Monday, November 30

The poetry of premature trash-talk.

This was originally a feature I wanted to do on a weekly basis for Dr. Saturday, but he wanted to go with "Profiles in Disillusion" instead. And since that feature is on hiatus now that the season is winding to a close, I thought to myself, what better way to finally let it see the light of day than to spotlight the poignant poetry of the overconfident Tech fan? And so I bring you "The Poetry of Premature Trash-Talk," starting with the moving and evocative "This is OUR Moment (Soak This One In)" by StingTalk scribe "JoltinJacket." Read this and see if chills don't go up your spine:

This is our chance
To take the state by storm.
The tide was already started to turn
With some of the state's fence-sitters.

More and more folks are rooting for Tech.
More importantly, more and more HS players
Are paying attention to Tech.
Everything is aligned for a magical night.
As Brent Musberger said
At the end of the '90 Citrus Bowl telecast,
"These moments may come once a lifetime;
Enjoy 'em."

We may never see an opportunity again where
A 10-win Tech team hosts such a hapless,
Helpless bunch of Mutts.
Moments like these are special.

Indeed, JoltinJacket. You will be equally moved by our next selection, "The Hate Week Armory," with its stream-of-consciousness influences from "Song of Solomon," e.e. cummings, and mid-'80s hair metal:

I just....
i just can't wait anymore. I think I'm gonna break into BDS
and sit there until kickoff...
I'll skip Thanksgiving...

I just want to see this beatdown that has been playing in my head day and night actually manifest itself in a glorious and utterly mind-blowing fashion this Saturday. I think I have crossed over into over-confidence for the first time this entire season. For no other game have I been so thoroughly convinced that we will win as this one...

On Saturday the Jackets play the role of undertakers
as we will usher Georgia
straight to the fiery depths of Hell.

Sublime. BbuzzOff revivalist "brainbucket" strikes a more spiritual tone with his brief work, "Ugay [p]rayer request":

Dear Lord,
Please be with CMR & his staftt [sic],
the Ugay players, jawrjadawg,
20ozbulldog and the rest of Bulldawg nation.
Prepare them for the ass whipping they are about to receive.

Haunting, isn't it? Sometimes we forget that our most poignant and beautiful images are contained in the words we speak to our Higher Power.

But some of history's greatest poetry has found inspiration from battle hymns and war cries, too, which is apparent from our next two lyricists. First, published author Winfield Featherston, a double-threat who both composes verse and contributes to the blog "From the Rumble Seat," draws his beautifully crafted line in the sand with "A Football Preview":

It is time to tell the mutts that we are in control.
Make them piss themselves and make them leave Bobby Dodd early
because of our celebrating.
To Hell with Georgia.

It's time to wipe them off the face of the Earth.
54-10 Jackets.

In the comments thread for that same post, "chrisinindy" displays the poetry of not only premature trash-talk but premature counting of chickens that didn't even exist to begin with -- a brief, surrealist jaunt through an imagined world, undercut by a bitterness that evokes both T.S. Eliot and the Beat poets of 1960s counterculture. Here, "Makers and turkey hangover":

My hatred for Georgie is shining
through this morning after spending all day
yesterday with the inbred side of my

We almost match the Cumberland score and
roll, 179-0 as they feel the
effects of no Green and Samuel.

And if A&M had even half a
defense, we’d be looking at a
#6 rating next week,
at worst . . .

The bitterness is palpable, isn't it? The kind of inner turmoil that can only spring from worrying more about a team from halfway across the country failing to earn you something you couldn't even bother to earn yourself. Dark, tortured . . . haunting.

We close with the rustic, workmanlike cadence of BBuzzOff's "ramblin gambler," whose contribution to the Breaking Down the DAWG Game! anthology is as simple and straightforward as the society from which it sprang:

Special teams advantage Ga?

They are so scared of having a kickoff returned for a TD
that they give it to their opponents on the 40 every time.
GT LOVES a short field.

Their kicker is better long distance on FG's,
but Blair has looked much better as the season progresses.
Also, we are the masters of the fake punt,
they are masters of shooting themselves in the foot
(see the blocked punt & facemask against KY).

I have to believe this is the game
where we steamroll them
and Cocks throws 5 INT's
trying to get back in the game.

Not even close -
GT 63
Leghumpers 13

I am breathless. As, I'm sure, are you.

I'm Doug Gillett, and this has been "The Poetry of Premature Trash-Talk." Good night.

Blue skies, heaven-sent.

You mess with our hedges, we mess with your turf . . . oh, no, I guess this is our turf now.

First, a confession: Other than Joe Cox's final kneeldown, I still have yet to see any of Georgia's win over Georgia Tech from Saturday night. When that game started, I was watching another game already in progress, and despite repeated offers by the other folks in the room to change the channel, I said no, partly out of a desire not to somehow "jinx" the team (hey, I never said there was any logic to any of this), partly because I wasn't sure I could bear the sight of the Dawgs getting trampled by Tech's running game. I just sat back on the couch, crossed my fingers, and did what they always tell you to do -- hope for the best while preparing for the worst.

The crawl at the bottom of the screen soon informed me that Georgia had gone up 7-0 on their very first drive; I didn't change the channel, thinking that the Dawgs appeared to have gotten off to a good start and didn't need my viewing eyes upsetting the delicate balance of . . . well, karma, or whatever cosmic force had spurred them to the early lead. (Again, didn't say there was any logic here.) When the Dawgs held Tech scoreless for the entire first half and held them to a field goal for their first score of the game, I didn't change the channel then, either, for the same reason. And then Georgia went into halftime up 17-3, and then I saw that Tech had scored on a 76-yard pass play on their first drive of the second half, only for Georgia to answer right back with a 75-yard run from Caleb King just seconds later, and then Georgia went into the final frame still ahead by double digits, and then kicked a field goal to go up 13, and then allowed a TD to the Jackets with seven and a half minutes left, and then had to give the ball back to Tech with three minutes left . . .

But then UGA-GT popped up on the crawl again with less than a minute and a half left in the game, and the little football icon was on Georgia's side, and I could finally breathe easily, knowing that the Dawgs were only a few kneeldowns away from getting revenge on the Jackets for last year's upset and closing out a trying regular season with their best win of the year. For the record, I don't regret not watching the game, as exciting as I'm sure it was; I'm going to pick it up on ESPN360 later on today anyway, and besides, I'm the kind of person who would rather the Dawgs go 14-0 and not be able to witness any of it than be present for every snap of a 10-3 year.

Didn't get to see Caleb King win the gold medal in the 75-yard dash, but I'm still confident it actually happened.

But here's what I do regret: not believing enough in our players. It's one thing to point out Georgia's weakness on this unit or that unit, express worry over a specific matchup, or even predict a loss; it's another thing to doubt whether your team has the heart to win a tough game, and I can't deny having done some of that in the week leading up to Clean Old-Fashioned Hate. In my "defense," I wasn't writing off our players as a bunch of spineless layabouts, but rather wondering whether they'd have the willpower or mental strength to get up off the mat after such a crushing loss to Kentucky and outlast a heavily favored opponent (after already having clinched Mark Richt's worse season, statistically speaking, to boot). But still, as someone who's gone ballistic over poor treatment of our players by our own fans, I shouldn't have done that, and I apologize to the team. I apologize to the coaches, too, whom I'd similarly written off.

Now, I'm not a Pollyanna about this one win, no matter how satisfying it might have been. After last season's solid bowl win over Michigan State, I think I made the mistake of being too quick to ass-out-of-you-and-me-assume that the problems that had made 2008 such a disappointment were automatically on the way to being solved, which clearly they weren't; I'm not going to make that same mistake this time around, because I know there's a lot of work to do over the next couple months. Souls will have to be searched, hard questions will have to be asked, and yes, people will have to get fired.

And no, beating Georgia Tech doesn't change that. Looked at a certain way, the GT win really shines an even more glaring light on some of our larger failings this season -- if we really had this much talent in the backfield, why didn't it start producing anything until halfway through the season? If we could screw our heads on straight enough to maintain a positive turnover margin against the #7 team in the country (and, it should be said, a team that came into the game 28th in the country in that category, at +6), why couldn't we do it against teams like South Carolina or Arizona State? If we could corral an offense as dangerous as Georgia Tech's as solidly as we did for four quarters Saturday, why did we only do it for two quarters when we faced them last year -- and why did we do it only intermittently (or in some cases not at all) against much lesser teams this time around?

