Thursday, September 30

Manic-Depressive Preview: Climbing down into the crevasse.

It should not come as a surprise to any of you that the median mood of our manic-depressive football previewers has shifted somewhat closer to the "depressive" end of the spectrum since Georgia got humiliated in Starkville last Saturday night. However, Manic managed to coax Depressive off of a ledge with a bag of those Almond Joy pieces and a new Lego set, so the duo has survived intact to bring you their thoughts on Georgia-Colorado. (Be gentle, obviously, with Depressive Doug. It's been touch-and-go.)

Manic Doug: How you holdin' up, bro?

Depressive Doug: I ate the whole bag of Almond Joy pieces. And look! It's the Wampa cave from "The Empire Strikes Back"!

MD: Awww, hey, that's great, buddy! You, uh, ready to talk a little football for the people out there?

(long pause)

DD: I want another Lego set.

MD: Oh, come on, dude, don't do this. You're gonna make me be the grown-up here? You can't honestly think any good is gonna come of that.

DD: I'm sorry, but I just don't have a lot to offer here. We just played one of the worst teams in the SEC, and not only did we let them pound the ball down our throats, we couldn't get in the frickin' end zone until it was long past mattering. Seriously, what's my motivation here? What possible reason could I have to get excited about this weekend?

MD: A.J. Green's back! Wooooooo!!!!! . . .


MD: OK, I gotta say, I was really expecting a more exuberant reaction there.

DD: OK, fine, it's great that we're getting A.J. back. I mean that. But he's not gonna be able to help us pass-protect, and he's not gonna make much of a difference in the running game, either.

MD: He will if his presence as a deep threat keeps Colorado from stacking the box against us like everyone else has been doing.

DD: You really think he's gonna make that much of a difference? For all their problems lately, Colorado's run defense is ranked seventh in the nation. They're barely allowing more than 70 yards per game.

MD: Yeah, dirty little secret there? They built that up against Hawaii and Colorado State, who just happen to be the two worst rushing teams in Division I-A right now. As in 119th and 120th out of 120. I know Washaun and Caleb have been a bit of a disappointment this season, but you gotta believe they'll be better than that.

DD: OK, that I did not know, but I'm still skeptical. I just don't think A.J.'s gonna be able to completely turn this team around on his own.

MD: Hey, I'm not saying that either. But he'll provide a bit of a spark. And call me overconfident, but this is one of those situations where I don't think we'll have to score that many points to pull off the win.

DD: It almost sounds like you're fixing to tell me how our defense is gonna suddenly rise up and get it together better than they have at any point since the opener against Lafayette, and if that's the case then I'm gonna have to cut you off right there.

MD: OK, if you keep running your mouth like that I'm gonna buy you another box of Legos and make you swallow 'em. Let's review: What did South Carolina have on offense that we just couldn't stop?

DD: A big-ass running back who never went down on first contact.

MD: Colorado's starting tailback is 5'6" and weighs 175 pounds. What did Arkansas have that we couldn't stop?

DD: Ryan Mallett, a 6'7" behemoth with an RPG launcher for an arm.

MD: Yup. Colorado's quarterback, on the other hand, has a career 13/15 TD/INT ratio and a 113 QB rating. Now, what did Mississippi State have that we couldn't quite get a handle on?

DD: Another rugged running back, and a big, mobile QB.

MD: The running back I've covered; Hansen, meanwhile, has a career per-carry average of less than two yards. See? Look, I'm not gonna act like our defense doesn't have any weaknesses, but so far Colorado hasn't proven the ability to exploit any of them.

DD: But we didn't think Mississippi State did, either, and yet we couldn't get them off the field in the second half. Their running back might be little, but it's not gonna matter if he can get outside the way Chris Relf and Vick Ballard did. They're not going to be sending him up the middle anyway.

MD: Maybe, but he's all they've got. The only guy they've got behind him is a junior who's barely any bigger than he is and has 205 career yards.

DD: Look, here's the thing: I know we've got a talent advantage here. Pass around that petition, and I'll sign it twice. But we had just as big a talent advantage in Starkville last week, and a fat lot of good it did us. The problem here isn't in the talent or in the statistics; it's in the motivation and the coaching. At a time when everybody and his brother is talking about how our program is doomed, we're playing yet another must-win game, and we gotta go all the way out to Colorado to do it. Where the air is thinner and where the crowd will be geeked up because they'll be honoring the 1990 co-championship team at halftime . . .

MD: Heh. Boy, I'll bet that pisses the Tech fans off.

DD: Be that as it may, it's a daunting situation for any number of reasons. Mississippi State was a less talented team who beat us because they just wanted it more; can you honestly say you're not worried that Colorado is gonna be the same kind of team?

MD: Worried? Maybe. A little. But not nearly enough to make me think we're gonna lose. Getting A.J. back isn't just gonna be a shot in the arm from a game-planning standpoint, it's gonna be an emotional lift for everybody on the roster. However geeked-up they are, this is the week we finally get up off the mat and match it.

DD: All right then, sunshine, tell me how it's gonna go.

MD: OK, first of all, the sarcastic nicknames are my department, Cowboy Woody. Second: Yes, getting A.J. back totally flips the script for us. Gives the team an emotional boost and lets us open up the offense the way we've been talking about doing for weeks now. Colorado's pass defense is very beatable, and if they try to double-cover A.J., that's just gonna open up the short game so that we can maybe start throwing to the tight ends for once.

DD: Yeah, that would be nice.

MD: We managed to put together some nice sustained drives in the first half last week before everything went completely to shit; we do that again, and manage not to fumble on the goal line this time, we'll score some points and keep our defense fresh enough to not get ambushed by Rodney Stewart. I think Colorado will come out fairly amped-up, it'll be a close game for a half or so while we kind of try to feel them out, but we pull away in the second half and win 30 to 13.

DD: Well, that's a pretty nice scenario you've drawn up there . . .

MD: And completely plausible. Come on, dude, pick the win. Feel the win. You know this losing streak can't go on forever. The time is right. The stars are aligned. Go with your heart . . .

DD: When you get that close to my face like that, it kind of scares me.

MD: Sorry. I promise I totally wasn't doing it in a gay way.

DD: OK, good, because it kind of felt like that. (pause) (hurriedly) Not that there's anything wrong with that.

