Monday, November 30, 2015

Why Kirby is the Clear Choice for Me

Just like a debate raged regarding whether or not you would keep a coach, a similar one will now transpire as to what that next coach should look like. There is no right or wrong answer at this point because the main candidates (within reason) all have unknowns in one facet or another. I supported Richt for a very long time, up until the end, but now there's only one clear name being talked about that would truly make me feel the best going forward.

Much of my reasoning for Kirby being the guy stems from the arguments against him.

1) "Kirby Smart is Nick Saban's puppet". Whether you want to trust/believe me or not, I have firsthand knowledge that this is not true. If you honestly think Nick Saban is going to keep a guy on staff for nearly a decade just to dance around flapping his arms on the sideline and yell into a headset (while paying him over $1M a year), you're crazy. Also, if a candidate is going to be under someone, wouldn't you want that someone to be the most successful college football coach of our current era? Seems like a pretty good person to learn from and implement the philosophy that so many have seemed to envy over the past few years.

2) "Kirby Smart has never been a head coach". Well if head coaching experience is your key driver in who you want at the helm, you just fired the longest tenured one in the SEC. You had a "head coach" for a very long time and according to those merits the job wasn't done. Herman has one year of head coaching experience in a middle level conference. Does that one year of running a program (in which the groundwork was paved by another coach) really outshine Kirby's lack of a similar position?

3) "Kirby Smart has just had great talent". One major knock on Georgia is that we have been unable to go from good to great. I would also argue that our talent has not been lacking over Richt's second half of his career. What Kirby Smart did with the best defensive unit in the country was take great and keep it great. Georgia is a unique place abundant in resources and talent. That's the nature of the program and I don't think that should take a step back regardless of who the coach is. What I do know is that from what Kirby has shown, there is no semblance of under utilizing great talent which is something many have lamented over in Athens. A quick perusal of NFL rosters will confirm this.

Now on to why I think Kirby fits as the most seamless transition for UGA.

He knows the program landscape. I'm not merely talking about Athens, GA, I'm talking about being in the middle of a resource rich, strongly backed, big time SEC program. Navigating that world is a unique animal and he has seen firsthand how to be successful at it in a more similar style program than some other candidates.

He can continue to sustain and build on recruiting momentum. He has exhibited the ability to pluck key talent not only from Georgia and the Southeast, but nationally. His addition would have no ill effect on continuing the push to lockdown our border while reining in outside talent. Put best practices in recruiting from the best recruiting school in the country (Bama) with the common resources at UGA and I don't see any downside... with potential upside. It's a different style from Richt sure, but the talent pool should still be full. Can't say the same for coaches outside that current mold.

For those worried about staff continuity Kirby has been in the breeding ground of some of the most sought after coaches in the country for various roles. During that time of LSU, Miami, and Bama staffs with Saban he's built an incredible network of people to pull from.

Great defensive coach, knows the landscape, knows the program, knows how to recruit, knows the expectations, has a network, and knows what winning looks like. That should answer many of the questions the detractors have had over the years. To me there are fewer unknowns with Kirby than any other candidate that is being discussed. It doesn't mean those candidates couldn't get the job done, but I feel the pieces in place with Kirby could get the job done the quickest.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Georgia 13 Georgia Tech 7

In what seems to be the season where we're just trying to take a knee and get it over with, somehow we are gaining victories when they are proposed. I said after Florida headed into the last four there was only really room for disappointment, but I guess we should take solace in the fact we nabbed four victories including ones over Auburn and Georgia Tech. It seems strange that in a season where many feel it's the worst we've been in a long time, we're still going to end with a 9-3 mark and the potential to win the much maligned 10th.

None of this changes the fact that our offense is still not very good. Of course that comes back to QB play, but now at season's end it was obvious we didn't have an answer there and made due with what we had (or didn't). I mentioned over the last few games it looks like we have to do everything in our power to throw off a long floating ball to a diving receiver just to gain 6 yards. It is what it is. What I did notice yesterday was that it seems like a long time since we've had a guy who could take a normal drop, step up in the pocket, and fire one over the middle. It's just not there this year.

