Wednesday, September 30

Week 4 BlogPoll ballot, revised.

Not a huge change here, but a commenter reminded me that Nebraska had performed pretty well on the road against what is now the #7 team on my ballot, so in they go. This also saves me from having to move Georgia into the rankings after a come-from-behind win at home over an unranked team. If they can beat LSU this weekend, they'll go into the rankings; otherwise, I'm obviously not sold on them as a top-25-caliber team.

Tuesday, September 29

A public service from Meat Loaf.

Things I Will Do For Love:

Run right into hell and backThat
Be there 'till the final act
Take the vow
Seal a pact
Raise you up
Help you down
Get you right out of this god-forsaken town
Make it all a little less cold
Hold you sacred
Hold you tight
Colorize your life
Make it all a little less old
Make you some magic with my own two hands
Build an emerald city with these grains of sand
Give you something you can take home
Cater to every fantasy you've got
Hose you down with holy water if you get too hot
Take you places you've never known

Feel free to print out this chart and keep it in your wallet for easy reference.

You've got so many problems and a split personality . . .

The rain was just one of the things I'm glad I didn't go all the way to Athens just to sit through.

Give Georgia credit for one thing: Against Arizona State, I openly feared a continuation of the exasperating pattern we'd established in our two previous games -- dig ourselves into an early hole thanks to turnovers, finally get in gear on offense and pull just far enough ahead that we can ride out the rest of the game with only a handful of moderate-to-major cardiac incidents ruining an otherwise fun night of drinking. Instead, we flipped the script: Pulled ahead with a great offensive showing early, then killed ourselves with turnovers in the second half. So big ups to the team for keeping things interesting, I guess. Maybe if we really buckle down in our preparations for LSU and step up our game, we can roll up a ton of points early and save our inevitable turnover-gasm for the fourth quarter, giving away what was thought to be an insurmountable lead against the Tigers and giving Blair Walsh a chance to kick another game-winning field goal. The kid's worked hard, after all!

If anything, the ASU game looked more like Oklahoma State: terrific early drive(s) that get people thinking "offensive explosion," only to peter out quickly and, with the requisite giveaways starting in earnest after halftime, letting the opponent right back in the game. I guess we should just be thankful that, unlike the OSU game, we mustered enough of a revival on offense to pull out a relatively low-scoring win. But as with that afternoon in Stillwater, we're not coming out of this one with a whole lot of confidence in our offense (A.J. Green excepted, obvs, and I'll get to that in a minute), despite the glimmers of awesomeness we saw against South Carolina and Arkansas. Statistically, Joe Cox had a much better day against the Sun Devils than he did the Cowboys -- better completion percentage, a lot more yards -- but he rarely looked the least bit crisp after the first quarter, and most of his completions were more a testament to the talent of our receivers than to anything he was putting behind his throws. And the two picks were ghastly; the only thing that redeems them as being less egregious than the pick-six against the Gamecocks was the fact that we had receivers kinda, sorta in the vicinity both times. The running game mostly stunk, too, and it brings me no pleasure to say that Richard Samuel's early flashes of brilliance increasingly appear to have been a mirage. Caleb King managed to break off a five-yard-per-carry average, but then it was his fumble that kicked off our second-half pants-crapping. And maybe it's just me, but our offensive line looked pretty lackadaisical for a good part of the night; for a group that was touted as one of the nation's best and most experienced in the preseason, they don't seem to be getting nearly the push they ought to be at the line of scrimmage, and I don't think the loss of Trinton Sturdivant completely accounts for that.

Then again, Samuel's beefiness did manage to knock off at least one helmet, so . . . moral victory, maybe?

When the execution is that mediocre, faulting the play calls themselves seems kind of academic, though I have seen Mike Bobo getting dinged, again, for some of his decisions during the middle of the game. (You think that's a plan he and Willie Martinez have worked out all along? Be inconsistent enough that the fan base is never entirely sure which coordinator they want to fire for more than a week at a time?) I'm not enough of an Xs-and-Os guy to make any truly worthwhile criticisms there, so I'm gonna have to go back to the turnover issue. It's a grim picture: At -9 through four games, we're now 115th in the nation in turnover margin, with the five teams below us being an aggregate 4-14 (half of those wins coming against D-IAA teams). To look at it another way, only two teams in the entire country managed to be -9 through their first four games last season: Hawaii (who was an awe-inspiring -15) and Washington State (-9), both of whom started 1-3 with their only wins coming against I-AA opponents. You have to try to give the ball away that many times, and when you do, good rarely comes of it: Hawaii farted their way through their WAC schedule, earned their token eighth home game in the Hawaii Bowl and got to be one of those very rare teams that make Jimmy Clausen look superhuman; Wazzu, of course, finished 2-11 and was making a very serious bid for the Worst BCS-Conference Team in History trophy right up until they passed that mantle off to Washington in their penultimate game.

