Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Roundtable!

T. Kyle King and Paul Westerdawg graciously agreed to discuss the GT v. UGa matchup with me this week, and I've got their responses to my questions about the game here - check out their sites for my comments. You'll notice quickly that Mr. King is a lawyer and much more refined than either PWD or myself, who quickly degenerate into "Georgia sucks. No, GT sucks. No, you suck" analysis. Other than the fact that Pat Dye peed in his Cheerios as a kid, Kyle doesn't seem to hate anyone, which is definitely not the norm in southern college football.

On with the questions!

Nathan: Is it true that L. Pope eats barbels for breakfast? GT's speedy linebackers shut down Miami's Greg Olsen - do they have a chance against Pope, or is he just going to get his no matter what?

PWD: Forget Barbells. Pope eats speedy GT linebackers. I'm not sure that Olsen was shut down as much as Miami schemed to put him in max protect as a blocker instead of putting him out on routes. Which makes sense. The slow footed Kyle Wright wasn't going to punish GT for blitzing by tucking and running.

Three of Tech's 4 losses have come to teams with mobile QBs. UGA is going to move the pocket around and call some QB draws to slow the GT rush down. Auburn has a pretty intense pass rush and we held them at bay pretty well. Pope will be running routes and we will throw it to him.

T. Kyle King: The key to Leonard Pope isn't speed, it's size. I have no doubt that the Yellow Jacket linebacking corps is fast enough to limit Pope's yards after catch, but he will get his catches, just the same . . . and Pope can pick up a couple or three yards just by falling forward when he's hit. As Paulwesterdawg notes, Pope is the Bill Brasky of tight ends. I'm still waiting for the athletic association to modify the Sanford Stadium scoreboard so that it emits a puff of white smoke each time Pope scores a touchdown.

Georgia Tech should treat Leonard Pope the way Georgia should treat Calvin Johnson; the key to limiting the effectiveness of both is shutting down the other receivers. While the Bulldogs have talented receivers, they have a disturbing tendency to drop catchable balls. Mohamed Massaquoi and Leonard Pope have redeemed the Georgia receiving corps, but Massaquoi is a true freshman and he has made some freshman mistakes. (In the Arkansas game, a ball thrown to Massaquoi was intercepted because the young receiver did not fully appreciate the extent to which his raw athleticism, which no doubt allowed him to make such catches in high school, is not alone enough against Division I-A opposition.)

I find strongly encouraging the fact that the Georgia offense played so well against Auburn. (The 'Dawgs looked sharp against Kentucky, too, but the Yellow Jackets' defense is light years ahead of the Wil_cats'.) The Auburn and Georgia Tech defenses are comparable in quality and, despite the outcome of the season opener (in which the Tigers' rebuilt offense had yet to gel), the Yellow Jacket offense is at least a step behind the War Eagle O, so I don't see the Ramblin' Wreck racking up 31 points on Saturday night.

If the 'Dawgs could move the ball on Auburn, they can move the ball on Georgia Tech. It will take an outstanding effort on the Red and Black's part, but at least now we know that Georgia can produce offensively against a quality defense.


Nathan: Does UGA have anyone in the secondary remotely capable of covering Calvin Johnson, or is up to the defensive line to fluster Reggie Ball so he can't exploit that matchup?


PWD: Last year, Calvin had 5 catches for 44 yards and 0 TDs We will play him this year the same way that we did last year. In other words, we will mug him and take our chances with penalties. It's the price the elite players pay for being elite. Pollack dealt with the same thing last year.
Johnson is better this year, but so is Minter. The real question is WILL Georgia
blitz. Martinez has held every offense he's faced in check except Auburn's.
However, he's done it with minimal blitzing.

T. Kyle King: Calvin Johnson is a special player and I doubt whether anyone is capable of shutting him down entirely. Johnson will get his catches and get his yards; the key is to limit his big plays and to prevent him from sustaining drives. During his Cy Young Award seasons, Greg Maddux truly "scattered eight hits," allowing a base hit here or a base hit there but never three or four hits in an inning. If the Georgia D is able to "scatter eight catches" by Calvin Johnson, the 'Dawgs will do all right.

To me, the larger concern is limiting Reggie Ball's effectiveness and shutting down the running game. Calvin Johnson can beat a lot of teams, but Reggie Ball is too inconsistent a player for the Yellow Jackets to put the game in his hands.

