WINTER IS COMING
Like the movie Groundhog Day, another year, another hope for UGA fans that this could indeed be The Year. While the “Disney Dawgs” are always optimistic, the 2014-15 season could finally be the year Mark Richt brings a ship to back to Athens.
It’s the Schedule, Stupid!
For seven of the last eight years, the road to the National Championship has gone through the SEC title game. With the myriad teams that would be considered championship contenders, getting to The SEC Championship Game can often come down to who you play AND where you play them. UGA’s schedule, on paper, is favorable compared to last year’s. This season’s opener against “Clemmy” won’t be played in Clemson, but Between the Hedges– where the Dawgs enjoy one of the best home venues in football. Last year at home the Dawgs defeated a loaded LSU team that could put up points with the best of them. But they also had to travel and play an Auburn team that made a deal with the Devil in Jordan Hare. However (by far) the most important scheduling factor is that this year the Dawgs avoid the Big Two from the SEC West (LSU & Alabama) and face Auburn at home, where Auburn has struggled mightily in recent years. And while the Dawgs do go to South Carolina, this year’s schedule could hardly be called daunting by typical SEC standards and as we have seen, a favorable schedule is half the battle.
Death, taxes, and Coach Richt offenses
Seemingly every year Richt features a strong offense. This year figures to be no different. While you can’t underestimate the contribution of Aaron Murray, UGA brings back 5th year senior Hutson Mason (whom many a fringe fan argued should have been starting over Murray for years). Now fans shouldn’t expect Mason to duplicate Murray’s records but they shouldn’t expect much of a drop off. Mason set his own passing records at Lassiter High in suburban Atlanta. And for a few years now we have heard from coaches and players that Mason was good enough to man the QB position.
UGA returns a WR group that many have rated the best in the SEC if not the country. The WR unit stands to be as good as last year’s and likely better with the return of Malcolm Mitchell who was lost on the first play of offense in the first game last season. Mitchell is UGA’s best WR and will provide a big boost to an already loaded unit.
UGA also brings back the best RB in the country in Todd Gurley– that should be enough to instill fear in the hearts of opponents. Further, the UGA backfield will feature three 5-star talents (stud Keith Marshall returns with additions Nick Chubb and Sony Michel). Of the Big 4 RBs, Todd Gurley was the lowest rated RB of the bunch. Safe to say, RB will be a strength in Athens this year. With a QB that has been in the system for years and WR/RB units that will challenge for best in the country, it’s expected that the UGA offense will continue to stress scoreboard circuits.
The Pruitt Factor
This year fans will be introduced to new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt– the man that has coached the last two national championship defenses. This man is so single-mindedly devoted to football he’s never even heard of the wonders of asparagus:
Georgia’s Ex-defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham, was known to have one of the most complex defenses in football. Former UGA players remarked that their NFL playbooks were smaller than Grantham’s. This complexity often manifested itself during play, as defensive backs waved their hands in wild confusion, as if they’d caught the holy ghost while opposing wide receivers flew by them. A biblical reference is appropriate since Bulldog fans often prayed when the defense was out on the field.
Enter Coach Jeremy Pruitt. Having a background in high school football, CJP is known for his emphasis on fundamentals and execution. Coach Pruitt is a proven commodity that will do wonders with UGA’s talented defense. This is a team that arguably has the best front seven in football coming back. Repeated 3rd and long failures (of which there were MANY) point to mental breakdowns in the secondary. Coaches like Todd Grantham believe football should be taught at a doctorate level; Coach Pruitt believes football is a simple game of who executes better. If the players can’t execute a play then that play will not be called. Don’t count on The Pruitt Factor making the Dawgs a dominant defense in year one. But do count on a vastly improved defense that will make offenses work. This new defense, combined with an offense that will score points should be enough to put the Dawgs in championship contention.
The Law of Averages
Last year, after a promising start, UGA seemingly suffered every possible injury a football team can. Just on the offensive side of the ball, UGA lost for the season: Keith Marshall, Malcolm Mitchell, and Justin Scott-Wesley. QB Aaron Murray and WRs Chris Conley and Michael Bennett all missed multiple games. Even the seemingly unstoppable Todd Gurley missed playing time equivalent to five full games. The 2013-14 Dawgs were a team with a loaded offense and pitiful defense. When they won they were outscoring teams with a myriad of offensive weapons. When those weapons were missing due to injury, UGA was left with an offensive side that was talented but inexperienced. As a result UGA became a team with a decent offense and still pitiful defense. This dynamic (or lack thereof) contributed to many of UGA’s losses.
Football is a funny game. Success often hinges on the lucky bounce of a ball. UGA is unlikely to suffer the injuries they suffered last year and at the very least the offense can’t expect to suffer the same loss of talent it did in 2013. A simple regression to the mean would leave many more weapons at offensive coordinator Mike Bobo’s disposal than were available last year.
Playoffs! You Talking About Playoffs!?
There is no other team in the country that will benefit from a playoff format more than UGA. Coach Richt’s teams have been characterized by slow starts to the season (usually an early loss) that build into late season hot streaks. (Think 2011, when the Dawgs dropped the first two games before ripping off ten straight wins.) This format is usually not conducive for placing a team in a single national championship game, but with three top 5 finishes (along with five top 7 finishes) Richt’s teams would have been well positioned to be one of the four seeded teams had a playoff system been in place. Richt’s pattern of finishes, coupled with the strength of the SEC give UGA a good shot of making the playoffs. Once you are in the playoffs you have as good a shot of winning as the other three teams.
