Junkyard Mail: Is anything less than the College Football Playoff a failed season for UGA?

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If Mark Richt doesn't lead the Dawgs to the College Football Playoff, is the season a failure? (Associated Press)
If Mark Richt doesn't lead the Dawgs to the College Football Playoff, is the season a failure? (Associated Press)

If Mark Richt doesn’t lead the Dawgs to the College Football Playoff, is the season a failure? (Associated Press)

Hope you’re staying cool as the summer heat sets in this weekend. In the meantime, let’s get to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …

Steve Upshaw writes: Re: your comment of Dog fans not grumbling too much for a trip to NOLA for the Sugar Bowl, this is precisely where Richt has led you and the other sheeple. Now you think the Sugar Bowl is fine. We will never win a title, nor anything of real significance, with Richt in charge. This is where he has led us; thinking a trip to NOLA caps a wonderful season. C’mon Bill. Please! Two SEC titles in now his 15th season is awful. Why do we continue to accept this? … Meanwhile, either Alabama, Auburn, LSU on ANYONE ELSE gets another SEC title and shot at a national championship and we get to visit NOLA and not hear “too much grumbling.”

OK, I stand corrected: There definitely will be grumbling from some if the Dawgs wind up playing in the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. I’m not sure why you feel the need to denigrate (“sheeple”) those who don’t share your view, but I gather you want me to say that if Georgia, despite breaking in a new quarterback this season, isn’t in the final top four and doesn’t make the College Football Playoff, then the program is a failure and the head coach should be fired. Sorry, but that’s not how I view college athletics. I certainly would love to see the Dawgs make the playoff this year, or any year, but I don’t accept the premise that anything less is a lost season. If Georgia has double-digit wins, I refuse to consider the season a failure, especially if they win the SEC East. Yes, such a result would fall short of my ultimate hopes for my favorite team, but hopes and expectations are two different things in sports.

Brody Pennington writes: Bill, I was surprised to see Georgia get a commitment from a top quarterback for the 2017 class. The Dawgs have Jacob Eason, the nation’s top prospect, joining the team in 2016. Why would another quarterback want to sign to play behind Eason? Why does Georgia want to keep spending scholarships on quarterbacks? And couldn’t that send a bad message to Eason?

UGA quarterback commitment Jacob Eason isn't afraid of some competition. (Michael Carvell / AJC)

UGA quarterback commitment Jacob Eason isn’t afraid of some competition. (Michael Carvell / AJC)

Bailey Hockman is wanted for the same reason Mark Richt and Brian Schottenheimer wanted to add Greyson Lambert to Georgia’s roster this year: You never should count on just one or two quarterbacks to make it through a season (same with running backs), and competition for playing time makes any player at any position sharper. Also, Eason appears to be fine with it. The AJC’s Michael Carvell talked with his father after the commitment of four-star high school junior Hockman was announced, and Tony Eason praised the move. “It speaks volumes for Schotty — he’s turning Georgia into Quarterback U. by getting the top guys there,” the elder Eason told Carvell. “We think competition is great. It will push Jacob, so I think it’s a good thing. Hockman obviously saw the same things out of Georgia that Jake saw … Competition is awesome. Bailey and Jacob will be able to push each other. It will be good for Georgia.”

Stephen Rodgers writes: Bill: Why is everyone, even you in your articles, under the perception that Brice Ramsey would be the number 1 QB at the start of the season? Faton Bauta had  a much better and productive spring; he is a dual threat QB which Georgia will need this year because every team we play will be lining up to stop Nick Chubb. Even with a great offensive line; an offense that doesn’t overstate the obvious where the QB  hands the ball off but might keep it and run for a mile would be better than a QB that has not shown glimpses of greatness only able to throw a ball far enough for [a receiver] to run under it.  Bauta is made in the mold of Tim Tebow, shown leadership, toughness, and UGA may want to keep him and let Ramsey and Greyson [Lambert] fight for #2.