MD: Oh, no, no. I mean, it's just that . . . yeah, go on. You were saying? You're going with your heart, and . . . ?

DD: And . . . I just don't see it.

MD: Uhhhhhhh. You're killing me, Smalls.

DD: The offense will look a little better, and I bet A.J. gets behind their secondary for at least one touchdown. But he can't save the team singlehandedly, and our inability to run is gonna come back to bite us even with him in the game. I think it's another close, low-scoring, fairly ugly affair for most of the game, right up until the last few minutes when Colorado puts together a sustained drive, we can't tackle Stewart, and they punch it in the end zone to win 23-20.

MD: Wow. You're really predicting that we'll come home from Colorado with a 1-4 record.

DD: I don't like it. In fact, I kind of hate it. But that's where I'm at emotionally right now, dude.

MD: Well, I've got a couple pieces of good news. First is that even with your dire, spirit-crushing prediction factored in, our predictions still average out to a 25-18 win for the Dawgs.

DD: Well, hey, if that's what ends up happening, so much the better for us. What's the other piece of good news?

MD: We still have the Associated Hottie to get to! And here she is: Casey Parker.

DD: OK, she's cute. What is she, an actress? What's she been in?

MD: Hustler and Barely Legal, for starters.

DD: Well. How proud the University of Colorado must be.

MD: Hey, we've all got a porn connection whether we know it or not. Did you know we share a birthday with two Playmates and Jenaveve Jolie, star of "18 and Full of Sin" and "Three's Cumpany"?

DD: You will be shocked to find that no, I did not know that.

MD: It's a small world, man.

DD: You know, on the one hand it's taking every ounce of muscle control I have not to roll my eyes at all that, but on the other hand I'm actually kind of impressed that it took you five whole games into the season to pick a porn star for the Associated Hottie slot. In a way, I guess that means you're growing up.

MD: Perhaps. But don't get excited, it won't last.

DD: No, I expect not. Speaking of which, I seem to recall you saying you were taking Georgia and the points last week. So are we gonna be able to eat this month, or do we need to have a talk about this?

MD: Heh, uh, actually, like I said, I was kind of drunk last week, and I accidentally put the money on UAB plus the points against Tennessee.


DD: Honestly, sometimes I don't know how you manage to pull this shit off.

MD: Don't knock it, dude, that's where your Legos came from.

Tuesday, September 28

Mama, take these red pants from me, I can't wear them anymore.

It occurred to me that Sunday's despairriffic post on the Mississippi State game, combined with comments made on Twitter and elsewhere, might be interpreted as me taking a harder line toward Mark Richt than I intended -- or, alternatively, talking out of both sides of my mouth. So let me clear things up a bit.

First: No, I don't think Mark Richt should be fired. Certainly not now -- midseason firings should be saved for coaches who have engaged in egregiously bad off-field conduct, not for coaches who dared to lose games, no matter how winnable they were; when a program unloads a coach midseason for the latter "offense," it's basically an empty, symbolic gesture to the fan base that OOOOOOOHHHH you guys we're just so mad at this guy!, and generally a sign that said fan base has entirely more influence over the athletic department than they deserve. Nor am I going to sit here right now, just four games into the season, and say he should be fired at year's end. There's still a chance for things to be turned around -- minuscule though it may seem at the moment -- and particularly if that does happen, Richt deserves at least one more year to demonstrate whether he can continue the progress from that turnaround, or if it was just a mirage.

However. If we were to assemble an Absolute Scale of Coaching Confidence (Or Lack of Same), where 1 is "Any aspersions cast on Richt's suitability for his job is ridiculous, and makes us look like assholes" and 5 is "Greg McGarity needs to hand Richt his walking papers before close of business "to-day," I was once a 1, but now I'd say I'm a 3, maybe a 3.5. If I had to sum up that attitude in a single sentence, I guess it'd be "I still want Mark Richt to turn this around but I'm running out of reasons to think he'll do so." After hitting a high point with the Sugar Bowl run in 2007, we've been on a downward trajectory ever since, and we're working on our third consecutive season of not living up to the talent we've supposedly put on the field, of ending up with a final record that's a considerable disappointment relative to our expectations. And even as a fervent Richt backer, my patience with that kind of backslide only has a finite life span.

As I said in my comment to the preceding post, I don't think McGarity unloads Richt after this season, and it's kind of silly to think blog posts or message-board rants are going to influence that decision one way or the other. But if he does keep Richt on, particularly after the kind of 6-6 or 5-7 finish it looks like we might be heading toward, that puts Richt on an undisputable, no-excuses hot seat in 2011 -- a "Glengarry Glen Ross" sales contest where there are no steak knives, the only options are "have a Cadillac season" or "you're fired."

And as of right now, what are our reasons to hope that things will get substantially better? We'll get most of our defense back, and they should improve with another year of Todd Grantham's training in the 3-4, but an already confounding situation with the offensive line will only get murkier once three of our starters (and both top fullbacks) graduate, and A.J. Green is all but assured of following Kris Durham out the door, leaving Aaron Murray with a dearth of proven options in the passing game. Obviously there are going to be tons of people who will call for another adrenaline shot in the form of a housecleaning of the offensive coaching staff, but that, too, is probably a short-term red-meat-to-the-fan-base thing at best -- the "Georgia's program is in total upheaval" stories the media would draw out of it, to say nothing of the doubt it would create in the minds of potential recruits, means Richt wouldn't be on any surer footing, job-wise. It'd end up being one of those situations like radiation therapy for cancer, where the patient's life is prolonged but their hair falls out, they're weakened, they feel like shit -- and end up dying anyway.

If it sounds like I'm already shoveling dirt on Richt's grave, I don't mean to be. Like I said, I won't entertain any talk of an immediate firing, and since I'd be willing to bet that he remains the coach for the 2011 season, it's pointless for anyone to start drawing up fanciful shortlists of people they'd like to hire to replace him. (Especially if those lists include Kirby Smart, Chris Peterson, or Mike Leach. Seriously, I'm at a point where I'm almost ready to do an entire post about how if you think any of those people should be our next coach, you should just kill yourself.) At the same time, though, I've also come to the conclusion that harping on Richt's 91 wins as a reason for retaining him in perpetuity just doesn't hold as much water as it used to, either. As much as we all love and respect Richt for what he accomplished in 2002, you just can't make the case that it has greater bearing on the program's future than what happened in 2008, 2009, and 2010.

So all this is basically a long way of saying: No, I don't think Richt should be fired straight away, and I'm not going to make any definite declarations to that effect until we see how the rest of this season plays out at the very earliest. It has become much easier, however, to envision scenarios under which we're looking for a new head coach sometime in the next 18 months. Once, I wouldn't have dared put Richt under that kind of scrutiny, but now it seems entirely fair. And if I seem strangely matter-of-fact about it for a guy who very recently was defending Richt to the death, then maybe that's the saddest comment of all -- whereas Richt was once the very embodiment of what it meant to be a Georgia Bulldog, the value he and his coaching staff have added to the program and to Bulldog Nation in general seems to have dwindled, at least outwardly, to the point where it can be thought of as dispensable. I still feel kind of like a heel for uttering that out loud, but I also know the responsibility for turning the situation around doesn't rest with me.

Monday, September 27

Poll dancing, week 4: In which I dig deep, rise above it, yada yada yada.

As hard as it was to even think about football after watching my beloved program get tipped over a cliff in Starkville on Saturday night, I'm muddling through. "Muddling" being the operative word, as you'll see below.

Games watched: Miami-Pittsburgh, Tennessee-UAB, Alabama-Arkansas, every last horrible minute of Mississippi State-Georgia, most of Boise State-Oregon State.

SB Nation BlogPoll Top 25 College Football Rankings

Hey Jenny Slater Ballot - Week 5

Rank Team Delta
1 Alabama Crimson Tide --
2 Ohio St. Buckeyes --
3 Stanford Cardinal Arrow_up 4
4 TCU Horned Frogs Arrow_down -1
5 Boise St. Broncos Arrow_up 3
6 Florida Gators Arrow_up 6
7 Arizona Wildcats Arrow_down -1
8 Oregon Ducks Arrow_down -4
9 Nebraska Cornhuskers Arrow_down -4
10 Miami Hurricanes Arrow_up 6
11 Iowa Hawkeyes Arrow_up 4
12 Utah Utes Arrow_up 5
13 Arkansas Razorbacks Arrow_down -3
14 Oklahoma Sooners Arrow_down -3
15 Auburn Tigers Arrow_down -1
16 South Carolina Gamecocks Arrow_down -7
17 Michigan Wolverines Arrow_up 7
18 Nevada Wolf Pack --
19 Clemson Tigers Arrow_up 3
20 LSU Tigers --
21 Michigan St. Spartans Arrow_up 4
22 Oregon St. Beavers Arrow_down -3
23 Wisconsin Badgers --
24 N.C. State Wolfpack --
25 UCLA Bruins --
Dropouts: Texas Longhorns, California Golden Bears, Penn St. Nittany Lions, Pittsburgh Panthers

SB Nation BlogPoll College Football Top 25 Rankings »

The next five: Southern California, Oklahoma State, Texas, Kansas State, Missouri.

· A little bit of a shakeup in the top 10, but Alabama and Ohio State hold on to the top spots. Stanford jumps ahead of TCU after the Horned Frogs got chased just a wee bit too long by SMU; Florida is back in the top 10 for looking like, well, Florida. Arizona's offense and Oregon's defense earn them slight drops, but they're still top-10-worthy. Don't know why Nebraska only managed 17 points on a I-AA team at home, but they get to stay in the top 10 for now.

· Arkansas and Oklahoma both drop three spots, which I guess means that losing to the #1 team in the country is exactly as embarrassing as only beating Cincinnati by two? That doesn't sound right. I briefly considered keeping Arkansas at #10, but they need to drop at least a little bit until they prove that Ryan Mallett's brain-fart habit in big games has been cured. As for Oklahoma, who knows. I guess there's a case to be made that they're worse than Auburn or South Carolina, I'm just not prepared to make it quite yet.

· LSU, N.C. State, UCLA and Wisconsin are all in this week. I'm not 100-percent sold on any of them, but I guess the 20s are an appropriate neighborhood for flawed teams who still managed to win games of relative bigness over the weekend. Well, the first three, anyway. Wisconsin dropped 73 on a bad I-AA team, which seems kind of rude (and not terribly important), but at the same time, this is the first time all season that they've managed to completely put away a shit opponent, so kudos, I guess.

· It hurts, but Texas is out. You'll recall that I was highly dubious on their offense at the start of the season, and if only scoring 12 points on a team whose coach was recently being openly booed in his own press conference doesn't prove me right, I don't know what does. Hurts to lose Penn State, too, but they've only looked good against Youngstown State this season, and that just ain't good enough. Cal and Pittsburgh, of course, I have no qualms about whatsoever.

The SEC Power Poll ballot is as follows:

1. Alabama -- Started showing the first cracks in their supposed invincibility against Arkansas -- and yet that young, inexperienced defense still managed to make every big play when they absolutely had to. The proposition that they're not actually the best team in the country is a little stronger now, but I'm still not convinced it's the winning case.

2. Florida -- It's taken a while, but the gears have slowly ground into motion and the Gators are looking much more like the team we expected them to be in the preseason. We should find out conclusively next week whether that improvement has just been a mirage.

3. Arkansas -- Even as someone who wasn't even remotely buying Arkansas in the preseason, I gotta say there's not that much shame in losing when you still managed to lead the #1 team in the country for all but eight minutes of the game.

4. Auburn -- You could look at the South Carolina win as yet another stroll across thin ice, or you could be impressed by how well they performed in a situation where they shouldn't have had anything left in the tank after the Clemson game. I'll go with a little bit of both, though I don't know how many fourth-quarter comebacks they'll be able to pull out of their quiver once the conference race really heats up.

5. South Carolina -- To me the loss to Auburn doesn't tarnish their rep nearly as much as the fact that Marcus Lattimore's big "breakout game" happened against a team that's currently 0-3 in the SEC -- and that he hasn't come close to hitting that mark since.

6. LSU -- What Kramer was to "Seinfeld," LSU has become to the SEC: strange, spastic, only intermittently competent, yet has an uncanny knack for falling ass-backward into awesome situations.

7. Kentucky -- Caution: volatile substance. Do not mix with remotely competent defense. Especially while operating heavy machinery.

8. Mississippi State -- Took control of the trenches and imposed their will on a Georgia team that had the edge in talent and was desperate for a win. There's a bowl bid in this team yet.

9. Tennessee -- Followed the same script we saw against Oregon and Florida: Started off strong, but found themselves getting increasingly desperate once their lack of depth started making itself apparent in the second half. But it's one thing suffer that against the Gators -- how many wins can this team really have left in it if that's happening against UAB?

10. Vanderbilt -- I have a feeling that their "0.500 in the SEC!" talking point won't last much longer, but they do have a conference win, so . . . enjoy looking down at the Dawgs, guys.

11. Georgia -- The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists regrets to inform you that they have advanced the Mark Richt Job Security Doomsday Clock to four minutes to midnight.

12. Ole Miss -- Dropped a double-nickel on a middling WAC team but still not displaying anything resembling defense. If you can find an SEC win on their schedule, you must've been looking a lot harder than I was.

Sunday, September 26

Has it gone on too long? Do you mind that it hurts?

You all saw what happened just as clearly as I did, I'm sure, so I'm going to keep this (relatively) short and sweet, except to say this: I kind of feel like Chazz Palminteri at the end of "The Usual Suspects."

I'm sitting there, thinking I've got the case wrapped up -- not entirely to my satisfaction -- but I think I've at least got a handle on it, know what's going to happen next. Then I sit back in my chair, coffee in hand, and I look up at my bulletin board. The collapse of the run defense in 2008, followed by the collapse of the pass defense in 2009. The inexplicable implosions against teams who are supposedly at a marked talent disadvantage -- Tennessee 2007, Tennessee again two years later, Kentucky last November. Joe Cox, a fifth-year senior, making the kinds of mistakes a freshman wouldn't make. And the off-the-field stuff -- the DUIs (which we racked up another one of last night), A.J. Green punting his jersey, Washaun Ealey driving after being specifically instructed not to. The never-ending stream of injuries that seem to ensure we never quite have a full, healthy complement of players to put on the field. All these things which, taken just one at a time, could be shrugged off as isolated incidents, mere frustrations, but all together they make you drop your coffee cup on the floor and stare slack-jawed at the inescapable conclusion: Mark Richt is Keyser Söze. Only in this case, Keyser Söze is Ray Goff.

What I see when I look at Georgia football now is a program that is losing control. You can blame that on the players, and sure, the ultimate responsibility for their actions lies with them, but when you view the people above you as weak and indecisive, what's your natural inclination? And could our coaches possibly be doing a better job of looking weak and indecisive right now? We've just put the last dab of whipped cream on top of our first three-game SEC skid in nearly two decades, and in the midst of a bunch of meaningless word salad about "looking within" and "[making] sure that everything we do is the right thing to do," Mark Richt gives us this bit of insight into the coaching staff:

“We just, at times, called a couple running plays just blindly and just said, ‘Hey we’re going to run this no matter what,’ ” he said. “There times when we had success and some times we got hit in the mouth because of the pressures they brought. And again, until you look at the film, it’s going to be hard to say exactly. They did a nice job defensively.”

Let's say you're an 18- or 19-year-old kid who's actually witnessing this thought process play out on the field, hours before Richt makes specific mentions of it. What do you think after something like that? If you've just watched your coaches heave a 160-pound tailback up the middle right into the teeth of a hulking MSU defensive line for an entire half with exactly zero success, what conclusions do you then draw about your coaches' true determination to see you and all your teammates leave that stadium with a desperately needed win? If, at my current position at MegaConglomCo p.l.c., my editor tells me that my top "action item" for this week is to beat my head repeatedly against a wall, and I say "I don't see how that's going to help me complete my projects on deadline" and she says "No, trust me, this is how I want you to do it," how hard am I going to work for that editor, or anyone else in my department, going forward?

And yet I may not be in any kind of position to cast stones here, because if you accused me of phoning it in with this post, you wouldn't be completely incorrect. I've written it several times already -- banged out the first iteration after Vanderbilt '06, wrote another one after Tennessee in '07, composed the revised and expanded! Georgia Tech '08 edition while sitting in a boarding lounge at LAX. Each time I wrote it with some degree confidence that things would turn around, that Richt and Co. would learn their lessons from it and improve going forward, confidence for which I was chided more and more as the years wore on. So in some ways I'm just as guilty of the whole "Do the same thing over and over expecting a different result" strategy as anyone else associated with the program.

No longer, though. I still hope things will get better, but I no longer have confidence that they will. Let's be real here: The team in white that played and was coached last night in Starkville might be a 4-8 team if they get some lucky breaks. The "miracle ending" to 2010, at this point, is if we manage a Marine crawl back to 7-5, the same record that got last year universally described as "the worst season under Mark Richt's tenure" but with nothing tangible to point to as an indication that things will get any better in 2011.

Is that enough to earn Richt a pink slip? After this season? I honestly can't say. If we end up 4-8 or 5-7 this season and Greg McGarity determines that Richt has earned one more year to try and end the slide, then I'll be OK with that. I mean, really, at this point, what difference does one more year make in the cosmic scheme of things? On the other hand, though, if McGarity decides it's time to pull the plug on the Richt Era and make his mark on the program by bringing in a new guy, I'll be . . . relieved. I will be sad, and tremendously disappointed that a man as fundamentally good and upstanding as Mark Richt never got to achieve the legendary status that so many of us have wanted for him ever since he pulled off P-44-Haynes almost exactly nine years ago, but I'll be relieved that someone finally decided to throw the switch on an embarrassing slide and do something different. There was a time, as recently as a few days ago, when I couldn't even conceive of saying something like that, but there you have it. Think of it as me being willing to make a major change in my worldview; I can only hope that it's not way too late for Georgia's coaches to do the same.

Friday, September 24

The Friday Random Ten+5 does not touch that dial.

As much as I love summer, there are three big reasons I love it when fall is about to arrive: 1) football season starts, 2) the weather cools off a bit, and 3) the new TV season starts. Since last night was the season premieres of "Community," "30 Rock" and "The Office," I declare that the official beginning of the new season, and it was everything I dreamed it could be: Betty White drinking her own urine, Matt Damon weeping about "grown-up love," and Steve Carell spanking his nephew. If you didn't watch (or don't watch) any of those shows, you probably don't have any idea what I'm talking about, but you can still revel in this week's +5: The Five TV Shows I've Most Looked Forward To At Various Points In My Life (Besides "30 Rock," Of Course).

"Seinfeld" (1989-1998)
When I say "the shows I most looked forward to," I don't mean the best shows I ever watched, or even the ones that I consider my favorite now -- I mean the shows that most firmly planted themselves in the category of "appointment viewing," the shows I did the most work to rearrange my schedule around. "Seinfeld," though, was appointment viewing, and one of the best shows, and one that's still one of my favorites even today. I think the thing that was so groundbreaking about it wasn't that it was "about nothing" -- or maybe it's more correct to say that when people talk about it being "about nothing," what they really mean is that the characters learned nothing as they went from one episode to the next. Refreshingly, there were never any tearful heart-to-heart talks or climactic speeches in which the moral of that week's episode was revealed; the characters acted crazy, they were horrible to one another, the story ended and they were just as crazy and horrible to one another the following week. Jerry was still a sarcastic guy who couldn't stay interested in the same woman for more than a couple dates, George was still a neurotic douche, Kramer was still a "hipster doofus" (and, later, a horrible racist). In its own way, it was indeed the show of its time, mirroring a society that gleefully stumbled from one misadventure to the next remaining defiantly resistant to learning anything from what they'd just put themselves (and others) through. And also my chemistry teacher from my sophomore year in high school, Mrs. Summers, and I bonded over it and she gave me a Snapple on the last day of school that year.

"Knight Rider" (1982-1986)
Important for three reasons: One, it was the very first show I can remember deeming "my favorite"; two, it taught me that Cars Are Awesome; three, it prompted my very first celebrity crush that I can recall -- on Rebecca Holden, who played April, KITT's chief mechanic, in the second season. To this day I can't participate in the public razzing of David Hasselhoff nearly as lustily as the rest of society; he gave me so much, man.

"The Cosby Show" (1984-1992)
You know what's weird about this program? At the risk of sounding like I'm trying to retroactively build up my White Liberal Guilt credentials, I and pretty much every other kid in my class from third grade through fifth or sixth made this show "appointment viewing" on every single Thursday night, and yet it never occurred to any of us that it was a "black show" or that the characters were any different than we were. Fifty years from now, we may be looking back on this show and realizing that it had a more profound (if less immediately apparent) effect on race relations in this country than Rodney King or the election of Barack Obama. (Of course, Bill Cosby would probably call me an idiot for even mentioning any of this, and he may not be wrong.)

"Murphy Brown" (1988-1998)
Two things I knew even when I was only in junior high: Candice Bergen was hot, and Dan Quayle was an idiot. One thing that went right over my head, though, at the time: People who go into journalism as a career become bitter, romantically unlucky ex-alcoholics, and that's a best-case scenario. There was a lesson there if only I'd bothered to pay attention to it.

"The Golden Girls" (1985-1992)
This show was actually appointment viewing at two points in my life: the first time when it was on its initial run, and the second time during the summer before my senior year of college. I hadn't been able to nail down an internship for that summer, so I stayed up in Athens with a skeleton crew of fellow Red & Blackers who cranked out the weekly edition of the paper during summer semester. Each Wednesday, we'd stick around at the R&B offices until the thing was finally put to bed, then convene at a friend's apartment and drink grape Kool-Aid spiked with Golden Grain while we watched "Golden Girls" reruns. The drank, of course, soon acquired the nickname "Golden Girls Kool-Aid," and once we'd lubricated ourselves with enough of it, we headed on down to Boneshakers for '80s night. And yeah, you're remembering correctly, Boneshakers was a gay club, but on '80s night there was a pretty much equal mix of gays and straights, all of whom were welcome to dance like complete douchebags to songs like "Don't You Want Me," "A Little Respect" and "The Glamorous Life." Man, those were some good times. Boneshakers closed down a few years ago and is now something else; somebody needs to bring that place back.

And here's the Ten:

1. 3rd Bass, "French Toast"
2. Electronic, "The Patience of a Saint"
3. Billy Paul, "Me and Mrs. Jones"
4. The Chemical Brothers, "Get Up On It Like This"
5. Gorillaz, "Latin Simone"
6. Pet Shop Boys, "Se a vida é (That's the Way Life Is)" (Mark Picchiotti vocal mix)
7. The Go! Team, "Feelgood By Numbers"
8. Pet Shop Boys, "KDX 125" (Vangelis mix)
9. David Holmes, "The Ballad of Sarah & Jack"
10. Pet Shop Boys, "Go West" (bootleg version)

Your own most eagerly anticipated television shows, along with your Random Tens, are welcome in the comments.

Revisited the summer before my senior year at UGA with Golden Girls Kool-Aid and trips to Boneshakers

Wednesday, September 22

Manic-Depressive Preview: In which we can at least be assured of a Bulldog victory.

Another rough week for both the Manic and Depressive sides of our commentary duo. I don't care how confident and carefree you are, that was a fucking miserable way to lose a football game. Let's see if the team can bounce back this week, and our prognosticators along with them.

Manic Doug: Jeez, dude, what's got you so down? You look like your dog just died.

Depressive Doug: My Dawgs did just die. With under a minute left in the game, because they couldn't protect the quarterback or defend an out pass. How are you not depressed over this?

MD: For one, Arkansas is a good team. I mean, I hate to admit that a filthy, trifling bastard like Bobby Petrino is good at anything, but the dude can coach, OK? Plus we get Caleb King back this week, we're not gonna face an offense nearly as good as what we've seen the last couple weeks . . . come on, it ain't the end of the world. We got this one.

DD: Huh. Well.

MD: Also, I'm kind of drunk right now.

DD: Aaaand there we go. You lucid enough to do the Associated Hottie this week, or you need me to cover you?

MD: Naw, dude, I got this one. Boom: Audrey Puente, daughter of Tito Puente, got her master's degree at Missy State, now the weather girl for WWOR in New York City.

DD: I don't think that's the proper term anymore. I think she's supposed to be called a "meteorologist."

MD: Fascinating. Mind if I call you "dicklick"?

DD: I thought you were doing that already.

MD: Only once in a while. OK, football. Look: I know things look shitty right now for the Bulldogs -- our Bulldogs -- but you gotta be optimistic about a few things. For one thing, Aaron Murray is still the man. If our offensive line can just learn to protect him better --

DD: Yeah, they're only one of the most veteran lines in the country, they've still got a few things to learn.

MD: -- if they can protect him better, which they'll have a chance to do with Caleb King coming back this week, dicklick, he'll continue to do awesome things.

DD: Even if Mississippi State's secondary is one of the best in the country? You know they had a guy in the top 10 nationwide in interceptions last season, right? And he wasn't even the guy who had two pick-sixes against Tim Tebow last year. That was Johnthan Banks, a free safety.

MD: "Johnthan"? You sure you didn't leave out a letter there?

DD: Nope, that's his name.

MD: Brilliant. Of course, coming from the program that brought us Slovakia Griffith and Pig Prather, that's downright normal.

DD: Make fun of his name all you want, man, but the kid's a stud.

MD: Maybe so, but Murray isn't some dumbass. He's only thrown two picks all season long. State's two quarterbacks, meanwhile, threw five in last week's game alone. Murray may not be a superstar just yet, but at least he's competent. I don't think you can say that about anybody on State's offense at this point.

DD: Well, you've got a fair point. The combined QB rating of Chris Relf and Tyler Russell against Memphis was 263; against actual teams, i.e. Auburn and LSU, it was 65.2. Honestly, I think even our defense might be able to put up a good performance against these guys.

MD: See, now you're starting to (hic) think clearly.

DD: But it's not like our offense has been looking that great, either.

MD: Oh, come on. You're not seriously gonna try and convince me they've sunk to Mississippi State's level, are you?

DD: No, but let's get real here: Our offensive line is nowhere near where we thought it would be, our running game has been mediocre, and even when we're able to keep Murray upright, the coaches don't seem to want to give him anything to do. We are a team in desperate need of an offensive identity right now, and I don't know that we're gonna find it in Starkville.

MD: You sure about that? We get Caleb back, which is gonna be a big help in pass protection . . .

DD: Not that big if Shaun Chapas isn't in the game, which I don't think he will be. And State's front seven is no joke. Pernell McPhee had five sacks last year . . .

MD: . . . and none this year. They've only got four sacks total on the season, which is 87th in the country right now. Having Caleb as an extra dimension in the running game will give them something else to think about, and for all the talk about how much we're missing A.J. Green, our receiving corps has held its own. We've gotta get the tight ends more involved, obviously, but Kris Durham and Tavarres King have been straight-up ballers the last couple weeks.

DD: I'd like to get excited about that, but the fact is, until we can put A.J. back out there, nobody's going to be scared enough of our deep passing game to try and double-cover anyone, and that just gives them extra bodies for the pass rush. Getting Caleb King back might be worth, oh, 50 more rushing yards and maybe one sack prevented, but he's not a panacea.

MD: Leaving aside your fondness for big ten-dollar college words for a second, are you really gonna sit there and tell me you think Georgia's gonna lose this game?

DD: Well --

MD: Think about this, dude. Oh and three in the SEC for the first time in I don't know how long? Because of Mississippi State?

DD: OK, you know what? I don't honestly think we're gonna go 0-3 in the SEC. We've got too much talent for that, and everything you've said about State's offense is true: Even as much as our defense has struggled at times this season, their offense isn't good enough to bomb away at us or run it down our throats. It's one thing to face guys like Marcus Lattimore or Ryan Mallett, but I don't see either one on State's roster, or anyone even close.

MD: OK, thank you. I seriously thought you were gonna pick the loss there.

DD: No, I'm going to cautiously, nervously call for a win. But don't think for one minute that it's going to be pretty. Their defense is gonna throw everything they've got at us, and at this point you've gotta be very skeptical that our offensive line can stand up to it all, until they prove otherwise. I think we get a bit of a boost in the running game with King back, but the passing game never quite gets into a rhythm, and we win by, like, 20-16 or something.

MD: Well, I agree with you that State's not gonna score much, but I disagree that their D is as tough as you seem to think it is. I think this is the game where the line shakes off their rust, steps up, and lets Murray take another step forward. I mean, they'll get to him a couple times, but he's gonna sneak a couple big throws behind their secondary and power us to a pretty convincing win. Real Bulldogs beat the Bizarro Bulldogs, 28-10.

DD: Bigger margin of victory than Auburn was able to manage in Starkville, huh?

MD: Don't even get me started on Auburn.

DD: Thanks, I don't think I will. All right, well, our two predictions average out to 24-13. Think you'll be happy with that?

MD: Ehhh, it ain't nearly as much as we could do . . .

DD: Think so? Vegas has us as a one-point 'dog.

MD: A one-point underdog?!?! Are you shitting me?!

DD: Nope. State's favored.

MD: Hold on, I'll be right back.

DD: Oh, man, you're not gonna throw another toaster, are you?

MD: For Christ's sake. No, Tiffany, I'm gonna find my cell phone and put a call into my guy.

DD: Your "guy"?

MD: Five hundred on Georgia in a straight upset. Be the easiest money I've ever made.

DD: Where did you get five hundred bucks from?

MD: I'll let you know when I win.

DD: That means it came from my account, doesn't it? (sighs) That's cool, I'm sure the power company will understand.

Monday, September 20

Just a little wind, and the trees are falling down.

If there's one thing I've learned in close to 20 years of living and dying with the Bulldogs -- and the Manic-Depressive Previews should provide an inkling of this -- it's that with the Dawgs, things are never quite as good or as bad as they seem at the time. Any win can be a false positive; any loss can be a setup for a redemption story. So when my first reaction to the heartbreaker of a loss to Arkansas was that Georgia football had turned into "The Wizard of Oz" -- to wit, our offense needs a heart, our defense needs a brain, our coaches have no courage, and the fans just want to go home -- it tripped a fail-safe switch that told me things couldn't possibly be that dire. And I went about seeing how I could walk things back to something a little less bleak.