Richt the Momma Dawg
When a well known Atlanta radio host asked Coach Richt about Aaron Murray’s lack of ability to win big games, I saw a fire in Richt I’d never seen before. You could see the anger in his eyes that an adult would insinuate that one of his best players was a choker (as if the guy setting conference records was the problem…). From that moment, I sensed a change in Richt. He seemed less satisfied and more driven. He seems determined to not have to answer any questions about his players not winning the big one. For the first time, Richt openly talks about his desire to win a championship. Richt’s motivation has always been questioned by a certain set of fans. While this may be overblown, a motivated Richt would put UGA in the best possible position to win a National Championship.
My perfect woman is kind, warm,
Beloved by friends,
Her empathy knows no bounds,
She inspires no hatred,
Her energy is kinetic,
She makes my mind race,
When I’m not with her,
I desire to be near her,
Her hair flows,
But I don’t want to sweat,
Maybe a little,
Great with beer,
Cost is key,
Happy hour specials are best,
Essential for watching football,
Must be deep fried,
Can be dry rubbed,
But my God,
So much better soaked in a buttery hot sauce,
Smothering under a blanket of creamy blue cheese,
I want to DEVOUR,
I AM SO FUCKING HUNGRY
The Verge has the complete list of Kanye West samples you didn’t even know you needed.
Like a lot of people around the country, I’ve been intently following the crisis in Ferguson, MO since the killing of teenager Michael Brown. There’s been no shortage of commentary surrounding the events; both around the deadly confrontation between Brown and Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, as well as the ensuing protests and police reaction. It’s been fascinating to read and watch the reactions pour in. Some expected, some not. Here is a round-up of the best commentary so far.
Rembert Browne with a first hand account of the protests:
I kept running. I didn’t know where I was running, but I was running. Now there were explosions and sirens and smoke and gunshots and a helicopter shining its light through the neighborhood. We scattered like roaches, and I couldn’t help but wonder if the cops thought of us that way. — “The Front Lines of Ferguson”
Ta-Nehisi Coates on “changing the subject” and black on black crime:
Let’s all get together and talk about how Mike Brown would still be alive if Beyoncé would make more wholesome music, followed by a national forum on how the charge of “acting white” contributes to mass incarceration. We can conclude with a keynote lecture on “Kids Today” and a shrug. — “Black People are Not Ignoring Black on Black Crime”
Joel Anderson on the Ferguson community and its conflicting views on race relations:
“This whole thing is getting blown out of proportion,” said a white resident. — “Is Race an Issue in Ferguson? Depends On Whom You Ask?”
The Guardian profiles the supporters of officer Wilson:
While the crowds protesting in Ferguson have been predominantly African American, all but one of the demonstrators showing their support for Wilson were white. A stack of dark blue T-shirts, on sale for $7 and bearing a police-style badge stating: “Officer Darren Wilson – I stand by you,” quickly sold out. — “Ferguson Police Officer was ‘Doing His Job’ Say Supporters”
A story in Politico about a white father whose son was killed by a police officer and how the father fought for justice:
Yes, there is good reason to think that many of these unjustifiable homicides by police across the country are racially motivated. But there is a lot more than that going on here. Our country is simply not paying enough attention to the terrible lack of accountability of police departments and the way it affects all of us—regardless of race or ethnicity. — “What I Did After Police Killed My Son”
Republican Senator Rand Paul on the “militarization” of the police and the need for criminal justice reform:
Given these developments, it is almost impossible for many Americans not to feel like their government is targeting them. Given the racial disparities in our criminal justice system, it is impossible for African-Americans not to feel like their government is particularly targeting them. — “We Must Demilitarize the Police
Matt Lewis on the growing disillusion with the police among conservatives:
In recent years, conservative opinion leaders have been more willing to question authority. They’re more skeptical of the police and the military, and don’t just accept everything these institutions do as being in service of their “protect and serve” purposes. And the way conservative opinion leaders have reacted to Ferguson illustrate this reordering. — “How Ferguson Made Conservatives Lose Faith in the Police”
Jamilah King on the usefulness of a “perfect victim”:
These tidbits are an obvious distraction from the most urgent matter: a police officer’s killing of an unarmed young man. — “Michael Brown and the Danger of the Perfect Victim Frame”
A look at the Pew study detailing the wide gulf between blacks and whites and their views on Ferguson:
… these kinds of numbers were all too predictable, as they have been repeated over and over in high-profile situations like those involving O.J. Simpson, Rodney King and Trayvon Martin — in large part because black and white Americans have vastly different views of the biases of the American criminal justice system. — “African Americans are Concerned About Ferguson. Whites are Not”
Gene Demby writes about how the Ferguson community is dealing with the intensity of the national spotlight:
One dude walks up to Jackson and daps him up. “Reverend Al!” he says. “What up!” Everyone snickers. Jackson does not correct him. — “In Ferguson, MO., a City Meets the Spotlight”
Ezra Klein on the frustration with Barack Obama among the first black president’s supporters:
If Obama’s speeches aren’t as dramatic as they used to be, this is why: the White House believes a presidential speech on a politically charged topic is as likely to make things worse as to make things better. It is as likely to infuriate conservatives as it is to inspire liberals. And in a country riven by political polarization, widening that divide can take hard problems and make them impossible problems. — “Why Obama Won’t Give the Ferguson Speech His Supporters Want”
CNN anchor Jake Tapper is incredulous regarding the Ferguson PD’s show of force: