Since I've taken over this feature from VineyardDawg I’ve learned that it can be a challenge. I mean, when you're winning it can be tough to find anyone in red and black whose faults on the week clearly overshadow their triumphs. The receiver who drops one in the first quarter comes back and snatches a critical 3rd down catch in the fourth. The young quarterback gets up off the ground, stands in the pocket, and delivers a strike. The defensive line bows up when the game is truly on the line.
And then there are weeks like this week. The challenge this week was finding someone to leave off the board. It was bad on top of awful handing off to not ready yet with blocking from gonna take some time to gel. In no particular order, the following are on notice.
Self pity. Neither Tennessee nor the rest of the SEC cares that Georgia has depth issues, youth issues, or coaching transition issues. If this team doesn't get its head right in a hurry 1-3 in the SEC ain't far-fetched at all. Florida looked good enough against Tennessee to be formidable in Jacksonville.
Even Auburn, which I thought might be in full-on coaching search mode by November, has looked passable. There are plenty more losses on this slate of this team chooses to hang its collective head. Now’s just not the time to feel sorry for oneself.
Kickers. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. The thing you can say for Rodrigo Blankenship is that his missed field goal Saturday looked like a pretty well-struck ball. William Ham’s misses against Mizzou appeared to actually have been what we refer to in golf as ‘"chili dips’, where the club (or foot) actually strikes the ground before the ball.
Sometimes that's a result of nerves, other times poor timing, or bad technique (a shallow, sweeping approach or poor plant foot placement). There are a lot of ways to kick a football poorly. As a former unsuccessful high school kicker I've tried most of them. But there are a lot of things that have to go right mentally and physically to kick a 40 yard field goal. Right now Blankenship appears to have a slight lead in getting all of it together.
Oreo ‘"thins.’ Who was the genius at Mondelez who said ‘"I know! Let’s take the best thing about our cookies and do less of it!’? No one knows, because his office was cleaned out within weeks of the suggestion. Talk to me when you perfect the quadruple stuffed Oreo. That will be a service to mankind.
Dropped passes. We had at least five of them on Saturday, giving me flashbacks to the bad ole days of John Eason coaching receivers in Athens. In those days it was receivers getting wide open then dropping passes that David Greene put on the money. Now it’s receivers not giving a freshman QB an iota of help to build his confidence.
Coaching vs. Personnel. Is it coaching? Is it recruiting? As in so many situations in life the likely answer is ‘"a bit of both.’ Georgia has positions at which we lack sufficient elite players (wide receiver), so that the ones we do have (Isaiah McKenzie) are easy to key on. We have positions with sufficient numbers and talent but insufficient experience (quarterback, linebacker). We have positions with ample numbers and experience, but which just aren't getting the job done despite that (offensive line).
This program spent a lot of time this offseason transitioning over to doing things Kirby Smart’s way instead of Mark Richt’s way. In the past that's time that would have been spent figuring out how to use Richt’s way to squeeze 10 wins out of an 8 win roster. Continuity is so, so important in college football given the time constraints and limited eligibility involved. Continuity lets you take care of the little things because the big things go without saying.
Georgia is retooling how it practices, how it watches film, and a thousand other little details of how this big time football machine does what it does. There are switching costs there. These players would be playing better football for Mark Richt. That's not because Richt is a better head coach than Kirby Smart. It’s because Richt would already know how to raise some of them up, simmer some of them down, and get the most out of the young men who came to Athens to play for him. His position coaches would have spent less camp time evaluating strengths and weaknesses of players they've known for years.
Ole Miss isn't that much more talented across the board than Georgia. But it is well into a program reboot, with a veteran QB who now knows what's expected and how to lead his team. Veteran receivers. A veteran defensive line. And a head coach who knows his players well enough to know how they’d react to that Alabama loss, and how to get them back on the right mental keel. All of those advantages were on display Saturday in Vaught-Hemingway.
Alabama, however, is more talented than Georgia has ever been. The same could probably be said for Ohio State. And that gives Nick Saban and Urban Meyer a margin of safety which other schools don't have. If Georgia aspires to approach that level of talent it’s going to take years. Kirby Smart will have to avoid the lost recruiting classes that plagued Mark Richt, and which are currently forcing Smart to play freshmen and sophomores rather than juniors and seniors. That's easier said than done.
But I expect we will see positive results beginning in 2017 as players have a better idea what to do and what to expect, and the coaching staff does too. Ideally, the talent level on campus will improve, the talent already on campus will move toward its ultimate potential, and the staff will get a handle on how to make both happen. But that's in the future. Welcome to the opposite of program continuity. It’s ugly.
Greg McGarity. Probably has a sleeve of Oreo Thins in his desk right now.
Ole Miss fans. Metaphorically conquered a particularly dodgy corner of Wales and think they're the Roman Empire. Still 2-2 with losable games on the schedule, losers of the tiebreaker with Alabama, and a solid bet for either the Outback or TaxSlayer Bowls. Current guardians of the Auburn ‘"You ain't got no proof ‘ceptin them text messages from the Assistant AD asking Tunsil how much he needs’ mantel.
I'm on record saying I assume every school in the SEC is swimming in bagmen. I've followed college football long and closely enough to assure you that if you assume differently you're deluding yourself. There’s no delusion like self-delusion, and there's something particularly head-scratching about a fanbase that largely believes they went from the SEC West basement to the top of the college football rankings in three years because Hugh Freeze is just such a swell fella who the kids love.
I don't want the NCAA to turn Oxford into a smoking crater, because that's not really good for anyone (okay, maybe Mississippi State). But I’m also not going to genuflect in the general direction of Tupelo and pretend what we’ve seen the Rebels do since 2013 was just hard work and clean livin’.
As a Georgia fan I root for a team that's got enough problems to fix to be worried about when those chickens will come home, or how they’ll roost. But it’s tough not to take note when they're squawking right in your face. This is life in rebuilding mode. It will pass. But again, it's ugly. Don't say you weren’t on notice of it.