The better (on paper) team doesn’t always win. What leads to these outcomes that don’t fit the narrative? The intangibles.
App State is a team that UGA should beat this week. We are a power five team and they are two years removed from FCS play. We recruit nationally and in one of the most talent rich states in the country. They recruit the players we “don’t want.” And this is why we should worry. If App State beats UGA, or makes it a close game, it is because of the intangibles. Did you know that App State has 18 players from the state of Georgia on the roster? Do you think these kids might have a chip on their shoulder? Did we mention that one of these Georgia boys is their senior quarterback looking for his 28th win as a starter?
App State is also the team that has the perception of being the giant killer following their 2007 win of Michigan in The Big House. Though that was many years ago, most haven’t forgotten it and they came close to doing it again last season against Tennessee. Georgia is certainly capable of a catastrophe or a tight one like Nicholls State.
Unlike App State, Georgia can point to a roster littered with future NFL talent and highly rated players coming out of high school, but what about our intangibles? After a frustrating 2016 season, it could have been justifiable for Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter, Davin Bellamy and Dominik Sanders to make the jump and forgo their senior years for the NFL but they have other plans. Their return to the program is bigger than just having one of the top running back duos in college football, experienced pass rushers, or a safety that starts the season just four interceptions away from the UGA career record. These guys are looked upon as leaders by the rest of the team, they set the level of expectation and demand others to perform up to standards. Coaches can only motivate a team so far; the great teams usually patrol themselves. The fact that these five guys saw enough in Coach Smart and his staff to return speaks volumes about the buy-in from within this team.
Let’s also talk about coaching, did you know this is the first year since 2013 that Georgia returns both its offensive and defensive coordinators from the previous year? Last year was the third straight season in which Georgia was forced to break in a new offensive scheme. Having both Mel Tucker and Jim Chaney back this year is significant for continuity and player development. The familiarity between the coaches and players should make for an improved product on the field.
Lastly, Kirby Smart’s relentless efforts on the recruiting trail have created one of the deeper Bulldog rosters in recent memory. Too many times in the past we would have a great starting 22 but little depth behind them. The increased competition for playing time should push our guys to reach their potential and resist complacency.
By Chuck McConnell & Graham Groseclose
Chuck and Graham are hosts of the Friday Morning Quarterbacks podcast on Bulldawg Illustrated On-Air.