How is it that we've skirted those fates? Better talent, obviously, and I'm certainly not the first person to have pointed that out. I've heard it repeated over and over again, and while the phrasing is a little bit different each time, the point is always the same: "We must have an unbelievable amount of athletic talent on this team to still be winning despite all these fuckups."

That's true in one sense -- you could make the case that we've had more total talent, top to bottom, than any of our first four opponents -- and yet also not true: If we've got so much natural talent coursing through this team's veins, how come A.J. Green ended up with the entire game getting piled on his back Saturday night? Seriously, can you think of a single other player whose contribution you can pick out as being particularly critical to our victory? Look, I love the fact that we're able to put a player that dominant and game-changing on the field, but there's gonna come a time -- maybe as soon as, I don't know, LSU this weekend -- when someone's able to take Green out of the game just long enough to really put us in a bad spot. When that happens, what are we gonna do? Throw up our hands and say "Well, it just wasn't meant to be"? Or is someone gonna do the necessary coaching-up/heavy lifting to make sure the rest of the team rises to fill the void?

Without A.J., we'd be, what, 1-3 right now? Or would we even be that lucky?

I know, I know: I'm getting way too worked up over a game that we did manage to actually win. And it's not like the rest of the conference -- our next opponent included -- isn't dealing with some major consistency issues themselves. Part of me wants to moan, "Why can't we just have an easy win for a change?", but I know that's a bitch move; we're playing one of the toughest schedules in the country, with only a single non-BCS-conference opponent (which is still more than a month away) on the dance card, so if it's easy wins I want then I probably need to become a Boise State fan. But I don't think it's too much to ask that our wins become easier. If we combined the defense from Saturday night with the offense from South Carolina or Arkansas, we'd be more than capable of matching LSU this weekend blow for blow; if we created that combination and managed to eliminate the turnovers, we'd beat them by two TDs. So why don't we just, you know . . . do that?

Stupid question, I realize, because stuff like that is easier said than done. Yet our own coaching staff has given ample evidence to show that the done part doesn't have to be all that difficult, either, when the right steps are taken. We suffered a rocky start in 2007 and a rocky middle the year before, yet managed to pull ourselves out of both of them and earn incredible bowl wins. Maybe I should just calm down and have some faith in the coaches to effect another such turnaround in the team's mentality this year; maybe I should just learn to appreciate the Dadaist joys of a team that can screw up so royally yet still manage to pull its ass out of the fire and win so regularly in such thrilling fashion. But after recent events in my life, "sitting back and hoping things get better" is looking less and less palatable to me as a strategy. I'd really like it if our coaching staff was having the same sorts of thoughts.

· The rest of the notes on The Week That Was will be fairly short since I've already covered most of it in various and sundry poll ballots, but if I were a Pac-10 fan I'd be pretty morose right now. The race for the conference title appears to be as wide-open as it's been since Pete Carroll first arrived at USC, but it's not the multiple-elite-teams-jockeying-for-superiority type of wide-open, it's the scrum-of-mediocre-teams-out-of-which-someone-has-to-emerge-purely-by-default type. Of the three teams who were at the top of the preseason conference predictions by consensus, USC has managed to lose to Washington and followed that up with a less-than-inspiring win over the conference doormat (losing their second-leading rusher to boot); the team supposedly best-positioned to take the Trojans' place at the top of the standings just received a 39-point jackhammering in their conference opener; and the team that looks the strongest at the moment is the same team that got embarrassed (on multiple levels) in Boise on opening Thursday. The way Oregon played on Saturday, you wouldn't think there'd be any shame in having them as your conference title-holder, but is the Pac-10 really the type of institution that wants to say, "Yeah, our league champion lost to Boise State"?

Wonder if "Let's win this one for LeGarrette" will become a rallying cry by season's end.

· In a similar vein, as big as Iowa won Saturday night, does the Big Ten really want their champion to be a team that needed the lucky escape of all lucky escapes to beat Northern Iowa? (I'm only playing devil's advocate here, of course; as an SEC fan, nothing would make me happier than to see the stuffy old farts at the Rose Bowl having the piss utterly and completely taken out of them by having to host an Iowa-Oregon matchup.)

· UAB Blazers Watch: Guys, I know I should expect you to get blown off the field by at least one BCS-conference opponent this year, but did it have to be Texas A&M? After an 8-of-18 passing performance (for a measly 60 yards), Joe Webb's "Black Tebow" title is suspended indefinitely, and it's just a hunch, but I don't think he's getting it back against Southern Miss on Thursday.

· Wofford Terriers Watch: The Terriers somehow managed to lose by 29 points to a team that only managed to come within three TDs of an opponent on two occasions last year. Looks like this album is going to be in heavy rotation on my iPod for the next few weeks.

