I just recently wrote an article concerning Richt and the upcoming season. Noting that the past season had not been the normal for the UGA program and I thought that we may see more of the same, a 9-4 season. However, as I thought about this I wondered just exactly which games would be stumbling blocks.
Let me just say, it is hard to bet against the Dawgs just on schedule alone. So, I will take a stab and see just where those blocks lay.
September 4th, Louisiana-Lafayette: It is time to get the new defensive scheme into action against an offense that has not been practicing against it for the past three weeks. Murray shows off his moves and arm. It should be a standard 31 point difference. -W-
September 11th, At South Carolina: You know that Richt has beaten the Gamecocks 7 out of 9 times? Did you also know that 7 out of 9 games were decided by a touch down or less? With a solid core returning on defense and a home field advantage USC has the ability to keep it close. This is Murray's first test and it is Spurrier's chance to win the SEC east title. Having your first road game as a starting quarterback against an SEC team is not the best way to start the season. -L-
September 18th, Arkansas: Murray learned some good lessons in that USC game and the revamped Dawg defense did as well. Ryan Mallet is good but I still don't see the hype without the defense. Arkansas couldn't do it in Fayetteville and will get caught looking ahead to Alabama. -W-
September 25th, At Mississippi State: Dan Mullin is dangerous on offense and even more dangerous when he has players. Well, he still doesn't have players and Anthony Dixon is not there. Finding a new running game to help his fresh quarterback is a long shot this early in the season so the maroon bulldog gets black-n-reddened! -W-
October 2nd, At Colorado: Now is a good time to mention that the Buffs have not had a winning season in the last four years. I wouldn't expect them to look for one now. With little run defense for CU, UGA will control the game with a couple of backs who just might turn out to be one of the best duos in college football. -W-
October 9th, Tennessee: UT has given Richt fits over the past few years and I would say circle this one on your schedule in the "W" column because of the Tennessee woes, but...oh what the hell, circle it. But, just remember to play it. -W-
October 16th, Vanderbilt: Definitely circle this one. It will be used as a practice game for the Wildcats. -W-
October 23rd, At Kentucky: Joker is going to be a good coach in due time but that time is not going to be by the 8th game especially after facing UF, Auburn, OM, and South Carolina right before. Too worn down to win they will at least keep it respectable for a home loss. -W-
October 30th, Florida: Talk about being tired. UGA has been going strong for 8 weeks and now meets up with the Gators. It is a tough call to make, but if I'm going with quarterbacks I will saddle up with a three year back up over the one year new kid on the block. UF has a bye week before and looks to continue their lopsided lead over the past 20 years in this series. -L-
November 6th, Idaho State: It is hard to believe that the Vandals could come in between the hedges and reek havoc and therefore we want believe it. Work on the fundamentals, run the score up and regain confidence. -W-
November 13th, At Auburn: Ten weeks of straight play will take it's toll on a team, just ask Auburn about this. What is UGA going into,...a five game winning streak this year? The last two games against the Tigers have been lackluster to say the least, but have been "Ws" nonetheless. Auburn is starting to see fingers and want it to stop. Both of these teams are tired and Auburn will want it more. Home field advantage to the war-eagle-plainsmen. -L-
November 27th, Georgia Tech: Well, so much for the triple option. The running back dance the Dawgs did on the ACC champs last season was one for the books, especially when the whole nation bet against them. I expect this wasp to get swatted away for the next several years. -W-
Final Notes: Of course this is all opinion which every prediction generally is opinion and nothing more.
Some of the facts we do know are:
1) That UGA has a new defensive coordinator that the fan base is raving about. He has a solid coaching background in the college ranks and an up and down career in the NFL. But let's be honest, the NFL is another animal all together and ups and downs are at the flip of a coin when it comes to grown men who already have a paycheck.
2) Discipline is a key component on this team. Penalties and turnovers have been the albatross of many games. The big talk is Grantham will put the discipline back in this defensive unit and it will be contagious to the rest of the team.
3) Aaron Murray has not taken a meaningful snap in the SEC and has not been in the league but a little over a year. Now we are talking the "McElroy Effect". The McElroy Effect is when a fan base believes that just because a new starting quarterback from another team went undefeated in his first year that their new starting QB will or can undoubtedly do the same.
It is very rare for a first year starter to have so much success, as the Alabama quarterback did in the 2009 season, and even more so for a redshirt freshman. However, success is all relative. So, the question is how much success do the UGA fans want or expect?
There are a couple of facts that we could throw in such as winning seasons, talent, past injuries and the likes but it will come down to attitude. Will the defense pick up on the 3-4 scheme quickly? Will they accept the new philosophy of discipline from Grantham? Will Bobo's offense put Murray in situations out of his comfort zone? Will Ealey and King take the pressure off of Murray?
Anything is possible and with the schedule UGA has it is plausible that they finish the regular season 11-1. However, with a new defensive scheme and a redshirt freshman quarterback, I have a sneaking suspicion that the fans may just have to wait until the 2011 season for that kind of record.