Can Georgia replace ‘The Human Joystick’?

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The Human Joystick. The guy that moved through opposition players like they were nothing, with the screams of joy emanating from the fans behind him. The human highlight reel. The one-of-a-kind for that season.

And now, Georgia fans, Isaiah McKenzie is gone. And with him will be his numbers.

Georgia fans will talk about reloading after McKenzie’s decision to opt for NFL riches after his junior year, but it’s going to be really, really difficult.

McKenzie not only brought a receiving threat to the table (663 yards, 7 TDs on 44 receptions, going for an average of 14.4 yards/ reception), but also brought a running threat too (134 yards, 2 TDs on just 19 carries, averaging 7.1 yards/play). He also returned 23 punts (for 245 yards and a touchdown).

If you want to take this as total, the hole that McKenzie will leave will be even bigger. He accounted for 26% of all total receiving yards, 20% of all receptions, and – this is the most galling – 43% of all total throwing touchdowns. Thanks to Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, his loss won’t be felt hugely in the Georgia backfield, but still.

For a moment, take away the fact that the Dawgs have a young offensive line, and this could be yet another season where red-clad fans see opposition linemen run through their line, and let’s just look at the talent coming back to Sanford….

WHO FROM THE RETURNERS REPLACES HIM?

  • Sony Michel (RB): We liked how he was used out of the backfield over the last couple of years. He’s a definite game-changer. Had 149 yards receiving on 22 receptions. The problem for Georgia will be whether they can keep Michel healthy. He’s had injury problems for the last two years. Which is unfortunate, for a man of his talent.
  • Terry Godwin (WR): Underimpressed in just about every game last year. He had 38 receptions for just 397 yards and no touchdowns. That’s hardly a massive return for the five-star recruit. His averages from 2015 to 2016 barely improved. But Godwin’s going to be the No.1 receiver in Athens next year – and will have to prove it.
  • Riley Ridley (WR): Ridley’s freshman season in Athens was a pretty productive one. He had 238 yards on just 12 receptions – although we’re a little worried that he was actually targetted 22 times. He’s also injured his foot, so he’ll definitely not play the Spring Game and probably be out until mid-summer.
  •  Jeb Blazevich/ Isaac Nauta (TE): Smart’s use of the TE is very Saban-like, and the increasing use of them continues bring a new dimension to the attacking game.
  • Javon Wims (WR): The former JUCO transfer started only 3 games but still had 190 yards on 17 receptions. And no fumbles.

WHAT ABOUT THE FRESHMEN?

There are things to be excited about for the Bulldogs. 6ft 2 incoming freshman (and four-star recruits) Jeremiah Holloman and redshirt freshman Mark Webb ought to bring in some size out wide for QB Jacob Eason, and both Matt Landers and Trey Blount are both considered to be a little raw.

SO IN OTHER WORDS….

McKenzie will be pretty much irreplacable in 2017 with what he brought to the offense. There aren’t a lot of players that were a three-headed hydra of offense like he was. We expect UGA to go more towards the run this year – despite having Eason’s cannon. The reason? The offensive line. We’re not sure if he’ll be as lucky in his second year to survive as he was in his first.

 

 

Richt’s reaction to Georgia arrests

Georgia coach Mark Richt has said that there will be “consequences” for the four players who were arrested for double-dipping on their stipend checks on Monday night.

“Obviously we had some guys that did foolish things, and there will be consequences”, he said in a press conference after Georgia’s Spring Practice on Tuesday, even though safety Tray Matthews, defensive linemen Jonathan Taylor and James DeLoach and wide receiver Uriah LeMay all practiced on Tuesday.

The four were charged with ‘theft by deception’ for cashing in stipend checks from the Georgia Athletic Department, totalling about $786 (or $71 each).

“You don’t want to act like it didn’t happen. We are going to address everything head on”, he said in a press conference.

He added: “Everybody better do it the Georgia way or go do it somewhere else”.

BOTTOM LINE: If the Nick Marshall case is anything to go by, the smart money’s on all four players being booted out of Georgia. 

