Here is what I’m NOT worried about as we face our nemesis, the bane of our very existence, again, Monday night:
1) The Phil Knights Who Until Recently Said “Mario”! I don’t know much about Duck football, but I do know these guys used to have some consistency at the head of the program. Going back to the 70’s, Rich Brooks led the team for almost 20 years, even with a losing record. Then Mike Bellotti came in for 14 seasons, and won two-thirds of his games. You could say that hiring Chip Kelley was an upgrade, but that was only a 4 year experiment. Same for Mark Helfrich, even though that 4th season was disappointing. Enter Willie Taggart for a single 7-5 season, then Mario Cristobal comes in to save the day. Except he ran home to momma, if you can call the “U” your momma. Technically, the last two Oregon coaches are former Georgia assistants, as Bryan McLendon coached last season’s Alamo Bowl and now Dan Lanning takes the reinsv for the 2022 season. They have talent and resources, and ugly uniforms, but they don’t seem to have a good strategy at the helm.
2) Since 2015, Oregon has lost to a team with a losing record every season. The face palm game. The inexplicable loss. Giving other teams their signature victory of the season on the reg. Here at UGA, we understand that mentality, and sometimes expected it. Or at least we use to. I think these fans in Eugene are even more conditioned to accept the “came out flat” syndrome than we are. And to be honest, they don’t have that many big upset wins – snagging a conference game when a big underdog. The program just doesn’t really project one with juice.
3) In college, talent can make bad decisions turn out okay. Bone X (trademarked by macondawg) is very talented. He’s a great runner, and has well above average arm strength. His ability to freestyle and improvise has produced some mind-blowing moments through his college career. Some of those were even beneficial to Auburn. But it was obvious he was playing Johnny Manziel the last few years and not always taking the safe play or the smart one.
That won’t work in the NFL. The Georgia defense he will face is not the same that crushed him last year on the Plains, which essentially was an NFL defense. I’ll speak more below about what we’ve lost, but it should be a unit that knows its assignments, executes, and is disciplined. And since Tank Bigsby isn’t in the backfield to bail him out, the Oregon offense will be on the arm and legs of Bo Nix. I do find comfort in that.
Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch. So here’s what does worry me about trying to beat the Pekings from Eugene:
1) Both teams are replacing generational talent, and first round NFL draftees, on the defensive line. Both are replacing the majority of their carries out of the backfield. Both have a deep tight end room – even to the point of having a 6’8” tight end on the roster who never seems to get the ball. They both are starting a QB who lost to Alabama last season (okay, ours was 1-1). And you know what? Both teams are replacing a steady punter who was a weapon in flipping the field.
Dan Lanning understands that while you can win some games with quick-twitch receivers and getting speedy guys the ball in space and gimmicky offenses, he was around Nick Saban and Kirby Smart enough to know you will consistently win if you dominate in the trenches. So we can expect that he is putting that blueprint in place with his first year squad. We’ll need to do this the old-fashioned way, with two good fronts, and maximum effort.
2) Speed. Oregon has plenty, but this isn’t the 2010 Chip Kelly version that thought they could refract light off their cleats. I’m really talking about the speed of the UGA defense. One reason the Georgia D was so good was getting tacklers to the ball. You remember Jordan Davis running guys down on the sideline, and Nakobe Dean chasing a swing pass he had no earthly right to chase, and Channing Tindall doing superhuman things. This squad still has talent and speed, but some of that speed is attributed to knowing where to run, where to drop back. Intuition, some natured and some nurtured, allows physical prowess to shine. I just don’t know if we’re going to have the same type of immediate success out of the gates this season like the 7 sack/2 rushing yards allowed performance against Clemson last season.
3) Georgia is favored by 17.5 points. This isn’t
Vanderbilt Georgia Tech, this is a team that has a legitimate shot at winning the PAC-12 (or whatever), maybe getting a berth in the College Football Playoffs. And we’re favored by over 3 scores? Having lost incredible talent on all 3 levels of the defense, special teams, the OL, at wide-out, and in the offensive backfield? That, sir/madam, is a vote of confidence in Kirby Smart and the regime he has established.
The Bulldogs did pretty well against the line last year, this just seems a little early to be giving that much ground against a quality OOC opponent in Week 1. Though I’ve heard some pundits think that’s an easy line to make money on, and Georgia should crush Oregon. When I hear that kind of talk, it doesn’t sit easy. And that’s when I worry.
Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about the Bulldogs of Georgia versus the Ducks of Oregon. And as always…