The Georgia Bulldogs won't be entertaining an SEC Championship, they won't be a sleeper in the BCS, and they are not very likely to finish among the top 25 teams in the nation.
At this point, it's time to face the grim reality that this Georgia Bulldogs team's greatest challenge for 2010 is bowl eligibility.
Sitting at a painful 1-3 record, they have dug a hole that could become the foundation for a losing season, if their tailspin doesn't stop soon.
Therein lay the heartbreaking truth of being a Georgia fan in 2010: you might actually endure a team that will be 5-7, or worse, this year—something that, admittedly, was inconceivable to many just a few months ago.
After all, Mark Richt got rid of the albatross that was Willie Martinez; he rid the defense of the ails that made them the laughing stock of the SEC in 2009, so things were supposed to be on their way up.
The new defensive coordinator, Todd Grantham, was going to cure all the inefficiencies of the defense and restore the respect it lost when Brian Van Gorder left town; he, along with his dazzling new assistants, Scott Lakatos and Warren Belin, were going to get things moving in the right direction on defense and the team was going to be much better than last year's 8-5 finisher.
Well, 8-5 is starting to look pretty good at the moment because this team, despite the changes made, isn't playing with any more fire than the one last season.
To be honest, there is more personality and passion shown by the players on their Twitter and Facebook accounts than there is on the football field.
However, let's not digress.
What should Georgia Bulldog fans expect from this team the rest of the way? Well, that's a mystery, but it depends on five key factors:
1. Will A.J. Green really be the spark needed to get the offense and the offensive play calling going in the right direction?
For the last four weeks, all any Georgia fan heard is how A.J. was the reason the team wasn't playing well. A.J. is the guy who can make it all better. If the team had A.J. for South Carolina, Arkansas, and Mississippi State—they'd be 4-0 instead of 1-3.
And if "ands" and "buts" were candy and nuts, then everyday would be Christmas.
While no one can deny the impact A.J. has on the field, even the new athletic director of the University of Georgia, Greg McGarity, knows better than to place the record of this football program on one guy—that's preposterous.
Here's his take on the absence of A.J. Green this season:
"You’ve seen other programs that have injuries or have unfortunate things that develop, and someone else steps up. So I think what this has done has maybe let some other receivers develop, I think Kris Durham certainly has been one of the highlighted receivers. I think it gives others a chance to pick up and play. …
"It’s all how you look at it. A.J. doesn’t play defense, he doesn’t block, he’s not an interior lineman. I’m sure it hurts the team. But I think there are so many other moving parts with it – it’s the what-if word, probably the two worst words you could use in coach-speak. You can’t play the what-if game." (Seth Emerson, Macon Telegraph, 9/27/10).
Couldn't have said it better.
If the absence of No. 8 limited the imagination of offensive coordinator, Mike Bobo, to the point that he didn't know how to adjust his play calling to the talent he did have on the field, then he doesn't need to be the offensive coordinator at Georgia—period.
2. Will Caleb King EVER be healthy enough to play a full game this season?
Does anyone trust Washaun Ealey with the football, inside the redzone, right now?
Let's be honest, he's got some problems with ball protection. He's fumbled at the one-yard line twice in the last three weeks—is that the kind of play you want from your top running back?
Caleb King is the only guy that seems capable of both running between the tackles and keeping the ball from hitting the ground. Furthermore, King is a lot better at pass protection than he was just a season ago—the same cannot be said of Washaun Ealey.
King needs to get healthy and get on the field. His missing time is getting frustrating and old for those of us who thought he was going to be the next big thing at Georgia a mere three seasons ago.
3. Who will step up on defense and make plays?
Christian Robinson, Akeem Dent, and Justin Houston have all played well this season—absolutely.
However, for as well as they have played, there isn't one guy on the defense right now who is a consistent play maker. On the contrary, different guys are, occasionally, making plays—there is a difference.
Where are the sacks? Forced fumbles? Interceptions?
Someone needs to start making his presence felt a bit more. Georgia needs guys who, when they walk on the field, the opposing offense has to adjust to them.
Right now, Georgia is doing all of the adjusting—teams aren't adjusting for what the Bulldogs are bringing to the table.
4. Is Mark Richt capable of drawing a line in the sand?
These guys are undisciplined and unfocused. As mentioned in the opening, they have more passion when using social media than they do playing football on Saturdays.
Their opening effort against Arkansas in week three was the most fired up brand of football they've played all season. Since then, it's back to the mediocre, uninspired play they displayed against South Carolina.
The sense of entitlement they seem to feel because of the black 'G' on their helmet is disgusting. Go out there and work for those wins, guys! Get After Them Aggressively, better known as, GATA!!!
My goodness, where is the passion on the football field?!?
Can Richt get that back? Honestly, the scarier question is: Does Richt have enough energy left to get these guys on track THIS season?
5. Will people stop tip-toeing around the strength and conditioning program at Georgia?
The guys aren't tough enough.
For some bizarre reason, people want to extol the great weight lifting numbers the players are putting up on a yearly basis in the Georgia training program. In case you didn't know, they set records every year in different areas (squats, bench press, clean lift, etc.)—SO WHAT?
It's obvious that those "records" haven't meant a hill of beans on the football field over the last three years. All anyone has seen is guys getting beat by, sometimes, smaller, less athletic, offensive and defensive linemen.
There's something wrong with that picture and the strength and conditioning coach needs a big, bright, spotlight shown on what he's not doing at Georgia so that his level of accountability can be taken under consideration.
The expectations for the remainder of the year have to be minimal. Some drastic changes have to be made in order for coach Richt to turn this thing around—A.J.'s return will help, but more has to be done to get things going in a more positive direction.
Does that mean the fans should give up on the team, absolutely not, but to ask them to go 8-0 the rest of the way seems like a stretch—right now.
Based on the display of play so far, the schedule that seemed "easy" at the start, now looks like a land mine of possible losses—at Kentucky, at Auburn, Florida, vs. Tennessee, vs. Vanderbilt, and this week at Colorado. None of those are guaranteed wins right now—not the way this team is playing.
So, simply based on what is known, Georgia could go 5-2 the rest of the way; that means they would enter their season-ending match-up with Georgia Tech at 6-5—hopefully no worse than that.
What say you? What are your expectations for the rest of this season?
(This article appears courtesy of The Lady Sportswriter)