Georgia has a 5-star day at National Signing Day

Usually when it comes to Georgia fans, they like to swear in the general direction of Mark Richt.

They blame him when the Bulldogs lose. They blame him when the Bulldog players get arrested. They blame him when the Bulldog players get injured.

But now, Georgia fans are actually happy with Mark Richt- especially after National Signing Day.

The Georgia coach landed No.14 player on the ESPN 300 list DE Lorenzo Carter (despite the close attentions of Florida, LSU and Florida State), which definitely got the fans buzzing – especially those who had been critical of Richt for not filling out his staff after defensive co-ordinator Todd Grantham decided to leave for Louisville.

The 6ft 5, 324lb player said: “The defense is going to be nasty, and I want to be part of it”, at his press conference. Some think he might even play OLB. Whatever happens, Jeremy Pruitt’s pretty happy.

Pruitt also recruited five secondary players – including one safety and four cornerbacks. A number of them might see action as close as the Clemson game bearing in mind the team’s current woes in that department.

Earlier in the day Richt added two five-star running backs in tailbacks Sony Michel and Nick Chubb. Both are thought out of as ‘five-star talent’. Chubb was described as having ‘Todd Gurley-type talent’. Georgia fans can only hope.

Not only that, but Richt also shored up his offensive line with Kendall Baker, Dyshon Sims and Jake Edwards, as well as tight ends Jeb Blazevich and Hunter Atkinson. Atkinson committed to Cincinnati before he was recruited by UGA.

And also, the Athens media have now christened a new ‘return specialist’ (if returning WR/punt returner Malcolm Mitchell wasn’t enough) in Isaiah McKenzie.

Offensive co-ordinator Mike Bobo said: “His No. 1 job is gonna try to be that punt returner, kick returner for us….It could be the difference in one ballgame, and obviously help us on offense if we can sometimes just get 10 yards on the punt return. That’s the first down for the offense. And field position is so crucial, it sometimes doesn’t matter how effective you are as an offense, the percentages go down if the field position isn’t in your favor. It’s hard to go 80 yards on anybody, I don’t care who you’re playing.

The Bulldogs ranked 8th in the National Rivals Rankings.

Tennessee Chomped, Tigers beat Tigers: Week 4 SEC Rankings

It wasn’t a good week for Jeff Driskel. He saw his season end with a broken fibula against Tennessee…..which he broke while throwing a Pick 6. That capped what has been a fairly awful start to the year.

But the good news for the Gators is that they bounced back with replacement QB Tyler Murphy, and the Gators chomped Tennessee, who looked dreadful offensively AND defensively.

Oh, and LSU beat Auburn in rainy Death Valley. And Arkansas embarrassed the SEC by losing at Rutgers.

Anyway, here are our power rankings after Week 4:

1) LSU: The LSU Tigers are STILL No.1 in our rankings, because of their first half performance against Auburn. The game, while interesting as LSU lost concentration and Gus Malzahn’s hurry-up offense began to cause John Chavis some worries, was always in the hand of the Mike Tigers. The most disappointing bit about the night was the fact that so many LSU fans left at half-time to get away from the rain. Jeez, and there was me thinking that it never rained in Tiger Stadium. Seriously though, Jeremy Hill’s getting back to his best. That should worry Georgia who, you know, don’t have a running defense.

2) Alabama: Sorry, but we’re not convinced that being 17-6 up against the mighty Colorado State until the fourth quarter is really that great. Listen, we know that Alabama’s probably going to win a National Title this year, but there are problems with this all over the place at the moment. But when it clicks, God help us all.

3) Georgia: A report from my buddy who was at the 45-21 win over North Texas: “UGA gave up two special teams touchdowns and won by 24. The defense played okay, and the offense was dominating after they settled down and remembered that they were playing in a football game. It was a typical “look ahead” performance. Murray had 70% passing with 400 yards and 3 touchdowns. Gurley had about 90 yards and a TD. I think 9 different players caught a pass. All in all, there were two serious concentration lapses that resulted in 14 points (99 yard kick return and a blocked punt on a bad snap – which appears to be a real problem – for a TD). Should’ve been 45 – 7. I’m not really happy with the performance, but it’s a typical let down game before a big opponent.” So in other words, we’re pretty good on just about everything except special teams.