· The Cheerleader Curse has been dormant for a while now, and it wasn't in effect this past week, either, as the University of Western Ontario -- the stomping grounds of's latest Cheerleader of the Week -- beat the Guelph Gryphons 41-39. I only bring this up for two reasons: One, to point out that there is apparently a team in Canada called the Guelph Gryphons, and two, to herald the rather unsettling news that Canada appears to be eating our lunch in the revealing-cheerleader-uni arena. Seriously, it's way colder up there than it is down here. Are girls who say "aboot" that much hardier than our American stock, or is it time for our own universities to seriously reassess?

Monday, September 28

Poll dancing, week 4: I'm handing the rankings over to Leonard Shelby this week.

Who am I? How'd I get here? And how did Cincinnati end up in the top 10?

Four teams in the top 10 got whacked in the past week, and two more did everything they could to look lousy. Miami and Florida State, who looked invincible the week before, both got their asses handed to them. And that's even before you get to the LSUs and Michigans (and Georgias) of the world who keep winning in skin-of-teeth fashion. I'll reiterate a Twitter I did Sunday morning and say that coming up with a top 25 this week is like being the main character from "Memento": Trying to reconcile past events with more recent revelations will only lead to confusion and despair. And potentially the realization that you may have murdered someone.

Games watched: South Carolina-Ole Miss; divided attention between South Florida-FSU, Georgia Tech-North Carolina, and Michigan-Indiana; Virginia Tech-Miami; the first half of Florida-Kentucky, and the part where Tebow got concussed; Georgia-Arizona State; and a little bit of Houston-Texas Tech.

The next five: South Carolina, Nebraska, Notre Dame, Texas Tech, Southern Miss.

Dropped out: Ole Miss (8), Florida State (22), North Carolina (23), Notre Dame (24), Texas Tech (25).

· First things first: Yes, Florida drops out of first place despite a 41-7 win. I don't feel great about doing that, and it may just be a delayed reaction to the Gators' less-than-impressive non-blowout of Tennessee. But with everything else as confused and up-in-the-air as it is, that might be as good a reason as any to doubt the proposition that Florida's still the best team in the country -- particularly if the concussion Tim Tebow sustained against UK keeps him out of action for any length of time. The past couple weeks, Florida has exhibited next to nothing in the vertical passing game; if that element and Tebow's rushing threat are removed from the equation, the Gators suddenly look like only a pretty good team.

· Then again, the way the rest of the Top 10 looked, "pretty good" is still enough to qualify as a title contender, apparently. And I know there's not much consistency in the way I treated the four top-10 squads who lost -- Miami only fell one spot after getting crushed by Virginia Tech, while Penn State's, Cal's, and Ole Miss's rankings plummeted by double digits (with the Rebels crashing out of the poll entirely). I guess I'm giving the 'Canes credit for playing a ranked team (and in horrendous weather conditions), as well as their stronger body of work leading up to that loss. The I-A opponents that the Nittany Lions, Golden Bears, and Rebels had played coming into last weekend are currently a combined 9-14, and there isn't a ranked team among them.

· Oregon, and Iowa, meanwhile, leap back into the poll by double digits themselves, while Cincinnati soars into the top five. Overreacting? Probably, but where else would you put them? The Ducks and Hawkeyes look almost nothing like the teams that slogged through such embarrassing games during opening weekend, and after knocking off high-ranked teams that had been gathering a great deal of conference-champion buzz, they both currently have as much reason to believe they'll win their respective conferences as anybody. The Bearcats, meanwhile, are probably the beneficiaries of another delayed-response correction, but they're 4-0 and have dominated a pair of BCS-conference opponents on the road. Who's to say they're not top-five caliber just because the conference they play in has a shitty reputation?

· In addition to the Rebels, everyone from #22 south drops out. Of those, Notre Dame at least had the decency to win, but needing a last-minute escape from a team Northern Illinois handled pretty easily is not the mark of an elite team. Texas Tech lost to a good Houston team on the road, so they at least get to hang around in the "next five" category. As for FSU and North Carolina -- get out of here, I can't even stand to look at you right now.

· Replacing those fallen teams: Iowa and Oregon, obvs; Georgia Tech, whose defense bounced back in a big way against UNC; South Florida, who can now lay solid claim to being, at worst, the third-best team in their state; and . . .

· . . . Georgia. Didn't feel any burning desire to rank them after yet another sloppy outing, but the vacuum in the 22-25 spots pulled them up despite their best efforts to gack away a win to Arizona State. I'm praying this hubris doesn't hurt us against LSU, but seriously, Dawgs, if you can't stop handing out turnovers like Halloween candy, the overly prideful prognostications of random jagoff bloggers are gonna be the least of your worries.