Like I said, hard questions will have to be asked and very hard decisions will have to be made; I'll be digging into these topics over the next couple weeks. If Mark Richt makes the same mistake I made last year (and, evidently, that he made last year too) and assumes that one win has turned everything back in the right direction on its own, then we're more than likely going to be having this same conversation in a year's time, only in more desperate tones, and with yet more (like Richt's own job) on the line. But if Richt takes full stock of the season as a whole and full responsibility for his staff's failings, and makes changes in both personnel (no matter how hard they might be for him personally) and the overall attitude and mentality of the program, then there's reason to think that with the talent we have on hand, we'll be more than capable of fulfilling the promise this program seemed to display two years ago when we were marching out of the Superdome with 11 wins, a Sugar Bowl trophy, and a top-five ranking in our pocket.

Reshad, after all the crap you've had to take from me, the refs, and everyone else, you deserve some credit for being a DGD.

A lot of ifs, I know. But we'll cross that bridge when we get to it; for right now, I'm certainly not going to let those difficult considerations cloud my enjoyment of a win over GT. I'll never be disappointed about beating the nerds, particularly at a juncture where they were angling to seize the mantle of the state's premier college football program. That may happen eventually, Techies -- law of averages, infinite monkeys with infinite typewriters, and all that -- but for right now, we're still Georgia and you're still Tech, and that still sucks for you.


Friday, November 27

Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?!?: The Georgia Tech preview.

I, too, think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody's part.

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia.

Last season: Started 6-1, went through an unpleasant 1-2 late-season slump with losses to Virginia and UNC, but bounced back to beat Miami and Georgia in their last two games by steamrolling the 'Canes and Dawgs with that triple-option rushing attack. Beat out at the buzzer by Virginia Tech for the Coastal Division's berth in the ACC title game; had to settle for a bid to the Peach Bowl, where they came out flat and got destroyed, 38-3, by what was supposedly an ice-cold LSU squad. Still finished 9-4, 5-3 in the ACC, and ranked 22d in both polls.

This season: Received a 33-17 donkeypunching at Miami in their third game but has been red-hot since, getting played within a single score only three times and getting their revenge on Virginia Tech, 28-23, in Atlanta. Clinched an ACC title-game berth with their blowout win over Duke two weeks ago, and are now 10-1 (7-1 ACC), ranked seventh in both polls and the BCS standings.

Hate index, 1 being Georgia, 10 being Georgia Tech: Sixty-three. Even when Tech couldn't buy a win over us to save their worthless lives, they had that annoying little-brother unearned-superiority attitude, the kind of attitude that prompts them to get on message boards and taunt teams that have beaten them five, six, seven years in a row. And now that they actually have a decent team and have beaten Georgia once -- once -- this century, they're acting like they've owned us ever since football was invented. Tennessee fan and avowed UGA hater Rusty Tanton Twittered it best yesterday: "Even I'm finding Tech fans obnoxious this week. They sound like new money."

Associated hottie: According to her unofficial bio, Marvel Comics character Barbara Morse-Barton, otherwise known as "Mockingbird," earned a biology degree at Georgia Tech before joining the espionage agency SHIELD. I hope the irony is not lost on any of you that on the Venn diagram of "Georgia Tech alumni" and "hot chicks," the intersection is so minute that I had to pick not just a fictional character for this section but a comic-book character. Sometimes this stuff just writes itself.

What excites me: As badly as Georgia's pass defense has been burned on numerous occasions this season, Tech's is actually worse by a fair margin -- 78th in the nation in yardage allowed, 94th in efficiency allowed, and that's against the less-than-stellar passing offenses of the ACC (of the opponents GT has faced in '09, only four rank higher than 80th nationally in passing yardage). Jacory Harris threw four passes for 20 yards or more against Tech; Riley Skinner, also four; and FSU's Christian Ponder threw six, with all three QBs finishing with completion percentages of 65 or greater. Even Mississippi State's Tyson Lee completed two-thirds of his throws and rolled up 278 yards through the air. Obviously Joe Cox has struggled mightily this season, but the kid has thrown some awfully nice deep passes, and he stands to put up some nice numbers on Saturday if we properly open up the playbook. (Just no swings or screens, please. Oh, and nothing short over the middle. But everything else is fine.)

And as badly as Georgia's run defense looked over the second half of the '08 season, they've improved immensely in '09, going from an average of 226 yards allowed per game (right at five per carry) over the last five games of the '08 regular season to 120.6 allowed per game in '09 (less than 3.4 per carry), good for third in the SEC. Not that this means we're all of a sudden going to lock down on Tech's triple-option the way, say, LSU or Miami did, but there's got to be some improvement relative to last year, even if it's only of the can't-possibly-get-any-worse variety.

Think we could do something other than bounce right off these guys this time around? Yes, let's try that.

Really, the more you look at all of Tech's statistics, the more you have to take them with a lot of salt -- it's been more than a month since the Yellow Jackets last played a team currently in possession of a winning record, and when they did, they got played close. Clemson (presently 8-3) roared back from a 24-0 second-quarter deficit and forced Tech to kick the winning field goal with less than a minute left; Florida State (6-5) rolled up 539 total yards and chased the Jackets all the way down to the final minutes in a shootout loss; Virginia Tech (8-3) harassed Josh Nesbitt into his worst passing performance of the season and lost by five in Atlanta. Since then it's been a steady diet of also-rans, and even struggling Wake Forest (4-7) took Tech to OT on the Jackets' own field. Georgia Tech is clearly an excellent team, but they're not invincible.

Finally -- and I may only be grasping at straws here -- Tech comes into this game as a favorite for the first time in ages, and it remains to be seen how they'll react to it. Granted, this team's focus and psychological fortitude are obviously miles ahead of where they were under Chan Gailey, but they've been hearing for weeks now how much better they are than UGA and how badly they should blow out the Dawgs in front of the home crowd. If Georgia can hang with Tech for at least the first half, the Jackets might just get nervous enough to start pressing and making mistakes.

What worries me: Can Georgia hand with Tech for a half, though? Not if they play like they did in the second half of last year's game they can't. And here's the unsung, and ominous, aspect of Tech's offense this year: Not only is their triple-option gobbling up yardage at an even faster clip relative to the 2008 model -- 314 yards per game versus 273 -- they've also put together a passing attack good for something other than a twice-every-quarter distraction. Last year, Josh Nesbitt only averaged about 62 yards per game and had a 3:7 TD:INT ratio; this year, despite putting up only marginally better completion numbers, he's nearly doubled last year's yardage total (in only 11 games) and gotten onto the good side of the TD:INT ratio by a two-to-one margin. At this point, Nesbitt's stats are actually better than Tim Tebow's in most categories, and he's been lethal with the deep ball -- Tech's top four receivers all have yards-per-catch averages well above 20.

Yes, they actually throw it some now, too. You've been warned.

Given that Tech's offense only had to complete one pass last year to completely unload on us, and given that our front seven already will have to play a virtually flawless game on Saturday to keep the triple-option contained, does anyone seriously think that Willie Martinez is capable of scheming up a way to stop the Jackets? Between Martinez's troubles with mobile quarterbacks and or continuing inability to keep defensive backs within five yards of opposing receivers on a consistent basis, Tech may not even have to dress their punter on Saturday. Our pass rush has gotten a big shot in the arm from the emergence of Justin Houston, but our one dependable playmaker in the secondary, Bacarri Rambo, is still shaking off the rust from the concussion he sustained two weeks ago and is all but certain to be inactive for the Tech game. If you're one of those doomsayers actively hoping for Tech's offense to run wild this weekend so as to hasten the firing of Willie Martinez, you're likely to get the first half of your wish, at least.

Player who needs to step up: This is one of those weeks when it can't be narrowed down to a single player -- the entire defense needs to step up for this one. The few teams that have had success stopping the Tech offense did so because they stayed focused, stuck with their assignments, and stayed with the play until they'd brought the ball-carrier all the way to the ground -- none of which are things we've been terribly consistent at, against Tech or anyone else, over the last couple seasons. As we saw against Tech last year (and in multiple games this year), it doesn't take more than a couple big plays by the opponent for things to start snowballing; if our defense wants to get revenge for last year's implosion and send its seniors out on a high note, they're going to have to play the most intense, mistake-free game of their careers.

What does it all mean? This game is pretty cut-and-dried, and unfortunately, it comes down to one pretty cut-and-dried issue: whether our defense can stop the Georgia Tech offense. If you haven't picked up on it already, I don't think we can.