4) Texas A&M: Did what they were meant to do against a weak SMU side: Beat the crap out of ’em. Johnny Manziel had around 300 yards of total offense and 3 TDs. And an INT. I was perhaps more impressed that the A&M ‘D’ only gave up 13 points, bearing in mind how weak they are. Still, doing your job puts you up the rankings in our power rankings.

5)  Florida: After a weak start, the Gators found another gear and dealt with Tennessee 31-17. Tyler Murphy might just have more for this offense than Jeff Driskel. Controversial? Perhaps. But with the love the kid’s getting in Gainseville after the UT’s victory, you would have thought this was the second coming of Tim Tebow. By the way, the ‘D’ is still awesome, by the way.

6) South Carolina: No punishment for a week off. The defensive line probably needs a week off. You know, to spend some time in the gym and learn how to not get gassed with a high-octane offense.

7) Ole Miss: By damn!! The biggest non-SEC news is from the Rebs’ No.1 tackler Denzel Nkemdiche, who thinks he might be back for the showdown with Alabama. Good news if that’s true.

8) Auburn: Quick lesson for the future: The Auburn/Ole Miss game is going to be FUN, y’all. Bet on the ‘over’ for points. Auburn fans were rightly proud of the way the Tigers hung in there against LSU despite going down 21-0 early, and our vision of the way Gus Malzahan’s offense will click in the latter end of 2013 and in 2014 should make SEC rivals very worried indeed. It was exhausting to watch. And a lot of fun. On the other side, they don’t seem to be able to stop the run one jot.

9) Missouri: After the longest time of giving the Tigers crap, we’re going to give Mizzou some credit now. We thought that Indiana would be a trap for the Tigers, but they were 28-14 up at half-time en route to a convincing 45-28 victory. James Franklin’s 328 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT performance was good…..Dorial Green-Beckham’s 105 yard, 1 TD performance was better. If the offense continues its confident form in SEC play, Missouri could give their SEC East competitors a scare.

10) Vanderbilt: Really struggled to beat U-Mass.  Jonathan Krause came into his own and had 105 yards receiving (Jordan Matthews had 76), so he might well be a viable No.2. We still struggle to believe that they haven’t taken a step backwards this year. On the other side, their ‘D’ limited Mass to under 250 yards total offense…which is what you’d expect from a SEC school.

11) Mississippi State: Rebounded nicely from the horror show of Auburn to drop 60 on Troy. We still think they are better than Arkansas.

12) Arkansas: Arkansas had the Rutgers game. They could have painted Times Square Hog Red on Saturday night. They were 24-14 and coasting. And then in the fourth quarter, the unimaginable happened (you know, unless you watched the Hogs at all in 2012). Rutgers reeled off two late TDs, and the upset. Oh, and all the talk of Alex Collins? He managed 63 yards. That’s what we call ‘Karma’.

13) Tennessee: Tennessee is so bad that every day, they thank The Lord Football Jesus for Kentucky. And here’s what Vols fans have got to look forward to in 2014: Their offensive line will all leave for the NFL. Urghh.

14) Kentucky: Can’t wait for the ‘Air Raid’ offense to play Tennessee in The Battle To Avoid Zero. Coming to you on Thanksgiving Weekend, folks.

 

 

SEC Preaseason Preview: Georgia Bulldogs: A second straight SEC title game?

Georgia goes into this season – again-  as SEC East favorites – simply because of the talent that the school is bringing back all over the field, but especially defensively, where some people have said that the Bulldogs could have one of the best Ds in the conference.

Having said that, Mark Richt has had disciplinary problem after disciplinary problem this year, and that might undermine is progress. Nevertheless, see what we think below…

LAST SEASON 

The Georgia Bulldogs may have won the SEC East and gone 10-4 this year, but it’s not exactly blasphemy in the House of Dog to say that they underperformed, is it? After all, of the four ‘quality’ teams that they played last year (Boise State, South Carolina, LSU and Michigan State), they went 0-4.

