Even ninjas get the blues.
Well, between my absolutely horrendous EDSBS picks for this week and the preview/breakdown of the LSU game, y'all are hereby absolved of whatever dwindling obligation you had to pay attention to anything I say. Nearly everything I'd been harping on Georgia to do for the past month, we did: Kept the turnovers in check (and, but for the one game-ending interception on a pass we shouldn't have even needed to throw in the first place, wouldn't have had any at all); pressured the living shit out of the quarterback (for six sacks' worth, thereby more than doubling our season total), and against a mobile quarterback, no less; even found a bit of a running threat in Washaun Ealey, albeit a little late in the game. Did all that, and we still lost. If that's the best return that I can expect from my exhaustive research and borderline-obsessive emotional investment, then I'm not gonna lie to you, I might as well just say fuck football and turn this back into a primarily political blog, which I know would please most of you immensely. (Except politics only breaks my heart almost as bad! Where, oh where are we to find the men and women courageous enough to pass the public option?)
Let me get this out of the way now before I go flying off the tracks here: The excessive-celebration penalties in the fourth quarter, while completely and utterly bogus, didn't singlehandedly lose the game for Georgia, unless you think the penalty was so emotionally demoralizing that it kept us from tackling Charles Scott on LSU's winning touchdown run. But with that said, somebody in the NCAA needs to sit down with the rule book and figure out exactly what qualifies as what's "excessive" and what isn't, and then make sure those rules are uniformly applied, because I'm getting damn sick and tired of a bunch of excited teenagers being expected to do nothing more than nod politely and hand the ball back to the refs after scoring a touchdown on national fuckin' television. And if those refs honestly can't discern between taunting and mere pump-up-the-rest-of-the-team jubilation, then perhaps the competitions they're assigned to moderate need to be a little less intense in nature, like something along the lines of high-school debate team matches.
Now then, here's another thing I said earlier this week that ended up not having any relevance: I said we'd at least have a better idea of what kind of team we had coming out of the LSU game, and I'm still not sure we do. Which is the real Georgia offense, the one that spent the entire first half tripping over its own shadow or the one that showed flashes of brilliance in the second half? How much optimism can we express about the potential revival of our running game based on only eight carries by Ealey? Should I be happy about the defense's performance for the first 59 minutes or pull my hair out dwelling on the one last minute we couldn't get it done (and justify it by pointing out that LSU's offense was absolutely nothing special to begin with)? If anyone has any trenchant, concrete insights into these issues, by all means, share; clearly I have no more relevant insights into this team's fortunes than Jenna does.
Jenna (at right, bejerseyed) and Earl do an uncanny impression of Georgia's offense in the first half.
As agonizing as the first half was, the way that we came back in the second half and refused to give up almost makes me want to put up one of those "Despite the loss, I feel better about the team than ever" posts. I'm not gonna do that, since I did it a couple of times during the 2006 season and got nothing but additional tears for the trouble. (And I was kind of hoping our program would be at a point where we could avoid indulging in that kind of moral-victory shit anyway.) I will say this: The second-half effort against LSU demonstrates improvement in a number of areas over where we were coming out of the Oklahoma State game, particularly in the area of turnovers and QB pressure, somewhat less so in terms of consistency in the run game. And a Georgia team playing at exactly the level it did in the second half Saturday will be good enough to beat Tennessee Tech and Vanderbilt, perhaps also Tennessee and Kentucky. But to beat any of the remaining teams on our schedule, that improvement is going to have to continue at a more than incremental rate, and the lingering issues standing in the way of that improvement (confused run-blocking, indifferent punt coverage) are going to have to be solved.
Once upon a time, as recently as our blistering second-half run in 2007, I would've had near-complete faith in our coaching staff to solve those problems. Now, I'm not so sure. Last year we managed to tangibly regress over the course of a season for what was, as far as I could ascertain, the first time in the Mark Richt era; this season, we've been so inconsistent in nearly every area that you could practically use a coin flip to make your predictions on just about anything from whether we win or lose to whether it's a defensive struggle or a blazing shootout. Perhaps it's a product of all the really young talent we've put out on the field this year, far more so than in any previous year I can remember, particularly at the offensive skill positions. But we're at a point now -- past that point, really -- where we should be making some concrete decisions about what to do with those guys, and our continuing inability to do that is preventing us from acquiring any kind of identity on offense. Hell, we're having some of those same issues even with our established playmakers (can anyone, anyone at all, explain what A.J. Green and Rennie Curran were doing on the sideline for even a minute of yesterday's action?). We're too talented a team, and too far into the season, to still be resorting to the "throw-stuff-against-the-wall-and-see-if-anything-sticks" strategy, but it still seems like that's what we're doing a lot of the time.
