Monday, October 30

Blogpoll ballot #10, and another modest proposal.

So another Georgia-Florida game has come and gone, another gut-wrenching L has been etched into the Georgia column, and another vision quest for answers and meaning has begun. With all due respect to the actual experts who get paid actual money to make the decision on these kinds of things, I have an idea I'd like to share with the rest of the class -- not for how to win the Florida game, since that ship has sailed for this year, but how to maybe perk up the offense for the three critical regular-season games we have left.

There was enough ineptitude in various phases of the game Saturday that it would be a fool's enterprise to blame it all on one person, but some failures were more glaring than others. It almost seemed like things were looking up after the Tennessee game, but at this point it's kind of hard to deny: Our receivers, for the most part, couldn't catch the clap in a Moldovan whorehouse. In Jacksonville, the part of Schleprock was dutifully played by tight end Martrez Milner, who dropped four of the six passes thrown to him -- all of which, if memory serves, were potential first downs or big gains. I hate to throw a single player under the bus like this, particularly one with as much raw physical talent as Trez has, but he is a senior, and it may be time to bite the bullet and face up to the fact that if he was gonna be the superstar heir apparent to Leonard Pope, he'da been it by now. Guy's gotta be a complete basket case after the Cocktail Party; time to put him on the bench, use him as a blocker when necessary, and start getting Tripp Chandler some reps.

People say you look like MC Hammer on crack, Humpty.

Chandler's gonna need a partner in a two-TE set, but we already have the perfect complement on our roster. A player who has shown talent at a number of positions and who has only one fewer career reception against Florida than Milner does. A player who was on the receiving end of what was almost one of the greatest plays in Georgia-Florida history.

Fo' really: How about TE Joe Tereshinski III?

As the Columbus L-E's David Ching reported, almost the minute Richt announced Matt Stafford as the starter against Mississippi State, Joe T was asking around to see if there were any other position he could play, and apparently Richt even specifically said he would know what to do at TE, but that it wouldn't make any sense. I'm guessing that's because they thought Milner was actually going to be catching passes from there on out. But Tereshinski can catch passes, his own brother is a TE at Wake Forest . . . I'm not saying we put him in on every play, or even every 2-TE set, but the dude wants to contribute, why not give him a shot? Picture this: Fourth quarter against Georgia Tech, facing a third-and-long in Tech territory, TE Tereshinski takes the handoff in an end-around, then sits back and launches a TD bomb to . . . Matt Stafford? How poetic would that be?

I'm not saying, I'm just saying.

Anyway, just a thought. On with the Blogpoll.

Games watched: VaTech-Clemson, Auburn-Ole Miss, bits and pieces of Michigan-Northwestern, Florida-Georgia (of course), flipped back and forth between Texas-Texas Tech and Tennessee-South Carolina.

1. Ohio State (last week: 1)

2. Michigan (2)

3. Texas (3)

4. Arkansas (5)
Everybody in the SEC's great Biblical A-beat-B-who-beat-C-who-beat-D-etc. daisy chain moves up this week thanks to USC's long-awaited tumble, but quite honestly none of the teams in the SEC looked all that impressive this week. Florida's offense ground to a halt against a supposedly floundering Georgia defense; Auburn looked like they just didn't care against Ole Miss; Tennessee nearly got punked again by Spurrier and his Gamecocks. Even Arkansas didn't look nearly as impressive against ULM as the 44-10 final score would lead you to believe. Fortunately there are enough big games left in the conference that this should get shaken up a bit over the next few weeks.

5. Auburn (6)

6. Florida (7)

7. Tennessee (9)

8. California (10)
There it is, Bears -- you now have no excuse if you don't beat Southern Cal.

9. West Virginia (11)

10. Southern California (4)
I may be harping on Mark May's Trojan man-love entirely too much, but did you notice how Oregon State punked USC and May still found cause to spotlight the Beavers in his "Bonehead Play" segment on "SportsCenter"? I'm going to write a sequel to the Ed Orgeron Song and call it "Mark May is Crying," and the refrain will go "YawyawyawyawYAWWWWWyaw, YAWWWWW yaw, Trojans."

11. Notre Dame (12)

12. Oklahoma (17)
I've been impressed at the way they've continued scrapping despite the loss of Adrian Peterson. If they win out -- a distinct possibility, since Texas A&M (this Saturday) is the only currently ranked team left on their schedule -- they might still have an outside shot at a BCS bowl.

13. Louisville (13)

14. Boston College (19)
Everyone seems to have forgotten that these guys, in fact, are the frontrunners for the Atlantic Division title. Boston College-Georgia Tech -- if ever a conference championship game cried out to be televised on a Thursday night, it's this one.

15. LSU (14)

16. Boise State (15)

17. Clemson (8)

18. Wisconsin (16)
I have to give them credit for finally escaping the Cheerleader Curse, but generally you want to try and avoid needing to mount a second-half comeback against Illinois, if you can help it.

19. Georgia Tech (20)

20. Virginia Tech (25)
Some will say their win over Clemson was only a matter of managing to catch the Tigers at just the right time, but holding D-IA's top-scoring offense to single digits is a pretty major feat regardless.

21. Rutgers (18)

22. Oregon (21)

23. Texas A&M (NR/28)

24. Iowa (NR/29)

25. Wake Forest (22)
Generally you want to try and avoid needing to mount a fourth-quarter comeback against North Carolina, if you can help it.

The next five: Missouri, Oregon State, Penn State, Georgia, Maryland.

Dropped out: Missouri (23), Nebraska (24).

Saturday, October 28

We're lying in the gutter, but we're looking at the stars.

When last the Bulldogs went down to Jacksonville to face archrival Florida and left with a disappointing loss, I remember walking around with this expression on my face, the expression of the guy who's just been dumped by the hottest, smartest, most wonderful girl in the entire world and is trying to wear a brave face but is secretly (or not-so-secretly) dying inside because he knows life's probably never going to be that good again. Last year we had to go into battle without all-singing, all-dancing, all-awesome starting QB D.J. Shockley (or J.D. Stokley if you're Lou Holtz), who was injured, and start Joe Tereshinski instead; in spite of the fact that we'd lost our most important player on offense, we battled valiantly against the Gators but still lost a heartbreaker, 14-10. Now, there are different kinds of heartbreaking games, and this was the kind where deep down you kind of wished Georgia had just gotten blown out from the get-go and lost by three TDs, so at least you knew the Dawgs had been outgunned from the very beginning and there was no point lying awake at night wondering what might have been. Instead, I found myself pondering all kinds of what-ifs -- what if Shockley hadn't gotten hurt, what if we'd let Joe T open up the offense just a little bit more, what if Martrez Milner hadn't dropped that first pass -- and feeling like the universe had just up and decided to align against me and my guys for one afternoon.

There are a million reasons why this past weekend's game should've felt the same way. What if Martrez Milner didn't drop all those passes? What if we didn't cough up that fumble that Florida ran back for a TD at the very beginning of the second half? What if we managed to keep them from getting a first down on that last drive? And yet I don't feel anything like I did past year. Maybe it's only because expectations have been so dramatically lowered compared to last season, but I watched the final seconds tick off the clock with a kind of sad smile on my face, feeling disappointed for my guys yet also close to burstingly proud that they'd fought as hard as they had in the face of overwhelming circumstances. There are those who would take the Steve Spurrier route and tell me not to applaud a team for good effort and for securing only a moral victory where they could've had an actual one, people who would tell me I should be booing the team for not winning instead of cheering them for almost winning, and maybe I'm a wuss for all that, but I'm still as proud of, and as hopeful for, my team as I've been probably since the South Carolina game.

Tony Taylor: One of those rare specimens who is both a player and crushes a lot.

First of all, let's throw out the first half, because it sucked. On second thought, let's not, because you have to have seen how dispiriting the first half was to realize what a feat it was for Georgia to rise up in the second half and mount their comeback. Hell, look at one of the very first plays of the second half for Georgia -- that Kregg Lumpkin fumble that was returned for a TD -- and consider how many teams would've thrown up their hands at that point and decided it just wasn't their day. Instead of doing that, Georgia shrugged it off and came within a late turnover or late Gator first down of possibly tying the game and, given the odds against them, accomplishing what would've been maybe the second most shocking achievement of the entire weekend.

Georgia's offense, which had struggled under a bewildering quarterback rotation all season long, fought back to put the team in a position to win. The defense, which had been tagged for just shy of 100 points over the previous three weeks and was underachieving to the point of inspiring widespread calls for the firing of an assistant coach, completely shut down one of the top offenses in the conference. We followed the Auburn blueprint and got pressure on Chris Leak, we held their running game in check, we finally laid down some decent pass coverage (though it helped that Florida dropped almost as many passes as we did) -- and we did it against the 8th-ranked team in the country.

