Two weeks into September, and it might as well be March. That’s how very little we know about the 2009 Georgia Bulldogs.
On the first drive of the season they looked like 2008 Alabama (a team that won 12 games): dominating the line of scrimmage, getting adequate, if not flashy play from the quarterback, and mixing in a toss or two to one of the college game’s best receivers on a 10-play, 80-yard, just-like-we-scripted-it touchdown drive.
In the 54 minutes that remained, they looked more like 2008 Auburn (a team that won five games): directionless on offense, netting 186 yards on 41 plays, and getting only close enough for a 53-yard field goal.
But at least the defense was solid. The ballyhooed Oklahoma State offense didn’t fare much better than Georgia’s.
In Game 2, that same defense was shredded for 427 yards against South Carolina, which previously looked like it would have a hard time moving the ball against an unkempt yard.
The (very) bright side for Georgia fans, is that the offense came to life and scored 31 first-half points against a defense that had appeared to be upper-echelon SEC quality, and held on to avoid the first 0-2 start since Jim Donnan’s first year in Athens.
So what are we to make of these multi-personality disorder Dogs?
I think we’ll know a lot more by Sunday morning.
Winning football can be (over)simplified by stripping it down to coaching and quarterbacks — two of Georgia’s biggest question marks.
At quarterback, Joe Cox has shown the same schizo tendencies as his teammates. After a thoroughly mediocre showing against Oklahoma State, the fifth-year senior battled back from illness, hurt feelings and a tender shoulder for an efficient 17-for-24, 200-yard performance against the Gamecocks.
There’s not, or at least there shouldn’t be, any question about the ability of head coach Mark Richt. If he has a fault, it’s his loyalty to his coaches, and defensive coordinator Willie Martinez seems to have fewer fans in Georgia than Florida-era Steve Spurrier.
Certainly, talent can’t be the reason Georgia has given up at least 37 points in five of their last eight games — not if the recruiting services that annually rank the Bulldogs’ harvests among the best in the nation are worth their subscription fees.
Err, maybe it can be the talent, but I don’t think it is.
Offensive coordinator Mike Bobo’s seat is probably a little cooler after last week’s showing, but his critics are lining up, and they’re bringing torches.
He, Martinez and Cox have 10 more games to prove themselves innocent of ineptitude, and their trial begins Saturday.
This week’s predictions:
Arkansas 28, Georgia 27: The Hogs are a one-point favorite, and I’ve got more faith in the Vegas guys to do their jobs correctly than I do in Martinez and Bobo.
Falcons 31, Panthers 17: Joe Cox would be a QB upgrade for Carolina. So would Bobo.
Flowery Branch over Chesatee: Falcons bounce back with a balanced offensive night.
Gilmer over East Hall: The Vikings are having a hard time generating offense right now.
Gainesville over North Hall: The top-ranked Red Elephants seem to show off a new offensive threat each week.
Johnson over Pickens: The Knights’ playmakers finally bust loose after a slow start.
North Oconee over Riverside: The Titans’ ability to run should be the difference in a battle of 8-AA playoff contenders.
White County over West Hall: The Warriors are too balanced offensively to be outscored in this one.
Union County over East Jackson: The Panthers will lean on their seniors to pull them through after an emotional loss last week.
Fannin County over Dawson County: Too much Rebel offense.
Hayesville (N.C.) over Towns County: First win of 2009 won’t come this week for the Indians.
Jefferson over Oglethorpe County: The Dragons took a shot from Fannin County last week and survived. This week should be a little easier.
Jackson County over Prince Avenue: The Panthers continue their best start in years.
Loganville over Habersham Central: No rest for the weary Raiders.
Banks County over Rabun County: Defense carries the banged-up Leopards to a win.
Last week’s record: 10-6. Season: 39-10.
Brent Holloway is the sports editor of The Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.