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I Wanna SEC You Up: The Dawgosphere Responds

Doug from Hey Jenny Slater and Kyle of Dawg Sports took the time to answer eight questions about the Georgia Bulldogs and their upcoming season for us. Let's listen in:

1. Is there anything in the preview that needs correcting, explaining, or refuting?

Doug: Honestly, no -- you did a commendable job, even 100 COCKTAILS-worthy, if I do say so myself. In particular, I was pleasantly surprised to see you give some props to our offensive line. That was the unit tagged as Most Likely To Suck by pretty much everyone in the media earlier this year, but the offense's terrific performance in the spring game opened some eyes (of course, more than anything else it might've just been our defense getting pwn3d -- check back with me on that one). At any rate, particularly with the JUCO transfers we've pulled in, there's a lot more talent and playing experience on the line than a lot of people realize, and so far Stacy Searels has been every bit as good a hire as we hoped he'd be.

Your impressions of the defense also seem pretty accurate. The front four is going to be pretty green regardless of who ends up at the top of the depth chart, but given the talent there I'm cautiously optimistic; you also gave proper respect to the depth on the secondary. Who knows what the hell's going to happen at linebacker.

Kyle: I have to give you credit; your preview of the 2007 Bulldogs was both thorough and fair. You actually made one comforting point I hadn't considered, arguing that Stacey Searels's impact might be heightened by the influx of new players, since he will not have to "undo" any of the previous coach's teachings.

Overall, it was a solid preview. I mean, you're no Sunday Morning Quarterback, but, then, who among us is?

2. What worries you most about Georgia's offense?

Doug: The default answer would be to say the offensive line, but like I mentioned in the answer to the previous question, the line has been coming together surprisingly well and I'm very confident in Searels's leadership. Honestly, I'm gonna have to go against the grain here and say Matthew Stafford. Maybe "worry" isn't the right word -- let's go with "concern." Obviously I have few doubts about Staff's talent or potential; I guess I'm just antsy over how he will respond to being The Man in a season when expectations (of the team and of him in particular) are so high and the schedule is so tough. He did show dramatic development toward the end of last season, but it's important for Bulldog Nation to remember that those were just three games and the kid's still only a sophomore; he's going to make mistakes. We Dawg fans can be an unforgiving bunch, particularly when it comes to QBs, and I don't want to see Staff wilt under the pressure of high expectations the way Quincy Carter did. Fortunately, Richt and Bobo are both dynamite at developing quarterbacks, and all indications seem to be that Stafford is continuing to progress at a rapid clip, not just as a passer but as a leader. As long as the fan base can restrain themselves from hollering "PUT IN JOE COX!" the first time Staff throws it to the wrong team, I think he'll be fine.

Kyle: The Bulldog offense will be better across the board in 2007 from what it was in 2006. The Red and Black are settled at quarterback and deeper at tailback. Georgia has a full-time offensive coordinator who called a whale of a game against Virginia Tech and the new offensive line coach is a distinct improvement over his predecessor. Sean Bailey is back and the `Dawgs imported a wealth of new talent along the offensive line.

What worries me is that, while familiarity may breed contempt, unfamiliarity breeds mistakes. New players and new coaches will take time to mesh with returning athletes. Matthew Stafford has never thrown a pass to Sean Bailey in a game. If Georgia opened with a couple of cupcakes, the `Dawgs would have time to gel. With Oklahoma State and South Carolina being the first two opponents on the schedule, though, the Bulldogs have no margin for error. If they don't click from the get-go, they could be forced to dig themselves out of an 0-2 hole.

3. And defense?

Doug: Jeez, we're down to two returning starters in the entire defense -- what DOESN'T worry me at this point?

