Let’s get right to some of this week’s Junkyard Mail. …
Gary Carter writes: Bill, following up on your recent blog about AP predicting Georgia will be playing TCU in the Sugar Bowl, obviously falling just short of the College Football Playoff, I read where prognosticator extraordinaire Phil Steele’s preseason picks have the Dawgs finishing at No. 6 and playing Baylor in the Sugar Bowl. He has Ohio State, TCU, USC and Alabama in the playoff, with the Buckeyes beating the Horned Frogs in the national championship game. Most other early rankings I’ve seen have the Dawgs in the Top 10 or near to it, but not making the playoff. So, it sounds like they expect Georgia to be very good, just not quite good enough. And I’m wondering what it is about the Dawgs that the national media expects to keep them out of the playoff. The quarterback position? Run defense?
One of ESPN’s SEC bloggers, Ed Aschoff, took a look this week at reasons why Georgia will or won’t make the playoff, and it’s pretty representative of how many, if not most, college football observers are viewing the Dawgs at this point.
Aschoff says “Georgia has a lot of talent on both sides of the ball and is certainly the early, heavy favorite to win the SEC Eastern Division. But questions still linger at some important positions. Plus, is this team capable of beating the top team in the West?”
As reasons why Georgia will make the playoff, he offers, naturally, Nick Chubb (“Just hand the ball off to him. … The freight train with a brain makes his opponents hurt, both mentally and physically with his punishing running style and his Playstation-like agility”); what he calls the “stud” linebacker corps (“Whatever deficiencies Georgia has within its relatively unproven defensive line and whatever questions the Bulldogs’ secondary might have will be masked by arguably the nation’s best core of linebackers”); and the unstable SEC East.
About the latter, he writes: “On paper, who is really going to challenge Georgia? Right now, Tennessee and Missouri are the only ones that are really on anyone’s radar. Tennessee has 18 starters returning, but this team is still young and it’s time for Butch Jones’ team to win outside of the recruiting world. Missouri has won two straight SEC East titles, so the Tigers certainly can’t be counted out, but with unproven wide receivers, young defensive ends and the potential loss of stud defensive tackle Harold Brantley, Mizzou doesn’t seem as formidable at the moment. South Carolina needs a quarterback and a defense, while Florida has a new head coach and needs a quarterback and an offense. Kentucky needs a quarterback, playmakers and a front seven, while Vanderbilt is still a ways away under Derek Mason. The East should be Georgia’s to lose.”
Ah, but what are the reasons Georgia won’t make the playoff?
Aschoff points to the “unproven quarterback(s),” noting that “having Chubb as a safety net is enormous, but you still have to throw the ball down field, and right now, we don’t know how effective Georgia will be at that.”
Also, he says, “we’ve seen what happens when the Dawgs have a ton of hype thrust upon them. … Last year, the East was there for the taking for the Dawgs and their dreams were crushed by an embarrassing blowout against a gimpy Florida team. … If Georgia is going to win the SEC, it will have to get out of its own way in 2015.”
I’d say the quarterback uncertainty and that last line about the Dawgs getting out of their own way are the biggest reasons Georgia is generally seen as not quite a playoff team in 2015.
Milledgeville Dawg writes: Bill, I have to admit I rolled my eyes when I heard that Jacob Park might wind up transferring from Georgia to Alabama, another school with an ongoing quarterback battle. On the one hand, I can’t see a guy who probably would have been Georgia’s fourth-stringer doing a whole lot better in Tuscaloosa. But I’m getting kind of tired of Mark Richt allowing his castoffs to not only transfer anywhere they want, but to even join an SEC program that the Dawgs will face this season, taking with him valuable information about offensive signals and the like. What are your thoughts on Richt’s open transfer policy?
I think it’s an example of why Richt is considered a players’ coach and one of the classiest guys in college sports. He puts the long-term best interests of his players above any short-term problems that might cause for his program. It’s already unfair enough that under NCAA rules players are tied to a school once they sign, even if the coaches who signed them decide to move elsewhere. To then put limitations on where they can transfer, as many coaches do, really seems like piling on.
Richt summed up his philosophy several years ago when he said that that “life is too short” to place restrictions on players who leave the program. “I want every young man to have a successful time in his four- or five-year window to be able to go to college. So I don’t want to impede a guy from realizing his goals and his dreams, wherever it is,” Richt said. “If he thinks he will have success at a school you compete against, then so be it.”
As for Park’s prospects if he winds up at Bama, I wish him the best but I have to agree with you, M.D., that it wouldn’t appear to be an easier road for him than he faced in Athens.
Steve Upshaw writes: Bill, We sit in Section 137 at Sanford Stadium. We literally never get to see the Munson pre-game video, replays and the other video presentations from our seats because we have only ONE video board. Not 100 percent certain, but I believe we are the only stadium in the conference with only one video board. Auburn may have only one. Also, even with that one board, it isn’t even high definition; it’s listed as “near HD.” Literally, 15 percent of fans at the stadium cannot see the video board at all or enough to be useful. Why is this never addressed?
I put your complaint to Senior Associate Athletic Director Claude Felton, who said that while the video board will remain the same in 2015, “scoreboard/video board enhancements are in future plans.”
No timetable, but considering the current emphasis among SEC schools on improving the game day experience for fans, I wouldn’t expect that such “enhancements” would be too far down the road.
Speaking of fan complaints about UGA’s stadium, the drumbeat of dissatisfaction with restrooms and concessions at Sanford continues. On my Facebook page, Omar Oliver, with 20 others, writes: Hey Bill, a lot of us in the Bulldog Nation want to know what kind of improvements are in store for Sanford Stadium this coming 2015 season. We hope that the restrooms and concession areas would be of much needed improvement. What can you tell us?
In response, Jay Unger also writes: The ongoing lack of interest in improving restrooms in particular is a big reason why I gave up my season tickets after 32 years. Spending a quarter of my time in the stadium standing in lines for that solitary single door men’s room on my side of the 300 level just became too much year after year. Especially since I have to travel 500 miles for that sensory experience.
And Brett Miolen adds: I’ve never been a fan of the concessions in the club level. The restrooms there are fine. I don’t know what it’s like elsewhere in the stadium. However the concessions need to be improved vastly.
As I reported in the Blawg a few weeks back, renovations have begun on the restrooms on the South side of Sanford Stadium. I asked Claude Felton about when the North side restrooms would get a badly needed renovation and he said that while the South side is being done this year, “the North side restroom renovation will take place in phases beginning next year.” He added that “there is also a South side Sky Club renovation taking place now.”
In response to my Blawg entry this past week on Georgia’s 2015 home schedule, Jim Cooney writes: Bama is the biggest and best one the schedule, USC is huge and has Spurrier, who has owned us since 1990, and Missouri has won the East the last two seasons. But, the game I am most looking forward to seeing is Southern University. I have a 3-year-old and those types of games are perfect for the little one. … PLUS, any band nicknamed The Human Jukebox, will be worth the price of admission. Just hope our athletic department has an agreement that, we will schedule [you], but you have to bring your famous band!!
UGA says that the Southern U. band is indeed scheduled to come to Athens this season, which should liven up halftime at that Sept. 26 game quite a bit. Considered one of the nation’s best collegiate marching bands, the band nicknamed the Human Jukebox is known for “music in motion” and prides itself on its precision drills and spirited performances. Sounds like fun.
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— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg
Bill 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.