And here's the SEC Power Poll ballot:

1. Alabama -- Absolutely crushed the same Bobby Petrino aerial attack that looked so unstoppable against Georgia. Clearly has the most impressive body of work of any of the SEC's top contenders so far.

2. Florida -- Blew Kentucky off the map for the first 15 minutes, then switched on the same autopilot they used against Tennessee -- which still wasn't enough to keep Tebow out of an ambulance, apparently. The Gators' passing attack wasn't operating at a very high level even with Tebow on the field; if he's less than 100-percent for the next few weeks, I'd almost be tempted to wait for Urban Meyer to just go triple-option until he gets healthy.

3. Auburn -- Gave up more points than they should have against Ball State, but the vast majority of those yards came in the second half, by which point the game was well and truly put away. Now comes the big test: whether Malzahn's spread attack can survive the meat grinder of a Monte Kiffin defense.

4. LSU -- I can't think of any team in the major conferences who's strung together four less impressive wins. And what the hell is going on with their running game? Only 30 net yards in Starkville?

5. Georgia -- Another win, but the pessimist in me is just sure that Georgia's turnover habit will result in a meltdown game sometime in the next month that causes call-in shows, newspaper columns, and comments threads to spontaneously combust with calls for various coaches to get fired. Seriously, just how long do we expect to keep getting lucky like this?

6. South Carolina -- Made the most of an obvious opportunity to be a trap for Ole Miss, but the fact that Spurrier resorted to touting victories over Kentucky in his postgame chat with Erin Andrews had to have been a little deflating for Gamecock fans just the same.

7. Ole Miss -- Way to erase that "Collapses when expectations are high" stereotype, Nutt. They kept the final score close, but otherwise that was about as bad a performance as the Rebels could've delivered in their first big test on the national stage.

8. Tennessee -- Somewhat ragged performance against Ohio on both sides of the ball, but the last time they played a MAC team they only scored 13 points. So that's progress, I guess.

9. Arkansas -- Petrino's highly touted squad has proved two things so far this season: 1) When you play great offense but lousy defense, it's hard to win. 2) When you play lousy offense AND lousy defense, it's damn near impossible to win.

10. Mississippi State -- Is Dan Mullen's rebuilding project a lot further along than any of us expected, or is LSU just that mediocre? Can I go with "all of the above"?

11. Kentucky -- Well, you did succeed in putting Tim Tebow in the hospital, Wildcats. You'll always have that.

12. Vanderbilt -- Hey, great, you beat Rice. UAB beat Rice.

Monday Morning Cage Match XVI:
Saturday hero vs. Friday villain.

To the relief of Gator fans and ESPN narrative scribes everywhere, Tim Tebow walked out of a Lexington hospital yesterday after having sustained a concussion on a bone-rattling hit from a Kentucky defender Saturday evening. No word on whether any gashes in his head miraculously healed up before the doctors' eyes, or whether he was wheeled out of the hospital in a wheelchair or simply ascended into the sky and was transported back to Gainesville as if by the hand of God, but either way, I give the kid credit for being tough. How tough, though, is something that has to be measured with an objective eye. And I can think of no better way to do that than with a Monday Morning Cage Match: Tebow vs. Deebo.

Tim Tebow

OccupationQuarterbackNeighborhood bully/jacker
Burst onto the scene byThe "jump pass" against ninth-ranked LSU in 2006, in addition to nine rushes for 35 yards and a TDBeating up Red at a dice game and taking his bike
Most famous quote“To the fans, the Gator Nation, I’m sorry. Extremely sorry. But I promise you one thing: a lot of good will come from this. You will never see a player, in the entire country, play as hard as I will play the rest of the season. You will never see someone push the rest of the team as hard as I will push everybody the rest of this season. And you will never see a team play harder than we will play the rest of the season. God bless.”"THAT'S MY BIKE, PUNK!!!!"
Ever knocked anyone out?Not to my knowledgeYes
Ever been knocked out?YesYes
Greatest victory2008 BCS National Championship Game win over OklahomaSuccessfully stealing $200 from Stanley's house and not having to share
Fellated byFox Sports announcer Thom BrennamanDebbie's sister Felicia

FINAL SCORE: Tebow 5, Deebo 4. Deebo may be a formidable opponent, but I don't think anyone's life was ever all that much improved by spending five minutes with him.

Friday, September 25

The Friday Random Ten+5 gives some shout-outs, then books out.

I'm kind of having to punt on the +5 this week because I have to leave for Atlanta in less than an hour and a half, so it's going to be more or less a roundup of random awesome stuff -- My Heisman Ballot Of Five Things That Have Been Awesome To Me This Week.

