Sunday, September 6, 2009

First Blood

Only three SEC teams qualified last week for the Gundy Award -- yeah, the I'm a Man! guy -- for playing man-sized games on opening weekend: South Carolina, UGA and Alabama.

Florida, Tennessee and Auburn can pound their chests after pummeling opponents half their size. Just what the sports world needed to start the season: another three Tim Tebow touchdowns against a criminally overmatched opponent. Oklahoma, who lost to the Gators in last year's title game, showed far more guts, and from the standpoint of a BCS pragmatist busted on the river card. So be it. Here's to Bob Stoops for risking something to gain something bigger. Oklahoma will be better for this in the games ahead.

South Carolina's opened in Raleigh against N.C. State, the trendy pick as the ACC's hottest team. Yet the Carolina defense made the ACC's best quarterback look like he was headed to a key Division II matchup and made the wrong turn on the Raleigh beltway. The gap in athleticism had Russell Wilson consistently being run down by lineman twice his size. The Gamecock defenders never stopped attacking, never giving Wilson, nor the Wolfpack crowd, a second breath.

Yet as good as South Carolina's defense performed, Steve Spurrier's offense again plodded yard by boring yard. Thus, the Myth of The Visor hangs by one less thread. The Ol' Genius hasn't had a winning quarterback since Danny Wuerffel. And at Carolina, he has neither recruited nor taught anyone to consistently make winning plays in the SEC. Consider this indictment: Goofball Granny Clampett accomplished far more with Phil Petty than Spurrier has with anyone since. And here's what sticks in my craw: He never takes responsibility. He calls out players. He calls out assistants. He acts like he's on Mt. Olympus looking down on the humdrum of the program he's supposed to be building. After the State game, he said he would take a larger role in the offense -- another clear jab at his staff. Maybe that's why he doesn't get the best QB prospects, and the turnover among his assistants is so high. Who wants to play for a coach who seems bored except when he can blame someone else?

Mark Richt can't win. He won big -- but not quite big enough -- when he had perhaps the SEC's best talent. Now, he has to show he can win without it. For the first time in years, Georgia looks like it's running low on high test. Joe Cox wasn't bad but wasn't good either. The offensive line, less than mediocre in 2008, is a year older and up one rung to mediocre. The end result: Georgia made one of the Big 12's worst defenses look Steel Curtain tough. Tough year looming for the Bulldogs. Luckily they get South Carolina at home this week, but they may get Cox killed. This year may define Richt in ways we never expected. It has been a long fall in a short time from last year's No. 1 ranking.

Alabama? Virginia Tech is scarily intense. But at the end of the game, they were being pushed out of the Georgia Dome. Mark my word: Greg McElroy will be a star. In his first start as the Crimson Tide quarterback, he improved throughout the game, and made throws and reads that were beyond the grasp of his predecessor, John Parker Wilson.

When the game was on the line, the Tide's offensive line, still a question mark, mauled the ACC's best defensive front. Receivers like Hanks and Maze finally made plays in the game that they've been making in practice. The defense played fast and hard, though Alabama lineman Rolando Blackman showed less control at the end of the first half than Mark Sanford.

All in all, Nick Saban got the perfect result -- a win, but with enough mistakes that he will have no trouble keeping his players' attention through the next two weeks of cupcakes.

Granted, it's only one game, and call me biased -- I am biased -- but this team appears on the cusp of something special. Michael Gordon


Bigdawg said...

Granted the Dawgs looked lackluster in Stillwater, but I don't see how they can be labeled as being without or even low on talent. They have been rated in the top 10 in the nation in recruiting every year for the past few years. Also, every indication is that the offensive line is one of the most talented in the country, even with the loss of Sturdivant. I can't say what the problem was Saturday. Part of it was playing against 9th ranked OK St. But it is way too early to write off the Dawgs for 2009. season

Observer Sports said...

Big Dawg, with all that experience on the line I thought UGA would push OSU around far more. But there was little consistency in the air or on the ground.

Maybe it was the first game blues. It does put a premium on Georgia holding serve against South Carolina, which stands to have a far better defense than what your team faced in Stillwater.


Bigdawg said...

From the UGA Athletics website today:

ATHENS, Ga. --- The No. 21-ranked Georgia Bulldogs (0-1) practiced for approximately two and a half hours in full pads on Tuesday afternoon in preparation for this Saturday's Southeastern Conference opener against South Carolina (1-0) at Sanford Stadium.

"Practice was long and hard," said head coach Mark Richt. "They hung in there and fought through it pretty good."

Say a prayer for the Cocks. The Dawgs will be 1-0 in the SEC on Sunday morning.