Here's what I came up with: Through injury, spectacularly ill-advised jersey sales, and just plain old bad luck, our coaches have been dealt a hand none of us thought they'd have to deal with. Dump on Mike Bobo all you want -- and trust me, I'll get around to it in a sec -- but put yourself in his shoes: Coming into this season, he thought he'd have one of the best, if not the best, offensive lines in the country; a one-two punch of talented (if still raw) rushers in the backfield; and a game-breaking receiver who could make the rookie QB look like a hero on any given play. Instead, the O-line has stunk for reasons you can only partially blame on the injuries and illnesses they suffered over the summer, we've only been able to get one of those running backs on the field at a time, and thanks to an NCAA suspension, that once-in-a-generation receiver has yet to make his first catch of 2010. That'll fuck with anyone's game plan, and there's not much you can do about it. Except.

Except adapt, and that's just not something we're good at, nor is it something we've been good at for a while now. Here's the thing, Mike Bobo -- it sucks that our offensive line is acting like they're still learning their positions, and it sucks that you don't have A.J. Green, but you don't charge headlong into a game with the same game plan you had before you found out all those things and just hope everything works itself out. You don't ever tell anyone you "really don't know" how you're going to open up the offense for your young but hugely talented QB. You're the offensive coordinator, you figure that shit out. Your game plan counted on having A.J. Green deep and Caleb King in the backfield? Sorry, life sucks, but since you don't have the conditions you thought you'd have, you go out and adapt to the conditions you do have.

I hate to harp on that last play before Arkansas' winning touchdown drive, because it's not like that hasn't been hashed over on every blog and call-in show from here to Toccoa, but . . . to not have any checkdown options for your QB, even though you don't have A.J. Green as a money bet with the deep ball and even though your QB has been running for his life all afternoon long, that is, as Charles Barkley would say, just turrble. Turrble. I don't like to make a habit of psychoanalyzing people, particularly when I've never met them, but it almost seem like the Jon Fabris directional-kicking philosophy on a larger scale: "This hasn't worked before, nor is there any profound reason why it should work this time, but I'm going to do it anyway because that's what I decided I'd do when I was planning all this out the other day."

Or if not that, then it seems like the lingering effects of something I remember hearing a lot of folks remark on last year -- this pervasive idea, from Mark Richt on down, that we could just rely on our talent to get the job done without getting in their faces and teaching and motivating them. If anything, it's worse this year, because it seems like we're relying on talent we don't even have on the field sometimes. (Shaun Chapas is hurt? Well, hell, throw Washaun Ealey in there to block, he's probably just as good. Except he wasn't.) The easy fix for this, of course, is that we should get Caleb King back next week, A.J. the week after that. But what then? What if King and/or Chapas come back a little rusty, or Murray can't get the ball to A.J. because his protection is breaking down too much? We still gonna rely on our talent to pull us through, or are we gonna adapt?

It occurs to me that for a post that started out "I'm gonna try to not feel as bad about this as I did the other day," it still sounds, well, pretty bad. It doesn't have to: We know Murray's good, and will only get better, particularly once his pass protection gets settled. The defense hasn't been great, but unless you were one of those knobs who just assumed we'd magically start holding people to single digits just because we'd managed to usher Willie Martinez to the service exit, you can't be too down on how they've performed so far -- we've now faced two SEC teams, both of whom we played last year, and performed markedly better against them this time around than we did a year ago, despite introducing a brand-new scheme. So that stuff's just going to take time. I'll freely admit I don't know enough about the Xs and Os of 3-4s and 4-3s to gauge progress in that regard, but I do know one thing for pretty damn certain: I'm not going to call for a guy to be fired after only three games of a brand-new system.

As for the rest of you, adapt, gentlemen, adapt. Use the guys you've got and account for the ones you don't. And as I mentioned in my SEC Power Poll ballot, please, please find a setting for Aaron Murray other than "Do Absolutely Nothing" and "Carry Entire Team On Back"; there's got to be a nice compromise in between there somewhere.

As bad as 0-2 in the SEC looks right now, it's only hopeless if you had your heart set on an SEC East title this year, which I didn't. Now, as someone who was pretty confident about some modicum of improvement over last year's record, 0-2 still comes as a disappointment, even coming, as it did, against two very good teams (and two of the better squads we'll face all year). I was thinking we might face kind of a wild season that, thanks to our state of flux on defense, might be peppered with quite a few shootouts; that may yet be the case. Now, I was also thinking 9-3, two games better than last season, which may not be realistic at this point. I still think there's a 9-3 team buried somewhere beneath the grime and uncertainty of this year's players, I'm just not sure how long we're going to have to chip away before we find it. And it's starting to look like the chip-away process might not be as much fun to watch as I'd hoped.


· As for that game up in Knoxville, it was weird seeing such a flawed Florida team roll up into Neyland Stadium -- even in the Zook years, you had a reasonable expectation that the flaws would get papered over, and they certainly had the center-QB exchange down pretty solid -- and even more weird looking upon the Vols as such a broken program, fighting for some kind of direction. I have to say I was impressed by how well the Vols played, though. It was a moral victory, and that's the kind of thing they're going to have to settle for more than once this season, but you never got the impression that that's all they were playing for. Derek Dooley has done some weird shit in his brief tenure in Knoxville, but after the all-sizzle-no-steak reign of alternating terror and error under Kiffin, a weirdly, defiantly businesslike guy may be just what they need. You know how they say poor people are "weird," rich people are just "eccentric"? Well, maybe the only real difference between weird, insular, businesslike Derek Dooley and weird, insular, businesslike Nick Saban is a whole shitload of wins. I guess we'll see if Precious manages to get his.

· So, Houston Nutt . . . you put us through all those oversigning controversies and the Summer of Masoli, and all just to lose two Vanderbilt by two TDs at home? Nutt seems like a pretty confident guy, which if it works for him then great, but keep in mind this is a place that traded David Cutcliffe in for Ed Orgeron without even being blackmailed into it. You think they wouldn't catapult Nutt into the sun if they thought for one hot second that Mike Leach might come to Oxford?

· How weird is it that the Pac-10, thought to be one of the weaker BCS leagues coming into 2010, now has what could be a very exciting three- or even four-team race for the Rose Bowl -- and the Trojans are not one of those teams (and wouldn't be even if they were eligible for a bowl this year)? Here's another question: How many punters bet on those Trojans to cover eleven and a half on Minnesota last weekend, and ended up getting an unsolicited, unlubricated foreign object in the ass because of Lane Kiffin's continued fetish for fucking around with two-point conversion tries?

