Conclusions Tough to Draw After Week 1

ATHENS - Georgia isn't as good as anticipated - right?

What happened to Georgia's defense? How did the Bulldogs allow 23 points to Buffalo? Georgia students care so little about the football team they won't even stick around for four quarters of the opening game.

If you witnessed Georgia's 45-23 victory over Buffalo Saturday, you likely heard or said grumblings similar to those above. It comes as no surprise. Sports fans draw conclusions and criticize quickly—often too quickly and sometimes blindly.

That was the case Saturday after Georgia cut Buffalo a $900,000 check, and the Bulls slumped back North with a loss but a fatter wallet.

It would seem like everyone won, right? Wrong.

Georgia fans were visibly upset with how the Bulldogs played, especially in the first half. All the preseason optimism and dreams of a national title went out the window by halftime. The 92,446 Georgia faithful let the team know with resounding "boos" in the second quarter. (Mind you, "booing" your team with another half to play, regardless of the opponent, isn't exactly the reason you buy a ticket to the game. In fact, it's the opposite.)

Likewise, many of the faithful noticed empty pockets of seats, largely in the higher levels of the stadium. Those are student section seats. Rapid reaction #2: students don't care about the football team.

The fact that adult, non-student fans that stayed and booed the team are criticizing another group of fans (students) for walking out on the team being booed seems ironic and hypocritical. To say students don't care, when the game wasn't even sold out to non-students, is downright moronic.

Georgia did not have its finest performance in the first half of the Buffalo game. The players themselves will admit that. Does that mean Georgia can't win a national title this season? Hardly.

When has Georgia's success been determined by how well (or how poorly, in this case) it plays against drastically weaker opponents? That has never been the standard in Athens and will never be as long as Mark Richt is in town.

What matters are the Missouris, the Auburns and the Floridas—the teams that Georgia must beat to accomplish something. When Georgia beats teams like Buffalo and (bold prediction spoiler…) Florida Atlantic, what does it stand to gain? If it wins by 22 or 52, what is the difference?

You can't judge a book by its cover. You also can't judge it by only the first chapter. You certainly can't conclude how a season will end based on a dismal season-opening win.

The same goes for the student attendance issue. You can't use a high-noon kickoff in September against Buffalo to measure the amount of student body pride.

With a heat index hovering in triple digits and one-third of Georgia's dominant defense held out, it's safe to say Georgia wasn't on top of its game. Neither were its fans.

The players will move on. They know there is another game—one that really matters—looming this weekend. They'll make whatever adjustments are necessary and may even return some of those missing stars from the defense. (Don't read too much into that. I, like all others, am in the dark on suspensions.)

Until then, Georgia fans should take a deep breath and recall those bold, optimistic predictions made prior to week one. Not much—if anything—has happened to warrant changing their tune.

With that, this week's game is truly a barometer for Georgia's season. A primetime road matchup against a new SEC contender, this is the type of game that defines a team. A victory in Columbia will confirm Georgia's lofty preseason expectorations. A loss will leave the Bulldogs decimated and can make for a much tougher return to Atlanta.

But even then, remember, the season is far from over.

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