We're now just over a mere two days away from the kick-off of the Alabama v. Georgia game, and to be quite frank, it is almost impossible to overstate the importance of this game.
The truth, Georgia looks to be -- aside from LSU -- the toughest remaining game on the schedule. With Florida State being a total flop thus far, Tennessee resembling their 2005 team, and Auburn playing like their 1999 team, a win over the Bulldogs and the sky is the absolute limit for this Crimson Tide team.
If we beat Georgia -- barring a major upset -- we go into the Tennessee game at 7-0, the favorite in that contest, and a top ten team. Even if you lose to LSU -- which is definitely to be expected given how they look -- we could still very well end up 11-1. You never want to count the chickens before they hatch, but it wouldn't be insane if that were to happen with a win over UGA, and that's something that certainly was the definition of insanity just a few weeks ago. Again, sufficed to say, it's big.
But this one won't be easy.
Arkansas was a good football team, and to be quite frank I think they are a fair amount better than I gave them credit for in "Hogwash." With that said though, as I noted in the Q&A with the Hog Blogger, these two teams are more similar than either fan base would want to admit. And the Alabama v. Arkansas game essentially proved that point very well. Just look at the final stat column, it's almost a mirror image. I know that some people like to conclude that since Team X beat Team Y, Team X is without a doubt the better team, but that's not often the case. In reality, if we played Arkansas 25 times, we'd probably won 13 and they would have won 12. Again, the two teams were just very, very similar.
And that's fine -- especially considering that at the moment the Hogs look considerably better than Florida State, Tennessee, and Auburn -- but I'm afraid that Georgia is a better team than we faced last week. They've certainly recruited better than Arkansas has, so they should have more talent, and few people would argue the Dawgs don't have better coaching. Moreover, the Georgia defense is just as good, and likely a bit better than the Arkansas defense. No they don't have a single player as good as Darren McFadden (hell, who does?), but they have a great stable of backs in their own right. And they have something Arkansas doesn't have: the ability to beat you with both the run and the pass. We could load up the box against Arkansas and not have to worry about Dick beating us, but if we have to do that against UGA, Stafford will have a huge night and beat us through the air.
The harsh truth, unfortunately, is that if we play exactly like we did against Arkansas, Georgia will beat likely beat us. I'm afraid that we're going down this week, I really expect a loss.
And I know that Georgia is a major unknown, there's no doubt about that. But nonetheless, this does seem to be a pretty good team. They beat Oklahoma State easily -- and I know that doesn't say a lot, but still a convincing win is a convincing win -- and while they did lose to South Carolina, it was a very close game that could have went either way. Moreover, they lost mainly because of SC's very stout defense that kept the Dawgs out of the end zone and held them to four field goals. I'm not sure our defense can do that. Moreover, South Carolina had no turnovers UGA, and considering we've had five in the past two outings, I'm not sure we can do that either.
I also found it interesting that Western Carolina players, following the Georgia game, noted that they felt Georgia was a stronger, more talented team. I'd like to think otherwise, but the Catamounts may very well be correct. It's no secret that Georgia has recruited much better than us the past several years -- so they should have more talent -- and while we've made strides in the S&C program over the off-season, the gap between us and the top of the SEC isn't going to be closed in just a few months. As far behind others as we were in the S&C department after four years of Club Shula, it's going to take longer than that. And beyond that, why would Western Carolina players be trying to start something? They wouldn't care to, and if anything they were probably just being brutally honest when asked questions by post-game reporters. In all honestly, the comments by the Western Carolina players are likely more truthful than most 'Bama fans would like to admit.
Moreover, on some level we should lose to Georgia. As I stated earlier, if we beat UGA, we are very legitimately looking at 10 or 11 regular season wins, and that's just not right, is it? It just seems all wrong. I mean just one year ago we were a piss-poor 6-7 team -- overweight, undisciplined, out of shape, with mediocre-at-best recruiting -- that was knocked off by lowly Mississippi State, among others. Even the likes of 0-12 Duke gave us a run for our money. And now we're going to come in the following year and win 10 or 11 games in the regular season? Again, it's just not right, it shouldn't be this easy. We all knew this was going to be a rebuilding effort, and who the hell hits double-digit win totals in the regular season of the first year of a rebuilding job? That's simply unheard of. Even Jim Tressel and Urban Meyer, who won national championships in their second year, won only 7 and 9 games in their first year, respectively. Don't get me wrong, I'll be thrilled if that is the case, but it doesn't seem right, and I think we all know that. Again, it's just not supposed to be this easy, so when we get the feeling that it is, I suppose we have to legitimately consider the possibility that we are all just drinking the Kool-Aid a bit much, and that UGA will bring with them to Tuscaloosa a dose of reality for the starry-eyed Tide fans.
And all of this is not to say that Alabama can't win, mind you. It's just to say that it's going to be tough game, and no one should be thinking otherwise. Those who think we are just going to breeze in on Saturday and walk away with a relatively easy win are, most likely, sorely mistaken.
Home field advantage, hopefully, will give us a helping hand. I've made the argument before -- and I think given a good degree of evidence to support -- that home field advantage gives very little, if any, tangible advantage to the home team, and what little advantage may exist is likely much smaller than commonly given credit for. However, if home field advantage ever accounts for anything, it would be in a situation like this, where a young team goes on the road for the first time in a massive stadium that will certainly generate a lot of noise. If it doesn't mean anything here, it just doesn't mean anything.
We've got that on our side, but not much else. Georgia is a big and strong team, lots of talent too, that is very well-coached, and you can rest assured they've been preparing for this game since the day after the South Carolina loss. A win is possible, though we'll likely have to play our best game to date in order to so.
But if we can somehow, someway pull it out...