Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The L.I. Season Preview: Holding a growing optimism in check

Joe: Who are your odds-on favorites to melt down and destroy themselves this year? What's LSU got brewing over there? It's gotta be chaos, right? And, then, in the east, it's us and South Carolina for that battle. But the only thing that's really changed, right, is Joe Cox. And Willie Martinez.

Me: You have to think those are improvements.

Last year's season preview was colored by too much of what lead blog analyst Joe Petersen calls "August optimism." And even though I'm predicting a good season this year, the voice in my head says I'm not being optimistic enough. I'm not going to listen to that voice, though, because it's not reasonable.

The 2009 team was full of questions, most of which were answered poorly. This year, there are two very large questions, but perhaps only two.
- How will the new defense do?
- What about Aaron Murray?
Murray is young, but what SEC quarterback isn't this year? Take away Alabama and Arkansas and everyone else has questions marks at quarterback. That is, unless you're sold on Stephen Garcia.
Joe: Lot of intriguing story lines in the SEC. Bama's the clear favorite. Florida is No. 1 in the East, though surely they're not going to be as good as they have been the last two years. Charlie Strong is gone. Don't discount that. Tebow's gone. Their head coach had a heart attack or a stroke or something last December.

Joe: Tennessee, Kentucky, South Carolina, I know how those stories end. I can see the future on those. Ole Miss? Who cares? Tech? They lost some talent.

Me: They still have Nesbitt. He's the key for them.
We've got the best pair of kickers in the nation. I can see us winning a few of those 16-13 games, with Blair Walsh kicking a couple of 42-yard-pus field goals. I can see us using Drew Butler as a weapon, pinning teams on their two yard line and turning Justin Houston loose.

Coach Richt has run that game before.

Our return game should be dangerous. And with new philosophies taking hold on special teams, more capable.

And if last year's team felt like the fastest Georgia squad I'd ever seen, doesn't that mean this year's team is faster? Athletically, you have to figure we're a head above everyone on our schedule, except Florida. We just look fast as hell in this probable 3rd quarter Sanford Stadium video, and there's not even much Orson Charles in it.
Joe: Arkansas and South Carolina, they're early so it's scary. But we shouldn't lose to those two teams. Our 44 against their 44? Come on. I know you're not sold on Auburn.

Me: Correct.

Joe: I'm worried about Auburn. You can write that down.
Schedule-wise we miss Alabama and LSU from the west. In fact the schedule opens up in just about every way we could ask, except it's as boring a home slate as I can remember. Even the South Carolina game, which is usually difficult and probably will be again this year, is bending our way more than usual, what with the problems they've had lately.

We'll be without Munson again this year, though. That seems worth mentioning at least two years in a row.

After the way things broke last year, it seems the No. 1 thing Aaron Murray cannot do this year is kill drives with poorly timed turnovers. He cannot take the wind out of our sails in the 3rd and 4th quarters.

Murray's performance at G-Day and Mike Bobo's subsequent description of a "boneheaded" Murray interception during a recent scrimmage are enough to make me worry on this point. And let's not even think about what happens if Murray gets hurt, because the options are a.) emergence of one of the greatest heretofore unknown quarterback legends of all time leading us to the promised land, b.) massive train wreck and c.) slightly less than massive train wreck.
Me: It comes down to the quarterback again. That didn't work out too well last year.

Joe: Well, you don't need a guy to go out and put up Ryan Mallett numbers. So I think it's gonna be a get-back-to-your- roots kind of year. But he's gonna have opportunities to throw the ball. And he does have the greatest player in College Football to throw to. I don't know. Is it wrong to not be that concerned about Aaron Murray?

Me: Is it wrong that I'm not that concerned about the transition to a new defense?

Joe: Yeah, the defense. How bad was that last year? Worst case scenario, this year is better than that, right? Grantham's mantra is disrupt the quarterback. The secondary is strong — the national media doesn't know that yet, but you and I do. And surely the front 7 can put something together, so they're going to be disruptive. I just feel like — as crazy as it sounds — I just feel like there's less to worry about this year.
So what do you figure for us this year? You have to mark the Florida game as a loss until proven otherwise. Auburn, Tech, South Carolina and Arkansas? Maybe we lose two of those, including at least one we shouldn't. And then the question is whether we come up short anywhere else, lose a close game on a bad turnover or a blown assignment in the secondary.

Truthfully, those kind of dumb mistakes seem less likely this year. With a new defense and a redshirt freshman, you have to expect them. But when you compare that expectation to the actual results from last year, how can you expect worse?

So 9-3. That's on the optimistic side of reasonable, which is where I like to live around this time of year.

8-4 would be straight up realism. If you say 10-2, you might be kidding yourself. If you say 11-1, you're just flat out unreasonable ... but part of me thinks you're right.

1 comment:

Nick said...


Its too early to be worrying about Auburn.