Pretty sure I remember this resulting in a Tech touchdown, but maybe that's just me.

Not that all hope is lost, mind you. The run defense we've fielded this season, while hardly impregnable, is far stronger than the out-of-position, arm-tackling band of Keystone Kops we had the misfortune of watching in the latter half of last season. We're healthier and we're tackling better, and if we could've only pit this year's run defense against last year's Georgia Tech offense, then maybe we wouldn't have allowed them 409 net rushing yards and we would've run our streak to eight in a row like everyone wanted and I wouldn't be mixing crushed Celexa tablets into my Zaxby's sauce.

But Georgia Tech's coaching staff -- as I hear good coaching staffs have a tendency to do -- has developed, refined, adapted, and thrown a new wrinkle into their offensive attack. Now, playing proper assignment football and actually wrapping up the ball carrier is only half of our task on Saturday; we've also got to account for a deep passing game poised to napalm us the minute Paul Johnson gets a wild hair. Again, I have not seen anything from our pass defense this season that gives me any confidence Willie Martinez is capable of containing that. Given the degree to which Kentucky's sputtering, banged-up offense was able to leave us in their dust given the slightest opening, I'm strapping in for a long night and preparing to spend a lot of it covering my eyes.

First Nesbitt completes a 60-yard touchdown bomb, and that's when the little girl climbs out of the well . . .

Still, the spread is somehow only eight points for this game (up slightly from seven at the opening), so apparently somebody out there does give us credit for being able to at least kind of, sort of keep up with Tech on the scoreboard. Certainly Tech's pass defense has been even worse than ours this season, so particularly if Joe Cox goes into this game with something to prove, I have every confidence we'll be able to whizz some deep shots right by them, even without A.J. Green. Tavarres King, Orson Charles, Rantavious Wooten, and even Israel Troupe have all made some very clutch receptions over the last couple weeks in Green's absence, and if I'm Mike Bobo, I don't give Cox anything to throw shorter than 20 yards. Leave the short-yardage plays to Washaun and Caleb, and for God's sake no more screen passes, unless you want to see Tech linebacker Brad Jefferson leaping into the south end-zone student section at Bobby Dodd to celebrate a pick-six.

Does it suck that we have to sweat this game now? Yes, and it sucks even worse that we're all but counting it as an automatic W. I hate to be the kind of person who comes across as having that little confidence in our team. But it's time to just come out and say it: Tech's coaching staff has flat blown our coaching staff into the weeds this season in terms of preparation, scheming, and adapting to changing conditions on the field of play. Whereas Georgia's coaches appear to have recruited a bunch of name-brand talent and just tossed it onto the field assuming they'd all know what to do, Tech brought in a class not all that much better than their usual recruits but assembled a game plan that has developed them and utilized nearly every last one of them to their full potential. Paul Johnson developed his triple-option quarterback better than Richt and Bobo have developed their fifth-year senior in a pro-style system. Not only did Tech manage not to kill their late-season momentum last week with a humiliating collapse in what should've been a layup game, they had a bye week with which to do some extra gearing-up for the Dawgs. You tell me which staff is going to be better prepared come Saturday.

Maybe if Tech comes into this game overconfident, and maybe if Joe can shrug off his recent miseries fearlessly enough to carpet-bomb the Tech secondary, we can keep this game as close as the oddsmakers inexplicably seem to think we will. But 11 games into a lost season, it's too late to magically make ourselves good enough to beat a 10-1, likely BCS-bound opponent. It kills me to say it, but Tech wins by two touchdowns.

Hey, Shreveport happens.

If you're trash-talking: Just because Georgia is highly likely to lose this weekend doesn't mean anyone should be shirking their responsibilities to put the nerds in their place. A couple months ago, I had the pleasure of attending a high-school football game in Knoxville with Holly and a friend of hers who teaches at one of the schools involved; her friend's school had beaten this particular arch-rival seven years in a row, and though that streak ended with a disappointing loss on this particular Friday night, the student section -- easily the best student section I've ever seen at any high-school sporting event anywhere, by the way -- left the stadium taunting the victors with a chant of "One and se-ven [clap, clap, clapclapclap]." This is a perfectly reasonable response to any new-money Techie declarations that they "own" us now, and make no mistake, that's what they'll be claiming.

Gonna be my boss someday? All that talk ain't fixing my computer any faster, bitch.

They're also likely to tell you that you'll be pumping their gas or delivering their pizza one of these days, but I can say in all honesty that the only time I've ever worked in the same office with a "Tech Man," he was several notches below me on the organizational chart. If anything, that kind of subservience to UGA grads is only more likely in today's job market; these, after all, are the folks Best Buy will be sending over to troubleshoot your computer or wireless Internet connection or whatever, so if you're going to the game on Saturday you might as well just go ahead and set up appointments with them directly rather than sit around on hold all day, Feel free, too, to inquire as to whether any of them have ever seen a vagina somewhere other than a magazine or Web site, touched a pair of breasts other than their own sagging man-boobs, or kissed a member of the opposite sex, period; as we all know, Tech fans typically have to undertake some rather extraordinary measures to accomplish any of those things.

And in the unfortunately likely event that we go down in flames to them again this year, do not hesitate to burst their bubbles by informing them that if history is any guide, they'll get one more win over us next year and then they'll be back to roaming the wilderness for the better part of a decade. That's how this rivalry works, Techies. God smacks us Dawg fans around a little for our hubris every few years, sure, but just when y'all think you've got our number and the balance of power in the state has been irrevocably altered, He puts everything right back in its natural, rightful state. 59-39-5, dicklicks. If you could do better than that, you woulda by now.

I will run up and down the street in front of my house wearing nothing but a Georgia flag wrapped about my nether regions if: Georgia wins, period. No, to hell with that: I'll do it butt-ass naked. Then I'll put it up against the window of the nearest car I see with any kind of Tech identifier on it, 'cause I'm classy like that.

Go Dawgs.

The Friday Random Ten +5 gives thanks for the little things, again.

I've given thanks for some of the bigger and more important things in my life on this blog, including y'all, my loyal and incredibly patient readers, but now it's time to give shout-outs to some of the little things that may not get top billing when we're going around the Thanksgiving dinner table talking about what we're thankful for but make life a little better just the same. This week's +5 is Five (More) Little Things I'm Thankful For This Holiday Season:

High-alcohol-content beer
For nearly the entire time I lived in Alabama, I was deprived of beer with an alcohol content any higher than 6 percent, which has made me that much more appreciative of the fact that Georgia has allowed you to buy Duvel, Kasteel, Chimay, and all those other wonderful imported suds for years now. It's so nice to be able to buy a beer that, you know, actually tastes like something.

Patton Oswalt
The funniest human being alive right now? I say yes, and while his first two stand-up albums already have been staples of my iPod shuffling for years now, his latest, "My Weakness is Strong," has kept me entertained for at least part of nearly every road-trip I've taken over the past few months, and there have been a bunch of them. From "I HAAAATE" to the story about the comedy magician, it is an hour of profane, literate, brilliant magic which, if it doesn't make you laugh, you have no soul.

The Wii Virtual Console
Finally getting the Wii hooked up to our wireless Internet connection enabled me to dive into the laundry list of "classic" games you can download and save onto the machine's hard drive, which in turn allowed me to relive some of the greatest triumphs of my child-/preteenhood by beating Super Mario Bros. and Super Mario 3 within a few days of one another. Honestly, this is about as good as it's gotten for me lately in the personal-achievement department.

Bacarri Rambo
As frustrating and spirit-crushing as this football season has been on a vast number of occasions, there is hope for the future in an incredibly talented, hungry group of new recruits and underclassmen we have coming up on the roster. One of the brightest glimmers of hope is Rambo, the one sure-fire playmaker we have in our secondary and an awesome football name to boot. Rambo, you'll recall, is the kid who made the game-saving pass breakup against Auburn a couple weeks ago, earning a concussion and a night in the hospital in the process; he's already on his way to Georgia folk-hero status, and he's still got three more seasons of eligibility ahead of him. I'm desperately in need of a new Georgia jersey -- my old #4, God love it, is starting to run out of mojo -- so if anyone wants to get me a #18 for Christmas, I would be overjoyed to accept it.

Boobs in general are the best body part and God's greatest gift to mankind; I don't think anybody disputes that. But I've been graced with access to one of the nicer pairs in existence (above) almost whenever I want it, which I think deserves extra-special mention on this list as 5(a) and 5(b). Truly, I am blessed.

