After seeing some predictions on where the season may end up, I thought it was time to add my perspective by trying to see each game from the perspective of a glass half-full and half-empty and where I think we end up. I have mentioned previously that this team could be special or very average. To steal the phrase from Fox News, I present Ed’s fair and balanced predictions for the 2010 Georgia football season.
Game 1 – Louisiana-Lafayette, Sept. 4, Sanford Stadium
Why We Could Lose: If we come into this early start sleepwalking and get caught off-guard, we could find ourselves on the defensive. We’re playing a team where a win would make their season and inspire billboards like this:
We would have to turn the ball over multiple times and the defense play extremely poorly for us to lose, but anything is possible.
Why We Could Win: We have better talent, better coaching, and tradition on our side. Georgia, under Coach Richt, has lost 2 regular season, non-conference games in 9 years (last year on the road to OSU and in 2008 at home to Georgia Tech). LA-La has never beaten an SEC opponent.
What Will Happen: I think we’ll come out ready to play but hesitant to show much on either offense with a new quarterback or defense with a new, attacking 3-4 scheme. Ealey and King go over 100 yards each, and Aaron Murray passes for 200 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Don’t be surprised if the freshman throws a pick. The defense will generally play vanilla schemes and force a couple of turnovers based on athleticism. The fans will stay until they find out who will back up Murray. My bet is that Hutson Mason gets his first taste of college football midway through the 3rd quarter. Final score: Georgia 41, Louisiana-Lafayette 10.
Game 2 – South Carolina, Sept. 11, Williams-Brice Stadium
Why We Could Lose: The other USC has one of the most experienced teams returning in the SEC this year. They add a stud freshman running back in Marcus Lattimore. It will be as hot as Hades in Columbia for a 12:00 start. Darth Visor would love to get a step up on us in the SEC East race. Our quarterback is starting his first SEC game on the road, and our defense is facing an offense that put up 37 on us at home last year. Most importantly, South Carolina considers Georgia their most important rival after Clemson while this game is 5th on our list this year.
Why We Could Win: Georgia has not lost in Columbia in 10 years, and that loss was the result of Quincy Carter’s 5 interceptions and Jim Donnan’s refusal to bench him. Their offensive line has been Spurrier’s Achilles’ heel because he hasn’t been able to do what he did at Florida by stretching the field with the intermediate and deep passing game and running underneath. They scored 37 last year as a result of turnovers and our offensive mistakes not because they were dominant on offense. This game is one where our returning offensive line needs to take charge as they did last year against Georgia Tech.
What Will Happen: I believe that the Georgia coaching staff especially on defense has been planning for this game all summer. Everyone knows what the Evil Genius wants to do on offense. We will see Coach Grantham’s GATA style early and often. Coach Lakatos coached against Stephen Garcia last year in the Gamecocks’ bowl game where Connecticut embarrassed South Carolina. Justin Houston didn’t play in last year’s game, and we did not get consistent pressure on the quarterback. Garcia won’t be so lucky this year. This game is going to be a defensive slugfest as most Georgia-South Carolina games have been over the last decade. South Carolina native A.J. Green makes a play late, and Georgia wins a close one. Final Score: Georgia 17, South Carolina 13
Game 3 – Arkansas, Sept. 18, Sanford Stadium
Why We Could Lose: Arkansas returns the best quarterback prospect in the SEC this year in Ryan Mallett. Bobby Petrino has brought his style of offensive football to the league, and they are very dangerous. Last year, they put up 41 against us in a loss in Fayette Nam. This game will likely be the most difficult challenge our new defense faces all year especially given the early part of the year this game is being played. Our offense may not be able to keep up with Arkansas with a young quarterback. If we get behind early as we did last year, we probably won’t be able to come back.
Why We Could Win: We scored 52 on them in their place last year, and they have most of those players on defense coming back. Petrino has proven everywhere he’s been that he’s clueless when it comes to preparing a defense to play. Richard Samuel got 100 yards against them last year, and now he plays linebacker. Our running game and offensive line should control the tempo of this game. Mallett has had trouble playing on the road in hostile environments. If we’re 2-0 coming in, Sanford will be a hostile environment.
What Will Happen: I’m afraid this game is going to be a shoot-out, and we are going to have to make plays on offense to keep up with Arkansas. Ealey and King will continue to do their thing and combine for 150 yards rushing, and Murray should be able to find his playmakers on the outside. This game comes down to turnovers and special teams. We beat them last year with a negative turnover margin. Regression to the mean in that statistic and our significant edge in special teams should provide the difference. Final Score: Georgia 38, Arkansas 30.