· Early prediction: South Carolina horsewhips Auburn on the Plains this weekend. While the Gamecocks were toying with Furman for an afternoon, Auburn spent four quarters and an overtime period locked in one of the hardest-hitting football games I've ever seen, against a BCS-conference team, no less. Just watching it took a considerable level of emotional investment. Even after a win, I'm not sure Auburn bounces back from a war like that in the span of just one week, particularly with South Carolina showing signs of actually being really freaking good this year.

· Finally, I would be remiss if I did not give props to the UAB Blazers, who were staring down a 23-0 deficit to in-state rival Troy on Saturday but stormed back -- behind their backup QB, no less -- to claim a 34-33 win on a 44-yard Hail Mary on the very last play of the game. There's some fight left in this team yet; it's just a damn shame they don't have Ole Miss on the schedule again this year.

Poll dancing, week 3: At least nobody died.

So I was up in Tennessee this past weekend, getting a firsthand look at the Tennessee-Florida rivalry with Holly and Spencer (and, of course, catching just enough of the Georgia-Arkansas game to know what it feels like to have one's heart ripped out of one's chest while still fully conscious). Holly had her future sister-in-law's bridal shower to attend Sunday afternoon, so she said I could either stick around in Knoxville and ride home with her or ride with Spencer and get home early. Holly's brother's fiancee is a lovely girl, but showers of any kind, be they bridal or baby or whatever, peg my personal Fun-O-Meter right down around "receive prostate exam from doctor with very cold hands" territory, so I said I'd hitch a ride with Spence.

Five miles or so north of Cartersville, Georgia, right after we'd been blown past by three Clemson coeds in a yellow Mustang convertible with the vanity plate "TOPL1SS," Spencer's car decided to die from embarrassment and give up any ambitions of traveling faster than 20 miles an hour on I-75. We pulled over onto the shoulder and called a tow truck, and because the tow truck didn't have enough room in the cab for all of us and the two dogs I'd brought up to Knoxville, they got to ride in Spencer's disabled Honda on the back of a flatbed. Here's Jenna, wearing her DUDE NO SERIOUSLY WHAT THE FUCK IS HAPPENING expression as the car is hoisted aboard:

So we made it back to Decatur about an hour and a half late, where Spencer's better half was waiting for us with Red Bulls and a thermos of vodka. And I got home, and the Redskins lost in overtime after blowing a 27-10 second-half lead to the Texans, and that's that.

How was your weekend?

Games watched: North Carolina State-Cincinnati, first half of Southern Miss-Kansas, Florida-Tennessee, parts of Auburn-Clemson, the end of Michigan State-Notre Dame, Arizona-Iowa.

The next five: Wisconsin, Virginia Tech, LSU, Georgia Tech, Notre Dame.

· Yup, it must be Pac-10 Week up in this ballot, as Arizona and Stanford ride perhaps the two most impressive victories of the weekend into the top 10, joining Oregon's point-a-minute squad. The Pac-10 was pegged as one of the weaker BCS conferences in the preseason, but between these three teams and Oregon State, who frequently seems to take a while to get rolling but has as much raw talent as anyone in that league, the race for the Rose Bowl could be very, very fun to watch this year.

· Iowa takes a hit for nearly putting poor Ricky Stanzi in the hospital thanks to the Hawkeye O-line's horrendous breakdowns toward the end of their upset loss to 'Zona, and yes, the Wildcats are a good team, but that kind of pass protection isn't going to get anyone very far in the Big 10 this year. Nor will Oklahoma's schizophrenic defense get them anywhere near the national championship game if they keep this up.

· I'm feeling Texas more than I was previously -- OK, yes, that defense is just plain unfair -- but I'm still not sold on the offense. I have a feeling they're going to need to put more than 24 points on the board to beat the Sooners or Cornhuskers.

· California takes a precipitous drop thanks to getting pasted by Nevada on Friday night, further cementing my suspicions that Jeff Tedford is not actually a human but a robot who missed getting a critical software update sometime back in 2007. Michigan also takes a steep fall after proving pretty conclusively to the world that they're going to have to win every game this season by a score of something like 45 to 41, and seriously, whoever's bright idea it was to start putting D-IAAs on the Wolverines' schedule just needs to cut that shit out.

· Welcome Nevada, Clemson, and Michigan State, and yes, Clemson gets in there despite losing, because they looked way better than I thought they would and lost to Auburn on a very horrible bit of bad luck, and who else am I gonna put in there, anyway.

So there's that, and here's the SEC Power Poll ballot for this week:

1. Alabama -- Laugh if you want, but that was a pretty good offense that the Tide D completely stuffed in Durham. Still can't find any real reason not to call these guys the best team in the nation.

2. South Carolina -- Sleepy performance against Furman, but they'd earned a breather.

3. Arkansas -- Still don't know if I'd call their defense SEC-championship caliber, but it looks improved enough to earn a pretty decent bowl bid, if nothing else.

4. Florida -- This weekend's game at Alabama will show just how far the Gators can get with their still-not-quite-fully-baked offense.

5. Auburn -- Weird (and incredibly hard-hitting) game Saturday night, one Auburn was very fortunate to survive with a win. It'll be interesting to see how this affects their play over the next couple weeks.

6. LSU -- Continuing to beat below-average teams just badly enough to look competent in front of the pollsters. Christ, they're gonna go 9-3 again, aren't they?

7. Kentucky -- That #2 ranking in the SEC in total offense won't last once they start playing real teams. The #10 ranking in run defense, though, just might.

8. Georgia -- It's gonna be hard for this offense to accomplish anything of note if the coaches can't find a setting for Murray other than "do absolutely nothing" and "carry the entire team on your back."

9. Tennessee -- Like last year, they're going to have to content themselves with a lot of moral victories. Unlike last year, it doesn't look like that's what they're playing for.

10. Vanderbilt -- Vandy now has a better SEC record than Georgia, Tennessee, or Ole Miss. Oh, hey, good for them.

11. Mississippi State -- Look on the bright side, State fans: With Mullen at the helm, it now takes two QBs to throw five picks in a single game.

12. Ole Miss -- It's a damn good thing for the Rebels that the NCAA doesn't have English Premier League-style relegation, or they'd be sewing "C-USA" patches onto their jerseys right now.