That's about all the insight I can offer at this point; beyond that I'm just as blind as everyone else. But while my prognosticating eye may be blind, my faith isn't. Help me out here, Mark. I want to have hope, but I gotta know what we're doing first. Depending on what type of skid you're in, people will tell you to either steer into it our steer out of it; right now it kind of just seems like we're sawing the steering wheel back and forth and pounding the brakes at random. Let's please figure out which way we're supposed to be steering before we end up hitting a tree.
· Didn't get to see much of the later action since I spent most of the evening driving back to C-Town, but from what I've seen in looking over the recaps this morning, I think I'm actually starting to agree with something Lou Holtz said earlier this week: Only three teams look like they deserve to be in the top 10 at this point. After Texas, Alabama, and Florida, I think they should just put "N/A" in slots 4 through 9 and pick up again with Cincinnati or somebody at #10. Ohio State (ranked ninth as I type this) dominated Indiana fairly impressively given that Indiana has looked better than anyone expected, and USC crushed a Cal team that's started its second-half skid even earlier than usual this year, but other than that there weren't a lot of top-10-caliber performances. And it's not like most of them were even playing good opponents, either.
· Here's a meme that should be building more steam at this point: the "Just How Bad Was Georgia's Loss To Oklahoma State?" game, otherwise known as Six Degrees Of Kevin Bacon If Kevin Bacon Was A Homeless Alcoholic. Georgia loses to Oklahoma State, who goes right out and loses to Houston at home; Houston survives a couple weeks as a potential BCS-busting Cinderella, then gets unloaded on for nearly 60 points by a UTEP squad that has accomplished precisely jack and squat in the past three seasons. You know what this means, don't you? However many points Memphis is getting next Saturday, jump on 'em.
Nineteen of 34 for three TDs and three picks gets you a "good job," but it sure as hell doesn't get you any "giggety"s.
· As up and down as Joe Cox has looked this season, is there anyone who'd take Jevan Snead over him at this point? His QB rating this season against I-A competition is 118.7, which is five points lower than Joe Cox's against LSU in spite of the fact that our offense basically wrote off the entire first half. I'm really starting to wonder if Steve Spurrier's errant vote for Snead in the preseason All-SEC balloting didn't carry some kind of voodoo curse.
· The ACC is starting to remind me of that exchange from "The Incredibles":
Dash: You always say 'Do your best,' but you don't really mean it. Why can't I do the best that I can do?
Helen: Right now, honey, the world just wants us to fit in, and to fit in, we gotta be like everyone else.
Dash: But Dad always said our powers were nothing to be ashamed of, our powers made us special.
Helen: Everyone's special, Dash.
Dash: [muttering] Which is another way of saying no one is.
Pretty much. If Maryland and Virginia are special, then no one is.
· UAB Blazers Watch: UAB, which had never beaten Southern Miss in the program's history coming into this season, lost to the Golden Eagles by scores of 37-7 and 70-14 the last two years. So what happens when I publicly pick USM to beat an outwardly easy-peasy 10-point spread at Legion Field on a Thursday night? The Blazers win by two touchdowns. Blazers Watch will continue each week, as they appear to have something to play for after all, but I hereby recuse myself from predicting any more games involving UAB, for gambling purposes or anything else.
· Wofford Terriers Watch: The Terriers got outscored 16-0 in the third quarter and lost to Georgia Southern, 26-21. At 1-4, WU is one loss away from having the Terriers Watch suspended indefinitely.
· And if that happens, it may be replaced by the Cheerleader Curse Watch, as we had a possible relapse this weekend: UNC's Brittney (above) got to watch her Tarheels hand Virginia their first win of the season, in Chapel Hill, no less. If that ain't cursed, I don't know what is.