"Houston, we have a problem."
This quote may be in the back of the mind of Texas native Matthew Stafford.
Stafford is coming into 2008 as the leader of the Georgia Bulldogs, the No. 1 team in the country. I'm sure that must be pressure for any athlete, but I believe Stafford has got the weight of the Peach State on his shoulders.
The Georgia faithful have extremely high expectations. That's nothing out of the ordinary, but the hype of Bulldog Nation has definitely reached its peak.
The Bulldogs are No. 1 starting the 2008 season for the first time in school history.
The Bulldogs ended the 2007 season as arguably the hottest team in the nation.
Hawaii played the Bulldogs on Jan. 1 and realized that Southeastern teams from the mainland are no joke. Georgia crushed the Warriors 41-10, earning them a BCS bowl victory and a lot of momentum heading into spring.
2007 also featured the emergence of Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno. Moreno, now a sophomore, rushed for over 1,300 yards as a freshman and is considered the best running back in college football.
Stafford had his best year as a Bulldog in 2007. He led his team to a BCS bowl and won 11 games for Georgia. He is expected to have a breakout year in 2008.
It was no surprise that Georgia would be No. 1 entering 2008—at least not to Bulldog fans.
But matters recently got worse for the Georgia QB.
Along with the hype that the junior from Dallas has to manage, he has to adjust to a devastating injury.
Not to himself, but to Trinton Sturdivant.
If you don't know who Sturdivant is, he can be best described as the player that Stafford trusts the most. Sturdivant was Georgia's starting left tackle and Stafford's backside protector.
Sturdivant tore his ACL and is out for the season.
So less than a month before the season starts, Stafford has to get on a completely different trust level with his new blindside bodyguard.
A quarterback who can't trust his backside tackle is in a Whitney Houston/Bobby Brown-type relationship—in other words, not good.
To make things worse, Sep. 6 and Sep. 13 could each be a rude awakening for Stafford. The Bulldogs play their first two real games (I'm hoping the front five for UGA can stop the defensive ends of Georgia Southern and Central Michigan).
First, the Dogs travel to Columbia to play South Carolina. The Gamecocks, who defeated Georgia in 2007, have one of the best defenses in the SEC. Linebacker Jasper Brinkley, 6'4", 265, is the leader of that defense and a force to be reckoned with.
I think it's safe to say that Stafford may be a little uncomfortable coming into this contest. I'm sure the thought of losing Sturdivant will be in the back of his mind at the beginning of the game. This may slightly affect the Bulldog passing attack.
Gamecock fans will probably be listed as mentally ill because of the hectic screaming and yelling that will take place, which is another factor sure to increase Stafford's discomfort level. This is a huge test for Stafford and the Dogs.
The following week, UGA travels to Arizona State. The Sun Devils started 7-0 last season, so this game is definitely not in the bag.
If the Bulldogs are fortunate enough to start the season 4-0, they then have to play Alabama, Tennessee, at LSU, in Jacksonville against Florida, and at Auburn.
I'm very skeptical about the Bulldogs winning a National Championship with that schedule, especially with Stafford as quarterback.
Stafford is an above-average quarterback, but he is overrated.
It's fine when the media and fans say that Stafford can possibly win an SEC championship, but it gets ridiculous when people start comparing him to Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.
I wouldn't mind having Stafford lead my team, but he is nowhere close to Tebow's caliber.
Numbers don't lie, so let's take a gander, shall we?
In 2007, Stafford threw for 2,523 yards, completing 55.7 percent of his passes for 19 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. This was Stafford's second year starting.
Those are solid numbers.
Tebow threw for 3,286 yards, completing 67 percent of his passes for 32 touchdowns and six interceptions. This was Tim's first year starting.
Those numbers are the reason why Tebow was the youngest player to win the Heisman trophy. Tebow was also accountable for another 23 touchdowns and 895 yards on the ground rushing. All told, Tebow was responsible for 55 touchdowns.
Stafford ran for two touchdowns and -39 yards. Ouch!
Tebow also has three things Stafford doesn't: the Heisman trophy, an SEC ring, and a National Championship ring.
Comparing Tebow to Stafford is like comparing the intelligence of Bill Gates to the intelligence of Flavor Flav. There is no comparison.
Stafford should be kissing the feet of his running back Moreno.
Do you honestly think the Bulldogs would be where they are right now without Moreno? Would 11 wins still be in the picture last season? Without Moreno, I highly doubt that.
The only reason why Stafford is getting praised is because he was fortunate enough to get a running back who has been compared to Herschel Walker.
Moreno was the heart of the Georgia offense, not Stafford.
If Georgia had an "average" running back, would they have made it to a BCS bowl last season? C'mon, let's get real. That's very unlikely.
My final thoughts: Stafford won't play to his high expectations. Moreno, the savior of Stafford and Georgia football, will have another great year. But overall, the Bulldogs will not reach the "Glory" that is expected of them in 2008.
The Georgia football team will be watching the SEC Championship game from their couches.