This weekend I had the good fortunate of making my way down to Athens for the Georgia-Mizzou game. After a night out in Nashville Thursday, we arrived in Athens Friday evening and proceeded immediately to the downtown area. Besides the 9-6 Insult to Offense Bowl that took place Saturday night, the trip was a great time. Athens has more bars per capita than any other city in the country, and from the five or six I experienced, they were all great. All of the people were friendly, the atmosphere was great, and you don’t need to take cab ride from the bar to your hotel.
1. Mark Richt and Bulldog fans.
While we were down there, I brought up the subject of Mark Richt to a Bulldog fan at the tailgate we were at. I asked if he thought Richt would be fired at the end of the season, and I was given a much more detailed and thought out answer than one might expect after several hours of drinking beer. This Bulldog fan believed that Richt would not be fired because he gives Georgia the shot it needs to compete at a very high level year in and year out. In terms of health, player performance, and scheduling, a lot needs to break right for a team to have a shot at the national championship, but Richt does as good a job as anybody at providing that. I know Richt gets a lot of flak for making some questionable coaching calls (and deservedly so), but the reality is that he’s a guy who will get you to nine wins. Once you have those nine, you’re a couple breaks away from being an 11-1 team, which could be good enough some years to make some noise for a playoff spot. So yes, while Richt has failed to win the big schbang in his tenure Between the Hedges, he does as much as possible to do everything within his power Bulldogs to put the Georgia in the best position possible to succeed. There’s only a handful of 10-15 coaches out there who you could make the same argument with. So given the circumstances with Nick Chubb’s injury, no I don’t believe that Richt is out of a job after this season. Unless he absolutely butchers next season, he’ll be around Athens for a while longer.
2. Alabama has been playing with a vengeance.
Since their loss to Ole Miss four weeks ago, Alabama has outscored opponents 140-47. Two of those games came against Georgia and Texas A&M, both of which were on the road, and were top ten teams until they played the Crimson Tide. This win over Texas A&M, a team that had been building it’s own College Football Playoff resume, puts Alabama right where it needs to be to contend for a playoff spot. They have wins over two top ten teams, have one loss (for now), and have an elite front seven on defense and a Heisman-caliber running back. It’ll be hard to unseat the undefeated teams in front of them, but if Alabama continues this momentum through the rest of the season, I don’t see why they don’t get spot. To beat Texas A&M, I said that the Crimson Tide would have to exploit the Aggies Achilles heel of a run defense to it’s full extent, which is exactly what they did. They let their offensive line and running back do the work, and Derrick Henry ran wild, gaining 236 yards on the ground and a pair of scores. This Alabama team is starting to resemble a poor man’s version of the early 2010’s teams under Nick Saban. They all had a great running back, monstrous defensive front seven, and had a quarterback who doesn’t turn the ball over. I’m not saying Jake Coker is A.J. McCarron or Greg McElroy by any means, but he has proven over the past month he won’t kill you.
3. The SEC is sort of locked up, but not really?
In the Eastern division, every team except Florida has two conference losses. With the Gators losing to LSU, and Will Grier suspended for the rest of the year for PED’s, the Gators might drop a few games down the road. They still have their game against Georgia this week, then play Vanderbilt and South Carolina in November. If Georgia beats Florida this week in The Swamp, then the SEC East is anyone’s game. As for the West, LSU is still undefeated but they have games against Alabama, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M. Ole Miss really hurt their reputation this weekend with a loss to Memphis, but all there will still be challenges for the Tigers. As for Alabama, LSU is really the only major opponent that have to worry about the rest of the season. If the Crimson Tide play LSU at home and come out hyped up to play, I think they’ll win; which is when things get interesting. Alabama only has Mississippi State and Auburn left on schedule, who are both unranked and aren’t a team Alabama fans should be worried about considering the level that their team is playing at. These next three weeks or so with the Georgia-Florida game and Alabama-LSU will really determine the direction of how the conference will go. If Florida and LSU both win, then that’s essentially your matchup in Atlanta on December 5th. If either of those lose, which is entirely possible, that’s when things could get very interesting.
4. Ole Miss just lost to an American Athletic Conference team.
For anyone who’s been watching Memphis play their bizarre schedule of Thursday and Friday night games, they’ll tell you that Paxton Lynch is the real deal. He’s a cyborg listed at 6-foot-7, 250-pounds and has 13 touchdowns against one interception on the season. Lynch now has a win over an SEC team to add to his already impressive start to the season, and he’s starting to build a Heisman campaign reminiscent to Collin Klein at Kansas State in 2012. This loss caps a string of recent weeks that might have shown that the Ole Miss upset over Alabama might’ve been a case of lightning in a bottle. Don’t get me wrong, Ole Miss is a talented team, but they haven’t played at that level in any other game this season. With games against LSU and Texas A&M remaining, the Rebels could be looking at another loss or two later in the season. Ole Miss is already out of contention for the SEC West title game, but they’d still like to qualify for a bowl similar in prestige to that of the Outback Bowl. Ultimately, that may be where this team’s destiny lies, a decent upper-middle tier bowl game against an ACC/Big Ten opponent.
5. The Insult to Offense Bowl.
I won’t bore you with a detailed analysis of this game, but due to the fact it the final score was 9-6 in favor of the Bulldogs, I feel like it needs to be made note of. This game essentially boiled down to two things: 1). Missouri’s offense is a travesty to the game of football and 2). Missouri shot themselves in the foot. True freshman quarterback Drew Lock got no help from his receivers or offensive line, and was sacked four times by a defense that had nine sacks total prior to this game. If Mizzou has one good receiver and another halfway decent offensive lineman, they could’ve won this game. On to my second point, Missouri had a muffed punt that set up the game tying field goal, two dropped interceptions, and several bad snaps/missed blocks. Missouri has more youth on this team than people realize, and it’s been showing in games. Missouri is like a four-year-old that keeps touching the hot stove, and still doesn’t realize that it’ll burn you every time. Failure to learn from mistakes is the ethos of this team. I know this sounds like I’m being a homer here (and I am), but Georgia looked worse at football than the Tigers did on Saturday, and that’s saying something. Sony Michel is no Nick Chubb, and Grayson Lambert can’t throw the ball past ten yards. It’ll be a brutal five games for both the Tigers and Bulldogs to trudge through until Week 12 mercifully puts these teams offense out of their misery for a reprieve of at a least couple weeks until bowl season.