As the second half came rolling to an end yesterday in the University of Georgia's game against the University of Buffalo Bulls (3-9, 2-6 MAC in 2011), red and black clad fans had plenty of excuses to chew their fingernails off.
A seemingly inferior "cupcake" team from the second tier of FBS football came into a hostile environment and was able to carve up what has been considered an "elite" defense by nearly every football researching pundit.
With a short field goal during the waning seconds of the second quarter, Buffalo managed to go into halftime trailing by just eight points against the No. 6 team in the nation.
This wasn't good for the fans, nor did it seem as if it was going to be very good for Georgia's own psyche. Yes, the Bulldogs did manage to pull away and finish off the Bulls with a nice 45-23 victory, and true freshman sensation Todd Gurley (eight carries, 100 yards, two rushing touchdowns and a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown) might have erased any questions about Georgia's running game, but there's cause for concern on the Dawgs' defensive side of the ball.
Georgia's defense was flat
That's a big surprise considering Georgia returns 10 starters from the fifth best defense in the country last year. Yesterday, Buffalo quarterback Alex Zordich and tailback Branden Oliver managed to put 199 total rushing yards against the Georgia defense.
What was even more worrisome was how it happened—Zordich, who is no Denard Robinson (University of Michigan), had 83 of those yards on 14 carries and a touchdown.
Zordich was able to find gigantic lanes to run through against defensive coordinator Todd Grantham's 3-4 defense during the entire contest. What is scary is the fact there was seemingly no adjustments made to re-route Zordich's running path as the game went on.
The Bulldogs' defense did not seem very aggressive, playcalling wise, as it stuck to a lot of man-to-man and three-to-four man rushes. Defensive ends and All-American linebacker Jarvis Jones (two sacks) stuck with the outside pass rush for the entire game.
It might have been better if more exotic blitzes were implemented. On the flipside, Georgia might have deliberately gone for a more basic gameplan to give the Missouri Tigers less tape to see before next Saturday's gigantic SEC matchup in Columbia, Mo.
From what we know, Branden Smith, Sanders Commings, Bacarri Rambo, Alec Ogletree and Chase Vasser will not be available for that game. Georgia's suspensions were a cause for concern heading into the season, but no one thought the backups would see any problems against the Bulls on opening day.
The gameplan and the play of Georgia's young pups Damian Swann, Amarlo Herrera and Connor Norman need to pick up by next week—especially if cornerback Malcolm Mitchell, who has a nagging sprained ankle, can't come back in time.
Bobo's playcalling was smarter than most think
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo caught a little bit of heat after this game for trying too hard to go for big pass plays early and often during drives, especially when Georgia was only up 24-16 at the start of the third frame.
With three runningbacks in the stable who need reps, most fans were clamoring for a heavy-run game to punish the Bulls. Instead, the Bulldogs offense was throwing a lot of deep passes and Aaron Murray even took a little while to get going.
When Georgia had bigger leads in the second-half, Bobo continued to dial up the long ball. This may have contributed to less ball control and thus more yards and points for the Bulls.
While at first glance it might have seemed that Bobo was trying to rack up Murray's statistics, there could have been a method to his madness.
These new runningbacks are talented. Gurley seems ultra-talented. But, the number one learning curve for new tailbacks is pass protection. The added reps for pass protection in real games was definitely was smart.
Todd Gurley could be Georgia's feature back by October
If there was one positive that stuck out yesterday it was the performance from Gurley (6'1", 218 lbs). The young pup already looks like a man among boys out there and his running performance was outstanding.
Gurley's 100-yard kickoff return touchdown and his late 55-yard touchdown run supported his great fall-scrimmage statistics and reassured fans who were skeptical of his comparisons to former University of Alabama great Trent Richardson.
He sure looked like a Richardson clone—at least against the Buffalo defense. For a man of his size, Gurley showcased some serious speed, acceleration, power and balance. It will be really fun to watch him this year.
Special teams still an issue
Georgia's kickoff coverage unit let out a big one yesterday. Georgia had huge problems with kickoff coverage last year, and it showed its ugly head again against Buffalo.
Georgia's depth could be the biggest cause for concern right now. With so many suspensions, less starters and second-depth players are on the coverage units.
As well, freshman placekicker Marshall Morgan looked a little so-so in his first start between the hedges. Morgan missed his first collegiate attempt—a 45-yarder, and nearly missed his first point-after attempt.
Punter Colin Barber was impressive, however.
Conference competition looks serious
Yes, Georgia was picked to win the SEC East by the media, but this division could be more of a battle than previously thought.
University of South Carolina runningback Marcus Lattimore proved again why he was considered one of the top recruits in the country a few years ago. Vanderbilt showed some muscle on the other side of that game. And, the University of Tennessee was probably the most impressive SEC team in week one outside of Alabama.
Speaking of Alabama, the Crimson Tide's blowout victory over No. 8 Michigan was one of the most impressive wins in recent memory. There is no doubt many will say the SEC still reigns supreme, but the real story here is Nick Saban's team and only his team.
Alabama might clearly be the best team in the country. If Georgia makes it to the SEC championship game it is going to need a much more polished team to keep up with the Crimson Tide, who looked to have not missed a beat from its national title season.
SEC Power Rankings
Georgia (45-23 W vs. Buffalo, 1-0)
Tennessee (35-21 W vs. NC State, 1-0)
South Carolina (17-13 W vs. Vanderbilt, 1-0)
Florida (27-14 W vs. Bowling Green, 1-0)
Missouri (62-10 W vs. Southeastern Louisiana, 1-0)
Vanderbilt (13-17 L vs. South Carolina, 0-1)
Alabama (41-14 W vs. Michigan, 1-0)
LSU (41-14 W vs. North Texas, 1-0)
Arkansas (49-24 W vs. Jacksonville State, 1-0)
Auburn (19-26 L vs. Clemson, 0-1)
Miss. St. (56-9 W vs. Jackson State, 1-0)
Ole Miss (49-27 W vs. Central Arkansas, 1-0)