With another narrow victory, UGA has given itself a real chance

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Nice and Eason does it. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC photo)

COLUMBIA, MO. — Kirby Smart had it right. His Georgia Bulldogs are 3-0, but they’re not far from being 0-3. They trailed by 10 points in the third quarter against North Carolina. They trailed by a point in the third quarter – and led by a nervous deuce with a minute to play – against Nicholls State. They trailed by 10 in the first quarter here Saturday night and by six on fourth-and-10 with two minutes left. They haven’t made every play. They keep making enough plays.

I don’t know if this will be good enough against what’s coming – Ole Miss in Oxford, then Tennessee in Athens. Smart doesn’t know, either. What matters is that Georgia, in a season of transition, has given itself a chance to make 2016 somewhat more than just a beta test. Had the Bulldogs lost their SEC opener to a Missouri team that probably won’t turn out to be much good, they’d have been playing catch-up in the East once more. But they’re 1-0 in league play by the hair of their chinny-chin-chin, and that’s no small thing.

Not to belabor a point I’ve already belabored, but the thought occurred as Saturday night became Sunday morning in the Central Time Zone: If Mark Richt had still been coaching Georgia and Gary Pinkel been guiding Missouri, who’d have won? (Yes, I know Richt was 3-1 against Pinkel’s Mizzou.) This was the sort of hairbreadth game that kept the Bulldogs from winning the East the past three seasons, and doggone if they didn’t win it under Richt’s replacement.

We can say the Bulldogs didn’t play to max potential against the Tigers, and Smart wouldn’t disagree. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel rushed for 100 yards between them, as opposed to 100 apiece. Jacob Eason threw a horrid interception that spawned the touchdown that kept Mizzou ahead until fourth-and-10. The defense was shredded early and mustered no sacks all game. All three Drew Lock interceptions were as much a function of, ahem, brain lock as of Georgia technical nous. (Although Quincy Mauger’s foot-drag in the end zone was adroit, and it pretty much saved the ol’ ballgame.)

Georgia’s offensive line appears nothing special. Its defensive line is young. Its secondary was running around at sixes and sevens. Apart from Isaiah McKenzie returning punts, the kicking game is atrocious. Yet the Bulldogs are 3-0, having played nobody of the highest caliber but having three times declined invitations to roll over and lose. This is not nothing.

Neither was the performance Eason authored in his second collegiate start, his first in the SEC, his first on the road. He didn’t hit on every throw – and he whiffed on the one bad one – but he made the winning throw and a bunch that led up to it. He threw 55 passes. (No pitch count for this rookie.) He completed 29 for 308 yards and three touchdowns. Had he been less than stellar, Georgia would have lost. He was stellar. Georgia won.

As we survey the East, we ask again: Who looks better than Georgia? Tennessee again had trouble separating from a non-Power Five opponent. Missouri is 1-2. Vanderbilt lost by 31 at Georgia Tech. South Carolina lost in Starkville. Kentucky is bad even by Kentucky standards. Florida just saw Luke Del Rio, its latest quarterback, suffer a knee injury. Were the Bulldogs based in the West, they’d have a tough time going 5-3 in league play. But they’re not, and they don’t face Alabama, LSU or Texas A&M. This could happen, folks.

To win the East, Georgia will have to play better than it has. That potential is here, even if the offensive line mightn’t be. Smart has found his quarterback. Eason has found his go-to guy in McKenzie. Jim Chaney is a major upgrade over Brian Schottenheimer. (Granted, not the toughest act to follow.) As happened against North Carolina, Georgia’s defense got better as Saturday’s game went along, and you’d hate for it to be the other way around.)

This team could go 10-2 or — cold chills time — even 11-1 and not be a great team. It’s difficult to envision Georgia beating Alabama on the first Saturday in December. But the Bulldogs have a real shot to be there and give it a try.

Super fun reading:

Eason throws and Georgia passes its road test.

Two UGA rookies showed Missouri something — Eason and Smart.

UGA-Mizzou: A wild series should yield a predictable result.

Is Georgia’s issue a lack of … talent?

UGA and Smart pass the stress test.

For UGA and Smart, it was the best of openers.

Was that Lambert’s last start for Georgia?

UGA holds its nerve and wins No. 1 for Smart.

A Big Orange scare again makes us wonder about Tennessee.

With Lambert, Georgia is banking on no surprises.

A big game in Week 1: That’s why Smart’s here.

The smart money is on Smart and UGA.

Kirby Smart says little, reveals less.

Predicting Georgia’s season game by game.

Preseason Top 25: Clemson at the top, UGA No. 13.

Why Smart’s Year 1 has breakthrough potential.

Reader Comments 0

156 comments
TideDawg
TideDawg

Polls are fantasy! At this point of the year there is no number 1 or any other ranking. And why is it if #2 loses to #1.....#2 drops out of the top 10? It was already established they were #2 and should lose to #1 so why don't they stay in the #2 slot? I'm sure there are many logical explanations for that. Add them on!