And now the Ten:

1. Venus Attack Project, "Riviera Paradise"
2. Enigma, "Return to Innocence"
3. Gorillaz, "Re-Hash"
4. Cee-Lo, "Childz Play"
5. Nat King Cole, "L.O.V.E."
6. Pet Shop Boys, "So Hard" (KLF vs. Pet Shop Boys remix)
7. Underworld, "Unruly July"
8. Gnarls Barkley, "Who's Gonna Save My Soul"
9. Everything But the Girl, "Before Today" (Chicane mix)
10. Orbital, "Acid Pants"

Happy belated Thanksgiving and, since I guess it's OK to start in with the full-fledged holiday greetings now, merry Christmas, happy Hanukkah, kick-ass Kwanzaa, slammin' Solstice, whatever you happen to observe. Leave your own Random Tens, along with the little things for which you're thankful, in the comments.

Thursday, November 26

Thank you.

While we're all taking this day to ponder all the things we're thankful for, I thought I'd take a moment to do the same here. I know the ratio of maudlin posts to overall posts on this blog has been creeping upward of late, for which I apologize, but I want to thank you all for being regular readers, even through some very difficult times over the past few months in which I didn't do as good a job of keeping this thing updated as I should have.

When misfortunes happen in bunches and depression sets in, the attitude that frequently takes over is, "Why should I bother doing [X], it's not gonna make a lick of difference one way or the other" -- and for me, that's been particularly applicable to my writing, in spite of the fact that it's one of the things I do best and enjoy the most. This blog, the work I've been doing for other people's sites, the book that I've been alternately trying to write and trying to give up on for years now -- with each one of these things, I've had that "Why bother" attitude at one point or another over the past year or so, or multiple points, to be more accurate. But y'all are why bother, and now is as good a time as any to remind myself of that and thank all of you for it. Y'all have taken the time to read this blog, care about what's written here, and on occasion even be entertained by it, and that's kept me from throwing my hands up and saying "screw it" despite many temptations to do so.

So a heartfelt "thank you" to you, the readers, for both your time and attention and for the encouraging words you've commented, e-mailed, and Twittered my way; to Holly, Orson, Matt Hinton, and all the other bloggers who have permitted me to deface their sites with my invective over the past few months; and to my family, who have put up with my constant presence (and the nonstop stream of "Super Mario Bros." theme music that comes with it) and still been able to grit their teeth, smile, and assure me sincerely that better days are ahead. Not a day goes by when I don't thank the Lord for all of you, and it's about time you knew that.

Tuesday, November 24

Too soon, hippies. Too soon.

In light of everything that Bulldog Nation has had to endure in the past week, this is kind of like watching an old lady get carjacked, thrown into the street, and run over by another car, and then, as she lies there broken and dying on the pavement, bending over and saying, "Ma'am, have you ever considered public transit as an option?"

(Hat tip: the esteemed Senator.)

Poll dancing, week 12: Congratulations to our new Kentucky overlords . . .

. . . Now if you'll excuse me, I believe there's a ledge I need to fling myself off of.

Games watched: Oklahoma State-Colorado, the end of Florida State-Maryland, parts of Texas Tech-Oklahoma, fourth quarter and OT of Connecticut-Notre Dame, Ole Miss-LSU, parts of Clemson-Virginia, every last miserable minute of Kentucky-Georgia.

The next five: Brigham Young, Utah, Texas Tech, Nebraska, Arkansas.

Dropped out: Nobody.

· Sure enough, Stanford made me pay for my confidence in them every bit as badly as I predicted. Their tumble from the top 10 allows Oregon, Ohio State, and Iowa to creep up, and now it's Cal's turn to squander everyone's renewed respect and goodwill; fortunately, they have a bye this week and can wait to do that until they get upset at Washington on December 5.

· Not much more than incremental movement in either direction below that, though Oregon State and Southern Cal both dropped a bit despite not losing, while Arizona went up a spot despite losing in double-OT. Not quite sure how to square this, but Ole Miss had to get a little credit for taking care of LSU, even if Les Miles helped them out quite a bit in that regard.

· Speaking of which, I debated over how much to penalize the Tigers for Miles's awe-inspiring last-second brain fart in Oxford, and ended up deciding on "a lot." They're still in the poll, since eight wins in the SEC is still eight wins in the SEC, but at the same time, what's their "signature win" this season, exactly? On the road vs. Georgia? So's Kentucky's. (We all know what Rich Brooks would say about this situation.) If you can make a case that any of the "next five" teams are more deserving, I'm all ears.

And on that note, on to the SEC Power Poll ballot:

1. Alabama -- Nothing fancy against UT-Chatty, just a solid game plan executed well enough to put to rest any idea that they wouldn't be prepared or focused. Man, I miss that.

2. Florida -- I have no idea what scoring 62 points on Florida International proves, but I hope they enjoyed themselves.

3. Ole Miss -- That's three years in a row now that Houston Nutt has completely punk'd Les Miles, and he owes Miles a fruit basket and a good bottle of wine for this last one.

4. LSU -- Miles is getting paid the GDP of a small Pacific island nation each year, yet his final decision against Ole Miss was one any random LSU fan in the stands would've been smart enough not to make. That's not getting good value for your money, Tigers.

5. Arkansas -- Didn't do anything particularly special against Missy State but picked up a seventh win, and if Les Miles' current brain state is any indication, could well pick up an eighth in Baton Rouge this weekend.

6. Auburn -- Welcome to your future, Coach Chizik. Friday afternoon determines what your life is going to be like on the Plains, for better or for worse.

7. Tennessee -- Played well enough to earn bowl eligibility, let Vandy hang around enough that they can't be considered a lock to beat Kentucky for the 25th straight time.

8. Kentucky -- Word of warning to the Vols: If you give Kentucky the ball a lot, they'll, you know, score a lot of points and stuff.

9. South Carolina -- Steve Spurrier isn't gonna like being 0-2 against a guy named Dabo, but given the Gamecocks' recent history in the month of November, there's little reason to think it's not gonna happen.

10. Georgia -- Lost to Kentucky, got knocked down to the Weedeater Bowl, David Greene's career wins record got broken, and our dog died. How was your week?

11. Mississippi State -- Had a chance to upset Arkansas but faded late; Dan Mullen's clearly gotten as much out of this team as he can get this season, but watch out for them in 2010.

12. Vanderbilt -- From "First bowl win since the Eisenhower administration" to "winless in the SEC." But maybe Vandy fans are grateful they were capable of falling that far to begin with.

Monday, November 23

If I was you, if I was you I wouldn't treat me the way you do . . .

The game was an embarrassment. The turnover on the very first play of the second half was an embarrassment. Both of Joe Cox's interceptions were embarrassments. The play-calling, particularly on offense, was an embarrassment. Getting outscored 28-7 after halftime was an embarrassment. Losing to Kentucky at home for the first time in more than 30 years was an embarrassment. Potentially getting knocked down to a bowl in Shreveport is an embarrassment.

But nothing, and I mean nothing, on that list matches the embarrassment of our fans booing our own players on Senior Day (followed by most of them leaving with two minutes left in the game, with the rest staying only to boo some more). You can doubt our players' ability, hope certain players get playing time instead of others, be disappointed in decisions they make on the field, even dislike them as people if you must -- but you never, ever boo them. And you damn sure don't boo them on a night when we're supposed to be honoring them for having offered their bodies up to get knocked all over a football field for four years. If that's what you want to do, go sit in the visitors' section, put on the other team's colors, and boo them from there. But if you can't display the modicum of self-control it takes to keep from throwing a temper tantrum at their expense, or the equally minor modicum of brain power it takes to realize that said tantrum translates into exactly zero improvement on the field, I don't want you in Sanford Stadium, wearing my colors and disgracing my diploma. You're not a Dawg. You never were a Dawg. Go home and see if Tech has any tickets available.

It was an absolutely disgraceful display from a fan base that, sadly, is not new to this sort of thing, and the only reason it doesn't seem worse in retrospect is because our program's prospects for the future already seem more depressing than anything that's actually happened already. There needs to be a total overhaul of this program in the offseason, everything from our schemes on both sides of the ball to the way we motivate our players to the mentality of the team itself -- but paradoxically, the more we lose, the less confident I am that anything will actually be changed. When we do something that doesn't work -- no matter how many times it doesn't work, or how disastrously it blows up in our faces -- the attitude is never, "This isn't working, we need to do something different"; it's, "We need to keep plugging away at it and eventually we'll do it right."

