Han Vance on Georgia football: Youth equals opportunity for growth. If youth finds full maturation and players play with supreme confidence, the Dawgs have a better than average chance to repeat as SEC champions Saturday in Mercedes-Benz stadium. I like this underdog role for Kirby.
Coming within one blown defensive assignment of beating Bama in the same building last year when the calls and breaks were going Bama’s way bodes well for a Georgia that finally has more quality depth, coming off a #1 national recruiting class, which followed a #3 recruiting class.
While Alabama has a top five defense, that is actually bad for the Tide. Kirby’s defenses, and his replacement Jeremy Pruitt’s defenses, were routinely number one overall in the nation. Pruitt being gone is a very bright spot for Georgia because he was a defensive coordinator with national championship pedigree and knew Georgia inside and out. He had even coached the best Georgia players.
Georgia must get superior special teams play. If a bad call on special teams last year had gone the other way, this article would have a somewhat different tenor. It would be: Georgia can beat them again with continued higher quality special teams. Bama still can’t kick well; Rodrigo is the man.
The headline of this article may be echoed – as many of mine have been over the past dozen years that I have (perhaps too-) passionately covered the Bulldogs football program in writing – after the SEC championship game. If the oddsmakers hit, Georgia will get the short end of a double-digit beating in their home state. That is something that has not happened in years, though, and has never happened in the three-year Kirby Smart era.
Little sidetrack here: Kirby inherited a strong program, a mostly-consistent program that averaged 10 wins over a decade-and-a-half. Compare for a second, what Kirby’s college coach, the hoodwinker Jim Donnan got when he started at Georgia. Ray Goff was a .500 type coach who replaced a legend and had two good seasons total before being run out of coaching altogether for losing.
Donnan himself was run out of the job, for losing after he publicly predicted success. Unable to fend off a traditional pro-style offense at Georgia Tech, more than for his consistent let’s call it misdirection or a lack of institutional control. The wild stories I used to hear…Dooley could not trust him, canned him. I ran into Coach, Dooley that is, first time I ever met him, in Atlanta at my corporate office jobsite, and he basically told me that Donnan had to win out or go. It was a couple of days before the Auburn game, and Georgia was shorthanded with many injuries. It was an opportunity to make a desired change.
Before the old man got the cane himself, too powerful to compete with a school president with lofty academic aspirations for the becoming-great in his leafy, tweedy image, University. Before Dooley was forced out by Michael Adams, before the brief and ultimately embarrassing Damon Evans era of athletic directorship sporting success and personal failure (by the way, we all fail at points in this life). Before that, Dooley got his man in Mark Richt. The 74% winner had the best percentage in school history.
Richt never got over the hump but left solidity. To be the best you have to beat the best, though, and the elephant in the room the back part of the Richt era was Nick Saban. Richt was close to the ultimate glory three times but never even played in a national championship game. Widely-lauded, Kirby is winning at just 1% better than Richt, and Georgia fans hope that 1% equals ultimate glory.
Back to it: conversely, Saban won a national championship at a less than truly dominant LSU. At sleeping giant awakened Alabama, he has won 5-of-9 national titles over the course of a near-decade. Half is enough. Under Saban, Bama has repeated as national champion just once (2011-2012) and has gone undefeated all of once (2009). If the Tide win out, they would be bucking both trends, doing both in the same season. I see them dropping a game like they have every year since Nick Saban first won a national championship at the school. This could be the loss. They come rarely, but they come.
While Georgia handily swept the SEC East for a second straight year, the SEC East compiled a 9-5 record over the vaunted SEC West in head-to-head action. That indicates to me that the SEC East champion should be a bit stronger than usual, and Georgia handily won the SEC in Atlanta last season.
Are we going to give the league crown away easily? Gonna fear a uniform? Georgia, favored in every game this season, went 11-1 in back-to-back years for the first time in school history.
And the Tide have already qualified for the College Football Playoff. In this era of media proliferation, their players know that. Think of this: twice the Tide won modern national championships without winning their division. That would not happen at any other school. I predict it will surely never come close to happening at Georgia. One of those times, only two teams qualified, not four. They always drop a game at some point, and if it comes later, the national championship repeat is off.
Jake Fromm has a higher QBR (quarterback rating) than Tua over the last third of the season. The frontrunner favoring media are often slow at recognizing facts like this, but Georgia may actually have the better quarterback in this football game. I will give the nod to whoever wins the game.
It’s a tossup in my opinion. I did not think I would be saying that, but Georgia has improved. Alabama may literally be somewhat looking ahead. Hey, they are already in. Ohio State, Oklahoma, UCF, change the system. This is Nick’s puppet show and bully pulpit. He’s in.
The final opportunity is this: Kirby Smart coached teams should play great pass defense. Any power running football team, and Georgia is the best running team in the SEC, has an advantage over any passing team. It is easier to execute consistently. While Chubb was schemed well and had an off game in the last meeting, Sony ran wild all over them. And that defense was better than this one. If my dude Swift can do the same Saturday, that will make it a game. May come down to a kick.