TOJacket
TOJacket

Someone lit a fire under those FCS teams this year! .....it's suppose to be a gimme?

FlatTire
FlatTire

@TOJacket In my opinion this is due to so much more kids having better programs like the 7 on 7 camps; strength training etc. that is closing the gap.


The differences in some of these teams is the depth and big time game difference play makers

OH:IO
OH:IO

Time to play another pretender who lost a 21 point lead. 

TOJacket
TOJacket

Ole Miss is full of ringers!....out of shape ringers!.......Hugh has been cheating pretty good.

twelveofthirteen
twelveofthirteen

They have plenty of offense and led those games for a reason. Losing to bama I get. Losing like that to FSU was odd.

Here is to hoping the early leads were flukes as little ten Dr Pepper Larry suggests but I doubt it.

DoucheVsTurd
DoucheVsTurd

The playcalling during that last series was abysmal.  First down at the 20 yard line, plenty of time (and the running game was actually starting to wear down Mizzou's D line), they call 2 passes to the end zone, either of which could have easily been picked, which put them in that 4th and 10 situation.  


Eason wasn't bad, especially for his first start on the road, but 6 yards per attempt isn't anything to brag about.


Tacking on the kicker they apparently plucked from band practice, they were massively lucky to get away with a W.  The rosy articles from Schultz/Bradley are puzzling; if they keep performing like this they'll lose 5/6 games.

DawgWhistle
DawgWhistle

Agree completely...play-calling, kicker, everything. But on top of this, what I want to know is why in blazes they've gotten away from Chubb on the toss-sweep...you know the play that they raved about how well the young fullback did in leading the blocking that sprung Chubb for 222 yards against UNC.. They haven't run the play, virtually, at all since. Instead they keep trying to run him between the tackles where the OL's weaknesses are exposed.

FlatTire
FlatTire

@DawgWhistle been saying the same thing;  I was completely baffled by that, more so in the Nichols game.

CHDawg
CHDawg

@FlatTire @DawgWhistle In CJC's defense, Mizz was ridiculously crammed into the box on D--ridiculously. I counted 9 Mizz defenders on several plays. There is very little chance of Chubb (or anybody else) picking up yardage with that many bodies piled up in front of him. Our lack of line push didn't help. The problem with a sweep is that all of those guys go stage right or left quickly and that shuts it down, too. I think Chaney needs to get a little more sophisticated to beat this tactic. I can think of several great ways to burn this strategy, so I'm sure he can.  The reverses were good, and iMac had half the midwest open on a couple of the fakes.  I'm sure CJC saw that on the film. The vertical throws worked well, but Eason missed several, and at least one TD was dropped. The Mizz D scheme was beyond risky, and we really should have hung 40+ on them. But, Eason is really ramping up on the learning and that is good because the test is going to be much tougher Saturday for both sides of the ball.

blawless.
blawless.

'running around at sixes and sevens'......as intelligent and as gifted a writer you are, one of your best lines ever

Buckeye in Atl
Buckeye in Atl

Alabama fans, gonna be a good game if we square off again

Buckeye in Atl
Buckeye in Atl

And by the way, I care about one team, Ohio State, could care less what the Big Ten conference does

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Buckeye in Atl I could care less about Ohio State and the rest of the little ten conference. Why not post your comment on a bammer blog? buckeye .

TOJacket
TOJacket

This is much more entertaining!

Buckeye in Atl
Buckeye in Atl

Georgia football... Still savoring that Sugar Bowl win from nine years ago over... Wait for it Hawaii lmao what a joke

Grant1296
Grant1296

How many times have you beat UGA???

Eric Zeier isn't afraid of the big bad Buckeyes...

Big Wally
Big Wally

So Blowhio is making excuses for Missouri and their 5 turnovers.  So you are saying that Missouri:

shoulda,

woulda,

coulda.


bwahahhahaah.

OH:IO
OH:IO

@Big Wally


Um, how many points on turnovers did the dogs covert?

TOJacket
TOJacket

"He's pretty good a making excuses"...."at".....silly vag-boy.

gmaye
gmaye

Here we again, Mark Bradley getting his little hopes up again , Mizzou beat Mizzou, after 38 years of not wining NAT you would think he would have learned by now.

OH:IO
OH:IO

6 or 7


Bless your heart. 

LOGS1973
LOGS1973

Dogs have a great chance to turn in a nice 6-6 season.

That is if they can stay healthy and give their field

goal kicker some encouragement.. Great football

insight Bradley..

OH:IO
OH:IO

@LOGS1973


6-7 gets a Liberty Bowl Plaque, right 6 or 7?


Hell, you were probably in charge of the engraving. 

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@LOGS1973 As long as one of the six victories is against Florida ,it will be a Decent Year.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@OH:IO

Whooptee frickin do!!!!!!! B1G dominates the MAC and AllAmerican Conferences. Too Bad one of those non conference losses was the Iowa loss to FCS ND State.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@OH:IO And the 8-3 record against power 5 teams is kind of Idiotic, being as other conferences have started their conference seasons.