Faton Bauta shouldn't be discounted in Georgia's quarterback battle. (Philip Williams / UGA)

Faton Bauta shouldn’t be discounted in Georgia’s quarterback battle. (Philip Williams / UGA)

I’m by no means discounting Bauta. I liked what I saw of him in the G-Day game and he’s obviously smart and a hard worker. The scuttlebutt out of Athens is that Ramsey is the leader, but I wouldn’t be at all shocked to see Bauta battling with him down to the wire for the starter’s job in August. Ramsey undoubtedly has the stronger arm, and you saw at G-Day that most of Bauta’s completions were shorter passes. But I liked the fact that he was checking down to his second or third receivers or his backs. He made good decisions, which is the major question mark about Ramsey. I could see Bauta being a Hutson Mason-type passing QB — not likely to challenge defenses that much deep, but not turning the ball over a lot, either. Plus, as you note, Bauta can run. Of course, we can’t discount incoming transfer Lambert, who will be the most experienced QB on the team. While he has to learn the playbook, he obviously also is very smart. Yes, he threw more picks than touchdowns during his nine games as starter at Virginia, but, as I’ve noted before, we don’t know how much of that was attributable to the talent (or lack thereof) around him on the Cavaliers offense. He might blossom in Athens and, like Ramsey, he reportedly has a very strong arm and can throw the deep ball. It’s tough to predict how this will all shake out, in terms of starter in the first game but also who’s starting come the end of the season.

Jim writes: In recent years, UGA has been 5 to 9 players under the limit. This has hurt their depth. Where do they stand currently?

Beat writer Chip Towers tells me Georgia is right at the 85-player limit now that Jacob Park is gone. Of course, that includes Kirby Choates and DaQuan Hawkins, who are not yet in Athens. Choates reportedly will enroll in July and Hawkins is still working on meeting academic requirements.

Patrick Yaggy writes: Hi Bill, This is a good one from Saturday Down South … UGA vs. ranked opponents since 2005. Seems to fly in the face of the criticism that Richt cannot win against ranked opponents.

For those who can’t be bothered to click through, the SDS article notes that in the past decade every SEC school has played at least three ranked opponents every season, and each school in the conference today has played at least 40 games against ranked opponents in the last 10 years except for Vanderbilt, which clocks in at 37. The article shows that no school has fared better in those games than LSU, which has played 60 games against ranked opponents over the past 10 seasons and has the highest winning percentage (.650) in the conference. Alabama (.635) and Georgia (.531) are the only other programs in the conference with winning records against ranked competition. The rest of the division clocks in below .500. Georgia played 49 games against ranked opponents over the past 10 years, winning 26 and losing 23. So, yeah, Richt teams do beat ranked opponents.

Stephen Segrest writes: Bill, Why should fans have optimism that we can stop the run this year, and not have a repeat of Florida or Tech?  Please don’t make freshmen (who have not proven anything yet) the center of any optimism.

Defensive tackle Jonathan Ledbetter (No. 13) was impressive during the G-Day game at Sanford Stadium. (John Kelley / UGA)

Defensive tackle Jonathan Ledbetter (No. 13) was impressive during the G-Day game at Sanford Stadium. (John Kelley / UGA)

That’s like asking me to tell you why Georgia should have a good running game without making Chubb or Sony Michel one of the reasons why. As I noted here a few weeks ago, aside from the Florida and Tech games last year, the defensive line did a pretty solid job against the run. And against the spread-type teams like Auburn, they did extremely well. There’s experience returning on the line in players like Sterling Bailey, Josh Dawson, James DeLoach, John Atkins and Chris Mayes. Still, the reason to be excited about Georgia’s prospects at stopping the run this coming season are undoubtedly centered on some of the new players coming aboard, including Jonathan Ledbetter and the nation’s No. 1 prospect, Trent Thompson.

Got something you want to discuss concerning UGA athletics? Or a question for the Junkyard Blawg? Email junkyardblawg@gmail.com.

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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg

Junkyard Blawg mugBill King is an Athens native and a graduate of the University of Georgia’s Henry W. Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication. A lifelong Bulldogs fan, he sold programs at Sanford Stadium as a teen and has been a football season ticket holder since leaving school. He has worked at the AJC since college and spent 10 years as the Constitution’s rock music critic before moving into copy editing on the old afternoon Journal. In addition to blogging, he’s now a story editor.

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