Losing Chubb obviously derailed the offense as well. At least in the last 3 games it seems we've been trying to throw in a wrinkle or two. The two fullback passes to Payne yesterday (reminiscent of the AU game) were nice to see and well timed. Sony has also done a nice job becoming an all purpose back when he used to be a nice wrinkle. Kudos to him for shouldering the carry load down the stretch.

I will say our defense is pretty good, and has been getting better. Remember even in some of the bad losses like Bama and Florida the offense basically accounted for two touchdowns on the scoreboard or the opponent. Against the rushing attack they did a decent job of not letting the big gainers burn them, and I thought the safeties in Mauger and Sanders did a nice job sealing it off when it got there. That said, GT's offense is really really bad. Watching them try to throw the ball, and do it as poorly as they did, is just baffling at the college level. I mean awful. We had good pressure in the backfield all day and all in all I think giving up only 7 was a nice end cap to the home stretch.

While it was a victory, it once again wasn't pretty. It seems like when we got a 10 point lead we basically went into kill the clock mode. We settled for field goals (and missed one), failed to convert on a 4th and 1, went into safe mode, and though we had dominated all game it still offered our opponent a shot at the end. That's basically been the story of the season... Try not to lose.

Looking back on this much maligned season it seems strange now to realize we garnered 9 wins. If I look at it, I think we honestly loss to three teams that were better than us.

1) Bama - more talented, we turned it over, and didn't have a chance
2) Tennessee - in Knoxville, without Nick Chubb
3) Florida - with Bauta, and gifted them two touchdowns

While we then didn't beat teams like we think we should've (GSU, GT, etc) we still got victories. This does nothing to change a debate that will surface, but still is much much better than the alternative.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Georgia 23 Georgia Southern 17

This is literally how I felt when Sony Michel ran into the endzone. This is how I feel about this season at this point.

Trying to ascertain anything new from that game is a worthless cause. Sure Georgia Southern is pretty good, and plenty of other teams got a good scare (or beat) by lesser foes in the conference on Saturday. But still, even with those types of scares coming about one in a blue moon (a la UCF at home or UAB games in the last 20 years), one still can't take much from the fact that despite the enormous talent gap between the teams we were lucky to snag a victory Saturday night.

I think the only thing that was cemented is that due to extremely lackluster QB play and the absence of Nick Chubb our offense has become inept. To complicate matters we turned the ball over (something we took advantage of versus Auburn) to allow Southern to have their shot.

The defense is doing a pretty dang good job, and our offense did a good job of putting their backs against the wall Saturday night.

This has to be the most confusing, turmoil filled, what is happening potential 10 win season in the history of Georgia football in recent memory. I stated before the last four games we only had the potential to have an adverse situation instead of really doing anything of significance. Well we are one game away from actually winning those four games (two against heated rivals), but man does it feel hollow. Trust me I'm glad we're winning, and I'm still cheering the boys on, but this is getting more and more confusing.

Part of me simply hopes for two more wins, pick up the pieces, and move on. The no-fun part is the offseason debate that I know will ensue. The stakes will be much higher next year as the margin for error is ever decreasing.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Week 12 ATS Picks

29-15-1 on the season after a 3-1 weeks last week.

Top 3 Plays for this week:

LSU at Ole Miss Under 56

Two good defenses and LSU hasn't shown the ability to score big on good defenses. 3:30 game with some field goals and hopefully no turnovers.

Idaho at Auburn Under 63.5

Auburn will have the ability to score in this game, I'm just not sure with their ground attack they can score in the high 40's / 50's. Idaho is absolutely abysmal and Auburn has a good defense.

