Once again, it's time for a Q&A session with one of our favorite SB Nation communities, Dawg Sports. Dawg Sports was founded around the same time as A Sea of Blue on SB Nation, and I have known and met the founder of the community, T. Kyle King, back a few years ago in Las Vegas, and we chatted many times by email.
Now that Kyle has has moved on to pursue other interests, Macondawg is his long-time co-writer who has stepped in and taken over management at Dawg Sports and is doing an outstanding job. Macondawg and I exchanged questions and answers about the game on Saturday, and I hope it helps you get a better understanding of our opponent. Here are my answers to his question over on Dawg Sports. So without further ado, here we go:
1. The book on Georgia this season has bee the injuries, you have an "out for season" list that looks like a small recruiting class. How big a factor have injuries been in Missouri, Vanderbilt and Auburn?
Georgia was driving for a go ahead score when two of those three games ended, and was within one score to Missouri when Todd Gurley's true freshman replacement fumbled on a pass to the flat. You can never really know what might have been, and it's futile to dwell on it. But I think it's safe to say that if this team doesn't play those games without its top 3 receivers and top two tailbacks, they're all wins. Georgia also lost by three on the road with top receiver Malcolm Mitchell and Todd Gurley both going out in the first half (Mitchell for the season). And then there's that thing that happened last weekend against Auburn. I think it's safe to say that if injuries of a Biblical scope hadn't struck Georgia is at worst a two loss team, likely a one loss team, and possibly an undefeated team. Also if my aunt Fanny had an adam's apple she'd be my uncle Frank.
2. The defense for Georgia has been what I would consider well below par for the 'Dawgs. Has that been mostly due to injury, due to inexperience, or due to coaching? What needs to be done about it in the off season?
All of the above. I'd peg about 70% of it as inexperience. The Bulldog defense lost 9 starters from last season and has started at least 5 true freshmen this season, which is as young a defense as I've ever seen in Athens. Some of those young starters (notably true freshman safety Tray Matthews) have missed time to injury. Whatever percentage is assigned to coaching is, I believe, less about poor schemes or game planning and more about struggling to anticipate what this young defense is capable of doing. That's the problem with playing a lot of freshmen: sometimes they look like the 4 and 5 star prospects they were coming out of high school. Other times they look totally clueless. Sometimes they've just looked overmatched not only by the opponent but also by their own assignments. That will improve, as the 'Dawgs are likely to return ten of eleven starters on the defensive side of the ball, losing only senior defensive end Garrison Smith. As a result, the main thing that needs to happen this offseason for the Red and Black D is just for the offseason to get here, so these pups can get a year older.
3. Georgia is currently ranked near the top in passing offense, but near the bottom in rushing offense. Can the 'Dawgs run the ball well enough to keep Kentucky honest from the outside? Who is they guy you think will have a big game on the ground?
When Todd Gurley has been healthy he has been quite possibly the best tailback in the country. With the Bulldogs playing from behind against Auburn he still had 15 carries for 79 yards (5.3 per carry), and looked healthier than he has since the high ankle sprain he suffered against LSU. He's averaging a shade over 100 yards in the games he's played in, despite missing time in most of those. The answer is Todd Gurley. It was always Todd Gurley.
4. Is Mark Richt in trouble? We hear about Will Muschamp down in Florida, but Richt has been in and out of the dog house with Georgia fans over a long stretch. Does he get forgiven for this season considering the injuries, or is he on the hot seat?
This "Mark Richt is in trouble" meme has become sort of funny to Georgia fans. Really, we joke about it on Dawg Sports all the time. It's among the things that Mark Richt has allegedly lost control of. I mean, the guy was one snap away from playing for a national championship last season. He's won the SEC East the past two seasons. He has a three game winning streak against perhaps Georgia's biggest rival (Florida) and a four year streak against our instate rival Georgia Tech. He was never legitimately in danger of being fired, even at the end of the sole losing season he's had in his thirteen in Athens. Anyone who tries to convince you otherwise is not someone you should take seriously in matters of Georgia Bulldog football. At this point barring a run of 4 or more loss seasons Mark Richt is safe.
As any Bulldog fan will tell you, the more likely scenario is that Mark Richt at some point, after a deep period of prayer and interspection, decides that it's time for him to go do something different with his life. We're talking about a guy who, even with the rigors of coaching in the SEC, still takes an offseason mission trip with his family every year. I fully expect that at some point Richt will decide that he's been called to do something besides coaching football, sort of like his good friend Tony Dungy. I just have no idea when that happens, and I suspect Coach Richt may not either.
5. How do you see this thing going? Who is the guy that makes the difference, and why?
It will be interesting to see if Georgia can overcome the hangover of that gut-wrenching Auburn day. My sense is that this one may be a mistake prone game between teams who will try to give it away multiple times. The difference may well be Aaron Murray, who while not mistake-free is generally pretty mistake-stingy, especially at home. The Georgia defense however will make Jalen Whitlow look like Vince Young at least twice, however, and our special teams remains a work in progress (and probably the biggest offseason project on Coach Richt's list). In the end I expect Murray to have a big day in his final appearance in Sanford Stadium. My pick is UGA 38, UK 24.
Many thanks to Macondawg and Dawg Sports for doing the Q&A. Let's hope for an exciting game to enjoy tomorrow.