If you can look at that and still come away with nothing but anger and depression, then roll with that, but I won't.

Last week, I said that in spite of the team's struggles and all the reasons there were to be frustrated, even angry, with their performance, I refused to wash my hands of them (or this season) because I sensed that there was a fire just waiting to be lit. In the second half Saturday -- probably the best overall second half of football they've played since UAB -- I think we saw that fire finally start to burn. In the waning minutes of the fourth quarter, when we punted back to the Gators and stuffed their returner inside the 20, I saw the defenders jumping around and slapping each other on the helmet like I hadn't seen all season long, finally realizing how good it felt to not play scared. Matt Stafford, it goes without saying, showed flashes of the nerves of steel he'll need to be the title-winning QB Georgia recruited him to be. Instead of searching frantically for ways to lose games we should be winning, we were finally on the hunt for ways to win a game in which we should've been getting annihilated.

When was the last time you saw the Georgia defense this pumped?

In light of all that, I was surprised at the mountains of negativity I saw in the papers Sunday morning. The team that played Florida this weekend was by no means a great team, but neither was it the team that collapsed in the second half against Tennessee or the team that lost to Vanderbilt. I'll admit, there were times over the past few weeks -- particularly in the wake of the PTSD-inducing loss to Vanderbilt -- when my own confidence in Comrade Richt and the state of the Georgia program was beginning to flag; I started thinking that our problems went beyond mere growing pains or rebuilding and went deeper, possibly as deep as some overarching philosophy within the program. After the loss to Florida, as disappointing as it might have been, I don't feel that way anymore. Obviously some things need to be changed and some players still need to get better, but progress is being made. And Mayor Kyle, I think there's a downright terrifying team lying in wait for 2007, 2008, and 2009. Actually, even with this season I'm seeing promise that I didn't before. Instead of wondering if we're going to find a way to lose to Kentucky, I'm thinking we actually have a shot at victories over teams like Auburn and Tech that were looking like distant dreams a few weeks ago.

I'm sure we'll be hearing plenty from the doomsayers and boo-birds and fairweather fans who can only focus on the half-empty glass of the discrepancy on the scoreboard Saturday evening; let them talk. They'll have reasons to try and scramble back onto the bandwagon soon enough. If they're wondering where to find it, they can just look for me -- I'll be the one who's been riding on the back of it sipping George Dickel in my La-Z-Boy all along.

Which reminds me: I haven't referred to this game as the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party even once, and someone who despises Michael Adams as much as I do should've taken care of that already. Anyway, I hope all my Georgia paisans who went down to Jax for the Cocktail Party enjoyed themselves, and even though I didn't make it to this Cocktail Party, I look forward to attending many more Cocktail Parties to come.

And I hope y'all got ripping, filthy, stinking, falling-down drunk.

Do it for Mike.

Building steam with a grain of salt:

When the day is long, and the night, the night is yours alone . . .

· Bristol, Connecticut, Saturday, October 28, 2006, 7:05 p.m.:

"Bristol 911, what is your emergency?"

"Uh, yeah, I -- I'm -- I think I've done something bad -- "

"What did you do, sir?"

"There's a lot of sleeping pills -- I took a lot of them."

"How many did you take?"

"A lot. A whole bottle. I don't feel too good."

"Did you take them on purpose?"

"Yeah -- yeah. I'm sad. I'm feeling sad. I've been pumping Southern Cal pretty hard lately -- I think they're still, like, the greatest college football team ever, in the history of mankind -- but they lost to Oregon State today, and I just decided there was no reason . . . no reason to . . . see, I thought they were -- "

"Sir, I'm really interested in listening to your story, but you're gonna have to listen to me first, OK? Can you tell me where you are right now?"

"ESPN studios, in a maintenance closet. On the college football set."

"OK. What's your name?"

"Mm -- Mark. I used to play offensive line for the Washington -- "

"OK, Mark, listen to me carefully, I'm going to send an ambulance to you right away. Just stay on the line . . . "

· Look on the bright side, Dawg fans (and Mark May): At least you're not the team that lost to Temple. Egad.

· Oklahoma (+2.5) pulling the upset on the road at Missouri: Check. Ohio State (-27) at home against Minnesota: Check. Texas (-12) on the road against Texas Tech, an unranked team that lost to Colorado . . . not so much. And thus disappears, as if by magic, the hundred-and-some bucks that was almost assuredly mine, all mine, in the Tent City weekly parlay. Dammit, Mack Brown, I could've used that money. To buy a new toaster oven, among other things. Shoulda put it on Notre Dame.

On the other hand, the Red Raiders' quick sprint to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter did lead to plenty of sideline shots of the TTU "bell ringer," and to many entertaining conversations inspired by my mom asking me, "Why are you giggling like that?"

I especially love the big grin on his face.

· Cheerleader Curse Watch: The curse is broken. Barely. It was Wisconsin's turn in the seat of doom this weekend, as Badger Ashley Pringle was selected Cheerleader of the Week by, and Wisky nearly followed the rest of 'em, down 24-10 at the half at home to a resolutely awful Illinois team. But they came back with 20 unanswered points in the second half to break the spell, so hats off to them.

· Finally, I promised the numerous Virginia Tech fans in my family that I'd give the Hokies their due props for continuing the ACC's bewildering chain of round-robin beatdowns and donkeypunching the Clemson Tigers this past Thursday night, 24-7. Here's hoping they deal an equally harsh blow to The U when they go down to Miami this weekend. A word of advice to the Hokies, though: To paraphrase Chris Rock, "If you're at the Orange Bowl and someone steps on your foot, let it slide."

Why get suspended for three games just because someone smudged your Puma?

Friday, October 27

Friday Bostonblogging and Random Ten: Yea Though I Walk Through the Shadow of the Valley of Death edition.

We must protect this couch.

I haven't mentioned it much because other bloggers are doing a far better job of covering it than I could, but this weekend is the annual hugenormous matchup between Georgia and Florida in sunny Jacksonville. Florida is favored by not one but two touchdowns, which should kind of give you an idea of how this one's looking to the rest of the country and, quite honestly, to most people in Bulldog Nation; my own prediction has the Gators actually winning by a wee bit more than that. Jeff Schultz, shockingly, is picking Georgia to cover. But people picking Georgia to actually pull the upset are about as scarce right now as "Re-Elect Mark Foley" yard signs.

Last year around this time, as Georgia went into battle with backup QB Joe Tereshinski having to lead the team due to D.J. Shockley's injury, I confessed to feeling a "weirdly electric atmosphere around the game" as if "something really amazing is gonna happen that one team's fans are going to be talking about for a long time." I'll refrain from making any such statements this year, because I honestly don't feel anything like that this year; I'll simply say I think Matt Stafford will play better than people expect, and Georgia will be in it for at least the first half, and leave it at that. But nevertheless, I will be doing all my usual superstition observance the next couple days and doing anything I can to help bump up Georgia's karmic mojo, including putting my dog in a sweater.

"Like you haven't embarrassed me enough already. Assface."

To paraphrase a popular Ole Miss slogan, "We may not win every game, but we never lose a battle of mascot cuddliness." So that's a moral victory right there.

Anyway, no more predictions or anything remotely resembling same, other than to speculate that a lot of people will get really stinking drunk this weekend. Of that you can be quite certain.

The Ten:

1. Norman Greenbaum, "Spirit in the Sky"
2. Rinôçérôse, "La guitaristic house organisation"
3. David Cross, "Although Indigent, Rural Families Have Little To Say In The Matter, Their Meager, Third Rate Public Education Has Kept Them Ignorant And Thus, Great Sources Of Ridicule!"
4. Pet Shop Boys, "Somewhere" (Forthright mix)
5. R.E.M., "Let Me In"
6. 3rd Bass, "No Master Plan No Master Race"
7. Beck, "8.6.82"
8. Cee-Lo, "Scrap Metal"
9. Johnny Cash, "Bird on a Wire"
10. Talking Heads, "Wild Wild Life"

Random Tens? Weekend predictions? Proposals of marriage? Easy ways to get out of traffic tickets? Put 'em in the comments por favor.

Thursday, October 26

Thursday mystery meat: Jaksamash!

I like you peoples.

· CBS Sportsline already has a countdown clock to the Michigan-Ohio State game. Wolverines Buckeyes number one number two BCS implications blahdy blahdy blah blah. What we really need is a clock counting down to the nationwide release of Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, the first four minutes of which are YouTubed above. Everything I've seen or heard of it thus far has been pants-wettingly funny. What can I say? Foreigners are hilarious.