But that strategy hasn't worked this season, and it's failed dramatically enough that there's no reason to expect it will. Our coaching staff refuses to adapt on either a micro or a macro level. With respect to the former, we saw last night how our offensive playcalling followed predictable patterns (long pass on 1st down, which may or may not get completed; dive play on 2d down, which may or may not gain any meaningful yardage; leaving us with long yardage to convert on 3d down) that Kentucky was defending easily by the fourth quarter; for the last 20 minutes of the game, we were held to 82 total yards and zero points. As far as the macro level, it's been four years since Urban Meyer brought the spread offense to the SEC and we've shown no appreciable progress in our ability to defend it, whether it's being coached by Meyer or anyone else. If anything, we've gotten worse with each passing season, and are now at the point where even Jonathan Crompton can be handed a play-action game plan and run it with ruthless efficiency. Just like Tommy Tuberville and Phil Fulmer and all those other dinosaurs to whom Richt is now being compared, we've failed (and in many cases stubbornly refused) to adapt to new realities on the field of play in the SEC, and we're paying for it.

That's the first major problem with our coaching staff right now. The second is that we squander momentum as badly as any team in Division I-A. Some teams don't respond well to adversity; we don't respond well to the opposite, and haven't for the last two seasons. And it's not just our kickoff coverage, either, though that has been about as monumentally bad as it could've possibly been over the past couple years (and reared its ugly head again on Saturday: Kentucky's average field position following a Georgia TD was the UK44). It's in the way we managed to hand over every last bit of momentum immediately after coming out of the locker room at halftime with a supposedly secure 20-6 lead. It's in the way we managed to fall so flat on our faces just a week after what could've been the most inspiring win of the season. It's in the way we managed to give up two field goals, a safety, and a pick-six right after going up on South Carolina 38-23 back in September. Hell, it's in the way we responded to being the preseason #1 last season, and the way we came out against Florida that year despite supposedly having put so much swagger back in our game with the end-zone celebration in 2007.

I don't know whether it's because we've got a group of young, easily excitable guys who get amped up over a big play or big lead and start to lose control of themselves, or because positive developments like those cause us to get overconfident and complacent, but either way, it goes back to coaching. As much as we like to believe our players are supermen -- apparently to the point where we'll boo them for not meeting those expectations -- you simply cannot expect an 18- or 19-year-old kid to come to Athens already knowing how to respond physically and mentally to elite SEC football players trying to crush their bones in front of 93,000 screaming people. That is something that has to be taught, and for the first time I've begun doubting that Mark Richt and his staff are teaching it properly.

And that gets back to another reason why I'm so upset at the "fans" for booing our guys on Senior Day. Yes, they played poorly in the second half, but I've read their quotes and their Twitters and blog posts and the rest of it; they know they played poorly without you all reminding them of it. The people you might be better off reminding are our coaches, who have seen this happen repeatedly over the past 24 games and have whiffed on their responsibility -- let me stress again: their responsibility -- to make changes. "A fish rots from the head" is an ancient cliché, but like a lot of clichés that have lasted that long, it's usually true. And in this case, those players you're booing are only doing what they've been told, how they've been told to do it.

No, of all the things I'm ashamed of about the performance Bulldog Nation collectively put on Saturday night, the players are way, way down the list. Not that much of this matters now; we've only got two games left in the season, one of which we're almost certain to lose, the other of which will be in either Birmingham or Shreveport and thus will be of no consequence to begin with. It's an awful way to end any season, particularly for a team that entered the 2009 campaign with such promise. And yet I can't help but wonder now whether our coaches and fans alike haven't ended up with precisely the team we deserve.

Friday, November 20

Five for Slive podcast: Heading down the home stretch and gearing up for the bowls.

MP3 File

This week's Five for Slive podcast is up, and while the SEC championship-game matchup may be long decided and this weekend's slate may be pretty weak sauce -- seriously, if Georgia-Kentucky is the second-best game, then move along, folks, there's nothing to see here -- there's still plenty of stuff to discuss. Jerry Hinnen of War Blog Eagle and I get into bowl placements, players we'd like to steal, and what the blue hell happened at Vandy this year, among other topics. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 19

The Friday Random Ten+5 gets its Kart on.

There's been a silver lining to getting laid off, and it is that I've had more time to devote to the things that I love -- writing, Georgia football, taking my dogs to the park, and, of course, Mario Kart. I don't like to brag, but I've gotten pretty good at it, enough that I'm starting to hunt for a way I can mention that particular skill on my résumé. And whenever they come out with a Mario Kart II or Super Mario Kart or whatever -- which I will almost certainly buy -- I've got some ideas for some new characters they could add. This week's +5 is Five New Characters That Would Be Awesome For Mario Kart, and I'm even offering them to Nintendo free of charge:

Baby Wario
I don't know why none of the evil characters have baby analogues. Lord knows I run across enough bratty-ass kids in Target or at the airport or whatever that there are models aplenty for such a character. Baby Wario's backstory is that after Wario captured Mario's castle and took all his coins in Super Mario Land, he went off to Vegas to celebrate and nailed a cocktail waitress at the Hard Rock Casino. Nine months later, she brought his bastard son to his door and said she refused to raise him. So Wario took his baby boy in and taught Baby Wario to be just as big a dick as he was. Now Baby Wario can throw things and throw tantrums in restaurants and never get in trouble, because, well, that appears to be how people are raising their kids these days.

Faggy Kong
The misfit cousin of Funky Kong (above) and Donkey Kong, who never quite fit in with the rest of the Kongs and went up to New York right after graduating from high school; currently working in a high-end hair salon in the Village. The funny thing is, with his cutoff shorts and wife-beater, Funky himself actually looks like a lot of the gay dudes you see rollerblading around Piedmont Park.

None of the female characters have "evil" versions like Wario or Waluigi. And Wapeach could be awesome -- you could basically take Princess Peach, dye her hair black (because in the world of cartoons or video games, any female who isn't blond is evil), give her a black leather biker/dominatrix outfit, stick a cigarette in her mouth, and there you go. And before long she's getting Mario to paint her apartment and make her car payments while she's getting with Wario on the side.

This was also Holly's brainchild: a female version of Bowser who nags him incessantly about his breath, his cleanliness, and his driving. I'd thinking she would be kind of like Ndnd, the wife of the emperor of Omicron Persei 8 on "Futurama." Well, maybe Ndnd crossed with Estelle Costanza.

Mouser was an actual character from Super Mario Bros. 2, a giant mouse who threw cherry bombs at Mario, who would have to throw them right back. Pretty easy to beat and kind of a little bitch, but whatever.

If anyone can come up with character PhotoShops that are better than the random pictures I've thrown up here, by all means, send 'em along.

And the Ten:

1. Pet Shop Boys, "Sail Away"
2. KRS-One, "2nd Quarter -- Free Throws"
3. Radio 4, "The Movies"
4. The Beastie Boys, "Intergalactic"
5. R.E.M., "Parakeet"
6. Underworld, "Shout Twice"
7. Billy Idol, "Dancing With Myself"
8. Groove Armada, "Your Song"
9. Orbital, "Style" (single version)
10. U2, "Love Is Blindness"

Your own Mario character ideas and Random Tens are, as always, welcome in the comments.

R.I.P., D.G.D.

Uga VII, the seventh in our long and distinguished line of English bulldogs, apparently passed away after a heart attack this morning. Rest in peace, pup.

Various folks on Twitter have informed me that Sonny Seiler has said there will be a bulldog on the sideline at Georgia Tech next week, but that we will be dawgless for the Kentucky game this weekend, which is a shame given that this is gonna be Senior Day and all. I hope they have his empty doghouse on the sideline for us all to remember him by, though, and maybe we can get a group of jets from Robins to do a missing man formation flyover for the singing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" before kickoff?

No sleep 'til Tampa: The Kentucky preview.

Location: Lexington, Kentucky.

Last season: Started 4-0 after blazing through a ridiculously cakey non-conference schedule, then got bitchmade as soon as conference play started, but beat Arkansas and Mississippi State by a point apiece to get to six wins and a Liberty Bowl invite. Completed the program's first-ever string of three straight bowl wins by upsetting East Carolina in Memphis, and finished at 7-6, 2-6 in the SEC.

This season: Second verse, same as the first. Crushed a non-con slate consisting of Miami-Ohio, Louisville, UL-Monroe, and Eastern Kentucky but have only won two league games (Auburn and Vandy); currently 6-4 (2-4 SEC) and unranked.