Green's package store on Ponce de Leon in Atlanta
Always a frequent spot to hit on the way to a Saturday of tailgating in Athens, but now virtually mandatory due to the fact that a) they keep expanding their liquor selections, b) they have a new walk-in Belgian beer cooler, and c) it takes a lot of alcohol consumption to make Georgia's defense look good.

Erin Andrews in glasses
Not a great screengrab above, but if you were watching Georgia's game against Arkansas last week then you know what I'm talking about. EA looked hot enough that all actual sexy librarians should now be referred to as sporting the "Erin Andrews at the Georgia-Arkansas game look."

Airplanes with funny paint jobs
See also: the Southwest Airlines "Shamu" planes; Western Pacific's old "Simpsons" plane; and SkyEurope's Boeing 737s with supermodels on the side. OK, that last one isn't really "funny" per se, but it still gets your attention.

The Jaguar XFR
The James Bond of cars: handsome, suave, doesn't look out of place at either a five-star restaurant or a competitive sporting event, and can straight-up murder any of its competitors without really breaking a sweat.

Hot wings at B. Merrell's in Columbus
I know I make fun of Columbus all the time, but it does have one major claim to fame: the site of the best Buffalo wings in the universe. A bold statement, I know, but B. Merrell's has ruined me for hot wings just about any place else in the world because theirs are so much better. Crispy without being breaded; sauce that's hot but not overpowering; perfectly rotisserie-cooked so that you can pack away 20 of them in barely more than the blink of an eye. Wing perfection, and I should know, because if you'd seen my gut lately you'd know that I've put away a few.

And now the Ten:

1. Thom Yorke, "Skip Divided"
2. Hall & Oates, "I Can't Go for That (No Can Do)"
3. Dr. Dre, "Let Me Ride"
4. U2, "North and South of the River"
5. KRS-One, "2nd Quarter -- Free Throws"
6. Richard Cheese, "Fight for Your Right"
7. Meat Beat Manifesto, "Let Go"
8. A Tribe Called Quest, "The Infamous Date Rape"
9. Radiohead, "Myxomatosis (Judge, Jury & Executioner)"
10. Dead Kennedys, "Stealing People's Mail"

What's been awesome to you this week? Throw that stuff (along with your Random Tens) in the comments . . . and I'm outta here.

Tuesday, September 22

Get thee behind me, Satan: The Arizona State preview.

OK. I mean, I hope we kick their asses and everything, but still, I kinda like this li'l guy.

Hometown: Tempe, Arizona.

Last season: Opened 2-0 but went over the handlebars at home against UNLV (just in time to make sure Georgia would get minimal credit for winning out in Tempe, naturally). The UNLV loss kicked off a six-game skid that ended only when the Sun Devils had the good fortune of facing the three worst teams in the Pac-10 back-to-back-to-back in November; closed out the season by getting hammered at Arizona and finished 5-7 (4-5 Pac-10) and unranked.

Hate index: Two and a half, down from seven last year. Now that Rudy Carpenter is off inflicting his bitchface on the Dallas Cowboys' practice squad, I don't really have a problem with the Sun Devils: Their mascot is kind of an awesome little bastard, the hotness of their coed population is nothing short of staggering -- seriously, everything you've heard about them is true, it was like Ole Miss West out there -- and they were, for the most part, super nice to us when we came to their house last fall. Maybe it was the intimidation factor at having been bum-rushed by something on the order of 20,000 barking, red-pants-clad grown men and women in a single weekend, but either way, hats off, ASU.

Associated hottie: Tough call here, for as I've indicated, you can probably yank any random coed off ASU's campus and have a better than three-in-four chance of ending up with someone worthy of inclusion here. But Lauren Thompson, former Arizona State cheerleader and current Phoenix Suns dancer, is pretty much the alumna equivalent of the nuclear option: She ends all debate in one fell swoop.

According to the best estimates, there are currently a little over 3.376 billion female human beings on earth, and looking like that seems downright unfair to at least 3,375,999,947 of them.

What excites me: The bad news is, Arizona State currently ranks first in the nation in total defense, allowing a paltry 149.5 yards per game. Here's the good news: That ranking has been constructed on a résumé consisting only of Idaho State (which isn't even a good team by I-AA standards; they haven't had a winning season since 2003) and Louisiana Monroe (good against Nick Saban, lousy against most other folks; haven't had a winning season since joining I-A in 1994). If the Sun Devils think they're going to stifle an offense for the third straight game, they've got another thing coming. The ASU front seven, which has held opponents under 4.0 yards per carry in each of the last three seasons, appears fairly stout, but the slightly undersized secondary has a pair of new starters at the safety positions who combined for all of 25 tackles last season. Last year's game in Tempe, you'll recall, was A.J. Green's big coming-out party as a superstar receiver (eight catches for 159 yards and a score), and while the Sun Devils will almost certainly be more prepared for him this time around, double-covering A.J. will only open things up for Mike Moore, who's establishing himself as quite a presence in the slot.