On the opposite side of the ball, the Georgia receivers need to step up and make catches when D.J. Shockley hits them in the hands. It is somewhat ironic that Calvin Johnson, when choosing between Georgia and Georgia Tech, opted to play his college ball at The Flats because he thought he could make an immediate impact and play as a true freshman in Atlanta. Mohamed Massaquoi has proven that a true freshman receiver can earn playing time in Athens.

It's too bad Calvin was too scared of the prospect of competing for his job to sign with the Bulldogs; I think he could have been successful in the Classic City if he hadn't shied away from the sort of competition on which most other athletes of his caliber thrive. I hope the Georgia secondary will be motivated enough to give Johnson the "no glory" on Saturday that, by rights, ought to accompany his "no guts" decision on national signing day.


Nathan: GT wants to beat UGA badly because we lose that game on a regular basis. UGA wants to beat Florida badly because, well, Florida owns you guys. Does this change if you beat UF a couple of years in a row, and GT puts up another win streak against the 'Dawgs?


PWD: The premise of the question isn't realistic. If we're good enough to beat the Gators, we're good enough to beat Tech. 1998, 1990 and....well...1966. Those are probably the last times that Tech and Florida were good at the same time.

As for streaks. Any loss to Tech is the most important loss of the season. Any win over Tech is something that just happens...much like the sun rising....only if the sun rose 70% of the time.

T. Kyle King:
Bulldog Nation's attitude towards the World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party will change when that happens, but Georgia Tech's attitude towards beating Georgia would not be altered if the Yellow Jackets somehow managed to put together their first legitimate three-game winning streak over Georgia in more than four decades.

Suppose that God came to a Georgia fan the night before football season began and said, "I have good news and bad news. The bad news is that Georgia is going to go 1-10. The good news is that you get to pick the one team the Bulldogs will beat." The answer to that offer would depend upon the fan: many Georgia boosters would pick Georgia Tech; many others would say Florida; I would say Auburn.

For most Georgia fans, the most heated rivalry is the one with the team the 'Dawgs lost to most consistently when that fan began following college football. Georgia fans of my father's generation take the rivalry with Georgia Tech most seriously because they remember "The Drought" in the 1950s and the John Griffith years in the 1960s. Georgia fans who are in college now or who have graduated within the last five years hate Florida the most because, for them, losing to the Gators is an annual thing. For me, my formative memories of Georgia football involve losses to the Plainsmen during Pat Dye's heyday in the 1980s---as well as the water hose incident in the Ugliest Village in 1986.

When Georgia regains the upper hand in the series with Florida (which the Red and Black have held throughout 85 of the 100 years of the rivalry, which speaks to the difference between having had a tradition since the 1890s and having had a tradition since the 1990s), the Gators will resume a position of somewhat secondary importance on the Bulldogs' annual slate, much as the Volunteers have since a nine-game losing streak in the 1990s has been replaced by a 5-1 run in the 2000s. The Cocktail Party will still be important, but it will not be pre-eminent.

If God came to a Georgia Tech fan with that deal, though, every Yellow Jacket booster who has ever been born would have answered "Georgia" in a heartbeat, in every season and in every circumstance.

There are Ramblin' Wreck fans who would like to think that, around 2001, they would have picked Florida State over Georgia, but that simply isn't the case. When your fight song contains a line about teaching your children to curse the name of an opposing school, that's your biggest rival, first, last, and always. That fact remains unchanged, regardless of whether Georgia Tech has an eight-game winning streak (1949-1956) or a seven-game losing streak (1991-1997).


Nathan: How many years did Richt promise his soul to the devil in exchange for never losing to GT? He owns us so much it's not even funny - between his FSU and UGA days, GT hasn't even really had but maybe 2-3 good shots to even win a game against him.

PWD: Judging by history, I think you're asking the wrong question. The real question is "How many years did O'Leary and Braine pomise their soul to the NCAA in exchange for making 11 players eligible to facilitate winning ANY games vs. UGA over the past 14 years.


T. Kyle King: I don't really count his successes as Florida State's offensive coordinator, since the Seminoles' overall mastery of the Gators hasn't translated from Tallahassee to Athens. Otherwise, Mark Richt's run against Georgia Tech hasn't really been that atypical.

