Nightmare Scenario Enters Stage Two
By Paul Myerberg // Sep 9, 2011
Alright, so we’re entering the nightmare scenario. You know, the opposite of the dream scenario, which was 2-0, ranked high in each poll and America’s new darling, complete with a seat devoid of significant heat. You couldn’t blame Georgia for dreaming that big when looking a season-opening pair of Boise State and South Carolina: intimidated, perhaps a bit, but also excited about the potential of reversing a two-year slide by notching two impressive wins. One down, one to go, and Georgia now needs a win in the worst possible way.
Mark Richt needs a win in the worst possible way. But those suggesting that Georgia might dismiss Richt after an 0-2 start — or at any point this year — need to take a step back, reflect and consider the history of SEC programs firing coaches in mid-season. If Mississippi stayed with Ed Orgeron through 2007, well, here’s guessing Richt’s not going anywhere in September. The university wouldn’t make such a rash decision but rather wait until the end of the regular season, I’d wager. And that’s if the university would fire Richt at all, even if the Bulldogs post another six-win finish.
That’s in the wide view; in the here and now, Georgia and Richt need a win to quiet the critics, who may have piped down a tad over the summer but have now returned in full voice. That’s what a prime time loss to a Boise State will do for you: just as a win would have lifted the Bulldogs back into the public’s good graces, a loss pushed them in the opposite direction.
Could a win on Saturday reverse the tide? You better believe it. While less hyped on a national stage, the date with the Gamecocks means far more than the non-conference tussle with the Broncos. It’s not like Georgia was going to play for the national title, after all, and even though it stings now the loss to Boise does little to detract from what can still be a successful season.
A loss to U.S.C., on the other hand — that would place Georgia a significant step behind in an SEC East race where head-to-head tiebreakers mean everything. And that works both ways: a win would give the Bulldogs a big leg up over the Gamecocks, in the sense that Georgia would need to go, say, 4-3 in conference play the rest of the year against South Carolina’s 5-2. Likewise with both teams’ later date with Florida.
Don’t doubt Georgia’s ability to beat South Carolina. Not for a minute, and I’m not sure why you would — and don’t say it’s because the Bulldogs lost to Boise, because that would shoot a lot of holes in a lot of arguments. I can tell you one reason why Georgia can win: the play of the front seven. In stopping the run, more specifically. While the Broncos had their way in the intermediate passing game, the Bulldogs were terrific against Boise’s ground game.
Maybe you’ve heard that U.S.C. is having some quarterback issues. Georgia’s game plan will be simple: we need to stop Marcus Lattimore — or slow him down, at least — and force Stephen Garcia to beat us. Not that Garcia couldn’t beat the Bulldogs on his own; he’s no Kellen Moore, but Garcia has ability, experience and one of the nation’s best receivers to work with. But more so than Boise, South Carolina’s offense is one that plays into Georgia’s perceived strength defensively, if last Saturday is any indication.
Most importantly, can Georgia recover its misplaced confidence in time for an SEC run? Maybe Isaiah Crowell, who rushed for 60 yards on 15 carries against Boise, provides the spark the Bulldogs need. Or Aaron Murray settles down and plays like the best quarterback in the SEC, as many believe he is. Or the offense gets more plays like the one Brandon Boykin delivered in Saturday night’s first quarter. Or the defense steps up and forces a big turnover.
Richt doesn’t care it the spark comes from the backup punter: he just needs someone to step forward and cause something to happen. Because Georgia needs a win to avoid that preseason nightmare scenario, an 0-2 start, from coming to pass. And if the Bulldogs win? That means they’ll be 1-1 against two of the top 15 or 20 teams in the country, which would be awful impressive. And with a schedule that grows progressively easier from week three on, 1-1 could turn into something big awful quick.
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Tags: Aaron Murray, Georgia, Isaiah Crowell, Marcus Lattimore, Mark Richt, South Carolina, Stephen Garcia
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