Dawgs take hard look in the mirror

ATHENS – Georgia's football coaches and players will be taking a hard look at themselves this week. They probably aren't going to like what they see.

At 4-2 overall and 2-2 in the SEC heading into Saturday's game at Vanderbilt, the No. 24 Bulldogs are all but out of the conference race. No Eastern Division team has advanced to the SEC Championship Game with two losses in the division, which Georgia already has.

ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit counts himself among those wondering what has happened to the Bulldogs, who have lost their last six games against division opponents.

"If you're a Georgia fan, that would bring reason to be concerned," Herbstreit said on Monday afternoon's Buck and Kincade show on 680 The Fan. "I don't think there's any problem with kind of scratching your head and wondering what gives."

What gives at the moment for Georgia are the offensive line and the defense.

Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo sounded Saturday night like he was ready to give up on most of his playbook because of his young offensive line's inability to block for runs or down-field passes. Screen passes have been the only consistent way Georgia has moved the ball in Bobo's first full season as play-caller.

"How well we are going to be able to line up and go right at somebody remains to be seen," he said. "We might have to move them around and do some more screen passes. We've got to go back to work and figure out how to get first downs again, not necessarily touchdowns, and get things we can execute."

Georgia is seventh in the SEC in scoring (29.5 per game) and yards (361.8 per game), and the numbers are more discouraging the closer you look. Only Auburn, Vanderbilt and Mississippi State average fewer yards per play than the Bulldogs' 5.3.

The Georgia defense went from not making crucial stops in the first five games of the year to not making any against the Volunteers. The constantly in flux linebacker corps has taken most of the heat for the problems, but Richt said there are concerns throughout the unit.

"I wouldn't say (linebacker) is the biggest concern," he said. "We've got problems front to back. We've got some issues. We're just not playing consistent enough."

There are plenty of times Georgia's defense looks good, Richt said, and it is ranked in the top half of the SEC in points and yards allowed. The problem, Richt said, is there are too many missed assignments, and "it seems like a lot of them are on crucial third downs and all of a sudden we can't get (a team) to punt."

The defense doesn't hold up to close inspection any better than the offense. Only four league teams give up more yards per play (4.9), and only two have fewer sacks (nine). Also, Georgia is 10th in the league in red zone defense, having allowed scores on 88.9 percent of its opponent's possessions, and every team in the league has at least twice the number of forced turnovers (four) as the Bulldogs.

"You'll never hear me say that Mark Richt is not doing a good job," Herbstreit said on 680. "If that (losing streak in the SEC East) continues, then it becomes an issue, but I still believe that's a pretty talented football team."

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