Coach Richt is 4-0 against the Yellow Jackets and 50-12 overall. Only three coaches in school history---Vince Dooley, Wally Butts, and Harry Mehre---have more career victories as Georgia's head coach than Mark Richt and Coach Richt should pass Coach Mehre for third place all-time sometime next season.

Coach Dooley started out 5-0 against the Ramblin' Wreck between 1964 and 1968. W.A. Cunningham started out 4-0 against the Yellow Jackets between 1910 and 1913. Coach Butts won three of his first four meetings with the Golden Tornado and, in his first eight years on the job, the Little Round Man beat Georgia Tech by margins of 21-0 (in 1941), 34-0 (in 1942), 33-0 (in 1945), and 35-7 (in 1946).

Coach Mehre spent a decade at Georgia and he lost to the Yellow Jackets twice. Ray Goff had losing records against Auburn, Florida, and Tennessee, but he posted the same 5-2 record against Georgia Tech that he managed against Vanderbilt. With instant replay or competent officiating, Jim Donnan would have gone 4-1 against the Ramblin' Wreck on the field and the recent N.C.A.A. sanctions have given him a 2-0 ledger against the Golden Tornado.

The coaching histories of the two Division I-A schools in the Peach State have been polar opposites: Georgia Tech began as a bastion of stability, having just three head coaches---John Heisman, Bill Alexander, and Bobby Dodd---over the course of three-quarters of a century. During that period, the Yellow Jackets established a tradition of excellence and won consistently, against the Bulldogs and against everyone else. Since Coach Dodd's retirement, though, the Georgia Tech program has experienced numerous upheavals and enjoyed only limited runs of stability and success.

The 'Dawgs, by contrast, had 14 head football coaches in the first 18 years of the Georgia program. It wasn't until Coach Cunningham took over in Athens in 1910 that the Red and Black acquired any stability or consistency. Since that time, with only limited interruptions, the Bulldogs have had lengthy runs under established coaches like Harry Mehre (1928-1937), Wally Butts (1939-1960), and Vince Dooley (1964-1988).

It should come as no surprise that, between in-state rivals, the more stable program generally has been the more successful program. When Georgia Tech was settled and Georgia was in chaos, the Yellow Jackets won consistently. When Georgia was stable and Georgia Tech was in an uproar, the Bulldogs won consistently. It is no accident that the only periods in which the Ramblin' Wreck has beaten the Red and Black other than sporadically since Coach Dodd retired---during the later days of the Bobby Ross and George O'Leary regimes---coincided with periods during which Georgia Tech's coaching situation was more settled than Georgia's.

I am pleased with Mark Richt's success in the Georgia-Georgia Tech series, but his victories over the Yellow Jackets are far less remarkable than his mastery of the Volunteers. Beating Tennessee consistently is a departure from the historic norm for Georgia, but, ever since Bobby Dodd became the name on the stadium instead of the coach on the sideline, wins by Georgia against Georgia Tech have been the rule rather than the exception.


Nathan: Finally, if GT wins this weekend - is this season a success for Georgia because you are going to the SECCG, or is it a failure because you would lose 3 of the 4 rivalry games (UF, UT, AU, GT)? With UGA rebuilding next year and your rivals having experienced teams, you could realistically lose 6 or 7 of the 8 rivalry games between this year and next - how does that sit with the fan base if it happens?

PWD: It would be difficult to imagine a scenario where ANY season is considered a success if we lost to Tech. As for next year, I'm expecting 8-4 or 9-3 regular season. We lose a ton of players, but lost big time players before this season and before 2002 and 2003. It happens.


T. Kyle King: This season is a success if the 'Dawgs win any two of their last three games. Two more wins get Georgia to 10 wins for the fourth year in a row. Wins over Georgia Tech and in the bowl game would ameliorate an S.E.C. championship game loss; wins in the S.E.C. championship game and in the Sugar Bowl would erase the pain of a loss at Grant Field; wins in Atlanta on the next two Saturdays would make a postseason setback forgivable. Naturally, I want to win all three games, but taking two out of the three would make 2005 a good year.