Hate index, 1 being homemade apple pie with vanilla ice cream on top, 10 being racism: Two. Had a great boss who was a UK alum and now one of my best friends is marrying one. Welcome to the fold, sir! Now that you're gettin' hitched to a rabid Georgia fan, you'll have something to do while you wait for basketball season to start.

Associated hottie: The badonkadonktastic Candace Cabrera attended the University of Kentucky and appeared on the third season of "Flavor of Love," but is now atoning for that by training to be a surgeon. I don't know if the tattoos on her leg are meant to be wildcat paws, but if they are that's about as good an advertisement for UK as there could be.

What excites me: Kentucky's offense, currently ranked 78th in the nation overall, has never quite gotten sorted this season. Running back Derrick Locke has put up some decent numbers this season, but his best performances have rarely come in big games; the passing game started slow behind QB Mike Hartline, struggled to find a replacement after he got hurt against South Carolina, and then seemed to be settling into a groove with freshman Morgan Newton, but even Newton had a lousy game against Vandy last week (4-of-7 for just 40 yards and a pick). Hartline briefly reappeared versus the Commodores but had season-ending knee surgery on Tuesday, so it looks like the keys are Newton's once again, but his only 100-yard passing games this season have come against Mississippi State and Eastern Kentucky. The Wildcat passing game as a whole has failed to crack 150 yards in four of their last five games, falling to 112th in the nation; it looks like our much-maligned secondary might finally get something approximating a break this week, because Kentucky's offense has been rendered about as one-dimensional as they come.

Kentucky is also banged up both sides of the ball, particularly on defense; we don't know yet what that's actually going to mean in terms of their guys starting or sitting on Saturday, but it sounds like the injuries have already taken a toll on their practice participation, and the Wildcats have come out to very slow starts in their last two games (only led EKU 17-6 at halftime; trailed Vandy by a field goal at the same point). Obviously they gathered themselves up to post much better performances in the second half, but I think it's safe to say Georgia isn't going to be worn down by depth issues the same way that EKU and Vandy were; God willing, we won't be trailing anyone 14-0 at the end of the first quarter, either.

Stop that, young man!

What worries me: Randall Cobb, Randall Cobb, Randall Cobb. Along with the rest of the Kentucky backfield, Cobb nearly killed us with option plays and first-down runs last year, and while he's had very little playing time at QB in '09, that doesn't make him any less dangerous. He's kind of like Kentucky's version of Dexter McCluster, and while his stats obviously haven't been as eye-popping as McCluster's, he's got a similar range of talents. He's Kentucky's leading receiver with 384 yards and four TDs, but we all know the passing game isn't where they make the majority of their progress; on the ground, he's also the Wildcats' second-leading rusher, averaging an eye-popping 6.9 yards per carry (and actually leading the team with seven rushing TDs). He's been such a dominant part of the offense that Kentucky's direct-snap formation has come to be called the "WildCobb" (which I guess beats "Wild Wildcat"). Just for good measure, he's also their holder on field-goal tries, which adds another opportunity for UK to bust out a game-breaking trick play on us. Three good quarters against Auburn do not mean we can all breathe a sigh of relief with respect to Willie Martinez's ability to scheme against a spread offense; I'm sure I won't be alone among the 92,700-some denizens of Sanford Stadium in biting my nails every time Cobb shows up under center.

For all the injuries they've suffered, Kentucky's defense, too, has held its own this year -- particularly against the pass, where they're ninth in the nation. Joe Cox eventually got his head screwed on straight against Auburn and hit them with some nice deep throws, but anyone who watched that game knows a couple of them were awfully lucky; he still finished the game just 9-of-17 for 173 yards, though he didn't throw an interception for just the second time all season, so maybe the kid's making progress. As with Auburn, though, he's not going to have A.J. Green to throw to, so once again guys like Israel Troupe and Orson Charles are going to have to step up to fill the void. Against the run, Kentucky is currently ranked 98th nationally, but that number's a little bit deceiving -- I'll get to that in a minute.

On special teams, Kentucky has a good kicker in Lones Seiber and has held their own on kick and punt returns (23.9 and 12.8 yards per return, respectively) -- and anyone who watched in horror as we rolled out a red carpet for Demond Washington's 99-yard kickoff return and let them right back into the game in the fourth quarter knows we haven't done a good job of defending either lately. Special-teams gaffes more than anything else were what allowed Kentucky to hang with us for the full four quarters last year, and there's no reason to assume we've made any meaningful progress toward fixing those issues.

"I'd like to thank Jon Fabris for this award . . . "

Finally, there's motivation. As much crap as I've given teams like, say, Ole Miss and California for not being able to put together good performances in back-to-back big games, the fact is Georgia hasn't been any better this season; will we look back at our bravura finish against Auburn, assume our problems are all solved, and turn complacent as we head into this less-pressure-packed game against a supposedly weaker opponent? With bowl eligibility already secured and placement in the pecking order basically all we're playing for at the moment, will we throttle back to an ultraconservative game plan that keeps Kentucky hot on our heels for 60 minutes? No way to tell until we kick off on Saturday.

Player who needs to step up: WLB Rennie Curran. Kentucky nearly murdered us with a practically option-esque ground attack last season in Lexington, and more than likely that'll be how they try to do it again. I think we'll be far better prepared to deal with it this time around, but if you watched any of Dexter McCluster's raping and pillaging of the injury-weakened Tennessee linebacking corps last week, you know just how much damage a player with that kind of skill set is prepared to do against a defense who isn't ready for him. It's going to be up to our linebacking corps to make sure Randall Cobb doesn't put up similar numbers, and Rennie (who, let me reiterate, came all the way from Liberia just to hit you) will be leading that effort.

What does it all mean? Three years ago around this time, Georgia was coming off a mid-season 1-4 slump that, if anything, was worse than what we've experienced this year (I mean, at least we clobbered Vandy this time around). At 6-4 and gasping for breath, we went down to Auburn, clobbered what was then the fifth-ranked team in the country (I still owe Tra Battle a steak dinner for those three picks), and gathered up enough momentum to finish the season on maybe the hottest three-game streak Mark Richt has been able to assemble as coach. I don't know that we're poised for an explosion of quite that same magnitude this time around, but I'm hopeful that dusting ourselves off and coming from behind to beat Auburn -- more importantly, avoiding the exasperating mental errors that put us in so much trouble against prior opponents -- will at least be enough to mitigate any issues over motivation this week.

We've still got to outplay the Wildcats, though, and this game is hardly a gimme. It's hard to get a bearing on how good the 'Cats are because of the generally weak schedule they've played, and while 6-4 record plus weak schedule generally equals "not really that good," they've busted out a couple big performances this season, hanging with South Carolina to the bitter end (back before the Gamecocks had gone into their usual late-season nosedive) and knocking off Auburn on the road. It would be a mistake to underestimate them, particularly with the wrinkles on offense they're likely to throw at us.

Randall Cobb FTW, just in case I haven't drilled this into your head enough.

When all is said and done, though, Georgia's still the team with the decided edge in talent, even with A.J. Green and Bacarri Rambo inactive for this game. As poorly as our defense has performed at times this season, run defense has rarely been a glaring issue -- we're up to third in the SEC and managed to hold Auburn's second-in-the-conference rushing attack to barely half its per-game average (38 rushes for 115 yards, or a mere three yards per carry). So at the very least, the key matchup when Kentucky's offense is on the field will be their strength vs. our strength. The big question mark, of course, is Cobb, but if our front seven can keep their heads on a swivel and at least contain him, they're likely to find that the Wildcats don't have a lot of other playmakers on that side of the ball.

As far as our offense goes, it won't quite be a mirror image, but the situations are similar -- our passing game is obviously a lot more useful than Kentucky's, but with Joe Cox still making some head-scratching throws and our running game finally starting to click, I would expect us to put together another heavily run-biased game plan similar to what we executed against Auburn. Mark Richt warned earlier this week that Kentucky's #98 ranking nationally in run defense was deceiving, as the vast majority of the yards they've given up on the ground have been to teams with spread offenses, and he's not wrong about that:

South Carolina331283.9
Mississippi St.453487.7
E. Kentucky321274.0

Clearly, any offense currently or recently coached by Dan Mullen is an outlier on that table, along with anyone boasting Gus Malzahn on their staff -- more than half the rushing yards Kentucky has allowed this season were given up to Florida, Auburn, and Mississippi State, all spreads or spread-like substances. But as Blutarsky points out, the teams that didn't do well against Kentucky generally have a common thread, too, and it is that they're . . . well, generally shitty offenses. (And the real scrub opponents like ULM and EKU almost assuredly had to go pass-heavy in the second half because Kentucky was pulling way ahead.) Alabama's decidedly non-spready running game managed to cross the two-century mark against UK, and while we're obviously not Alabama, we're certainly not Eastern Kentucky or Vanderbilt; either; with Washaun Ealey and Caleb King averaging nearly six yards a carry between them against Auburn, I think we'll put in a solid, if not necessarily mind-blowing, performance against the 'Cats.