The secondary is going to be pretty green, I guess, but at least we've got depth there. Unfortunately, that's not the case at linebacker -- we were shallow at that position even before Akeem Hebron got axed for the '07 season, and our most experienced starter is Brandon Miller, who's got tons of potential but hasn't made much of an impact so far anywhere other than the Encyclopedia Britannica entry for "underachiever." We're facing guys like Dantrell Savage and Cory Boyd right out of the box this year, so there's no time left for the coaches to "bring him along" or cross their fingers and hope; he's got to step up the very second we kick off against OSU.

Kyle: Besides the fact that Willie Martinez is our defensive coordinator? Or the fact that Paul Oliver was declared academically ineligible? Or the loss of every household name among the defensive ends and linebackers?

Other than those trifling matters, I'm not worried about the defense at all.

4. Which team on the '07 schedule scares you more than it should?

Doug: Georgia Tech. Yeah, we've punked them six years in a row now, and beat their best team under Chan Gailey with our worst under Richt, but Reggie Ball isn't around to drop the game right in our laps anymore. I'm not completely sold on Taylor Bennett as OMG AW3SOM3 just because he had a good game against West Virginia -- if he was so awesome, how come he was always staring up Game Ball's ass on the depth chart? -- but he's GOT to be an upgrade from Ball. Hell, I'M an upgrade from Ball. If you've got a functioning cerebral cortex, you probably qualify as an upgrade from Ball. Aside from the QB situation, Tech also has tons of experience and talent on both lines, which is fundamental to any team's success. We can't afford to think we've got this year's game in the bag just because we upset them last time; the law of averages indicates that our win streak can't go on forever, but I'd really like us to win at least a couple more before we finally cough one up to them.

Runner-up is Kentucky. I'd like to think we can win that game this year based on sheer burning desire for revenge, but now that the Wildcats appear to have clawed their way out of Annual Doormat status, who knows? The last thing I want to see is Georgia have a terrific season, beat Florida to end up on the brink of an SEC East title, and then puke it away because we looked past UK in our final conference game.

Kyle: It matters a great deal when and where two teams play. The fact that Georgia plays Alabama at Tuscaloosa is cause for concern, but I am comforted somewhat by the fact that the Bulldogs get the Crimson Tide early, before Nick Saban has had time to get them all the way back to elite status in the league. We all know the day is coming, but, hopefully, it won't have arrived before the end of September.

I would rather play Auburn early, when the Tigers have a history of slow starts, and in the so-called Loveliest Village, where Georgia has a winning record, than at home and late.

I hope I am more frightened of Oklahoma State than I should be, but the season-opening date with the Cowboys scares me to death. The Pokes are an unfamiliar opponent coming into Sanford Stadium with a ton of firepower and something to prove. O.S.U. presents all of the concerns Boise State presented two years ago, only the Cowboys bring the experience that comes from playing in a B.C.S. conference to the table.

Naturally, I hope we see a repeat of the 2005 Boise State game, but I don't think we will. Worries about Oklahoma State are keeping me up nights.

5. What is the best-case scenario that you can envision for this season?

Doug: I'd love to be able to sit here and say, "If Ohio State can go 12-0 with only two returning starters on defense, then dammit, so can we!", but even I can't quite willfully suspend disbelief enough to think that a team with this many question marks on defense can make it through an entire SEC schedule unscathed. But hey, who knows? We had a sophomore QB in 2002 and a no-name defense in 2005, and managed to bring home an SEC title both times. If Stafford continues to mature and the defense steps up the way 2005's did, we could be looking at 11-1 and a shot at a third conference trophy.

Kyle: Why, 14-0, of course! The interesting thing about the S.E.C. this year is that so many teams seem like potential contenders, yet all of them have question marks. There is no U.S.C. or Michigan that appears to stand head and shoulders above the other teams in its conference.

Georgia fans have some cause for concern, but, then again, so do Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, L.S.U., South Carolina, and Tennessee fans. Some team is going to turn those question marks into exclamation points. The `Dawgs aren't particularly any more unlikely to step up than any other team.

6. What is the worst-case scenario?

Doug: Theoretically, we could suffer a defensive implosion against Oklahoma State that sets the tone for the rest of the season and wind up 5-7. But that would be some serious apocalyptic frogs-and-locusts stuff right there.