· So Tennessee mascot Smokey IX bit (or, depending on whom you believe, most certainly did not bite) an Alabama player on the sideline at Neyland Stadium on Saturday. All due respect to Smokey, but . . . big f'in deal! One, it didn't happen during actual gameplay, and two, the receiver was falling on (or at the very least near) Smokey as it happened. Those circumstances in no way compare to what Georgia mascot UGA V did to Auburn wideout Robert Baker during the '96 UGA-AU game. That happened in the middle of the freakin' game, and Baker wasn't even getting all up in Uga's business. Uga just took a chunk out of him 'cause he fuckin' felt like it! Now, we can argue over the morality of that act if you like, but one thing that cannot be disputed is the fact that Uga is one hard-ass dog.

Maybe Uga smelled coke on him.

· Rush Limbaugh: total dipshit. Oh, wait, that isn't news. Anyway, as expected, Michelle Malkin rushes obediently to his defense and, also as expected, manages to completely miss the point. Limbaugh wasn't engaging in "tough scrutiny" of anyone's "positions or motives" when he posited, with absolutely no evidence or basic knowledge thereof, that Michael J. Fox was "faking" his Parkinson's tremors in a recent campaign ad for Missouri Senate candidate Claire McCaskill; he was merely pulling stuff out of his substantial ass in an effort to discredit his opponent without engaging in any substantive discussion of the issues whatsoever. Which has pretty much become Limbaugh's modus operandi ever since the national GOP started imploding a while back: If you can't argue with 'em on the issues, just make fun of 'em by impersonating them in a faggy voice.

· Speaking of complete wastes of space, I haven't ragged on Kevin Federline in a while, so howsabout I mock him for this quote, an Esquire magazine "Dubious Achievement" waiting to happen, referring to his appearance as an extra on "CSI":

"I shocked myself. There were parts that I wish I would have done different, but there are parts that really took me, like, Wow, did I do that? I looked at myself and I was like, It looked good. It looked perfect."

Pretty high praise for a role that basically amounted to "Guy In Background #1." But as hard as it is to believe, this one's even better:

With each birth, "it gets less and less stressful. It's just time to get my stuff down while they're young. so I can sit back and watch them grow up."

Yeah, I'd imagine it's gotten less stressful for him. Not being within a hundred miles of your previous two kids because you're busy fucking some new chick is a pretty good way of keeping the stress level down.

I can't even hear the name "Kevin Federline" anymore without having the same thought every time: "Phil Hartman's wife flies into a drug-induced rage and gives him a double-tap to the head . . . but Britney Spears continues to allow K-Fed to walk the earth?"

It's hard out there for a complete asshat.

· Cheerleader Curse Watch: The curse will be robustly tested this week, as the selection of Wisconsin's Ashley Pringle as Cheerleader of the Week means 17th-ranked Wisconsin will have to find a way to lose to 2-6 Illinois, a Ron Zook-coached team that managed to cough up a 25-7 lead over Indiana earlier in the season, at home this weekend to perpetuate the CotW's bad mojo. I suppose the Badgers could get caught looking ahead to Penn State, or star running back P.J. Hill could get caught in a bear trap Friday night and have to gnaw off his own leg to get out of it, but . . . let's just say that if Wisky does lose to the Illini, it will be categorically undeniable that we have a full-blown team-killer on our hands.

An even bigger team-killer than having Ron Zook as your coach? Strong words, but . . . yes.

Tuesday, October 24

Blogpoll ballot #9: In which absolutely nothing happens.

After several weeks of big games and headline-making plays, this past weekend featured . . . well, not a whole lot actually, other than all of two top-25 matchups and a record-breaking comeback by Michigan State that we'll have all forgotten about by January. Accordingly, the Blogpoll ballot doesn't feature all that much upheaval, though Clemson does get a nice bump up and a couple high-profile teams got knocked down a peg or two after closer-than-they-should've-been wins. Honestly, all I'm doing at this point is sitting around waiting for a reason to put Vanderbilt on here.

Games watched: Georgia-Mississippi State, Clemson-Georgia Tech, parts of Tennessee-Alabama.

1. Ohio State (last week: 1)

2. Michigan (2)

3. Texas (4)
I briefly thought about moving USC up above Texas since the Trojans handled Nebraska easily while the Longhorns struggled, but . . . nah.

4. Southern Cal (5)

5. Arkansas (7)

6. Auburn (8)

7. Florida (9)
Of course, if one of their cheerleaders gets named's Cheerleader of the Week, ratchet this number right back down.

8. Clemson (12)
Incredible win against Georgia Tech. They ran over the Yellow Jacket defense like they weren't even there. That loss to Boston College isn't going away, though. I think there's an excellent chance Clemson would win handily if they played that game again, but . . . they're not gonna, so BC is still the Atlantic Division leader until they screw up.

9. Tennessee (3)
Why couldn't Erik Ainge have done that two weeks earlier?

10. California (6)

11. West Virginia (11)

12. Notre Dame (13)

13. Louisville (10)
A second straight unimpressive win against a team they should?ve manhandled. How is it that they were better before Brohm came back?

14. LSU (14)

15. Boise State (15)

16. Wisconsin (19)

17. Oklahoma (18)

18. Rutgers (20)
Heaven knows I hate to make rash overgeneralizations on this blog, but if you don?t want to see the Scarlet Knights in a BCS bowl, you are a horrible person.

19. Boston College (22)

20. Georgia Tech (17)

21. Oregon (16)

22. Wake Forest (21)

23. Missouri (NR/26)

24. Nebraska (23)

25. Virginia Tech (NR/28)

The next five: Alabama, Penn State, Texas A&M, Iowa, Brigham Young.

Dropped out: Iowa (24), Texas A&M (25).

Sunday, October 22

Waiting for a red-letter day.

If you think this is lonely, imagine being from Starkville . . .

There are many things elevating college football in the Southeast above all other sports, or even above college football in other parts of the country, but I realized another one Saturday: the simple question "Who y'all got this weekend?" If you're a fan of one team, you will find yourself asked this question many times by fans of other teams, not with malice but with simple curiosity, and maybe even a hint of solidarity. It's a subtle indication of empathy with your struggles -- it indicates a desire to be reassured that everyone else has it just as tough as your team does, but as such, it also indicates an understanding that everyone does have it pretty tough. College football may not have reached the heights of parity that the NFL has, but the level of competition in the SEC is still such that you can lose games you're not supposed to, struggle in areas you're not supposed to, find yourself mired in a dogfight even though you were being touted as the greatest team on God's earth. "Who y'all got this weekend?" is a not-so-secret handshake signifying that you understand this, and you recognize that understanding in others, too.

The question was posed to me Saturday by a clerk at a BP station halfway between Heflin and Ranburne, Alabama, as I made the early-morning drive over to Athens for the Bulldogs' next game. She was wearing a crimson "Bama Girl" sweatshirt and either recognized the red-and-black #4 jersey I was wearing or saw me putting up the red super-G flags on my car windows while I filled up outside. "Mississippi State," I told her, then added, "God willing, we won't screw it up like last week," and she gave the half-chuckle, half-sigh of someone who's been there. Not everyone would've understood, but she did.

Quarterbacking in the SEC: like pimping, not easy.

There was a part of me that hoped Georgia would break out and drop a three-TD blowout on the Bizarro Bulldogs, but deep down there was another part -- the part that made the weary comment to the BP clerk -- that knew that wouldn't happen, that the 18-point spread would go uncovered, that I'd be walking out of Sanford Stadium probably having witnessed another victory but somehow not being all that thrilled about it. Sure enough, the game followed a distressing pattern set up two weeks ago against Tennessee and repeated verbatim ever since: Strong start, solid lead at halftime, and then a turnover-induced third-quarter swoon leading to 10 virtually free points that let the opponent right back in the game. Fortunately this game didn't end up with an L like the last two, but it wasn't for lack of trying: Down by three and having to drive from their own 19 with just 45 seconds left in the game, Missy State completed two passes for 58 yards to bring them down to the Georgia 23, and only an ill-timed fumble by their QB prevented them from likely kicking a game-tying field goal to send the game into overtime, and who knows what would've happened after that.

Our locker room at halftime must have the ambience of an opium den; seriously, that's about the only hypothesis I can give for how we've managed to so completely crap our pants in the second halves of the past three games. While the other team is getting some version of the "Win one for the Gipper" speech, our guys are eating turkey and watching "Requiem for a Dream." Look, I've heard the "We're just not that good this year" explanation from a number of people, and I've come to terms with it -- believe me, after you've seen your team get punked by Vanderbilt on Homecoming, you don't have much choice. But "just not that good" means different things to different teams, and way down deep beneath the part of me that's understanding and forgiving and really, really listened to Father Brian's sermon this past Sunday when he talked about paying more attention to what God wants than what we want for ourselves, I just can't shake the feeling that even a rebuilding Georgia team, even one as behind the 8-ball as this one is, shouldn't be getting played so close by so many ridonkulously bad teams.