How well we do in this game depends on two things: One, whether we can continue eliminating turnovers and penalties the way we did against Auburn, and two, whether we can contain Randall Cobb. I'm honestly not sure how well we'll do in either area. Penalties come down to mental preparation and focus, which, as I've explained earlier, could go either way at this point in the season; as for turnovers, I don't think we'll have as clean a game in that category as we did last week, since Kentucky is in the top 20 nationally with 13 passes picked off and Cox is still kind of a question mark (he probably should've had a couple passes picked off by the Tigers). The Wildcats have not had any kind of extraordinary luck in turnover margin (they're sitting at -1 on the year) and have tossed up 11 picks themselves, but given how conservative they're likely to be with the passing game on Saturday, I wouldn't expect to see many opportunities for picks come our way (not that we'd pick them off anyway); in the end, the trends don't bode well for a good day turnover-wise despite the Auburn game, so we probably ought to prepare ourselves for at least a couple giveaways that keep Kentucky in the game.

As for Cobb . . . who knows? Given the way we gathered ourselves up and clamped down on a generally very balanced Auburn spread last week, one would think we'd be able to do just as well, if not better, against a Kentucky attack that's been biased toward the run by a 2:1 margin over the last five games. (In fact, the only games in which the running plays have come close to passing plays have been against UL-Monroe and Eastern Kentucky, I guess because they figured they could afford to give Morgan Newton the extra passing practice; against the three SEC opponents they've faced during that span, they've favored the run by a nearly three-to-one margin.) Between Cobb's performance against us last year and Dexter McCluster's last week, though -- yeah, I know, Cobb isn't McCluster, just let me be pessimistic here, it's kind of my thing -- I can't help but steel myself for at least a couple big bursts by Cobb on Saturday night.

Now, we're still putting the greater assemblage of talent on the field, and our players have been saying all the right things about being motivated by the prospect of making it to a New Year's Day bowl despite all the turmoil this season. (Tampa or Shreveport: Wouldn't that motivate you?) With the Auburn win potentially having lit a spark under us, too, I think we'll win this weekend, I just don't expect Kentucky to make it easy for us. I think they'll be in the game all the way into the fourth quarter, at which point we get a clutch catch from one of our non-A.J. receivers and/or a big stop from the front seven to salt away a single-score victory.

After that, we can turn our guns on the nerds. Oh, can we ever.

If you're trash-talking: Between the historical strengths of the two programs and the lateness of the season, "Cheer up, basketball season's already started" is a good one. That actually makes you sound encouraging and friendly, though it does have the disadvantage of coming right back to bite you when Kentucky's basketball team inevitably waxes our asses up and down the court a couple months from now. In the unlikely event that you are called upon to verbally dress down a particularly uppity Wildcat, reminding them that they've barely beaten us one out of every six times they've played us should be more than sufficient.

Fear not, 'Cat fans; you'll always have hoops, which means you'll always have Ashley Judd.

I will run up and down the street in front of my house wearing nothing but a Georgia flag wrapped about my nether regions if: Georgia wins by at least three scores. From 2002 to 2005, we beat the Wildcats by 28, 20, 45, and 32 points; obviously Kentucky is quite a bit better than they were during that stretch, but those are still the kinds of blowouts we should be aspiring to. It'd also be only the third time all season we'd have beaten anyone by more than two TDs, and frankly, I could use the release.

Tuesday, November 17

Poll dancing, week 11: Oh, right, there were other games on Saturday.

Ballots are a little tardy this week because, like Kyle, I'm still recovering from Georgia-Auburn weekend. In the midst of my euphoria over our first relevant win in what seems like forever, I temporarily forgot that there were other games this past weekend, but then I remembered that I'd actually watched a few of them, so here's what I've concluded for this week . . .

Games watched: Bits of Rutgers-South Florida and Georgia Tech-Duke, Ole Miss-Tennessee, bits of Kentucky-Vanderbilt, most of Florida-South Carolina, ALL of Georgia-Auburn, the end of Pittsburgh-Notre Dame.

The next five: Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Nebraska.

Dropped out: Texas Tech (20), Auburn (21), Brigham Young (22), Tennessee (25).

· Most obvious change to the top 10 is Stanford rocketing up in there after bludgeoning Southern Cal with a shovel, dismembering them, and setting fire to their sliced-up corpses. Now, I am a student of history, enough of one to know that all this means is Cal is going to punk the Cardinal next week and make me look like a fool for putting them this high. But for right now, Stanford has just unloaded a total of 106 points on top-10 Oregon and USC teams in back-to-back wins. If that doesn't earn you a spot in the top 10 yourself, tell me what does.

· Otherwise, everything is pretty static in the top 14 (outside of Iowa somehow rising two spots for losing at Ohio State -- guess they put in a way better showing than I expected from a team taking the wrapper off a new starting QB in the Horseshoe). Below that, though, it's kind of a Chinese fire drill. Yes, I've still got Southern Cal in the top 20 -- loss to Stanford aside, they've still got a comparable W-L record to anyone below them, and have played a tougher schedule to boot. North Carolina looks kind of funny sitting right below them, too, but the Tarheels are now 7-3 and have knocked off ranked squads from Virginia Tech and Miami, the two teams we thought would be neck-and-neck at this point for the Coastal Division title. Pitt might deserve to be higher than #15, what with a 9-1 record and all, but if they can get it done against West Virginia and Cincinnati in the next two weeks, they'll get their due.

· Falling out of the poll: losers Texas Tech, Auburn, and Tennessee, joined by BYU, who had to sneak past a resolutely awful New Mexico team and really don't have any kind of real marquee win on their record despite being 8-2. Unless you think the season-opening upset of Oklahoma qualifies, and I don't quite think that it does anymore.

· Replacing them: North Carolina; Clemson, who just clinched the ACC Atlantic title by shredding North Carolina State; California, who finally won a big game last week (over #17 Arizona); and Ole Miss, who probably hasn't signed a long-term lease on a top-25 ranking for reasons I'll explain below.

SEC Power Poll ballot follows:

1. Alabama -- Back to rolling over opponents and get the next best thing to a bye (UT-Chattanooga) before heading off to the Iron Bowl.

2. Florida -- Are they just toying with people at this point? There's a part of me that believes they're going to go through the motions against FIU and Florida State but then rise up and annihilate Bama in the Georgia Dome.

3. LSU -- Seriously, guys, Louisiana Tech? It's not too late for the Capital One Bowl to give their invite to Ole Miss, you know.

4. Ole Miss -- Even in light of Tennessee's injuries on defense, that was a shocking performance by Dexter McCluster. But the Rebels' seeming inability to put together two big games in a row makes me dubious about their chances this week.

5. Georgia -- Plus-two in turnover margin? Only four penalties? The Bulldogs clearly haven't solved all their problems, but they're making tangible progress on a few of them.

6. Auburn -- Gotta tell you, Tiger fans, of all the people who could've figured out how to slow down a Malzahn offense, I didn't think Willie Martinez was gonna be one of them. Very innovative work with the offensive-tackle screen pass, though.

7. Arkansas -- Bowl-eligible and looking to rise in the pecking order. I'm starting to be grateful that we caught them as early in the season (and in Petrino's tenure period) as we did.

8. Tennessee -- Should put away Vandy and Kentucky like they always do, but if Saturday is any indication of how their banged-up defense is going to perform, neither game will necessarily be the usual cakewalk.

9. South Carolina -- As close as they played Florida, do you think the Gators ever thought they were in any serious danger of losing that game? At this point the late-season Gamecock swoon is as big a November tradition as the malls being packed the day after Thanksgiving.

10. Mississippi State -- Tough (though not unexpected) loss to Bama, but they could very well have one more win in them before the season's over.

