As promised, here is the first in a 12-part series of previews of each of Georgia's regular-season games this year. I realize I'm tempting fate in a big way here, but maybe in some small way the heightened pressure of doing this will prompt me to live a better, more generous, less sinful life over the next few weeks, in the hopes that God won't go looking for extra ways to punish me with a disastrous football season.
Each chapter of this unfolding, potentially deity-enraging story will feature phun phacts about the opponent, including last year's record, hotties that the institution in question can claim as students or alums, and info you may find helpful in the event that you want to trash-talk said team, fanbase, or whatever. And, of course, there will be a prediction of how the game will actually go, with a moderately non-vague at the final margin of victory and to whom it shall belong.
Does that make sense? No? All right, whatever. I bring you . . . Oklahoma State.
OSU quarterback Bobby Reid, makin' it rain on them hoes.
Hometown: Stillwater, Oklahoma.
Last season: Went 6-6 in the regular season, whacking Nebraska but falling to Texas, Oklahoma, and Texas Tech to finish tied for last place (3-5) in the Big 12 South; defeated Alabama in the Independence Bowl, 34-31, on a 27-yard FG with eight seconds left.
Hate index, 1 being cuddly puppy, 10 being Dick Cheney: Two and a half. Ordinarily it's an ingrained reflex for me to wish horrible things on any team wearing this much orange, but we've only played the Cowboys twice in the history of our program -- back when the school was still called Oklahoma A&M -- and one of my good friends who helped keep me sane while I was living in Lynchburg went there, so I can't build up much beef for them.
Associated hottie: Ha, you thought I was going to say Anita Hill, didn't you? Nah, son -- if I ever get nominated to the Supreme Court or something, I don’t need that kind of heat on me. Our OSU representative is instead Kinga Philipps (née Szpakiewicz -- she's originally from Poland), host of "Google Current Buzz" on something called Current TV. (Oh, wait, that's Al Gore's cable channel. As a good liberal, I should’ve known what that is.) Kinga graduated from OSU in 1997, and interestingly enough, played Austin Powers's mom in "Goldmember." Which is more than you've ever done.
What excites me: Oklahoma State hasn't had a particularly scary defense under Mike Gundy -- in their eight games last year against teams that would end up bowl-eligible, they bent over to the tune of more than 31 points per contest -- and could continue to struggle this year, particularly against the run. Not one starter returns on the defensive line, and while DE Nathan Peterson has turned into a pretty reliable sack machine, Georgia's O-line is going to be better than people think and should be able to open up some big holes for Kregg Lumpkin, Knowshon Moreno, and Brannan Southerland. Also, Gundy's OSU teams haven't performed particularly well on the road -- their away record in his first two years is 3-8, with those three wins coming against Florida Atlantic, Arkansas State, and Kansas. I do not consider it boastful to suggest that Georgia is somewhat superior to any of those teams. On the other hand . . .
What scares me: Try OSU's entire offense -- other than Boise State, they were the only team in D-IA to average more than 200 yards rushing and passing last year, which is going to be quite a test for a Georgia defense that will be n00b-heavy and probably nowhere near fully jelled this early in the season. The Cowboys' sheer balance on offense means it will be imperative for Georgia's DEs to take advantage of a slightly undersized OSU offensive line that's breaking in new starters at both tackle spots. Not having Paul Oliver is going to hurt, too, given that he's the guy we'd probably be putting on all-everything receiver Adarius Bowman (60 catches, 1,181 yards, 12 scores last year). If Georgia can't disrupt the passing game early, the only other option may be to double-cover Bowman and pray. Or slip QB Bobby Reid a mickey, dress Reggie Ball up in his uniform, and send him out there. I mean, whatever. I’m just planting seeds here.
Player who needs to have a big game: DE Marcus Howard. He and Jarius Wynn are being counted on to continue the strong tradition of fast, destructive defensive ends that Georgia has built under Mark Richt, yet just about everything I’ve heard from the mainstream media about Georgia’s ends so far this year is some variation on the they’re-too-small theme. If Howard’s ever going to turn into the kind of pass-game-disrupting Tasmanian devil typified by David Pollack and Quentin Moses, now would be a good time.
What I think will happen: I know that all of Bulldog Nation wants to believe this game is setting up like Boise State '05, in which an up-and-coming team with a potent offense came into Sanford with Shocking Upset on their mental to-do list but instead got pwn3d harder than Dan Quayle in a spelling bee, but that Boise State team was used to playing in the WAC, where the competition mostly sucks and the average stadium is one-third the size of Georgia's. Intimidation isn't likely to be an issue for the Cowboys, who travel to places like Austin, Norman, and College Station on a regular basis; granted, they haven't been winning those games, but simply playing in front of a 90,000-strong audience isn't going to be enough to goad Bobby Reid into handing out gift-wrapped INTs the way Jared Zabransky did. In other words, I’m not the least bit overconfident about this game -- it may be the toughest season opener of the Mark Richt era thus far, perhaps the toughest since we were opening up against South Carolina in the early 1990s.
But I have been very impressed with what I've been hearing out of Athens regarding the team's camaraderie and focus; they're clearly not overlooking this game, and while the overall experience level of the defense is rather less than what we started out with in '05, there's potential for them to come out swinging and make every bit as big a statement as the '05 Dawgs did against Boise State. Texas Tech, a team with a defense every bit as questionable as Georgia's, beat OSU at home last year by handing them poor field position in the second half and by getting in Bobby Reid's face; our D-line may be young, but Wynn and Howard have enough speed to pull off something similar if they really attack the edges of the Cowboys' O-line.
On the other side of the ball, the passing game could break out in a big way this year if the receivers step up, but the already-proven strength of this offense is the running game, and both Richt and Bobo know that. I would expect them to establish a rhythm early with Lumpkin, Moreno, Southerland and perhaps even Thomas Brown attacking the Cowboys' front four and holding onto the ball for as much time as possible. Even then, Oklahoma State's going to put points on the board one way or another, and the game will be a dogfight for the full 60 minutes, but I think Georgia will make a big defensive stand in the final seconds to escape with a victory of, oh, four points.
If you're trash-talking: Willie Nelson so loathed the OSU football program that he specifically instructed his listeners not to be Cowboys, and the following YouTube video, first unleashed upon the world by Every Day Should Be Saturday, might provide a hint as to why:
Hells to the yikes. If I were the kind of person who makes rash, sweeping generalizations based on brief video clips, I would be tempted to propose that at least one third of the OSU fanbase is composed of barely functional alcoholics. Fortunately I am not that kind of person, but that should not prevent y'all from drawing your own conclusions.
Next up: Georgia goes up against the South Carolina Gamecocks and attempts to kick Steve Spurrier down the well for the third year in a row. Be there!