Tuesday, August 11

The expectations game, part II: Too high, too low, or just right?

When last I tried to gauge the fan base's expectations of the Georgia Bulldogs going into the 2009 season, the consensus seemed to be that nine wins and a bowl invite, possibly of the January variety, were entirely reasonable goals to shoot for. Now we have our first "official" judgment of Georgia's prospects: Last Friday the coaches collectively ranked Georgia #13 in their preseason poll.

Does thirteenth in the nation sound reasonable for a team destined to win nine games and play in a bowl? It's tough to say, because translating wins and losses into an appropriate poll ranking (or vice versa) is no less a judgment call than anything else. Basically, I think your judgment of the preseason ranking -- whether you see it as too high, too low, or basically accurate -- kind of depends on where you think Richt has the program positioned at the moment. If you're not convinced that Georgia is strong enough to weather the losses of Matt Stafford and Knowshon Moreno without paying for it to at least some degree in the standings -- consider that #13 is just three spots below where last year's national-title-touted team finished the season -- you might think the preseason ranking is a bit high. If, on the other hand, you think Richt has built the program into one that's strong and consistent enough to where even the "floor" for wins is relatively high, #13 probably seems fair, maybe even a tad low to those of you who with a more optimistic world view than mine.

Personally, I think #13 is about where we ought to be: We're having to replace Stafford and Moreno, which is not a small task by any measure, but at the same time our new guys will be playing behind one of the best and most experienced offensive lines in the country, while on defense, we may have underachieved considerably last year but we bring back nearly everybody of importance, and by all reports they've had their wake-up call and are charging into 2009 committed to making up for last season's disappointments. Flip "offense" and "defense" in that description and what you've got is strikingly similar to how people would've described our squad around this time in 2007 -- a team that was also ranked #13 in the preseason (and, as we all remember, went on to considerably bigger and better things).

So with all that in mind, I've got two questions for y'all to continue the process of analyzing fan expectations for this season. First:

And second, a question that's similar to the first one, but not quite the same:

Go ahead and vote, and feel free to explain your responses in further detail in the comments. Next up: which specific games y'all actually expect to win in 2009.


Cousin Pat said...

Maybe you can say I'm drinking the Kool Aid for this year. I've simply watched too many college football teams with good OL play overacheive when breaking in new starters in the backfield. Combine that with CMR's "floor" of 9 wins during a rebuilding season and getting a lot out of team play, and this season could be special.

I think a lot of fans and pollsters were dazzled by the stars and expectations of last year and glossed over how effective other teams could be (Bama, UF, GT). The "once bitten twice shy rule" comes into play this year when everyone's looking at the flaws and the murderous schedule.

Kevin said...

Well find out in Week One whether we are too high or too low. But I don't believe we'll end the season around 13. It will either be a top 10 squad or a 7-5 bust that lingers around the bottom of the polls. 13 is just the perfect average of what pollsters think of us, very indecisive about placing us on one end or the other of the spectrum right now..

Paul said...

This year reminds me, expectation wise, of 2002. That team had a strong OL, but a more experienced backfield. And a better defense - we know now.

I'm hoping the defense is a lot better. That we see a transformation or maturing maybe is a better word akin to what UF experienced last year. Their '07 defense was pretty bad but their '08... goodness.

I think we'll be pretty good on offense. Not showy, but consistent - which one could argue is more in line with the Richt era anyway.

13 is a nice safe middling place to be. I like it. And if it's the right 9 wins, then we'll be in the top ten.

Jeff (no, the other one) said...

Special teams matter, too, and are very often the difference in the close ones. Richt's teams which have come in a bit under the radar seem to have improved through the season more noticeably; maybe that will continue.

They have the best shot of anybody on the schedule of beating Florida.

Full disclosure: I'm an Alabama grad. UA and Georgia are in similar overall shape going into 2009. Each has young talent, loads of potential, but some key positions to fill quickly. 9-10 wins? or 7 wins? Both are possible, with only a couple injuries and/or heartbreaking losses making the difference.

Universal Remonster said...

At the beginning of last season, I had a feeling we were going to lose two games. We ended up losing three, although I was at that abortion of a game against Tech, and everyone knows that we gave that game away.

Anyways, I'm usually pretty close to my prediction, and I'm thinking that we lose two games this year as well. I just think that if the battle is won in the trenches, UGA can dominate most opponents. The real kicker is that I don't think either of those losses will be Florida. I know, I must be smoking something.

Unknown said...

With UGA's strong OL and LSU's inexperienced DL, how do ya'll see the LSU @ UGA game shaping up?

Ben in Georgia said...

Other similarities poll-wise to 2007 (which, even though we didn't win the East, I think we can all agree turned out to be one of the best year's of the past decade):

-Florida was very highly ranked (3rd then, to be exact) and coming off a national championship season with very high expectations.

-Cal was ranked 12th, one spot ahead of us. Who's ranked 12th, and one spot ahead of us this year? The California Golden Bears.

It's also worth mentioning we were ranked 13th heading into 2005.

oooooo weee oooo weeee oooooo
(sci fi/alien/freaky music)

The Casey said...

I just don't see a playmaker on the defense. There are a lot of guys who can put up big numbers over the course of a season, but I just don't see anybody who makes big plays in big games.

Also, (and I don't know if this is a good or bad thing) Knowshon was the 'juice' of the team, who could make an exciting play and get everyone fired up. AJ may be that guy this year, but I think that's something else the Dogs need.

Anonymous said...

I've always thought CFB predictions were a (thoroughly enjoyable) attempt to rationalize chaos, thus making them masturbatory in nature. So i'm in.

I think they end up better than 13, and also that being ranked there now doesn't mean that much with an opener in Stillwater. Meaning: What will they be ranked only one game in if they beat OSU by 10 or more? This combined with a couple of Top Ten losses could put them at 7 or 8 in the first month.

Or it could go the other way (shudder), but the point is that first game result is what matters now.

Jeff (no, the other one) said...

Josh, I see LSU coming into Athens 3-1 or 4-0, having played an easy first four.

Georgia has no gimme's in their opening 4, though. I think that works in the Bulldogs favor. Georgia will have a lot of early-season questions answered by the LSU game.

And, of course, LSU still has Les Miles. His team may appear to be on a roll coming into this game, but I think that may well be deceptive.

A Free Man said...

Ask me after the opener. If we lose to Okie State I think it could be a bad year - bad like less than 9 wins. Bad like losing to the Vols. And Tech. Again.

A big win on the road in the opener and I put us in the Top 10 at year end.