Han Vance on Georgia football: The Bulldogs begin play with Tigers teams at Mizzou in America’s heartland at noon on Saturday. Stellar quarterback Drew Lock and his big, talented receivers easily equating to the biggest challenge for the program over the first six games of the season.
While Bulldawg Illustrated print issue cover hyperbole to not look back when facing mid-major MTSU at home was proved ridiculous, as it first appeared to me – the Georgia third and fourth strings alone could have quite handily won that (non-) contest in ten-of-ten tries; Vandy blew them out – this is an actual dicey spot for the Dawgs that I’ve been on alert for since last spring. The annual point yield (24: 0, 17, 7) could easily double, and the Dawgs may need to continue to score 40+ to win.
Consider the Chickens: 12th in the SEC in offense in 2017 and UGA wholly owns Muschamp save a lone beatdown that featured nothing but runs. Georgia fans don’t know misery in the series with their far-flung SEC East opponent, having never lost there, escaping with a last second win two years ago after falling in a hole. Another year, last year, another hole to climb out of; you don’t keep repeatedly doing that, not indefinitely. Georgia lost to Missouri (in Athens), once, when their wideouts across the board had way too much size for the UGA defensive backs, and the line could not protect the passer. It could happen again.
Since 1915, no Georgia team has started a football season so dominantly. Few have played such weak teams. I had Georgia #1 in my CFP briefly, barely ahead of a less-tested Bama, coming off the big divisional road win. South Carolina winning nine times last year and ranked (for a week) and considered the biggest threat to UGA in the diluted SEC East, by most prognosticators. After week 3, I have to have Georgia fall all the way out of the top four. Keep in mind, the CFP is NOT poll rankings and the polls are, as far as relevancy, invalidated once the CFP starts slotting teams. Strength of schedule matters immensely. Seeing what Alabama did in Oxford (our final score against a non-conference fluff school was the same as their halftime lead on the road in-league), I slid them ahead of Georgia. Back to #1, based on the eye test in wins over Louisville (ACC, neutral site) and an SEC West team. I slot Ohio State at #2 with a big win over the Big 12’s second-favorites (TCU, in Texas). LSU surges to #3 with an easy win over Miami (ACC, neutral site) and a massive one-point win at Auburn, who I still have solidly in my CFP top 10 after beating Washington (the Pac-12 favorite). The division will not be doing UGA any favors, and Tech has lost two straight. Giving Georgia a #5 projection today is literally me being a homer, based on what they have accomplished versus who. South Carolina, by the way, has no precedent of continued success as a program. Missouri is a superior program, in history. Clemson hangs at my #4, based much on their recent track record of making the CFP and winning the ACC every year. Georgia is still a one-year wonder to-date and has little room for error this season, much less than last year. Even then I feel the team would have been locked out without winning the SEC, even without getting blown out at Auburn. Don’t expect any favors from the college football playoff committee.
- Ohio State
- Miss State
Subject to change weekly, Georgia with a nice chance to further cement status as kings of the SEC East in the next two weeks.
Dawgs surely need to repeat as SEC champs to get in and can probably suffer no more than a single loss. This league generally does not have back-to-back champions, not often at all. And Miss State, LSU, Alabama, Auburn are each legit contenders, and Georgia could have to face three of them. Sweeping at Mizzou, at LSU and Auburn still looks daunting to me, but a lone defeat is surmountable. Maybe. The team’s play looks strong.
Not Peyton Manning, not Eric Zeier or Aaron Murray, young Drew Lock set the SEC touchdown passing record with 44 of them last season, as his Tigers (Dawgs also go at LSU Tigers, with home vs. old-Aubie-tigre-hawk) rebounded from a rough start to put a relatively major scare in Georgia on Homecoming night, before winning their last six regular season games. Those were SEC games, against real competition jockeying for bowl slots and trying to save coaching jobs. Sure, they dropped a bowl to Texas, who had one of their recently-rare glimmer games, but Mizzou still ended up 6-1 over the stretch run. We played some better comp, but Georgia actually went 5-2 over that same length of late season games. Mizzou is 3-0 this season, after escaping a game they looked to be in command of earlier, a total shootout at (0-3) Purdue of the Big 10 late Saturday. They have won nine regular season games in a row, actually outpacing UGA over the same.
Yawnfests so far in the Classic City, showing no signs of abatement with rival Tennessee next up in two weeks. Dawgs must crush their faces. Last time they were in Athens was a nightmare. They opened with utter demolition by WestVA, and while the Georgia passing offense has nowhere near the explosion ability of the Mountaineers and their possible Heisman passer, the Dawgs can grind with the best of them and are efficient.
The defense has not missed a beat, though they are untested still. They are talented and well coached and may be faster than ever before in school history. “DBAKE” is easily an All-American at this stage of the season.
Fromm is an unbelievable force as a coach on the field and the sideline, a true leader, hitting 80% of his balls. Justin Fields has a better completion percentage (82%) and much more escapability. Elijah “Lil Deal” Holyfield is a chip off the block of his heavyweight champion father from Atlanta, getting his first 100-yard game Saturday and showing some moves. Again, against inferior competition. Swift looks bigger than he was as a frosh, the only runner on-roster who has had much success on-field versus the SEC.
Mecole Hardman Jr. is a dark horse Heisman candidate, metamorphosing into the lightning in a bottle player the fans dreamed of when he inked with Georgia as a high school quarterback and defensive back. Such a far cry from the receiver with bad hands – which is straight up unacceptable at any level at that position – he was early last year. An even greater distance traveled from just the gunner on punt coverage he was relegated to the (8-5) year prior. I remember looking into his eyes from the field level seats at the Liberty Bowl and seeing his frustration. He has a glow in them now.