OH:IO
OH:IO

The photo of Savior Skinny leaving the field is no Joe Willie after Super Bowl III.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@TOJacket

Nice win TO. Hope the Jackets can keep it up Thursday Night against Clemson.

TOJacket
TOJacket

Thanks Bush, yes we will find out Thursday....as Paul Harvey used to say....we'll find out "the rest of the story"

RulerIAMBAMA
RulerIAMBAMA

Ok, a mediocre Mo team turned the ball over 5 times and Ga won by 1 point?!?!??. SMH

CHDawg
CHDawg

Another point: Georgia is exceptionally young. Young teams have a steep learning curve, and MIZZ was a great win. They made way too many dumb mistakes, but they kept fighting to the end and it paid with a W. Chaney has got to figure out how to attack these nutty schemes.  MIZZ was putting 9 guys in the box at times, daring Eason/Chaney to beat them at their weakness!  He has to design packages that quickly overload and attack other parts of the field. If a fan like me has five or ten good ideas on how to do that, surely CJC can figure it out.  Jacob **has** to burn teams that pull that stunt!  Receivers have to stop dropping balls!! Overall, a lot of mistakes and blown opps, a lot of great plays, and A+ for not giving up and winning.  Go Dawgs.

OH:IO
OH:IO

Alabama Ole Miss


91 total points


Quintessential SEC! SEC! defensive performance. 


Playground ball. 

Doom Classical liberal
Doom Classical liberal

@OH:IO


That can be misleading. I've seen a lot of high scoring games in every conference and in our game against Ole Miss 4 touchdowns were non offensive with the defense scoring 3 and a punt return for a fourth- that's 28 pts right there. Defenses scoring tds is usually an indicator of good defense. 

RulerIAMBAMA
RulerIAMBAMA

@OH:IO Lets not forget a mediocre Mich St team kicked OH St butt last year. If I recall correctly Bama played that very same Mich St team and the score was 38-0. Just for reference Mich St was not the team that had 38.

Doom Classical liberal
Doom Classical liberal

@RulerIAMBAMA @OH:IO


To be honest I was kinda surprised how easy it was beating Mich state last year. I watched their game against Ohio St the week before and they just physically dominated Ohio St in their own house. Hadn't seen an Urban Meyer OSU team manhandled like that until Mich St did it. So that was surprising. 

Doom Classical liberal
Doom Classical liberal

@Buschleaguer @Doom Classical liberal @RulerIAMBAMA @OH:IO


Their qb had one or 2 good runs and Elliot had a good game where he broke a couple long ones. He was on quite a tear at the end of the year. Still only a 7 pt game though that came down to the final play. 


Nice try but living vicariously through another team's win over us aint gonna get you too far. Now, if you want to talk about a manhandling 38-10 in your own house last year was a manhandling. LOL!

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Doom Classical liberal @Buschleaguer @RulerIAMBAMA @OH:IO i could give a crap about the buckeyes or bammer for that matter , just tired of Bammer fans trolling the Dog blogs , it is only September and Bammer is not exactly looking like a NC caliber team so far this year. UGa will struggle this year , and still might have a shot at winning the East. But hell. 3-0 is 3-0 .It could just as easily be 1-2 or 0-3. But I am not on the Bammer or Buckeye Blogs running off at the mouth.

Doom Classical liberal
Doom Classical liberal

@Buschleaguer @Doom Classical liberal @RulerIAMBAMA @OH:IO


I've seen plenty of AJC articles on Bama over the years- usually written because the various columnists have some sort of beef with Saban and the Alabama program's success. And in those columns I've seen plenty of dawg fans piling on and trashing Saban and Bama at every opportunity. If you don't want other people criticizing your team then perhaps you shouldn't have thrown all those stones from your glass houses. 

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Doom Classical liberal @Buschleaguer @RulerIAMBAMA @OH:IO Not exactly the same as trolling the Tuscaloosa Times Picayune on a Sunday in September. Not responsible for the opinions of Bradley and Schultzie, well known Bammer haters from way back . It is a by product of being a sportswriter in a city known as Loserville.

Buschleaguer
Buschleaguer

@Doom Classical liberal @Buschleaguer @RulerIAMBAMA @OH:IO I can handle you or anyone else criticizing the dogs, hell I'm critical of them too. It is just the love fest between you and Bucky that is tiresome. It is like Bammer is the only team in the SEC and Bucky Is the biggest midget in the little 10.Take it down the road , no one here really wants to hear about it.

Grant1296
Grant1296

Nobody is living vicariously except you Dim Wit.. Do you play for Alabama?

You've probably never put a helmet on in your miserable life.

At leas your girlfriend Techeye is slightly amusing...you're just a moron...

DawgNole
DawgNole

@Grant1296

I don't find buckeye even slightly amusing. The few times I tried to laugh at his slop, I spit the vomit out of my mouth.