Whoo . . . halftime over already? Guess we better get back out on the field then.

Originally I had planned for this post to compare the current crop of Bulldogs with the team from 1996 -- "worst team of the past decade" is a relative term, not to mention a subjective one, but that was the last time we finished a season with a losing record. I quickly realized that such a comparison wouldn't have proved much in the end, because you try to do something like that and pretty soon you're getting into highly speculative discussions of which team from this year would hypothetically beat so-and-so from such-and-such year and how many Georgia wideouts can do the Humpty Dance on the head of a pin and blah blah blah. But I will say this: "Just not that good" or no, we're doing a lot of stuff that previous Georgia teams, just-not-that-good ones included, didn't do. F'rinstance, I have many vivid memories of the '99 season (in the sense that your memories of being in a horrific car crash or getting mugged at gunpoint might also be "vivid"); I remember us being down 17-3 going into the fourth quarter against a Vanderbilt team certainly no worse than this year's, yet instead of losing, we somehow stormed back to win by 10 points. I also remember a pass defense as bad as anything Hal Mumme's ever yakked out onto the field, yet we never gave up more than 50 points to anybody in regulation. (Yeah, sure, Tech did it in overtime, but you can thank Al Ford, not the Georgia D, for those last three points.)

What's the difference between this year and those other teams? We discussed it at length at the tailgate after the Missy State game, and nearly universally agreed that it boils down to a lack of leadership. Not leadership in the sense that the current veterans aren't being role models for the younger guys or aren't helping them along with their playing skills, because I'm sure they're doing that, but leadership in the sense that there's nobody to provide the emotional spark that, say, David Pollack or Thomas Davis or Richard Seymour provided some years ago. I've gone on at length about how that emotional spark seems to have disappeared with the departure of Brian VanGorder, but until talking to some of my fellow Dawgbloggers and other folks more plugged into the program than I am, I didn't realize just how lacking it was among the players, too. I'm not going to get mad and lay into them for that; leadership isn't something that you can pick up like a throwing style or a blocking technique, and it's not reasonable to expect any one guy to just randomly burst out of his shell and become that fiery motivator. Still, with all the potential and raw talent on this team, it hurts when you think about what could've happened if just one guy had stepped up and been the firebreather.

Now, it goes without saying that we've all gotten spoiled as hell down here in Bulldog Nation. When Richt "blew the lid off" the program and started taking us to SEC championships instead of December bowls, we talked ourselves into a mindset where even the rebuilding seasons had major potential and we'd never have to suffer through a Donnanesque season again. Of course, that isn't true, and never was; no program, no matter how mighty, is immune to those kinds of seasons. Even Oklahoma "only" won eight games last year. Ohio State "only" won eight in 2004. Shit, look at Tennessee last year and where they are now. So I have plenty of hope that Georgia can dust themselves off from a similarly disappointing season and put it behind them next year. I'll admit, walking out of the stadium after we barfed one up to Vanderbilt, I was no less tempted than anyone else by grand hallucinations of the "sky is falling"/"we're turning into Ole Miss" variety, but after taking time to simmer down a little I've gotten to a point where I can at least notice and appreciate the reasons to be optimistic about 2007. Paul Westerdawg, bless his soul, can think of plenty.

Exhibit A.

And yet as petty as this may sound, this season still hasn't been a lot of fun for me. Maybe I'm selfish for even mentioning that. Maybe I should feel guilty for being selfish. Maybe I'm a wuss for feeling guilty. But anyway, it seems like there's something in this team that hasn't been realized, something that could break out and do something special this season if someone would just step the fuck up. I'd be really disappointed if that never happened, but the thing is, I know the coaches would be too. So I'll continue waiting for the spark to get lit. Maybe it happens November 11; maybe it doesn't happen until the weekend after Thanksgiving. Maybe it doesn't happen until next year. But I'd much rather wait for that moment than for the sky to fall.

The gas face:

I hear the kids are calling these "touchdowns." Anybody heard of them?

· Here's something I will not be doing under any circumstances, though: I will never, ever, ever boo one of my own players. Not Joe Tereshinski, not Mohamed Massaquoi, not in a box, not with a fox. (And I throw fucking toasters, for crying out loud!) In case you didn't see the game on TV -- and you didn't, did you, 'cause it wasn't televised -- the crowd booed Massaquoi in the second half when he dropped a pass and then applauded when he was taken off the field for the subsequent play. I thought most of our fans were above this; maybe I was wrong. But not only do some of them rejoice in booing our own players, a select few out on the fringe actually think you're not a true fan unless you show your displeasure with subpar performance by booing, because booing actually helps the team by informing the coaching staff that the fans want a change of some kind. Yeah, I'm sure Richt was sitting there the whole time thinking, "What? The crowd is displeased with MoMass? Then I shall substitute him forthwith! Thank you, boo-birds, for helping me make a personnel decision I was too stupid to make myself!"

I mean, I blog on a weekly basis about who I think is doing well and who's not, but I can't recall ever having indulged in the delusion that the coaching staff gave one tenth of a flying fuck what I thought. And you know something, I don't think I particularly want the coaches to give that much of a flying fuck about the fans' knee-jerk opinions, because a coach who lets himself be governed by fan opinion is really no better than any of the politicians up in Washington who won't so much as take a dump without looking at the poll numbers first. Never mind that if there were any recruits at the game, I'm sure the very last place in the world they'd want to play at is in front of a group of fans who will forget about anything good they've done and shower them with boos they minute they screw up. Attention, you so-called fans: If you love booing Georgia players so much, go become a Georgia Tech fan. I hear they're hurting for them right now. (More here from the always-insightful Jmac.)

· Speaking of the Bees, I know it's not a sign of being in a good place mentally when your most satisfying moment of the weekend comes not from watching your own team win but rather from watching your biggest rival get housed, but . . . well, thank you, Georgia Tech, for giving me hope for November 25th. And while I can't say I approve of Clemson's sartorial choices on Saturday, you gotta admit that more than a few teams have ridden the wacky-uniform trend to fairly large wins of late. Red pants for the Florida game? Maybe monochrome red unis? Look, I'm just planting seeds here. I'd send them out wearing Vera Wang dresses and Timberlands if I thought it'd give 'em a ghost of a chance in Jacksonville this weekend.

· Oh, and I know I'm not supposed to blog about anything remotely fashion-related here, but apparently this year's kid-tested, mother-approved Georgia sorority-girl uniform includes leggings worn with everything short of a burial gown. Update your Christmas lists accordingly.

· Did I read this right? The team that invented giving up, coming back from a five-TD deficit to complete the biggest comeback in D-IA history? I wonder if John L. Smith slapped the Northwestern coach after the game.

· As far as the NFL goes, as a Redskins fan, I sense that we're just weeks away from officially writing off the '06 season and simply awaiting the beginning of the Jason Campbell Era. If you had "I Wish I Was Dead" in the "What Is The Correct Response To This Development?" pool, congratulations, pick up your prize package at the concierge desk.

The minute Brunell breaks a hip, I'm so in there.

· Cheerleader Curse Watch: It lives. Again. Arizona, the alma mater of Cheerleader of the Week Taylor Hendrickson, welcomed Oregon State to their house this past weekend and got whacked 17-10; schools with cheerleaders named to CotW honors are now 0-4 in the games immediately following said recognition, and an aggregate 3-8 post-CotW. SI, hear me now: I will give you five thousand dollars to feature one of these girls this week. C'mon, they're adorable!

Five dimes, fellas. You know where to reach me.

Friday, October 20

"Yeah I went hunting once. Shot a deer in the leg. Had to kill it with a shovel. Took about an hour. Why do you ask?"

Ok, it took me a while, but a picture in a post by Paul Westerdawg finally jogged my memory, and I realized whom our embattled defensive coordinator, Willie Martinez, looks like: Michael Scott, Steve Carell's horrible-boss character from "The Office."

"I guess the atmosphere that I've tried to create here is that I'm a friend first and a defensive coordinator second, and probably an entertainer third."

Friday Random Ten: Hanging by a thread.

Off to Athens this weekend to watch a Battle of the Bulldogs -- Georgia fights for their right to party against the Croomtastic Bizarro Bulldogs of Mississippi State. If we win, free shots for everybody. If we lose, GATA will cease to stand for "Get After That Ass" and will instead mean "Get Away from That Arsenic." Say a little prayer for me.

