Georgia's Path Ahead...

November 11, 2018
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ATHENS - There are so many scattered thoughts on a Sunday where Georgia took out Auburn for the of the 11th time in the last 14 games.

These two programs may be rivals, but Georgia is on a different level than the Auburn we have seen of late. Even with a good start, Auburn couldn’t effectively run; it could only stop Georgia in at the goal line; and never really felt in the game after Terry Godwin scored going into the half. 

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That’s a score Auburn can’t allow. 

While the fate of Gus Malzahn continues to be batted in the air, I can’t help but think of the opportunity Auburn had to hire Kirby Smart a few years ago. I don’t usually run to coaches’ handshakes after games, but I decided to on this one, and I couldn’t hear what Kirby said, but Malzahn told him: “You’ve got a good team.”

I don’t know where Auburn goes with this thing. Malzahn should not have gotten an extension last year, but he correctly played it right after the Alabama game. I will also point out that just because someone is the president of an institution or an AD doesn’t mean they know what they are doing in terms of contract negotiations. 

 

That’s sad, but accurate. 

The new contract for Malzahn only heightens the pressure on him - it is used against him rather than seen as security that he won’t leave. Perhaps a new start at Arkansas would have been the best thing for everyone involved. 

The Auburn players were totally ready to play this game - you could see that before the game in warmups. Obviously, the kids from Georgia and Atlanta were very excited to play at or near their homes. 

But the process of Georgia - the long slog of recruiting; the development; the playing of younger players - was too much for Auburn Saturday night. 

We will look back in a few years and point to the end of the Auburn game as the moment when we knew Justin Fields was still going to need some time. The mistakes he made - letting the clock run out; eating a sack - are extremely valuable lessons for him. Fields is not going to grow without being burdened with difficulties. And, frankly, for the first time on the field, he was hit with that… and I think that’s a good thing. 

Now Georgia gets to take this 13-day period to get ready for Georgia Tech. The Jackets have improved for sure. Beating Miami, a program that’s really slipped this year, was a good surge for the Jackets, who are now 6-4 and no longer look like the team that started the year 1-3. No, the foes they’ve lined up against of late have not been great, but they continue to score. 

Georgia should win, but that game won’t be one where Tech will roll over and die. They also seem to play better in Athens than Atlanta… for whatever strange reason. The issue for Tech will be stopping a Georgia team that’s getting lubricated for a late-season push. The noon kickoff will help the Jackets as well. 

I’m not sure how South Carolina lost to Florida, but that’s the Chickens for you. Kentucky losing at Neyland was about as disappointing as possible for that fan base. Someone has to play in the Peach Bowl, and now it seems like it will be the Gators. 

The question remains, too, what will happen with an SEC runner up UGA (to some degree there is a question about where an SEC Champion UGA would play, too - Orange or Cotton). Does the Sugar take UGA for sure, or would they prefer the local vibe of LSU? Both the Tigers and Dawgs have to win all of their remaining regular season games, but the team that doesn’t play in New Orleans seems certain to be in Phoenix at the Fiesta Bowl - a place UGA has never played. I wonder if a possible UGA rematch against Oklahoma is something the Sugar wouldn’t be super pumped about.

I don’t know what to make of Notre Dame. It doesn’t feel like the Irish are one of the best four teams in the country right now, but they’ve not lost (they’ve not played anyone of consequence either - see Clemson). At least Clemson looks the part - the Irish have struggled to beat Vanderbilt, Ball State and Pitt.

If you watch Alabama you can see that a physical team who can score has the ability to beat them. Clemson and Georgia probably match up best against the Tide for those reasons. I have to say that I continue to monitor Tua Tagovailoa’s play. He’s a special player, who has taken the Tide’s offense to the next level. 

He also continues to either get hit or get banged up. That’s not going to work moving forward. Auburn’s defensive line, UGA’s defense and Clemson’s defensive line are waiting. Alabama can probably still win it all with a backup QB, but that’s not where you want to be going into December.

To sum up: Georgia could have scored more, but in a game like this one where the other side has big, physical players, you are going to have to fight for every point. 

And perhaps most importantly, Kirby isn’t going to apologize for trying to decapitate his opponent. The fake FG, which UGA is 0-2 on this season, was about setting the tone for the end of the season. This is about winning… and winning by as much as possible. This is about what is coming, and these kids know nothing from here on out will be simple or easy. 

I’m not struck by how much they understand that. They know the task ahead.  

 

 
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