Maestro, the theme music:
This is the Friday Tailgate, the place where we hang out waiting for something good to happen. That good thing is college football.
I have spent the past week looking back at the first half of the Georgia Bulldogs’ 2016 season. I’ve crunched the numbers, I’ve considered the trends. And I’ve come to an inescapable conclusion: it could have been worse.
Think about it. Georgia opened in a big neutral site game against a top 25 opponent and came from behind to win. The ‘Dawgs survived a gut-wrenching upset attempt by Nicholls State after deciding it was time to start a true freshman at quarterback. That true freshman threw a last minute game-winning touchdown to beat Missouri on the road. And the rushing attack finally showed up when needed to help key a victory over division rival (sic) South Carolina.
If I told you that Kirby Smart would have to coach most of two games without Nick Chubb, two without Sony Michel, and that he’d make the decision to go with Jacob Eason essentially by the end of the North Carolina game, you’d wonder how bad things really were.
If I told you that Brian Herrien had 50 carries and was our second leading rusher, you’d be concerned. If I’d told you that Isaiah McKenzie was the only Bulldog with 15 or more catches you’d be disappointed. If I’d told you that Tyler Clark, Julian Rochester, David Marshall, and Michail Carter were all vying for starting spots on the defensive line you’d think Smart had just thrown in the towel and decided to get a start on 2017. You likely would not think that Georgia was 4-2 and still squarely in position for a solid season.
The funny thing about college football seasons is that they often turn out generally as predicted, but they never get there in the way everyone expected. Tennessee is in the driver’s seat in the SEC East. But they got there following a series of close escapes and a full-on sprinkling of pixie dust to get out of Athens with a W. Auburn looks like a living, breathing college football team.
Texas A&M lost their entire QB depth chart over the offseason and is now undefeated and solidly in the top 10. Notre Dame and Texas somehow managed to go from “ZOMG BACK!!!” to “back where they came from” in about two weeks. Which is to say, even though Georgia is now right about where we could reasonably have hoped they’d be, there’s really no telling where they’ll be in a couple of weeks following the always dangerous Vandy Homecoming nooner and a trip to Jacksonville. But let’s not worry about the Gators. Let’s just try to predict what will happen tomorrow. I ask you friends, over or under?
1. Georgia will score 9.9 first quarter points.
2. Jacob Eason will throw 1.9 interceptions.
3. Brian Herrien will outrush Sony Michel by 0.9 yards.
4. Rodrigo Blankenship will kick 1.9 field goals.
5. Isaiah McKenzie will catch 4.9 passes.
6. Vandy tailback Ralph Webb will rush for 89.9 yards.
7. Vandy QB Kyle Shurmur will throw for 149.9 yards.
8. Georgia will turn the ball over 2.9 times.
9. Vanderbilt will turn it over 2.9 times.
10. Lorenzo Carter will tally 1.9 sacks.
11. Malkom Parrish will notch 0.9 interceptions.
This will also serve as the open thread for a surprisingly watchable slate of Friday night games, beginning at 7:00 on ESPN with Duke vs. Louisville. Until later...