Han Vance on Georgia football: Successful Saturday in Bluegrass country on so many levels. For those looking for my football culture and travel article on the trip, it will run early Thursday here at Bulldawg Illustrated and get lots of shares by myself, my main road dog Merv Waldrop and others.
Let’s talk sport here, first. The University of Georgia swept the SEC East in college football for only the second time ever in 2018, the first time being in 2017. Over two full seasons of divisional play, Georgia is controlling its division better than any major program in the country. This should not be minimized. No SEC East team came within less than a full 14 point final over the whole timeframe.
Under the winningest coach in school history by percentage, Kirby Smart, Georgia has run coaches off at the University of Tennessee, who were having a small and short peak again under Butch Jones into the 2016 season, and the University of Florida, who won the SEC East in 2015 and 2016. Tennessee has some major growth obstacles to overcome in coming close to catching back up but still has a huge and mostly-loyal fanbase and 12 SEC titles – Georgia has the same number (tied for second in SEC history to the evil empire). Florida has twice the state population of Georgia and is one of the top five recruiting states in the nation: Georgia, Florida, Texas, California, Louisiana.
Dominating the only other legit programs in the weaker division of the league, Georgia was also strong enough to win the whole SEC, over an Auburn team that smashed Alabama for the SEC West.
Newsflash: Georgia was the better team in the last national championship game. Mistakes were made. I honestly have to classify that L as a major choke. I had picked Georgia to win the SEC and lose at Auburn and then be in the position it was in, and it happened. “Next time you are up on them,” an old FSU fan advised, “step on their throats.” By the way, Saban is…a yankee.
Dawgs and their coaching staff were in unfamiliar territory and did not know how to finish and let them get up. I give much more blame to “US” and a less than matured winner’s mentality than I do credit to “THEM” – I’m right. That was not close to their best team. Saban, for his part, said any number of good coaches would have made a quarterback switch because it was his team’s only chance (a long shot at the time), at winning against the more talented-with-upperclassmen team. Roquan Smith, Chubb/Sony and Isaiah Wynn were better than their older guys, an opinion of mine confirmed by the shiniest UGA NFL draft ever shortly thereafter and an opportunity-based #1 recruiting class.
This season, though, Ol’ Georgia has the youngest team in the whole SEC, led mostly by the talent from the #3 (sophomores and redshirt freshmen) and #1 (true freshmen) ranked national classes. Meaning many mistakes will be made.
Youth is why I picked Georgia (in the preseason) to lose at LSU. Team looked to come in untested, did, and got outplayed on the road and quite drastically out-coached that day. A common comparison I keep hearing is of correlating the Georgia-LSU game to the Bama-LSU game. LSU talks a good game but was nowhere near mentally ready to beat Alabama Saturday, without an explosive offense. Same old story. They have lost to them for eight straight years and will lose to them next year, too. LSU had already lost to Florida, for those with short memories, who lost to Georgia in an utterly demoralizing fashion.
Anything beyond an 11-1 regular season is just gravy, as the young team will mature over the next two years, each a legitimate national championship opportunity. But Georgia is showing serious signs of becoming a power running football team this season. Don’t get to 11-1 on accident, Georgia has been favored in every game this season and will be favored to win the next three in Athens. Georgia has not lost at all Between the Hedges since the final home game of 2016, a second consecutive road win in Athens by the North Avenue Trade School. It is big, old rivalry time, again.
SWOLYFIELD, which I coined (and copyrighted), is a thing now. The excellent duo each had a career high at (then #9) Kentucky, in the biggest game in at least two decades in Lexington. They don’t understand football tailgating (I will elaborate), but the team defense at Kentucky came in leading the nation in points allowed at 13 three-fourths of the way through a season. It was their unlucky number.
I picked Georgia 27-17 and was on again, with the final a slightly better 34-17.
D’Andre Swift had no career 100-yard games two weeks ago and now has them in back-to-back games against ranked defense-first teams away from home. He went for 156 and is showing amazing cutting ability and vision in finding holes. A patient runner with a knack for finding creases and being shifty, he has a nose for the end zone and, when at his best, reminds me of (Gator) Emmitt Smith. Playing behind an underclassmen line, with groin and foot injuries, it understandably took some time to gel.
Elijah Holyfield is a tank, he is a truck, he is the New Deal. Coming right at you, they provide a good change of pace in that their running styles are so different. He also cracked a hundred. After combining for 175 key yards on 32 carries in Jacksonville, the leading rushers helped Georgia run for well over 300 yards as a team in Kentucky.
The wildcard element of long, athletic Justin Fields needs to be fully developed now if Georgia plans to win the SEC. He must throw some, too, to create space and add possibilities. What I many weeks ago called the biggest collision course in the nation happens December 1st in Atlanta, a short train zip from my townhouse, after a quick walk through America’s only major urban forest. Nobody else is willing to do it, so I will be the one. Give me GEORGIA. I don’t see Fromm taking that old L well. Perfect leader for a running team, he is selfless and refuses to let his team settle.
Running teams are always at an advantage over any passing team. Continue to be the hammer and go out and nail them, Dawgs. Alabama loses a big game every year. It can happen in Atlanta, if the powerful mentality of belief exists and the will to win is undeniable. WE are Running Back U.