Game 4 – Mississippi State, Sept. 25, Scott Field
Why We Could Lose: After 2 hard-fought SEC games, Georgia heads to StarkVegas to play an up-and-coming Mississippi State team. Dan Mullen brought the spread option to the SEC successfully at Florida and is building his team to run the spread. The Mississippi Cow College crowd will be ready for a visit from the SEC’s real Bulldogs. This game will be the first time we see Coach Grantham’s 3-4 against a spread offense in a preview of Halloween weekend in Jacksonville. Mississippi State has not had problems on defense. If we think that we can just roll the ball out there and win, we will be in for a long night in the Mississippi backwoods.
Why We Could Win: The “Bizarro Dogs” haven’t beaten us literally in decades. I was there as a six-year-old in Jackson, Mississippi in 1974. Of course, we haven’t played them often over the years, but you get the picture. We have deeper and better talent across the board in all three phases of the game. Georgia has lost two away games in conference to teams from the SEC West (Auburn’s 13-0 team in 2004 and LSU’s 2005 national championship team in Baton Rouge) in the Richt era.
What Will Happen: The Mississippi State fans and media will hype this game as a “goal post” moment in Starkville. The last time that happened, Georgia hung 60+ on Kentucky in Lexington in 2002 on the way to an SEC championship. If people remember, the first half of that game was tough as I expect this one will be. In the 2nd half, our talent takes over the game as Georgia wins going away. The defense wins this game by shutting down Mullen’s spread option. Mississippi State has no answer for A.J. Green, Orson Charles, and our running game. Final Score: Georgia 31, Mississippi State 17.
Game 5 – Colorado, Oct. 2, Folsom Field
Why We Could Lose: We scraped by to beat the Buffaloes in Athens in 2006 needing the Ginger Assassin to relieve a future overall #1 draft pick to lead Georgia to a 4th quarter comeback win. Dan Hawkins probably remembers that game more than his visit to Athens in 2005 with Boise State. After 3 conference games in a row and cross-country travel to altitude in Boulder, I don’t know what to expect from our team. If we’re 4-0 at this point, our team may also be looking ahead to a revenge match with Orange Nation the next week. A lot of variables and the breaks could go against us in the Rockies and find us returning back to earth upset by an inferior, out-of-conference opponent.
Why We Could Win: The 5th year seniors will be the only players who remember the scare we got in 2006, and they will remind their teammates of the struggle we had with a truly pathetic Colorado team that year. We will have superior talent across the board and will have extra time to acclimate to the altitude since the game has been moved to the late afternoon. Also, a large portion of the Bulldog Nation is planning to make the trip west for this game like the Arizona State game two years ago. We may be able to make Boulder a neutral site like we did in Tempe.
What Will Happen: Georgia takes the “business trip” approach as they did for the Arizona State game and wins easily. It won’t be flashy and pretty for the pollsters, but we will likely be able to control the line of scrimmage. Blair Walsh breaks Kevin Butler’s record with a 60+ yard field goal, and Drew Butler punts one out of the stadium. The game won’t be as close as the score indicates, and the Dawgs move to 5-0 with a workman-like victory in soon to be Pac-10 land. Final Score: Georgia 30, Colorado 10.
Game 6 – Tennessee, Oct. 9, Sanford Stadium
Why We Could Lose: 45-19, should I say more? The worst loss of the Richt era last year on the banks of the Cumberland River was the downfall of Third & Willie. The hype of Derek Dooley returning to the stadium where his father walked the sidelines for 25 years serves as a distraction. We’re playing our sixth game in a row without a bye week. Tennessee looks to this game as their season since they have no shot at beating Alabama or Florida this year. We come out flat like we did in 2008 against Alabama after a cross-country trip to play an out-of-conference opponent.
Why We Could Win: We are better than Tennessee this year without a doubt. We will attack Tennessee’s offense in so many different directions that they probably won’t know what hit them. We have the revenge factor on our side following last year’s woodshed beating. We should dominate the special teams in this game as we did last year with a blocked punt for a safety and Brandon Boykin’s 2nd 100-yard kick-off return. The home crowd will be into the game wanting atonement for last year’s debacle on Rocky Top.
What Will Happen: This game should go similar to Georgia’s victory in 2008 where the game was never in doubt, but we also never pulled away from them to win comfortably. Unless Tennessee finds a quarterback who can run the show, I think they will have trouble consistently moving the ball against our defense. This game will likely be the 1st where we have trouble running the football the way we want to control the clock and field position. The big question will be whether Bacarri Rambo gets a clean shot on Da’Rick Rogers as he comes over the middle. Special teams and turnovers make the difference in a Georgia win. Final Score: Georgia 21, Tennessee 9.
Game 7 –Vanderbilt, Oct. 16, Sanford Stadium
Why We Could Lose: If we’re 6-0 at this point, we may come into this game without focus. A likely SEC Network 12:00 start will keep the crowd quiet, and Vanderbilt stays with Georgia early. A Vanderbilt team that has beaten us in Athens recently grows in confidence and finds a way to control the clock and keep our offense off the field. Our freshman quarterback makes a couple of mistakes, and we fall behind. Vandy plays us like their season depends on it, and we’re tired after an emotional game the week before.
Why We Could Win: Like Mississippi State, we have better athletes across the board than Vandy. Last year, A.J. Green ran through their entire team to take a one-yard pass the distance for an early touchdown to remove any hope they had of competing with us. Our offensive line should be dominant in this game, and Aaron Murray should have a very clean jersey at the end of the game. Coach Belin knows Vandy’s talent and will devise a plan to address it. Bottom line is we’re Georgia and they’re Vandy. We should play like it.
What Will Happen: I think this game will be like the 2002 edition where the Ray Guy Award winner sits on the bench while the 1st team offense is still on the field. We will score early and often by ground and by air. We see Brandon Bogotay kick-off a number of times to keep Walsh’s leg from getting tired. Once again, Ealey and King both go over 100 yards, and Mason gets a lot of plays at quarterback. Georgia cruises to 7-0 with back-to-back revenge games on the horizon. Final Score: Georgia 52, Vanderbilt 13.
Game 8 – Kentucky, Oct. 23, Commonwealth Stadium
Why We Could Lose: We come out with something to prove after last year’s 2nd half nightmare on Senior Night in Athens and lose our composure with penalties and mistakes. Kentucky is 2-2 against over the last four years including a win and a near-miss in Lexington. Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke are still playing for Big Blue. Midnight Madness hasn’t happened yet, and the Kentucky fan base is still interested in football. We’re in the Top 10 and mentioned as a national title contender and looking ahead to the Cocktail Party to clinch the SEC East the following week. We’re ripe for an upset.
Why We Could Win: Georgia has not two in a row to Kentucky in over 40 years. Last year was a fluke due to turnovers and a meltdown in the 2nd half, and we still should have won the game in overtime. If we’re focused and ready to play for 60 minutes, UK should have no chance against us. This game is the type that Richt brought Coach Grantham to Athens. If you don’t show up in the NFL week in and week out, you get beat. The new defensive staff will remind the team of this early and often during preparations.
What Will Happen: The combination of Ealey and King and our offensive line control the game and open up passing lanes for Murray and company. The kid who torched Willie in the 2nd half will not know when the next blitz comes and we force multiple negative plays. Don’t be surprised if Locke and Cobb break a play on offense or special teams to keep the game closer than the statistics appear. Another game where we “regress to the mean,” and the Georgia crowd enjoys a win and the ponies at Keeneland. Final Score: Georgia 34, Kentucky 27.
Game 9 – Florida, Oct. 30, Jacksonville Municipal Stadium
Why We Could Lose: 3-16. We have developed the same mental block about Jacksonville that the hated Gators had prior to 1990 when they wanted to move the game to home-and-home. The game in 1992 still irks me because we should have beaten the Gators like a drum that year. A phantom time-out in 1993 kept us from going for two after an apparent touchdown in a driving rainstorm where my car had to be towed from the Gator Bowl parking lot due to a flooded starter. Our bed-wetting in 2002 kept us from playing for a national championship. 2005 hurts because of D.J. Shockley’s injury the prior week kept him from playing in a game where we certainly would have been favored. The last 2 years have been difficult because we looked like we had gone back to the days of Goff and Donnan where we looked like we had no business being on the field with them.
Why We Could Win: Both teams have significant question marks entering the season that will be answered by the time the teams meet in Jacksonville likely for the SEC East crown. Aaron Murray should prove to be the real deal at quarterback. The transition to and learning curve with Grantham’s 3-4 should be in the rear view mirror, and the defense should be getting back to its Junkyard Dawg roots. Our secondary should be proving the adage that sometimes addition occurs through subtraction. Across the board, we have the same quality of talent our Gator overlords have, and we should be able to go toe-to-toe with them.
What Will Happen: I can’t get a feel for what is going to happen in this game. John Brantley is likely to be as good as advertised but probably not the leader that Tim Tebow was. The Gators will probably find a running game, but I don’t think it will be as potent as it has the last four years. The Gator defense will have a lot of talent but will be transitioning to a 3-4 as we are. I think this game comes down to intangibles, and I’m afraid I think I know what that means. We come back north with a blemish on our schedule after a hard-fought game in Jacksonville. The Jacksonville City Council better hope the new contract is approved before this one is played because the Georgia people will howl for a change in venue if we lose. Final Score: Florida 24, Georgia 21.
Game 10 – Idaho State, Nov. 6, Sanford Stadium
Why We Could Lose: I’m sorry, but even if we had to play our 2nd and 3rd team and non-redshirt scout teamers, these guys have no chance in Athens. I can’t imagine a scenario where we could possibly lose this game.
Why We Could Win: See above. If we lost this game, I would call for Coach Richt’s firing, and I’m his biggest fan.
What Will Happen: Maybe we bring a “Blackout” back just to make it interesting for the fans. We’ll be able to name the score in this one. I have a feeling that the coaches will need to build the team back up after the prior week and will essentially let everyone except the Water Girl and the redshirts play in this game. I hate these match-ups, but Georgia wins. Final Score: Georgia 55, Idaho State 3.
Game 11 – Auburn, Nov. 20, Jordan-Hare Stadium
Why We Could Lose: Auburn is on the wrong end of a 4-game losing streak in the South’s Oldest Rivalry. I would think they are “fearing the thumb” going into this game in late November. The Auburn offense led by Cameron Newton will probably be clicking on all eight cylinders and will pose a significant challenge for our defense. They jumped on us early last year, and if that happens again, I’m not sure we will be able to dig out of an early hole. The War Eagle/Tigers/Plainsmen will want to turn this game into a fast-paced shootout where they believe they can outscore us.
Why We Could Win: Right now, we have Auburn’s number going back to the unexpected beatdown we put on them on the Plains in 2006 when they were #5 in the country and we were unranked and reeling. I played golf instead of watching the game online that day and couldn’t believe the result when I got home that afternoon. If we play to our potential, we should win because we have more talent than Auburn does at this point. This game will probably be another where our change in scheme to a more attacking style should serve us well.
What Will Happen: This game will be the typical nail-biter when we play Auburn. Strange things and great games seem to happen when we play the Tigers in Auburn like in 1982 (“Look at the Sugar falling from the sky”)
1986 (“between the hoses”), 1992 (the game ends with the ball on Georgia 1), 1996 (the first SEC overtime game), and 2002 (“70-X Takeoff”). Notice the common theme of all of these games – all Georgia wins. I don’t think this year will be any different, and we’ll start counting on our other hand in 2011. Final Score: Georgia 31, Auburn 28.
Game 12 – Georgia Tech, Nov. 27, Sanford Stadium
Why We Could Lose: With Chan Gailey’s departure, Paul Johnson has added spice to what is already “Clean Old-Fashioned Hate.” His advice to Tech fans to punch Georgia fans in the face after our glorious win last year was typical Tech geek trash-talking. The North Avenue Trade School will likely come in with something to prove last year and will be in contention for the ACC championship. Tech would like nothing better than to spoil our chance to get an at-large BCS bid. Their offense is quirky and difficult to defend. I hope Grantham has watched a lot of Georgia Tech film over the summer and has his game plan in place.
Why We Could Win: 8 out of 9. Just as the Gators are in our heads, we hold the same edge over Tech. If the game is close, they know we’ll find a way to beat them late. I think Tech will get their rushing yards, but they don’t have a Bay-Bay Thomas that can stretch the field. We will be able to have a balanced offense likely gaining over 200 yards rushing and passing. With the clear edge we will have in the kicking game and a home crowd that remembers 2008, Georgia should have the edge in intangibles.
What Will Happen: While I personally would love to see another 51-7 woodshed beating, this game will likely go late into the 2nd half. This game will likely come down to our ability to contain Josh Nesbitt and the triple option. Grantham hasn’t seen the option in a long time and will probably have to try multiple strategies to contain it. We should be able to score points and put pressure on the Tech offense to keep up with us. The bottom line is “WE RUN THIS STATE!” Final Score: Georgia 37, Georgia Tech 28.
I think we have a legitimate chance to go 11-1 and get either an at-large BCS bid or spend New Year’s Day in Orlando. Either would be a very successful season in my mind and would position us for a championship run in 2011. We could easily lose a game or two more and find ourselves knocked down a couple of notches.
Three weeks to go, September 4 can’t get here quickly enough.
I would love to get your thoughts in the comments section below.