My prediction? A big Bulldog win! Zzzzing! Seriously, I'm predicting a 20-10 Georgia victory. But, uh, if Richt decides he wants to score a ton more points than that, that's cool too. If you're into that kind of thing.

Anyway, the Ten:

1. Massive Attack, "Risingson"
2. Underworld, "Born Slippy" (Deep Pan)
3. U2, "Until the End of the World"
4. Morrissey, "I Have Forgiven Jesus"
5. U2, "Discotheque"
6. Chaka Khan, "Feel For You"

[Editor's note: One of the greatest pop songs of the '80s. Maybe ever. Just saying.]

7. Stevie Wonder, "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours"
8. Nanci Griffith, "Speed of the Sound of Loneliness"
9. Tommy Tutone, "867-5309/Jenny"
10. Richard Cheese, "The Rockafeller Skank"

Your own Ten, as always, in the comments.

Thursday, October 19

Thursday Bostonblogging and Mystery Meat: Two great tastes that taste great together.

OK, I'm sorry if this seems teh ghey, but today's my dog Jenna's second birthday, so I took some extra effort to make it a special occasion. And also to make it as goofy as possible.

Starting with a hat.

Continuing with candles.

At long last, her forced parental humiliation over, Jenna gets to chow down.

And now the Meat:

· I haven't posted much on politics lately, what with far more important events taking place on the gridiron on a weekly basis, but I was checking up on the status of Democrats in the national Senate races today and came across this fascinating account of a Connecticut contest that has turned into surrealist theatre.

It's not that [Ned] Lamont has overperformed, or that Joe [Lieberman] has melted down, it's that Connecticut Election 2006 has gone off the deep end. It's not your normal white picket fence suburban election, with attack ad facing attack ad. No, this is more like a white picket fence election that suddenly gets bored with life and decides to live in the forest, take a bunch of LSD, trout-fish naked, and taunt a bear cub before ending its life suddenly and with total and inexplicable resolution on November 7. Well not really, but there's no analogy that I can think of summarizing what's going on. What has happened is that Joe Lieberman competed in a Democratic primary, lost, and is now competing in a Republican primary, and is losing again. . . .

On Monday, Lieberman was shocked that his feisty Republican opponent criticized him for voting with the Democrats 90% of the time. To understand this debate, you have to understand that Joe is a very self-centered man, and honestly believes that this election should be renamed 'Joe Lieberman Tribute Season'. He thinks that voters think about things like Committee seniority and how awesome his parking place is outside of the Dirksen Senate office building (to be fair to Joe, it is a really good parking spot).
This means that he also buys into the ridiculous idea that Democrats are mean, and Republicans are nice. Thus, a Republican attacking him from the right was not only shocking, it was problematic, since his strategy hinges on getting votes from conservatives and moderates to hold off dirty fucking hippies like businessman Ned Lamont and his venture capitalist wife, Annie.

Interesting. So the Republican challenger was giving Lieberman more heat than Lamont? And none of Joltin' Joe's supposed pals in the GOP came rushing to his defense like they'd been doing for months? Here's what I said about Lieberman's prospects back in July:

I think Atrios is right in predicting that Joe's "true loyal base -- Republicans" will not rush to his aid nearly as quickly as the Lieberman campaign almost assuredly believes they will. The current GOP is nothing if not opportunistic to a cutthroat degree, and given the choice between keeping a loyal (if big-I Independent) lapdog and picking up a Senate seat for the Rs -- particularly in a year when the Rs are in real danger of losing their Senate majority -- the Republican Party will aim for the latter and leave Lieberman twisting in the wind.

Might be time to start updating that listing, bubeleh.

Yup, I win, who wants to touch me. Anyway, I don't think the Dems will retake the Senate this year, but I think they'll unseat incumbents in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Missouri, and Montana and hold serve elsewhere to close within a 48-51 margin (49-51 if you count lefty independent Bernie Sanders, who's virtually assured of a win up in Vermont). And in the House, I think they'll pick up somewhere in the neighborhood of 25 seats and retake the majority. Nineteen more days and we'll see if I'm right.

· Kyle King wasn't exactly crazy about my idea to hire Rick Neuheisel as Georgia's new offensive coordinator. Look, I don't have my heart set on seeing Slick Rick in the red and black; I'm just tryin' to shake things up, baby. But I do have to take issue with a couple of the points Kyle makes. First, much of the recruiting shenanigans Kyle decries are pretty picayune at best. Second, Neuheisel didn't leave Washington's program in a shambles, U-Dub athletic director Barbara Hedges left the program in a shambles, first by firing Neuheisel in the middle of summer practice over gambling rules her own assistant AD was clueless on, then by replacing him with Keith Gilbertson, who had one whole winning season in his previous head-coaching gig at California (and who himself confessed to participating in office gambling pools while at UW). I certainly won't defend Neuheisel as some kind of saint, but I do think his reputation is a little worse than he probably deserves. He's no Jim Harrick, that much is certain.

Got rid of all his platinum cards and got him a uranium card.

· Over at the inaccurately named Dodgy at Best, Kanu blasts one out of the park with his hilarious in-character account of a typical day for CFB handicapper par excellence Phil Steele. And I think we have a new wildly popular sexual innuendo in the making with "backdoor cover." If I had a cap on right now I would doff it to you, sir.

· This blog may seem inconsequential to everybody but me -- and even me on occasion -- but obviously somebody at Esquire is reading it, because in the November issue's "The Obscure Women We Love" feature, they profiled two women who have been specifically mentioned on Hey Jenny Slater as Official Future Ex-Wives: Melissa "Frenchy" Theuriau and Jill "Mercury Girl" Wagner. Uh, I'm sure they appreciate the pub, guys, but where you been? You don't have to give me credit, or even admit that you love the hell out of this blog -- just give me the monthly column you're dying to publish and we're square. Preesh.

Obscure? I beg to differ, sirs.

· Speaking of hot girls, it's time for the weekly Cheerleader Curse Watch. As I've pointed out, schools represented by's Cheerleader of the Week are now 0-3 in the games immediately following their CotW feature, but it's actually even worse than that: Alabama, Georgia, and UCLA were a combined 12-1 before getting tapped for Cheerleader of the Week recognition -- post-CotW, they've combined for 2-5. Next in front of the firing squad: Arizona, represented by senior marketing major Taylor Hendrickson as this week's featured cheerleader and hosting 3-3 Oregon State on Saturday. Just so you're aware, the Wildcats have failed to score more than 10 points in consecutive games this year, and last week they posted 20 against Stanford, so . . . good luck, kids. Don't say daddy didn't warn you.

Pity. She seems like such a nice girl.

Wednesday, October 18

Another modest proposal.

In the wake of Georgia's disastrous loss to Vanderbilt (for Homecoming -- did I mention it was Homecoming?), opinions are coming in from all sides as to what exactly is wrong with the team. The distressingly Tennessee-in-2005-like QB rotation is one popular target of fan disgust, and to Mark Richt's credit, it appears that that may have finally ended with the by all accounts definitive naming of Matt Stafford as the starter this weekend against Mississippi State. Others have decried Willie Martinez's flaky zone schemes on defense and made suggestions ranging from a change in scheme all the way up to firing Martinez entirely. Still others have tossed out some rather innovative ideas about player shuffling and substitutions on one side of the ball or another.

But it's something Jmac wrote at The Cover Two in the wake of the Vandy loss that really got me to thinking. Jmac mentioned the apparent lack of passion or motivation from the players during the Vanderbilt fiasco -- something I myself noticed from all the way up in section 607 -- and suggested that it speaks to a lack of motivating forces on the coaching staff.

Jmac is right: One of the things always touted as one of Mark Richt's greatest assets is his ice-veined calm on the sidelines, his utter refusal, maybe even inability, to betray any kind of panic to the players he's leading into battle. That is indeed a terrific thing to have in a head coach; for contrast, look at Mike Shula during his first two years of coaching at Alabama and tell me he didn't look like he expected to be punched in the face by somebody at any given moment. Richt's All-World poker face, I'm convinced, is a big part of the reason we've lost only two true road games during his tenure. But there's a flip side to that coin, and it is that while Richt's steely calm is not a panic-inducer, it's not a huge motivator either. For the first four years of his career at Georgia, that didn't matter, because he had defensive coordinator Brian VanGorder to be the yelling, fist-pumping ball of fire on the sidelines. I don't know if anyone's been head-butted at Georgia since Erk Russell left, but if they have, VanGorder was the one to do it. Exactly as Jmac states, BVG was the highly effective yin to Richt's yang, balancing out CMR's preternatural cool and creating a near-perfect chemistry on that staff that worked well enough to go 42-10 in their four years together in Athens.