11. Kentucky -- If the 'Cats lose at Georgia this weekend, it'll be the second straight year they've gone 2-6 in SEC play and earned a bowl bid anyway. Gotta love those supermarket-brand non-conference schedules.

12. Vanderbilt -- At this point it almost seems unfair to actually make them play the Vols. On the other hand, at least they don't have to game-plan around Nu'Keese Richardson.

Monday, November 16

You've got a home here.

"Georgia Wins" on the Jumbotron, and Athens itself -- both sights for sore eyes.

I felt my eyes welling up not once but twice Saturday night -- the first time was when the lone trumpeter started playing in the southwest corner of the upper deck at Sanford Stadium and the highlight video started up on the Jumbotron. Hearing Larry Munson narrate the video, the crowd shout at the top of their lungs as "Baba O'Riley" started, seeing the team rush out onto the field, I realized it'd been more than a year since I got to see all that in person, and I realized how much I'd missed it; and I also realized that after months of variously expressing hope, despair, barely contained frustration, and a million other conflicting emotions over the state of our football program, there is still no better place to be on a beautiful evening in the middle of November than Athens, Georgia, surrounded by friends.

Bacarri Rambo: big-hitter, game-saver, hero. Get well soon, baller.

The second time came with less than a minute to go in the actual game, when Bacarri Rambo made his bid for folk-hero status by flinging himself at Mario Fannin at the goal line, knocking what would've been the tying touchdown pass away from him, and landing flat on his back and motionless. Whether he knew it as he was flying through the air or not, Bacarri was sacrificing himself to make the game-saving play in what might've been our biggest and most desperately needed win of the season. I hope everyone who was out there saying silent prayers for him and then chanting "RAM-BO, RAM-BO" as he was carted off the field remembers that guys like him are the ones down there on the field doing our dirty work; guys like him are the ones we're pinning our hopes on each week; guys like him are the ones who take the hit when we give into our temptation to lay into our own players and divine sinister motives for what they're doing or not doing on the field each Saturday. There will be time enough after this season is over to determine what worked in 2009 and what didn't, who's likely to be a major contributor to our success going forward and who isn't, but for right now I hope Bulldog Nation keeps that image of Bacarri in their minds and remembers just how much each and every one of our guys are risking out there just so that we might have something to be proud of the next morning.

Israel Troupe, hopefully the forgotten man in our receiving corps no more after making this catch.

In between those two emotional moments, of course, there was the usual roller-coaster ride of momentum being given away, snatched back, and changing hands many more times over before the final gun sounded; in a way, it did follow the early-season script I alluded to in my preview of the game -- go in a hole early, claw our way out of it, dangle the momentum in front of our opponents' faces and risk handing it back to them at least one more time before the whole show finally ends -- but with a couple of differences.

First of all, we didn't dig ourselves into the early hole with turnovers. Quite frankly, we dug ourselves into the early hole with abysmal play-calling on both sides of the ball -- seriously, you've got A.J. Green, the best receiver in the nation, and you're going to waste his once-in-a-generation talent on swing passes? You're gonna let Auburn convert three straight third-and-longs on the way to a second easy touchdown? And when we ended the first quarter down 14-0 in points and 145-5 in yards (needing a seven-yard run from Caleb King on the last play of the quarter just to sneak into positive territory), I'll be honest, I was giving serious thought to the prospect that I might not be there to see the second half start. But as the game unfolded and Georgia hunkered down, got their heads on straight, and clawed their way back from the early deficit, a funny thing happened: For the first time all season, we didn't commit any turnovers. Nor did we kill ourselves with penalties -- after a dumb offsides/false-start flag on each team's opening drive, we only committed two penalties the rest of the way.

Washaun Ealey, Knowshon's evil twin, says "So long, losers."

For all the nail-biting I'm sure we all did and all the opportunities we let whiz by our heads, it was a surprisingly clean game in that regard, and it gives me hope that someone or something is starting to sink in with our players. There's going to be a lot of soul-searching amongst our coaching staff once the season's over about why it took 10 games for all that stuff to sink in -- actually, 23 games, when you consider that last year's team wasn't exactly a paragon of excellence in those categories either -- but for right now, it's nice to be able to sit back and revel in something other than our program's uncertain future for a change. We needed this win in the worst way, and we got it thanks to a tremendous team effort from a bunch of guys who refused to give up.

All in all, except for the whole going-into-a-two-touchdown-hole-in-the-first-quarter thing, it was a weekend that couldn't have gone any better if I'd scripted it myself beforehand. I got to give Orson Swindle and Holly a taste of the Full Athens on a beautiful autumn day in which Athens the Georgia fan base put their very best respective feet forward. The tailgating scene was everything Holly had been told about and then some, and even Orson, a Florida grad rarely inclined to say anything nice about Georgia unless compelled to by crushing gridiron defeat and/or gunpoint, evidently had a blast:

So thanks to the city of Athens; the Georgia fanbase; the Tent City crew, especially Scott Hartman for being my ticket hookup; Holly and Orson; and, of course, the Georgia team and coaching staff for collectively giving me the best Saturday of the football season thus far. As Holly and I were sitting there in section 134, row 12, watching the Dawgs do a little post-victory dancin' in front of the student section, it occurred to me just how many of my most cherished Georgia football memories are from the UGA-Auburn rivalry; this was the 13th straight Georgia-Auburn game I've been to (and it was the day after Friday the 13th, no less), but it was anything but unlucky.


· I don't know how much comfort this will be to the more beleaguered segments of our fan base (and I certainly don't like that it's coming at the expense of Paragon SC, a guy I've met in person and love like a brother), but for what it's worth, Bulldog Nation, the whole "Has Our Coach Lost His Mojo?" meme is hardly exclusive to Georgia at this point. Pete Carroll arguably had a good bit further to fall, too, and it'll be an interesting (if perhaps not especially enjoyable) exercise to compare him and Mark Richt as they try to steer their teams through lower-than-expected bowl bids -- and, potentially, through thorny off-season dilemmas concerning the respective states of their defenses. As much as you might want Willie Martinez gone, folks, we at least haven't given up 55 points this season, to Stanford or anyone else.

That's Commitment with the stop; Integrity gets credited with an assist.

· While taking in as much of Florida-South Carolina as we could before heading down to the stadium, I noticed a Gamecock player with "Courage" on the back of his jersey, followed by one with "Service," and I remember thinking, "My, those South Carolina guys do have some cool, if unusual, last names" -- but then I saw the guy with "Commitment" and I was reminded that both South Carolina and Maryland were gearing up in special military-themed unis to mark Veterans' Day. Here's my question, though: If I'm the Wounded Warrior Project marketing guy tasked with pushing this idea, how thrilled am I that the two teams agreeing to wear the special jerseys are South Carolina, for whom November 11 is right around the point where their annual late-season slump is hitting terminal velocity, and Maryland, who at this point isn't making a run at anything other than the title of worst team in the ACC? Don't get me wrong, I have no beef with the idea in principle; I just hope that for the sake of our troops they manage to land two more inspiring teams next time around.

· Speaking of the ACC, big ups to Clemson and some other team for locking down their divisions' respective berths in the ACC title game -- but given how weak a draw that game has been even in favorable circumstances, how thrilled are the ACC bigwigs, really, that this is just gonna be a rematch of a game we've already seen? Will the Tech and Clemson fanbases be rejuvenated enough by their teams' apparent rise from mediocrity that they'll make the long drive down to Tampa, or will half the purchased tickets end up getting tossed like last time?

· UAB Blazers Watch: Don't look now, but dear old UAB is 5-5 after dispensing with Memphis and only needs one more win to earn the second bowl bid in the program's history. I kind of doubt that they'll get that sixth win against East Carolina this weekend, but I'm seriously considering heading back up to the Salty 'Ham on the Saturday after Thanksgiving to see if Black Tebow can nail down that sixth win at the expense of George "Master's Degree" O'Leary and the UCF Knights. Oh, how delicious that would be.

· Wofford Terriers Watch: A difficult season continued in its difficult-ness with a close loss to Samford. The switch to an option-based offense, clearly, has been a rough one for the Terriers, but they can end the season on a high note with a win at Furman this weekend.

· Cheerleader Curse Watch: The winsome Chelsie (above) did not manage to doom her team to a loss on Saturday, but the fact that her Minnesota Golden Gophers had to come from behind to beat DI-AA South Dakota State on a late field goal should prove that the Curse's powers have not disappeared.

· And finally, never let it be said that I don't keep my promises. Flag run, engage.