UGA -13 vs. GA Southern

Yes, I'm taking the bait. Maybe for some reason Vegas thinks we are as awful as we may appear? Here's what I do know... UGA sees the option 1-2 times minimum per year. The players have seen it. GA Southern is good, but not their best team they've had in the last 5 years. I watched them play App State in full. Night game, good UGA defense, and hopefully a late 2 TD win.

Others for the card:

WV at Kansas Over 59

This one is early in the day, and Kansas can't score a ton, but WV can. I watched Baylor have to take their starting QB out against Kansas because they were up so much in the first half. Big WV lead, then KU comes back with some back door TDs.

Michigan State +13.5 vs. Ohio State

Everyone is down on the Buckeyes which may be wrong, but everyone is even more down on Sparty. Ohio State probably gets this win at home, but I feel this isn't the statement game for them, next week is vs. Michigan.

Don't Bet Baylor / OK State! Too many unknowns. People are undervaluing the fact that OK State had nearly 200 yards less and 15 first downs less than TCU in their big win. Baylor had too many turnovers in their loss to Oklahoma. Yes Baylor has a backup QB, and yes OK State is good. Still the metrics of turnovers have skewed they view on each recently, which leads me to stay way.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Georgia 20 Auburn 13 Recap

In what seemed like one of the most meaningless Georgia-Auburn games in recent memory, the Dawgs while somewhat lackluster gained a nice gutcheck win Saturday. Amidst everything that's happened this year it has still been nice to see two wins the last two weeks in lieu of what "could have happened".

The star of the day was obviously the defense. Auburn has been all over the map this year as to what offense will show up for them, what quarterback will play, questionable play calling, etc. honestly much like UGA has. After marching down easily to provide an opening score, the defense allowed two field goals the rest of the game. The turnovers from Auburn certainly helped, but after some questionable turnover margins in the last month it was great to see UGA have the 3-0 edge in that column. Auburn is going to get theirs at times on offense. In what seemed like fighting against a war of attrition, the defense buckled down when needed to do an overall great job. They faced a team that's pretty hard to gameplan for with so many varied looks and wrinkles. They executed well after the opening drive, and sitting in the stands you could actually see them start to build on their own momentum in the second half.

We had good pressure on the QB, and made solid tackles (most of the time). Some of my Auburn buddies commented on #84's play during the game, noting he looked like a man amongst boys. Parrish got his first pick, Davis had two recoveries, and they really started flying around that second half.

The defense did it's job to allow the offense to do just enough. Sitting high up in Jordan-Hare it seemed like I was watching a game filled with UGA trying to do everything in their power to gain 3 to 4 yards at a time. Every time a pass of around 7 yards was completed it seemed like it took everything in our power to get it done. There wasn't any downfield threat to speak of. What we did see was UGA realize their standard offense of running up the middle or throwing over the middle of the field wasn't going to work, and try to make adjustments to get the job done. Even on the lone offensive TD we had to sweep IMac out wide in order to gain a couple yards due to the inability to get it done up the gut. I think it's time we just acknowledge that Lambert is the best option... but it's not a great option. That option will feature an unlikelihood of big plays down the field. I think since Reggie Davis dropped the UT touchdown we haven't really had a big shot to a WR. We tried to throw across the field for a big one yesterday to an open receiver, but the ball took too much time to get their and was caught up in the wind.

Some of the wrinkles I did like...

Our tight ends actually exist! Both Blazevich and Rome had big catches when needed. Still don't understand how these guys aren't seeing more targets.

Throwing to the fullback. Payne's big gainer was reminiscent of the good old Bobo days where the FB provided an added option out of the backfield.

The wildcat. If we're going to be unable to throw for more than about 5 yards, it's not terrible to see some different playmakers like Godwin get the ball in their hands from the get go. Those two plays generated 7 yards a piece.

Brendan Douglas had a nice 3rd down reception when it was really needed.