ASU's biggest weakness, however, is probably their offensive line; outside of Steve Spurrier at South Carolina, I can't think of any coach whose struggles to put together a decent O-line have been more inexplicable than Dennis Erickson's. In his two years in Tempe, the Sun Devils have hung their QBs out for a staggering 89 sacks, third-most in the nation during that span behind only Virginia Tech and Hawaii; no wonder Rudy Carpenter always looked like he was in such a bad mood. The rushing attack has suffered as well, ranking 78th and 114th in the nation in yards per game those two years. Four of five guys come back on the Devils' line this season, and supposedly they've got more linemen on scholarship now than they've had in quite a while; given that and the fact that we only sacked the supposedly Everest-immobile Ryan Mallett twice last week, it probably wouldn't be wise to assume we're going to key in on ASU's Danny Sullivan, even though he's probably no more of a running threat than Mallett was. UL-Monroe, however, did manage to take Sullivan down three times last week (one of those sacks resulting in an intentional-grounding call), and also dropped his backup for a sack. With the Sun Devils' leading rusher, Dimitri Nance, totaling only 113 yards so far and the team as a whole averaging only 4.3 yards per rush despite the weak competition they've faced, I would expect Georgia's stoutness against the run to continue.

Saw a whoooole lot of this in Tempe last year, but that doesn't mean I got tired of it.

The Devils have also struggled on special teams the last couple years, ranking 71st in the nation last year in kickoff-return yardage allowed and 67th on punts. Whether they kick it short to prevent a big runback, like Arkansas did, or gamble and kick it deep, we should enjoy fairly decent field position for most of the night.

What worries me: ASU may have had more than their fair share of trouble with pass protection and the running game over the past couple seasons, but after the last two games, is anyone on the Georgia side prepared to state unequivocally that we're not going to wind up in another shootout? The Sun Devils' receiving corps is neither notably large nor especially experienced (last year's leading receiver, Michael Jones, has graduated), but if we leave them as wide-open as we left the Arkansas receivers, there's no telling what they'll be able to do.

And here's the biggest (and most unsettling) discrepancy you're likely to see amongst any of the statistical comparisons between the Dawgs and Devils: Georgia is 116th in the country in turnover margin at -7; the best team in I-A is . . . Arizona State, who's averaging +4 per game. Three-quarters of those takeaways have been interceptions thrown by QBs who were a) trying to pass their way out of deep deficits and b) probably not real good to begin with, but trust me, I'm not about to get cocky here: Most of our giveaways have been of the silver-platter variety, so I'm not convinced the Devils will even have to work all that hard to force them in the first place. I'd love to give you some tangible, practical reasons why I don't think Georgia will cough up the ball all over the place in the first quarter and enter the second facing a 10-point deficit, but I don't have any to give.

Finally, Arizona State should be able to go toe-to-toe with us on special-teams returns -- Kyle Williams was fourth in the nation in punt returns last year and managed a respectable 23.3 yards per kickoff return; this year the Sun Devils are first in the nation with a staggering 50.75 yards per return on KOs. Again, weak competition and all that, but this is another one of those categories in which Georgia (108th nationally in KO coverage) really doesn't have any claim to superiority.

Player who needs to have a big game: CB Prince Miller. It does not make me a master of gridiron insight to suggest that Georgia's pass defense has been the most glaringly deficient unit over the past couple weeks, and if Willie Martinez isn't going to change anything about this situation, maybe Miller, the most experienced player in our secondary, is going to have to. Time to show some leadership and show those young'uns how it's done, Prince. Making sure you're within, oh, five yards of a receiver when the ball is released would probably help.

What does it all mean? If the sheer mystery of the relatively untested Arkansas squad had you popping Tums last week all the way up to midnight Saturday, guess what: You're not done with the antacids yet, because Arizona State is every bit as untested and unknown as the Razorbacks were going into Saturday night. Danny Sullivan might be a huge dropoff from Rudy Carpenter, or he might be OK. The offensive line may have improved, or they might be every bit as godawful as the past couple years. Their pass defense might be cringing in fear of having to face A.J. Green again, or maybe they're going to man up and be on our receivers like a Snuggie all night. With Idaho State and ULM their only tests so far, it's pretty much impossible to say anything conclusive at this point.

