After Vandy's 17-6 win over No. 6 South Carolina last Saturday, maybe the Bulldogs aren't so bad after all.
Maybe they aren't that great, either. Or maybe they're like every other team in the SEC Eastern Division. Not so bad. Not so great. Just trying to find themselves week to week.
On the same day No. 20 Tennessee lost 41-17 at Alabama and No. 8 Kentucky lost 45-37 at home to No. 14 Florida and South Carolina lost at home to Vanderbilt, the only SEC East team truly safe from harm was Georgia, and only because the Bulldogs (5-2, 3-2 SEC) had an open date.
With a 35-14 home victory over
The victory over Vandy was
Then again, the Bulldogs haven't
had an open date before the
Consider this as well:
So what's that mean for
"I just think that we're young more than anything else overall," Richt said. "We're just not at the point where we can mentally overcome things like fatigue, overcome things like momentum going against you."
The Bulldogs are not without their positives. For starters, there's plenty of talent on the roster. It might not be as mature as the coaches want it to be at this point, but there's enough talent to compete in the SEC.
One of the most talented young
players is redshirt freshman Knowshon Moreno, who stepped up in response to
injuries to two other tailbacks and carried the Bulldogs over Vanderbilt with
157 rushing yards on 28 carries. No
"He played fantastic," junior fullback Brannan Southerland told the Athens Banner-Herald. "I know he was tired. ... Basically Knowshon had the whole load on his shoulders. He played great. He never flinched. He was tired but he never showed it."
It can be hard to beat a team that can run the ball effectively while also taking care of the ball. That's something the Bulldogs are doing well, entering the week leading the nation with only five turnovers.
That's a big step for a team that
turned the ball over five times in consecutive games to
So far this season the Bulldogs have given away just one fumble while quarterback Matthew Stafford has given up four interceptions in seven games.
"That was just a point of emphasis coming in," tight end Tripp Chandler told the Banner-Herald. "Coming into the season that was an emphasis - ball security and ball control. I think it's paid off."
Brown suffered a broken collarbone
against Ole Miss on Sept. 29 and Richt said last week he doesn't expect Brown to
be back in time to play against
"(Having only one back) puts more
pressure on the starting running back," offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said.
"But there are a lot of teams across the country that only have one back and
rely heavily on him. Right now, (
If the Bulldogs can run and protect the ball and play defense consistently they'd have three of the key elements possessed by most winning teams. Unfortunately for the Bulldogs they're not sure week-to-week, even quarter-to-quarter, what to expect from their defense.
"I don't know if we are mean enough to be considered great right now," Richt has said. "They are just about like the rest of the team. Some days are great days and some are not so great days. It has been up and down, but we are not a dominating bunch right now."
It would also help if the passing game was more productive, but it's loaded with concerns – starting with an offensive line that is young and often uncertain.
"We're playing three freshmen,"
"If I knew (how to fix
Coaching is another area of concern. Richt's critics insist he hasn't done enough to light a fire under this team. Richt is seen as a calm, steady force by his supporters while his critics see him as too soft.
Richt's personality is either a
blessing or a curse, depending on how supporters and critics choose to see it.
Supporters would insist his personality has allowed
"He is calm, but when the time is needed to be a spark or to light a fire under certain people's behinds, he's definitely capable of doing that," Bailey said. "It's not an everyday thing, so you know if he does do it, it's because of something serious. ... He doesn't let his emotions get the best of him. He's always mellowed out, no matter what kind of adversity we are facing. It trickles down to the team and is the reason why we can handle so much, and why in the Vanderbilt game, we can be down 10 at half-time and not panic and come back and win it."
It remains to be seen how all those
positives and negatives will play out against
Richard Scott is a Birmingham-based sports writer, author and Tiger Rag's SEC columnist. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.