It wasn't pretty on offense. We've come to accept that at this point. Luckily the D did their job and the offense did just enough to allow the big break to go our way with turnovers and the IMac return. By the way no one other than him should return punts from now on. He did a good job fair catching when he needed to, and when he was given the opportunity he had the most of it. He's a dynamic threat and it's evident we really missed him when he was out.

Good job Marshall Morgan. In a game where we had to control what we could, he was solid on two big field goals that ended up being really important. It was also pretty windy in JHS.

It was so strange to sit amongst UGA and Auburn folks and talk amongst ourselves that out of the six QBs on the teams, none seemed like a great option. Jeremy Johnson missed some throws that easily could have led to big Auburn plays. UGA didn't really try anything grandiose and stayed in chip away mode during the entirety of the game. I know we've had our issues this year, but take solace in the fact that Auburn is at the same if not worse point in their fanbase. Not so much at Gus, but noting that they are trending downward as well.

In the end, it was a good win when we needed it. It was ugly for both sides, but UGA avoided pressing to make the mistakes that would cost them, which allowed them to capitalize on Auburn's. For all the struggles we've had against Florida, Richt does seem to have Auburn's number. Amidst all this chaos of a season and ugly losses, we may still end up with the vanilla 10 win season we've begrudgingly become accustomed to. That sparks the next debate what should be done, but for now I'll just enjoy a victory. We really haven't had the opportunity to do anything special down the stretch, but so far have avoided the opportunity to provide reason to blow the thing up. More of the same for the next two weeks.

As an aside I once again enjoyed my trip to Auburn as always. Great fans, good times, and a great tailgate. The bus trip from Atlanta proved an awesome decision. Enjoying a few cold ones on the ride some sure felt better with a win under our belt.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Week 10 ATS Picks

26-14-1 on the season. 2-2 week last week.

Florida at South Carolina Under 46

The dreaded noon time slot and a hungry UF defense. Florida hasn't shown the ability to score a ton of points with Harris (unless UGA gives them to them), and SC offense should slow down vs. the Gators.

Texas at West Va Over 53

Took the WV Under 80 last week which hit, and now maybe we get an overvalue of defense from that game and the Texas defense. It's still a Big 12 game, and anytime I get one of those under 60 I'm taking the over.

Florida State -7.5 vs. NC State

This screams let down game for the Noles after last weeks loss to Clemson, but I think they rally here at home. NC State does have a decent offense, but I think the Noles bounce back.

Oklahoma State -13 at Iowa State

Betting into the trap after the huge win. Gambling 101 except I'm going against it here. People think after the big win there will be a let down in Iowa State but I am betting on Mike Gundy and his 100mph offense feeling disrespected by a #8 CFP ranking while undefeated. Push the pedal down Mike.

Interview with the Opponent: Auburn Fan Q&A

It's Auburn week, and Lord knows with me being in the Atlanta area there are tons of Auburn guys surrounding me. Heck, I lived with three of them in Buckhead (well I did until I got married two years ago). While some may have their issues with Auburn, it's a program close to home for me. It's a friendly game for me, as there are numerous tailgates that will welcome me with open arms, and it's an away game I really look forward to. I try to return the favor in Athens. For this interview  I reached out to my first boss, who is probably the most intense Auburn fan I've come across. This is the guy that kept my sanity at work, as work questions turned into 30 minute discussions on varied aspects of the college football world. Usually, we'd leave utterly exhausted from a screaming match with nothing accomplished. Tate is a unique case, as he opens up the debate I always wonder about. He grew up a diehard Auburn fan with family season tickets. Due to varied reasons he decided to attend UGA. While he likes the Dawgs, his heart has always stayed with Auburn, and they are still his number one team without doubt. Sure I give him a hard time for attending UGA but still cheering for Auburn, but being in his shoes it would be tough for me to think I could ditch the Dawgs with my background given the same situation.