VanGorder want to SMASH!

I think a lot of what we're seeing from the Bulldogs now is the effect of VanGorder leaving and not being replaced by someone who is truly his attitudinal equal. Whatever else you can say about Willie Martinez, he's not a fire-breather like BVG, and where there was once a perfect balance of contrasting styles, now it's looking more and more like a CPA convention on the Georgia sideline. I'm no psychologist, but that's got to have some kind of deadening effect on the emotions of the players -- maybe not as much as Iowa's pink visitors' locker rooms, but something. That's an aspect I think the coaches need to do something about.

Let's assume for a minute that Richt isn't inclined to throw anyone under the bus for this season's failures (probably a safe assumption at this point) and that the Powers That Be in the athletic department aren't either (probably also safe, unless Georgia completely implodes down the stretch and stays home for bowl season). So Martinez isn't going anywhere. What about the other side of the ball? Nominally the Dawgs already have an offensive coordinator in Neil Callaway, but any Bulldog worth his salts knows Callaway's primary duty is as the OL coach, since Richt is quite well-known for calling his own plays on offense.

There have been numerous calls for Richt to bite the bullet and hire a dedicated OC (though quite conspicuously not from Jmac, who inspired this idea in the first place). I would have no problem with that, and in fact I have a suggestion as to whom he might hire. Bulldog Nation might not want to hear it, but I'm gonna say it.

Say this out loud and see how it sounds: Georgia offensive coordinator Rick Neuheisel.

No, the other Slick Rick.

Think about it: His Washington teams scored an average of 30 points a game when he coached there from 1999 to 2002, and developed a gunslinging style that culminated in Cody Pickett passing for 4,458 yards as the starter in 2002. In the beginning he might need to be reminded that we do, in fact, have running backs on the team, but hey, he'll get used to that in time.

Perhaps more importantly than mere Xs and Os, though, is Neuheisel's personality, which would be the charismatic, high-energy polar opposite to Richt's Zen tranquility. I've seen Neuheisel's persona compared to that of Bill Clinton's, and unlike most people, I choose not to see that as a liability. He's passionate, energetic, frequently cocky as hell -- in some of his more fired-up moments on the Husky sideline, I remember him looking almost Spurrieresque in that regard. He also has a well-established history of being a fun-lover and a good-timer, but while he has a reputation for connecting very well with his young players, it's not the point of massive discipline breakdowns (like what's happening at Miami right now) or excusing embarrassing slackness on the field (like what happened at Florida under Ron Zook).

And the whole thing with the so-called gambling scandal at Washington . . . well, if every company fired every employee who'd ever took part in an NCAA Tournament pool at work, the office buildings of this country would look like the opening scenes in "28 Days Later." At any rate, Neuheisel claims his UW superiors told him it was OK, which seems to be borne out by the university's willingness to settle with him for $4.7 million rather than seek a verdict in his wrongful-termination suit.

Sometimes I can't even look at myself in the mirror 'cause I'm scared of how fly I am.

I pitched this idea to a co-worker of mine and he wondered aloud where the hell Neuheisel had ended up after leaving Seattle. Turns out he's the QBs coach for the Baltimore Ravens. While the NFL does bring with it a considerable amount of prestige, being the QBs coach for the Ravens is kind of like being, say, wide receivers coach for the Steelers: Given what they do, you may only be the sixth or seventh most important person on the sideline. He's getting paid, what, $250,000 a year these days? Pfft. I say we call Rick up and offer him three quarters of a mil to come down to Athens. It's more money, more responsibility, and plenty of clubs for him to play his guitar in during the off-season.

It's a calculated risk, sure, but so's every play you call on offense. What have we got to lose?

And if it doesn't work out, we can always give him a late-night show.

Tuesday, October 17

Roundtable #5: Midseason reset.

The Vandy loss still hurts -- as the great Frank Drebin said, not as much as jumping on a bicycle with the seat missing, but it still hurts -- but I'm slowly getting over it. I think I'm just about through the five Kubler-Ross stages of dealing with a tragedy, and by the way, Kyle, they're not rage, acceptance, blah blah blah, they are Anger, Even Bigger Anger, Depression, Inebriation, and then Acceptance.

How do I show Acceptance? By doing a whole ounce of coke and then chatting with my furniture for hours as if they were sentient beings capable of talking back to me? Naw, man, I don't do that stuff anymore. Instead I merely have a cogent discussion of some football-related issues as posed by Sooner blog My Opinion On Sports, who put their midseason Blogpoll roundtable questions up this week. Ahh, refreshing.

1. Which coaches are clearly on the hot seat at this point? Who is surprisingly not?

Larry Coker was 75-percent gone before the disgraceful brawl between his band of budding statesmen and the guys from Florida International; the brawl probably took care of the other 25 percent. Michigan State's John L. Smith and North Carolina's John Bunting, either (or both) of whom could conceivably go oh-fer the rest of the season, are also dead men walking. I think Dirk Koetter, who still has a chance to win the rest of his Pac-10 schedule at Arizona State and finish 9-3, gets one more year, as does Mississippi State's Sylvester Croom, who'll likely be asked to do the traditional assistant-coach housecleaning after this season is over with.

Somewhere Ron Artest is like, "What's the big deal?"

As for people with a surprising amount of job security in '06, Texas A&M's Dennis "I See London, I See" Franchione certainly qualifies, though his 6-1 start in '06 is built primarily on the backs of an embarrassingly easy schedule. The dude I really have to give a shout-out to is my old Kentucky homeboy Rich Brooks. I gave him nothing but red hell for three-plus years (even comparing him to Ralphie Wiggums) as he led the Mildcats to a 9-25 record from '03 to '05, but right now the 'Cats are 3-4 and could very well finish with enough wins to go to a bowl this year. They could also very well whack Georgia in a few weeks, and yes, I threw up in my mouth a little bit just typing that.

2. Pick three of the undefeated teams and state your case as to why they won?t run the table.

I'd love to watch Rutgers go 12-0 and make it to the BCS, but it ain't gonna happen, not with Pitt, Louisville, and West Virginia still on the schedule. Speaking of Louisville, they've got also got Pitt and WVU left to contend with, not to mention Rutgers, and after reading about their lackadaisical win over Cincinnati last week -- with Brian Brohm back in the saddle, strangely enough -- my confidence in their ability to run the table is a little shaken. I still stand by my prediction that they'll knock off the Mountaineers at home on November 2, but there are multiple other opportunities for them to get taken down.

Then finally there's Southern California, who's getting mad crazy love from the computer polls (as well as a blowjob from Mark May that's been going on for, what, three years now?) despite three straight unimpressive wins. This clearly is not the Leinart/Bush offense they're working with down there, and that's going to come back to bite them in three weeks' time, when they commence a three-game gauntlet of Oregon, California, and Notre Dame. Yes, they get all three of those at home, but they played Washington and Arizona State at home, too, and didn't manage to turn that into an impressive showing. If I had to put money in which one of those opponents takes down the Trojans, I'll go with Cal, who has looked damn near unstoppable since getting tagged in Knoxville on September 2.

3. Which conference is playing the best football right now?

The SEC. Honestly I'm getting sick and tired of the whole "We're so good we can't put a team in the BCS title game" argument, especially when it comes from Olympic-champion whiner Tommy Tuberville, but the oft-discussed circular firing squad has certainly been in effect in the SEC this season. Whatever the case, I'll put the top four of Auburn, Arkansas, Tennessee, and Florida up against the top four of any other conference in the country, and I think the SEC has better depth in the 5 through 9 spots than anyone else, too.

Be that as it may, Tommy, shut the fuck up.

4. Which team is playing above and beyond your expectations this season?

Tennessee is right up there, though honestly I couldn't have told you what my expectations for the Vols were going into this season, so I'll give my primary props to Arkansas. We all thought Phil Steele was nuts when he picked the Hogs to finish second in the SEC West this season, but it turns out Phil's only mistake was not being nuts enough -- Arkansas has yet to lose a conference game, and with a victory over presumptive SEC champion Auburn under their belts, they're entirely in control of their own destiny in the Western Division race, to the point where they could lose to either Tennessee or LSU and still represent the division in Atlanta on December 2.

Coming summer 2007: Tom Arnold is Houston Nutt in "We Are . . . Arkansas."

And as much as it kills me to say it, I've been quite surprised -- vomit-inducingly so, in fact -- by how good Georgia Tech has been in 2006. Being a Georgia grad, I have to temper this by backhanding them with a reminder that they may only look good compared to the Special Olympics level of competition amongst the rest of their conference, but still, games like last week's letdown opportunity against Maryland were games Chan Gailey and Reggie Ball would've found multiple ways to lose in prior seasons -- this year they're winning them. There's still plenty of opportunity down the stretch for them to have yet another Chantastic 7-5 season, but somehow I don't see it happening.