The answer to the second question is that it wouldn't sit well with the fan base if it happened, but I reject the premise of the question. I had to laugh when I read about how Georgia would be "rebuilding next year" while our rivals would have "experienced teams." I seem to recall similar prognostications heading into this season: Tennessee was loaded, Florida was going to take the S.E.C. by storm, and Georgia had to recover from the losses of David Greene, David Pollack, Reggie Brown, Fred Gibson, Odell Thurman, Thomas Davis, and Brian VanGorder. Well, a funny thing happened on the way to a third-place finish in the S.E.C. East.

Six or seven losses in the eight rivalry games in a two-year span wouldn't go over well in Bulldog Nation in 2006, not any more than it did in the 1990s, when the Red and Black fired two coaches for doing just that. Mark Richt has built up enough goodwill to survive a downcycle, though, and---more to the point---I have serious doubts whether a downcycle is on the horizon. The 'Dawgs fared pretty well in this rebuilding year, so I have no cause to doubt that they will fare well in the next one.

BONUS QUESTION: How much does the fact that Braine still has a job surprise you?

PWD: Dave Braine is a boob. He is an anchor dragging down the Georgia Tech Athletic Department. He appears to be directly or indirectly responsible for the loss of 34 scholarship athletes to flunkgate and probationgate. So obviously, I'm a big fan of the guy. I would hate to see him go.

My question is to you. If Georgia wins by 2 TDs or more, does Braine lose his job to deflect attention from Gailey?

T. Kyle King: Dave Braine's continued employment at The Flats surprises me not at all. Why should it?

He hired the basketball coach who took the Yellow Jackets to the championship game of the N.C.A.A. tournament and did so with class. He presciently gave Chan Gailey a contract extension when the Georgia Tech fan base was calling for Chan's head---and Coach Gailey promptly led his team to victory in what has to be the Ramblin' Wreck's biggest road win since the 1990 Virginia game, which was against a Cavalier squad that was a far more bogus No. 1 than Miami was a No. 3. Braine has a Barry Goldwater-like "tell it like it is" quality that may be unpopular but earns him points for honesty and integrity. While Georgia Tech recently was placed on probation, it appears that all the mistakes were made in the registrar's office, not in Braine's bailiwick.

Am I surprised that Dave Braine still has a job? I'll be surprised if he's not Employee of the Year.

Meanwhile, during his tenure as athletic director in Athens, Vince Dooley twice bungled the hiring of a head football coach. Erk Russell, Dick Sheridan, and Glen Mason all rejected the job after it was offered to them. Vince Dooley hired Ray Goff, Jim Donnan, and Jim Harrick (twice). During Coach Dooley's 25-year tenure as athletic director, Georgia was investigated by the N.C.A.A. for major violations six times. Finally, Coach Dooley is beloved for his 25-year tenure as the Bulldogs' head coach, yet, when Vince was without Erk, we learned what Georgia Tech fans learned when George O'Leary was without Ralph Friedgen---namely, who the real coach was.

Nevertheless, it started a firestorm of controversy when the University of Georgia president announced that Vince Dooley would be held to the terms of the contract he signed. There's just no telling with this sort of thing.

In closing, I want to offer my thanks to Nathan for suggesting this roundtable discussion. I have appreciated being able to engage in a civil dialogue over the course of the season and this exchange has been fun. I'm looking forward to a good game on Saturday and it wouldn't surprise me in the slightest if this qualified as one of E.S.P.N.'s "instant classics." In the last decade, Georgia and Georgia Tech have settled their differences by a single-digit margin six times, which attests to the strength of the schools and of the rivalry. I expect the better team to win and, while I hope the better team is wearing silver britches, I wish you good luck.

3 Comments:

Blogger paulwesterdawg said...

To anyone reading this. Obviously GT has only lost 3 game this year. Not 4. Sorry about that. Reggie Ball told me 4, no 3, no 4, no 3...never mind.

2:47 PM  
Blogger Doug said...

Man, that picture of George Godsey pisses me off. Dude, you don't get to hold up three fingers if all you did was hold place kicks for the first two.

Just makes me gladder in retrospect that Tim Wansley jammed that pick-six straight up his ass in his final home game.

6:22 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

As my first blog post, I have put together a response to Kyle's question in regards to why there aren't more GT bloggers.

http://www.wtgw.blogspot.com/

3:08 PM  

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