 1. What is your affiliation with Auburn University?
My father graduated from AU and I’ve been going to games for as long as I can remember.  Section 52, Row 1.  Greatest place on earth to watch a football game.  I did not attend Auburn but it is and always will be in my blood.

2. What is your favorite memory during your time as an Auburn football fan (excluding any AU wins over UGA of course)?

There have been so many great memories.  So many special teams and special games.    But that night in the desert of Glendale, Arizona on January 10, 2011 when Auburn won the crystal ball and was crowned the best in the land was about as good as it gets.

What’s your favorite UGA / AU game you remember? 

In this space in previous years I’ve mentioned Cox to Aromoshadu in ‘05.  The “between the hoses” game in ’86.  The four overtime game on a frigid night in ’96 in JHS.  But the “Miracle at Jordan-Hare” is probably going to take up permanent residency going forward.  My brother flew down from Chicago that Friday, a last minute deal, to go with me to his first AU game in a couple of years.  It was already a special day because of that.  Early on it looked like we were running away with the game, but then UGA started to mount a comeback and cut the lead a little more to finally take a lead of their own.  That final “tip 6” was an amazing thing to watch live and I’ll never forget it.

4. So who is starting at QB? and who should we expect to see play QB throughout the game?

·        My guess is Jeremy Johnson is starting on Saturday.  Sean White has been limited in practice this week with the knee and not sure how available he will be.  If he is able to play then I expect to see both, but JJ gets the start since he is 100% healthy and coming off a strong performance against A&M.

5. What has been Auburn's temperature on Gus to this point in 2015?

·         Frustration is the best way to describe it.  This was a team the many predicted would win the SEC and make the playoff.  The biggest issue from the fan’s perspective has been the bizarre play calling.  We finally starting throwing it on first down in the A&M game last week but up to that point we were running it up the middle on first down at an 80% clip.  We should’ve just starting every possession at 2 and 9 because that’s what happened over and over again.  Big issue #2 is our abysmal red zone offense.  Luckily we have a good kicker because scoring TD’s in the red zone isn’t really our thing.  Again, strange play calling, very predictable, no creativity whatsoever.  Gus is supposed to be an offensive genius, right?  But with that said there is guarded optimism heading into the UGA game.  The first quarter last week looked like the Gus of old and the fans are excited and hopeful that we see more of the same on Saturday.

6. Who is a player we should take note of we may not know for Auburn?

·         #8 WR Tony Stevens.  I expect UGA to stack the box and force Auburn to throw the ball.  Ricardo Louis (yeah that Ricardo Louis…sorry Dawg fans) is clearly the #1 receiver but Tony Stevens is a guy that continues to see his opportunities and role increase as the season progresses.  

7. Where does AU have an advantage?

·       Admittedly I don’t know much about UGA’s special teams, but AU is in great shape in the kicking game.  If this is a close game as many have predicted a special teams play could mean the difference.

8. Where does UGA have an advantage?

·         As I am constantly reminded by my good friend and reader of the gottasupportem blog, Jeffrey Tippins, Mark Richt has owned Auburn of late.  Can AU reverse the trend?  TBD but you have to like the recent series trend if you’re a Dawg.

9. Final score prediction?

·         Auburn is coming off its best performance of the season by far and put up good fights in recent losses to Arkansas and Ole Miss.  The Tigers’ Defense is much improved over early in the season and offensively they may have turned the corner after last week.  In the 2013 National Championship game, Jeremy Pruitt sold out to stop the run and left the middle of the field wide open.  Had Auburn had a better passing threat that night, they beat FSU big.  If Pruitt runs a similar scheme this time, I think Jeremy Johnson and/or Sean White will light him up.  I expect a good fight late into the fourth quarter when AU throws a desperation deep ball that gets tipped….just kidding guys.  I like Auburn’s trajectory the last few weeks and feel like they are improving on both sides.  Auburn wins 27-20 and Cranny owes me Fogo de Chao.