5. Which team is crashing and burning in regards to your expectations?

I had Virginia Tech at #14 in my preseason Blogpoll ballot and was touting them for a back-door BCS-title run as recently as week three, but since then they've apparently decided to have their usual November collapse a month early, and have coughed up what amounts to a three-game division lead to the Yellow Jackets. Oopsie! I also had LSU not only at #4 in the country but also snaking an SEC title from Auburn, and they've managed to whiff on both of those expectations so far.

And of course I would be remiss if I didn't fess up to some of my predictions about Georgia. "10-2 and a postseason bowl trip to either Dallas or Tampa" . . . "Joe Tereshinski III will retain a firm hold on the starter's job for the duration of the season" . . . uh, yeah, I'll shut up now. Next year I'm going the Lou Holtz modesty route and touting every single one of their opponents as the second coming of the '95 Cornhuskers.

Ten wins, huh? Yeah, which idiot said that?

6. Is your pre-season BCS championship game prediction still alive?

My title-bout prediction was a rematch of Ohio State-Texas; it'll take some upsets to teams like USC and West Virginia to make that happen, but that prediction is theoretically doable. Of course, I'd be perfectly happy with Rutgers-Arkansas, too.

Monday, October 16

Blogpoll ballot #8: F%$! that, I'm hating the player and the game.

So let's recap: This weekend, Georgia lost to a perennial bottom-feeder in the SEC; UAB lost to a perennial bottom-feeder in . . . well, pretty much any conference you could conceivably put them in; struggling Virginia built a 20-0 lead on Maryland, then found a way to lose anyway; the Redskins lost to a Titans team that hadn't won a game all year; the Falcons went up 14-3 in the third quarter, then lost anyway. Even my fantasy team is in the process of getting drilled . . .

Yeah, I fucking hate this game.

I hate you. I don't even know you, but I hate you. I hate your guts. I hope all the bad things in life happen to you and only to you.

So with that in mind, in lieu of actual commentary on my Blogpoll rankings, I'm just gonna hate on a bunch of teams. Yep, it's time for the Player Haters' Ball, bitches.

Games watched: Vanderbilt-Georgia and Auburn-Florida. Sorry, I kind of lost my appetite after the first one.

1. Vanderbilt (last week: not ranked)
I'm only kidding, of course.


1. Ohio State (last week: 1)
Now if you'll excuse me, I gotta go put some water in Jim Tressel's momma's dish.

2. Michigan (3)

3. Tennessee (4)
What can I say about Knoxville that hasn't already been said about Afghanistan -- it looks bombed-out and depleted.

4. Texas (5)

5. Southern Cal (6)
I wish I had more hands . . . so I could give that offense fo' thumbs down.

6. California (7)

7. Arkansas (13)
Mitch Mustain ain't shit. There, I said it! It's all the running game! And no, I don't honestly think they're the seventh-best team in the country, but I can't find anybody they really deserve to be placed under except for USC.

8. Auburn (14)

9. Florida (2)
Tell your little friends that dreams really do come true -- Auburn came and saw you and whupped your monkey ass at some football!

10. Louisville (8)

11. West Virginia (9)

12. Clemson (10)
You beat Temple. Whaddaya want, a frickin' medal?

13. Notre Dame (11)

14. LSU (12)

15. Boise State (16)

16. Oregon (17)
Nice job, Ducks, but you ain't fooling me again. It was quite obviously the Cheerleader Curse, not Oregon, who beat UCLA.

17. Georgia Tech (19)

18. Oklahoma (18)
They hold their spot because they won convincingly over ISU, but we all know they're pretty much fucked without Adrian Peterson.

19. Wisconsin (23)

20. Rutgers (25)
OK, Rutgers is the one team I can't hate on. How can you hate on Rutgers, for crying out loud? I don't know if you've seen Navy lately, but holding them to 150 yards rushing is pretty hard to do. Scarlet Knights for Big East champs!

21. Wake Forest (NR/26)

22. Boston College (NR)
Sorry you didn't beat Virginia Tech until everyone already figured out they sucked.

23. Nebraska (24)

24. Iowa (15)
Thank you, Hawkeyes, for doing something that is technically more embarrassing than losing to Vanderbilt.

25. Texas A&M (NR)
Ugh. Between the bogus military posturing, the douchebag head coach, and the mindless, inexplicable homoeroticism, I really feel icky ranking these 'tards . . . but they did beat Mizzou. Don't worry, it won't last.

The next five: Missouri, Penn State, Virginia Tech, Purdue, Georgia.

Dropped out: Missouri (20), Virginia Tech (21), Georgia (22).

Sunday, October 15

I made my excuses and left.

Gov. Perdue has instructed me to ask you to not get too happy about this, or he'll get the State Police involved . . .

The tailgating? Glorious. There could not have been a better day for a football game in Athens, Georgia -- sunny but just cold enough to warrant long sleeves, leaves beginning to fall, a crisp breeze in the air. My mom, my sister, and I met up with Josh and DAve at Tent City, where I proceeded to make my peace with the boys from Pasqua & Stanicek and their much-maligned creation, the Cherrishinski -- actually, I made my peace with the Cherrishinski more than once. Perhaps as many as a dozen times. And in the end, maybe that was my undoing. Or maybe not.

Midway through the third quarter of Saturday's Homecoming game, I watched Vanderbilt's QB laser a pass right into the waiting arms of Tra Battle in the end zone, an interception that kept the Commodores from assuming a 21-13 lead, and said, "That play might have saved our season right there." Unfortunately, the task of saving Georgia's season proved to be too much for one interception, or Cherrishisnki forbearance, or change of underwear to handle, and mine eyes have now seen the horror of Vanderbilt, who for the last 40-plus years has been to the SEC what Butters is to the cast of "South Park," leaving Sanford Stadium victorious.

Now, as a fan, I'm stuck between two positions that are pretty much diametrically opposed. On the one hand, this season seems lost; nobody who loses to Vanderbilt has much of a right to fancy themselves contenders for much of anything, be it an SEC division title or even an Outback Bowl berth. On the other hand, declaring the season a wash with five games left doesn't send a very good message to the players. But I'll tell you something: I wouldn't have uttered this out loud before, but I'm not the one primarily responsible for motivating the players. I live three and a half hours away from campus, and even in the event that I can put together the time or the money to get into the game itself, I can get no closer to the players themselves than being way up in the stands, maybe in the lower deck if I'm lucky, and even when I scream my freaking head off I'm just one voice among 92,746. The individual voices that can get inside the ears of the players and make them get mad belong to the coaches, and I'm just not convinced they did that Saturday afternoon.

It's not just a matter of impassioned halftime speeches or giving someone a suitably forceful whack on the helmet or the ass after he makes a heads-up play. You send signals to the players via your choice of plays, because whether you know it or not, you're giving them an indication of what you think they're capable of doing. And to judge by the play-calling in the second half against Vandy, our coaches, from Richt on down, didn't seem to think they were capable of all that much.

First example of what I'm talking about: First few minutes of the fourth quarter, Georgia's down 21-13, we get down to the Vandy 2. This is both Stafford's first drive of the second half and Georgia's first trip past midfield (actually, their first first downs of any kind) of the second half; whether these two distinctions are connected I'll leave you to decide for yourself, but in any case, the offense is finally moving the ball again and potentially turning the momentum back in Georgia's favor. So we get to the 2, we could tie it up with a touchdown, the entire stadium is practically offering Richt sexual favors and/or their firstborn children to go for it, and he instead calls . . . a field goal, resulting in a 92,746-strong-including-Yours-Truly groan and bringing back memories of 2003 when, through a combination of play-calling slightly more conservative than Rick Santorum and repeated red-zone all-over-oneself-shitting, we managed to make Billy Bennett the all-time leading scorer in the SEC.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "Oh, Doug, that's just 20-20 hindsight talking, and if they hadn't made it into the end zone you'd be bitching about how they should've kicked it." Not so, naysaying blog reader, because even if we hadn't punched it in on fourth down and ended up coming away with nothing, we still would've been better off than taking the easy three points, and here's why. First, at that point in the game, is there really any difference between trailing by five and trailing by eight, considering that no matter what, you've got to try for the touchdown and then go for two next time you have the ball? Second, we would've had Vandy pinned back at their own 2 and had the chance to flip the field-position equation and start playing downhill for the first time all game long. Finally, and perhaps most important, if we're still down 21-13 at that point, then we're still down 21-19 when Vandy begins its final drive, and instead of desperately driving to get in position for a game-winning FG, they're just trying to run out the clock. So when they get stacked up with a 4th-and-5 at the Georgia 35, instead of going for it, they either attempt a long field goal they most likely miss or they take a delay-of-game penalty and try to pin us deep with a punt. Either way, we've got two whole minutes (and two time-outs) with which to drive for the winning score instead of two seconds and no time-outs, circumstances under which the only possible winning strategy is to pull off the Stanford Band play.