While the Sun Devils may be an enigma, though, Georgia has been establishing some patterns, a lot of them negative. And it doesn't matter whether ASU is a secret Pac-10 sleeper or another mediocre also-ran, we've proven ourselves quite capable of dropping a fat early lead right into their hands via turnovers. Do you realize that without the 10 free points we handed South Carolina in the first quarter, we would've been leading the Gamecocks 31-13 at halftime and could've spent the rest of the night keying in on that passing game that gave us such fits? Or that without that pair of one-play touchdown drives Arkansas got thanks to our turnovers, we could've won 52-27 and made Joe Cox the story of the game rather than Ryan Mallett? Instead, we did everything in our power to make manageable games more difficult, handing our opponents free points at a time when our defense is already under the gun. Between that and the penalties we've started incurring -- shades of last year's frustrations -- we're nowhere near disciplined enough right now to be assuming a win over the Sun Devils.

Yeah, Arkansas went 5-7 last year, too -- didn't stop them from scaring the feces out of us.

Which is a shame, because we've shown impressive proficiency in a lot of the areas, particularly on offense, in which we had the biggest question marks coming into this season; on paper, I think we are more talented, top to bottom, than ASU. Protect the ball and restrain ourselves from false-starting all over creation, and we'd be a good bet to cover the twelve-and-a-half-point spread that looked so inflated to me when I first saw it the other day. ASU couldn't cover A.J. Green to save their lives last year, and it's not going to be any easier now that they also have to worry about Mike Moore (and Aron White or Orson Charles on top of that); the biggest thing keeping the running game from jumping off right now is our unwillingness to stick with it long enough to let it get into a rhythm.

But I think we've got a fistful of dumbass penalties in store for Saturday night and a couple more turnovers of the inexplicable-brain-fart variety, and here's why: We're a banged-up team right now, and more to the point, a none-too-fresh one. We've played three games, two of them a thousand miles from home, two of them grueling affairs that went nearly four hours. Not the kind of circumstances that make for a particularly focused or disciplined team. The Sun Devils have been hit with nearly as many penalties per game as we have, and this time they're the ones having to travel across the continent for a game, so I guess we can always hope they'll match us dumb mental error for dumb mental error. Regardless, though, I'm steeling myself for at least one turnover gift-wrapped and presented to the Sun Devils deep in our own territory, complemented by a handful of blown coverages that allow Sullivan to look far more heroic than he otherwise should.

Final score? If we only have a couple turnovers and/or keep the margin even, we beat the Sun Devils again, though still not by twelve and a half -- probably a single touchdown, for which we should be grateful. But if our luck reservoir has run dry -- and let nobody forget just how very lucky we've been to overcome early double-digit deficits two weeks in a row -- Arizona State will have every opportunity to win this game, don't think that they won't. We can either buckle down and play like we know we're capable of or create another situation where we have to move heaven and earth (and work poor Joe Cox to death) to pull out a win, it's our choice.

If you're trash-talking: "Scoreboard," obvs. There's also the line from the "Pray Anything" episode of "The Simpsons" in which Ned Flanders observes that "Heaven's easier to get into than Arizona State." And unless I miss my guess, come 3 in the afternoon on Saturday you'll be able to point and laugh at all the Arizonans you see staggering through downtown Athens, soaked to the bone in sweat, begging for a quick, painless death simply to be relieved from the 90-percent humidity.

And should you ever begin to feel guilty at taking so much pleasure in any other fan base's misery, remember they're the same school that produced these jagoffs.

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I will run up and down Highland Avenue in front of my apartment wearing nothing but a Georgia flag wrapped about my nether regions if: Georgia manages to end the night with a win and an even or positive turnover margin. Last week I set zero turnovers as a condition of the bet, and more than one of my Twitter followers suggested I was deliberately setting the bar too high just so I wouldn't have to do a flag run. Rest assured, I have way too big an exhibitionist streak to be all that cowed about showing my bare ass in public, but just to allay anyone's fears about me having gone all prude on you, I'll settle for the Dawgs even managing to break even in TOs for the first time all season. YOU HAPPY NOW??

Monday, September 21

"Type A I'm not. Comfortable, caring, and serious about a relationship, I am."

Georgia Tech's class of 1978: Where are they now?

(Hat tip: greatbarstoolio@Twitter; follow her if you want to live)

Poll dancing, week 3: Like Pete Carroll, I may have made a few mistakes here.

You'll have to excuse me if nothing makes sense on either the BlogPoll or SEC Power Poll ballot this week. I'm still trying to wrap my head around the concept of a Georgia Bulldogs team that seems determined to bring HOT WAC SHOOTOUT ACTION to the SEC. Not that their games haven't been exciting, but if this keeps up they're going to have to start applying Surgeon General's warnings to any ESPN telecast involving the Dawgs.

Games watched: Miami-Georgia Tech, Boise State-Fresno State, flipped back and forth between Cal-Minnesota and Kentucky-Louisville, Florida-Tennessee, Georgia-Arkansas, the end of Auburn-West Virginia.

