Someone Has to be Wrong

ATHENS - Someone has to be wrong. Both things can’t be correct.

The wise guys in the Vegas, who build casinos in the middle of the desert, and Georgia’s rabid fans are on different sides of an issue close to those in Silver Britches’ hearts - if Georgia has a real chance to win the national title or not. Repeat - win the national title… not the SEC East.

Vegas likes the Bulldogs for the most part. The wise guys say that Georgia is third in line to win the national title… not to get into the playoff - to win it all. Florida State, with 11/2 odds (or about 15% to win) and Auburn, with 13/2 odds (or about 13% to win) are at the front of the pack. Neither the Tigers nor the Noles have lost this season (although they’ve both looked like garbage at times).

But one-loss Georgia and Michigan State check in right after last year’s BCS participants. The Spartans and Dawgs have 8/1 odds of winning the national title. Thats about an 11% chance for each team to win it all.

Longtime power Alabama holds a 10% chance to win it all, while Notre Dame and Ohio State both have a 9% chance to hold up the new College Football Playoff Trophy. If you are keeping score at home, Georgia Tech has about a 1% chance to win it all; Florida has about the same odds and poor Tennessee has a 0.02% chance to win.

Georgia fans, and I feel like after 15 years of hearing from them on message boards, in person and on the phone, are not convinced that Georgia is going to win at Missouri let alone the SEC title or the National Championship.

Georgia fans, who have a little too much Larry Munson in them more often than they should, simply do not buy that they can win it all. Why? Its easy…

1. Georgia lost to South Carolina, and South Carolina sucks.

Well that’s true, but that game, for the most part, is totally inconsequential if Georgia gets to Atlanta. If this becomes a beauty patent amongst two-loss teams, yes, that will cost Georgia - at least I think it will. We don’t really know what the two-loss landscape will look like in the future. Ohio State will have to explain away a HOME loss to Virginia Tech, and that’s a much worse loss than Georgia’s three-point road loss to the Cocks. Anyway, the point is that two-loss Georgia may be able to put up a fight, but there is no telling what is going to happen in that 2007-like scenario.

2. Fans are killing Hutson Mason right now.

I get that. Mason has been disappointing here these last two games for sure. He played perfectly fine, and the way he needed to play, in the first two games of the season. But against the Vols and Vandy Mason took a big step back. Mason can correct, but its hard to see that right now. Once fans are negative about a person or a thing they usually dig in and won’t give at all. They did this to Aaron Murray his entire career - until he was hurt in his final game against Kentucky. Being the signal caller at Georgia has to be one of the most difficult jobs in Athens - or in the South. I know that from my conversations with Murray, Matthew Stafford and D.J. Shockley. Mason isn’t suddenly going to grow a powerful arm. But I’ve seen him throw for 300 yards in consecutive games against Big Five opponents, so I know he can do that if he has to.

3. The Secondary

It is an annual tradition at Georgia to run down the secondary - no matter who they are. Much like Mason, Georgia fans have hunkered into a position that the secondary is bad, and that it has not improved. I would counter that the secondary isn’t good, but that it has improved this season and certainly over last season. In my opinion, the secondary is the weakest spot on the team - I don’t think there is much doubt about that. But they have gotten better this season, and are noticeably more productive than last season. The secondary is allowing 41 fewer yards per game this year than last, and they have produced more interceptions (4) this season than last year (1) in the first five games of the year. Some of that is that the defense is playing less explosive offenses, but at 40 yards fewer a game that’s pretty solid progress forward. This is the weak link of the team, but it made game-altering plays against South Carolina and Vanderbilt. In a football world where any stop is a huge thing - a turnover is a massive, massive thing in today’s college football world. The secondary set up Georgia for the win against the Cocks, and ended the game against Vandy with interceptions. That’s game-winning play in 17% (2 of 12) of the season’s total games… that’s certainly one way to look at it.

4. The schedule going forward

Back-to-back trips across the South could end any hope of getting to Atlanta let alone beyond that. The game against Missouri is a must-win affair. Arkansas seems to be building steam (although they’ve not won a conference game since 2012). Then the game against the Gators - which scares folks much more than it should. The tricky trip at an improved Kentucky is next… that’s a game that looks pretty daunting, frankly, right now - in a few weeks it might not. Then what would be (only with an undefeated Auburn and one-loss Georgia) a massive, massive, massive build up to the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry. Auburn-Georgia for the right to probably play each other again in four weeks. If the Dawgs arrive back home Between the Hedges with only that loss to South Carolina (which is very possible, but seems difficult with it all in front of Georgia), then, as Jodeci sang in its 1993 classic : Downtown Athens I will “Cry for You.” That night is going to be epic - epic… and the game will be pretty big, too. None of those games are gimmie games… none of them. But none of those games are games where the Dawgs should go in thinking they have to do something special to win.

Those are the issues… and they are real, but the other thing that folks forget is that Georgia has the best player in the country on its team. Todd Gurley, contrary to what resident ESPN moron Joey Galloway said the other day, isn’t the third best running back in the country… he’s the best player in the country… period. Galloway, too, had Georgia Tech as his No. 1 seed in the playoff - that tells you all you need to know about his skills as an analyst. Gurley makes a huge difference. But by the time we get to November Georgia could look pretty different than they do this week at Missouri. Sony Michel is expected to be back right around the Florida game. Banged up receivers Justin Scott-Wesley and Malcolm Mitchell should be much more back to normal by then as well.

The other rather important thing is that Georgia plays Auburn in Athens, which has been a tough place for anyone to play, but the Tigers of late for sure. The Tigers have only won in Athens once in the last ten years. Georgia has averaged 40 points a game against Auburn in the last three seasons in Athens against Auburn. The Tigers, on the other hand, have averaged 17 points. It must be pointed out, too, that Gus Malzahn’s offense hasn’t been stellar in Athens by scoring only 24 points in 2009 and 7 in 2011. Auburn is more powerful now - no question - but as explosive as the Tigers are in general, they are much more tame on the road… therefore giving Georgia a shot to win.

Do I think Georgia will win it all? I don't. I also don't have a clear favorite in my mind for any team to win it all. At the same time, I don't think its crazy that the Dawgs are listed so high. I've seen Georgia be sluggish and then look like world beaters... that's happened in 2002, 2007 and 2012. I know that this program, under Mark Richt, can get hot and blow teams out of the water. I've seen that. I also see a schedule that's not the end of the world. A two-loss Georgia that wins the SEC title is going to get to the playoff. From that point anything can happen.

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