Your trombone is no match for my Wu-Tang sword.

(Side note: In a discussion of the Colts-Jets game from a couple weeks ago, a co-worker of mine posed the question, why don't struggling teams practice that play more often? Say you're Temple or Illinois or something, you know you're overmatched in just about every game you play, why not have something like the Stanford Band Play in your offensive playbook and whip it out at some completely random time in the second quarter, just to surprise the shit out of the other team? In fact, why don't more teams period practice that play in the off chance that they'll need it someday in a situation like the one Georgia faced with two seconds left on Saturday?)

OK, so anyway, we kick this so-meaningless-it-was-even-meaningless-without-the-benefit-of-hindsight field goal, now it's 21-16, Tony Taylor has his pick-six to finally take the lead, 22-21, we hold Vandy to a three-and-out and their punter shanks it to put us at the Vandy 33. Ricockulously good field position, a stupid Vandy face-mask penalty gives us a fresh set of downs, fate has practically dropped into our very laps a situation where we're primed to tack on seven more points and force Vandy to mount what would have really been only their second real touchdown drive of the game, and even then they could only tie us, not take the lead. We end up with a 3rd-and-11 from the Vandy 26 and what does Richt call? A run up the middle. A run up the middle by a tailback who, may peace be upon him, only had five rushes for nine yards up to that point. I could go on and on about how dickless this was and how we ended up paying for it, but I'm getting tired and I have to go take a crap so I'll simply cut-'n'-paste something I wrote about a distressingly similar situation we faced against Auburn two years ago:

The maddest I've ever been at our coaching staff was right at the very beginning of last year's Georgia-Auburn game: There we were, taking on the #3 team in the nation in their own stadium, and in spite of the fact that their defense was one of the scariest in the country, I'm talking Robert-Duvall-loving-the-smell-of-napalm-in-the-morning scary, we'd mounted a pretty sweet little opening drive that took us all the way down to the Auburn 19. First down, David Greene scrambles for a yard. Second down, Thomas Brown gets nailed in the backfield for a three-yard loss. We call a timeout to figure out what to do, and then, inexplicably, Leonard Pope false-starts to put us at third-and-17 from the 26. Now, anybody with at least a George W. Bush level of brain activity knew we probably weren't gonna pick up 17 yards on a designed run against the top defense in the SEC, but Richt calls a handoff to Brown, who gets stopped after seven yards.

At that precise moment, as I sat there amongst approximately 15,000 Georgia fans packed into a visitors' section big enough for maybe one-third that, I looked at my totally hot date, who was enjoying her very first SEC football experience and whom I wanted to impress soooo badly with a big-ass Georgia upset, and I knew we were gonna lose, because the coaching staff had basically said, Well, fuck, we can't get a touchdown here. They didn't have enough confidence in David Greene, winningest quarterback in the history of freaking D-IA football, to believe that he could maybe throw a fade or something to Pope and at least get the first down; instead, they declared themselves satisfied to take only what Auburn would give us and no more, which was destined to be not freaking much. From that moment on, as they used to say on "Seinfeld," Auburn had "hand" in the relationship, because Georgia had basically turned into that one pathetic guy in every circle of friends, the one who's dating some Playmate-caliber chick who's miles out of his league and protects this status by letting her walk all over him: You want me to stay in and watch "Sex and the City" with you instead of hanging out with my friends, without even the benefit of a post-show beejer in return? Fine, just don't break up with me! The football gods punished Georgia's cowardice by making the center snap the ball high on the ensuing field-goal attempt, which Andy Bailey obediently missed, and that was that. We were going to lose, and we did lose, and it was a loss richly deserved.

I know that such exhaustive dissection of coaching ballslessness puts me dangerously close to Gregg Easterbrook territory, but still, Kerrist. Look, I know Matt Stafford isn't David Greene (yet), but Richt apparently trusted Staff enough to give the offense a desperately needed jumpstart in the second half, which he accomplished quite nicely. So you're telling me you're not going to put the ball in his hands on a third-and-long, you're not even going to try to reward MoMass or Martrez for learning how to catch passes again by putting it into their hands in the end zone, or at least past the first-down marker? This is your heralded Quarterback Of The Future and yet you don't trust him to make a first against fucking Vanderbilt?

Accordingly, Danny Ware weeps the tears of regret into the pillow of remorse.

Of course, Richt couldn't have known that Andy Bailey would miss the kind of field goal that Brandon Coutu could've made from his hospital bed, but that doesn't change the fact that he was thinking field goal way too early. Most coaches wait to answer the do-I-try-for-a-field-goal question until it's fourth down; Richt starts thinking about it on third or even second, and this. Must. Stop. He also couldn't have known that our defense would revert to second-half-against-Tennessee form and practically roll out a red carpet for Vanderbilt that stretched from the VU 20 all the way to makeable field-goal range, but again, if Richt hadn't been thinking about field goals, Vanderbilt wouldn't have been able to, either.

I'm not going to call for anyone on the coaching staff, certainly not Richt, to get fired right now. As we walked from the stadium back up to where our car was parked downtown, I was about ready to throttle the little necktied frat pledge trying to impress his way-out-of-his-league date by talking about how he was going to start (just a tip, assface, you want that domain you're gonna have to shell out some money to an existing owner who evidently has way more sense than you). But in exchange for this deference, I'd like the opportunity to offer Comrade Richt some constructive advice: As Randall so memorably counseled in the first "Clerks," "You need to shit or get off the pot."

Let's take a gander at the last team to lose to Vanderbilt at home, your 2005 Tennessee Volunteers. They racked up a mere five wins and missed out on a bowl for the first time in Phil Fulmer's tenure thanks to a combination of scared-little-girl playcalling on offense and a quarterback rotation that spun just as fast as, and even more randomly than, the Big Wheel on "The Price is Right." (God, I love that show.) So far we're presenting both of those symptoms, and anyone who thinks we can't follow in Tennessee's footsteps is sadly mistaken. We're stuck on five wins right now and, if we can't even beat Vanderbilt at home, are certainly not guaranteed another.

So it's time to decide whether we're still playing to win for this year or playing for 2007. If you think we can shake off the losses and improve enough to where we still have a shot at eight or nine wins, pick the QB whom you think is most capable of leading us there, whether that's Joe T or Stafford, and stick with him. If you think '06 is shot, put Stafford behind the wheel and let him go. But either way, pick someone, and show that you have confidence in him by doing two things: One, stick by him even when he fucks up, which Fulmer didn't do last year. Two, give him the chance to complete long passes when long passes are needed. Having a weapon like Stafford, only to assign him handoffs on 3rd-and-11, is like buying a Ferrari and then realizing you're too scared to actually drive it. Stafford's gonna have to make those throws eventually; might as well start doing it now.

In "Old School," Will Ferrell didn't say, "You're occasionally my boy, Blue," he said, "You're my boy, Blue!" Either Stafford is always your boy or he isn't. Shake off the Vandy loss, make this tough decision about the future of the team, and go forward with head held high. And please beat fucking Mississippi State next week. Please.

As for the underwear, yup, I did bring along an extra pair, just in case, and yup, I did go into the bathroom and put them on after Vandy turned Kregg Lumpkin's third-quarter fumble into a TD to go up 14-13. It is not something I will be bothering myself with again.

The girls don't like the job:

· On the bright side, how sweet is that Colorado win looking right now? Huh? Huh? (That last sentence is even funnier if you imagine it being read in a Peter Griffin voice.)

Whoa! Check out Colorado's sideboob!

· No matter how non-great to be a Georgia Bulldog it may be this morning, at least my team didn't get involved in a bench-clearing brawl over a fucking extra point. If I'm Larry Coker, I wait only as long as it takes to call ESPN and make sure I've got Lou Holtz's spot lined up when they finally unplug his respirator before tendering my resignation and getting the hell out of Coral Gables.

·'s Stewart Mandel was in Columbus this weekend -- not on purpose, of course -- and I missed him? I would've at least taken him to the Uptown Tap or something for a beer. I would say, "The next time you're in Columbus . . . ", but -- well, yeah. Next question.

· Speaking of Oregon 30, UCLA 20. QEDMF. The Cheerleader Curse lives.

Darling, it's not your fault. You were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.