1 Florida
2 Texas
3 Alabama 1
4 California 1
5 Penn State 1
6 Oklahoma 5
7 Boise State 2
8 Mississippi 4
9 LSU 1
10 Virginia Tech 2
11 Southern Cal 8
12 Ohio State 3
13 Miami (Florida) 9
14 TCU
15 Cincinnati 6
16 Auburn
17 Houston 1
18 Missouri 2
19 Kansas 4
20 Oklahoma State 1
21 Michigan 4
22 Florida State
23 North Carolina
24 Notre Dame
25 Texas Tech 1
Last week's ballot

Dropped Out: Brigham Young (#7), Georgia Tech (#13), Nebraska (#16), Utah (#17).

The next five: Brigham Young, Nebraska, Georgia, Georgia Tech, Washington.

· Two teams I may have misjudged in this week's ballot: Oklahoma, who jumps a lot, and USC, who drops by even more. Oklahoma deserves some credit for shutting out an offense as prolific as Tulsa's, but subconsciously I think I'm also just correcting for under-ranking them in the wake of a BYU loss that looks highly anomalous now and, I have a feeling, will look even more so by the end of the season. (Should we just apply an asterisk to that game once Sam Bradford comes back?) USC, meanwhile, had to play under similarly uncomfy circumstances at the QB position, but c'mon, that was an opponent that hadn't won a Pac-10 game in nearly two years; I don't think one has to be an overconfident Trojan booster to assume they should've rolled against the Huskies regardless. Oklahoma has bounced back from a tough loss and looks pretty good right now, while USC seems to be getting worse with each passing week.

· Miami jumps into the top 15, while Georgia Tech drops out entirely. Two more overreactions, I suppose you could say, but the 'Canes looked terrific on both sides of the ball, while both of the strengths that made Tech so good last year (unstoppable running game and a stout front seven) were completely absent Thursday night. Coming on the heels of a near-collapse against Clemson, it looks like some major weaknesses are being exposed in this year's Jackets.

· But Georgia isn't in the poll, either. I know I said I'd rank 'em if they won at Arkansas, but . . . we're on pace to finish the season with a -28 turnover margin and the nation's 112th-ranked pass defense. We might yet luck out and win seven or eight games like that, but a top-25-worthy team we are not.

· Instead, Auburn rockets into the rankings thanks to yet another terrific offensive outing; yes, their defense struggled at times against West Virginia, but it still looks more solid than ours, faint praise though that may be.

· Other new teams in the poll: Florida State, who will probably lose at home to South Florida this week and fall right back out again, because that's just how they appear to be rolling this season; and Notre Dame and North Carolina, inching into the bottom of the rankings after wins over non-terrible opponents.

· Joining Georgia Tech in the unemployment line: BYU, who apparently wasn't that interested in a BCS bowl after all; Nebraska, who lost to Virginia Tech; and Utah, whose nation-leading win streak was snapped by that same Oregon team that got bitchmade on opening weekend.

And here's the SEC Power Poll ballot:

1. Florida -- It really seemed like once the Gators realized they weren't going to beat Tennessee by 60, their attitude shifted to "Let's just run out the clock so we can all get the hell out of here."

2. Alabama -- Now that's how you eat a cupcake, Bama.

3. Ole Miss -- After two cupcakes and a bye, the Rebels finally get a test when they visit the Gamecocks this weekend.

4. LSU -- Nice defensive effort against the Ragin' Cajuns, but they still haven't put together anywhere close to a complete effort on the other side of the ball.

5. Auburn -- Another 400 yards from the Tiger offense. I'm pretty sure that was specifically mentioned in the Book of Revelation somewhere.

6. Georgia -- A second straight game in which the Dawgs made it harder for themselves by coughing up the ball all over the place and digging themselves a double-digit hole in the first quarter. It's almost like Richt is telling them to do that so they'll build character. How much can you really learn about yourself if the win is too easy, after all?

7. Tennessee -- Not that moral victories have ever meant much in the SEC, but if I were a Tennessee fan I'd be pretty happy about the way the Florida loss went down. Not only that, but they've provided a blueprint to the rest of the SEC for containing Tebow! (Note: Must have Tennessee's defense to qualify.)

8. Arkansas -- If they ever wake up on defense, the rest of the West better watch out. I'm already terrified about the prospect of having to face Mallett again next year.

9. South Carolina -- Took forever to get in gear against Florida Atlantic. That's another team that just wanted to get the game over with and go home.

10. Kentucky -- Don't know yet how bad a sign it was that they got chased by Louisville for so long, but I can't think that it was a terribly good one.

11. Mississippi State -- As SEC wins go, that wasn't terribly aesthetically appealing, but then I thought the Bizarro Bulldogs were going to go oh-fer in conference play this year.

12. Vanderbilt -- Looks like Bobby Johnson has come up with an answer to the question, "Is there any way the Vanderbilt offense could look even worse than last year's?"