 years, and that loss happened before even current 5th-year seniors were in school. But come on, folks. This is going to be your last chance to see the Dawgs between the hedges for 9 months, and I know the vast majority of you weren't there yesterday. Show up and cheer for your fellow students. You would have been louder than whomever is taking your tickets instead, because the students always are. Support your team.  They deserve it.

8) The Arkansas Razorbacks - Even though our official policy this week at Dawg Sports is to focus solely on the Golden Tornado, I just can't help but spare a sympathetic glance for our porcine conference-mates in the northwest corner of the Natural State.

All year, people have been talking about how dangerous you are, Razorbacks. You've only really stumbled once or twice (and for that we are truly appreciative), but you'd be doing all of Dawg Nation a solid if the same team that scared Bama to death and rolled LSU and Ole Miss shows up on Friday in Columbia, Missouri. And not only that, but it would bolster your own bowl resume, as well, to get 7 wins on the season.  It might mean the difference between landing in Shreveport or Birmingham and heading to a much nicer locale... like maybe Nashville. It's in both our best interests.  Let's make it happen, ok?

Liz thinks you can do it, honey, and so do we. Woo Pig Sooie!

That's it for this week, Dawg fans! I sincerely hope that we'll be able to have one more "On Notice" column next week, since that would mean that the Hogs had pulled the upset in Columbia on Friday.  Either way, though, it's been a heck of a roller-coaster ride of a season.  And pending our performance against the Engineers, I have to say that I'm pretty proud of this team.  We knew the defense was young at the beginning of the season, and that youth and inexperience in the secondary probably cost us the South Carolina game. But they learned and got better, and the team pulled together and overcame adversity in a big way when Todd Gurley was sidelined by the NCAA. They rolled two good teams on the road in Mizzou and Arkansas, and even though they followed that up by face-planting in Jacksonville, they've still had a good season up to this point.

As usual, if we beat the Jackets and Missouri beats Arkansas, we'll sit here for 9 months and wonder about what might have been.  But we'll save those thoughts and the #FIRERICHT and #FIREBOBO arguments for another week.  This week we have to focus on Clean, Old-Fashioned Hate.  Georgia Tech is standing in our way, and we have to put them down hard.  Let the Nerds know that We Still Run This State®!

Go Dawgs!