Kyle: I don't want to jinx it by offering a guess. This time last year, I thought the Red and Black would finish the regular season somewhere between 8-4 and 10-2. My rationale was that there were six safe wins and six games that could go either way. I figured there was no way we were going better than 4-2 and no way we were going worse than 2-4 against the half-dozen serious opponents on the schedule.

My six tossups were Auburn, Colorado, Florida, Georgia Tech, South Carolina, and Tennessee. My six safe wins were Kentucky, Mississippi State, Ole Miss, U.A.B., Vanderbilt, and Western Kentucky. The Bulldogs went 4-2 through the tough ones, beating the Gamecocks and the Plainsmen convincingly, and they went 4-2 through the easy ones, losing to the Commodores and the Wildcats while narrowly avoiding losses to the Bulldogs and the Rebels.

In other words, what do I know? After last fall's season-ending upswing, I'm taking the "Star Trek II" view: I don't believe in the no-win scenario.


7. Which unheralded member of the UGA football team is the most important for the Dawgs to be successful this year and why?

Doug: I hate to keep harping on the defense, but I bitched repeatedly about how we were lacking leadership on defense last year, and if anything we're even shakier personnel-wise now than we were then. So I think Kelin Johnson is the one best positioned to step up and be that leader. With Paul Oliver gone to the NFL, Johnson's got the most playing experience of anyone on the defense by (from my perspective, at least) a pretty wide margin; as a safety he'll be expected to uphold the tradition of guys like Sean Jones, Thomas Davis and Kentrell Curry, all of whom were absolute terrors under Richt. I think KJ's got the talent to do that, but he also has to possess those intangible qualities as a leader and motivator that a unit this young so desperately needs.

Kyle: It's either Coleman Watson or NaDerris Ward. Tripp Chandler's offseason arrest assured that the Bulldogs would start the season without their only completely healthy scholarship tight end. Watson (groin injury) and Ward (shoulder surgery) did not make contact in spring practice, but one of them is going to have to step up and fill the void during Chandler's absence.

8. If the SEC were to add an extra conference game, who would you like to see added as Georgia's second permanent western division foe?

Doug: From 1992 to 2002, when we had only one rotating opponent from the Western Division and two permanent opponents, Ole Miss was one of the permanent teams (Auburn, of course, being the other); I wouldn't mind making Ole Miss an annual deal once again, if only because it would once again give us regular access to the mind-bogglingly hot coeds from Oxford. Anytime you can get thousands of Georgia girls and thousands of Ole Miss girls in the same town for an entire weekend, you go with it, no questions asked. It's like the Miss Universe pageant, only bigger--and better, because there's a football game in the middle of it.

That said, there's a part of me that wouldn't mind turning Georgia-Alabama into an annual tradition again -- two great programs with a lot of tradition behind them, and it's not like Bama is any slouch in the coed department, either. It'd be an extremely challenging game, that's for sure, but only until Saban leaves for Notre Dame or the Browns or whoever's the next team to wave a suitcase full of cash in front of his face (ha ha BURN!!!1!1!).

Kyle: For sentimental reasons, I would prefer Ole Miss. Although games between the two schools did not get underway until 1940, the Rebels were a fixture on the Bulldogs' slate every autumn from 1966 through 2002.

Historically, the series has been competitive, as seven of the last 10 series meetings have been decided by margins of eight or fewer points. Some would say otherwise, but I would argue that the Universities of Georgia and Mississippi boast the S.E.C.'s prettiest campuses and prettiest co-eds. While Georgia-Ole Miss lacks the animosity to be called a rivalry, the two teams are familiar foes and the annual resumption of the series would be fun.

And to say thank you, a little cheesecake for both:

I have to say, Doug's admission that he finds the esurance cartoon girl attractive doesn't make me feel quite so bad about checking out Blondie every morning in the funny pages.