The Dawgs started the season losing to Boise and USC, and Athens was shaking with annoyance. After all, losing to Spurrier (again) isn’t something that the locals like. “If we lose against Mississippi State, this place will burn”, one a-little-too-theatrical Dawgs fan told this writer. It didn’t happen, and the Bulldogs rode a 10-game winning streak all the way to the SEC Championship Game….where they should been 21 points to the good against LSU in the first quarter if Malcolm Mitchell had held an easy touchdown pass. They also blew a number of chances in their bowl game against Michigan State, where they eventually – and in heartbreaking fashion- lost 33-30 to the Spartans in three overtimes.

NFL-wise, the Dawgs saw Orson Charles, Ben Jones, Cordy Glenn, Justin Anderson, DeAngelo Tyson, Brandon Boykin and Blair Walsh all drafted to the big leagues.

SO…..THE BEST DEFENSIVE UNIT IN COLLEGE FOOTBALL…

Everyone’s drooling over Todd Grantham’s defensive unit this year, and so they should be. This is a team that returns all but Brandon Boykin of last year’s top 12 tacklers.

Giant nose tackles John Jenkins and Kwame Geathers (both over 350lbs) are man mountains in a defensive line that returns seven of eight starters. Abry Jones and Garrison Smith are excellent defensive ends, and at linebacker, they are simply incredible, with Jarvis Jones – who led the SEC in sacks and was a first team All-American, and Alec Ogletree.

BUT AT SECONDARY….

Everyone loves Baccari Rambo, who was a first team All-American, and well as Sanders Commings and Branden Smith at cornerback. Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell has converted to cornerback – and he’s getting rave reviews. 

The biggest problem that Mark Richt is going to have is the BEHAVIOUR of his secondary, with Rambo and Commings both out of at least the first game of the season (as well as linebacker Alec Ogletree, according to reports, as well as linebacker Chase Vasser’s also in Richt’s doghouse, having been arrested for a DUI in Atlanta. He’s going to miss the first two games of the season). Key members of the team could potentially also miss a road sizzler at upset-minded Missouri – for drug violations, and Rambo could potentially miss a quarter of the season, unless Richt believes Rambo’s “It was only hash brownies, sir”, excuse. One senior college football reporter described Richt’s tough drug policy as ‘noble’, but puts the Dawgs at a disadvantage. Recently, Branden Smith avoided suspension for being arrested, although he has denied doing drugs.  Because Richt hasn’t gone public over how much time Rambo is going to miss, we can’t help but think that the head coach might believe Rambo’s excuse. Otherwise, the Dawgs are going to have a big hole to fill in the back.

SPEAKING OF PROBLEMS….

Talented troublemaker and running back Isaiah Crowell was booted out of Athens in the off-season after being arrested on felony gun charges, giving Richt a massive problem: Who’s going to be the running back for the Georgia Bulldogs?

Although there are some who are quite happy with Ken Malcolme, Keith Marshall, and Todd Gurley- the latter two who were big hits on the North Carolina high school scene – we’re slightly worried about the change of pace that’s going to lack now that Crowell’s left.

OFFENSIVE-LINE WISE…

The problem for Georgia is that they won’t be able to get a running game going against defenses if their offensive line unit – which is going to be a work in progress now Cordy Glenn, Justin Anderson, and Ben Jones are playing in the big-time. David Jones will anchor the centre with Chris Brunette as a right guard – both of whom started double-digit games last year – and the rest is somewhat of a mystery. Still, Richt certainly has the talent to make a ‘work in progress’ work just fine.

BUT THE QUARTERBACK’S NOT BAD…

No, no he’s not. In fact, Aaron Murray’s one of the best quarterbacks in the SEC, and  the land. He’s got a cannon arm, understands the playbook as well as the defenses, and can put throws on the money. As we mentioned, if his receivers could have caught the ball, maybe Murray would be the proud owner of a SEC ring.

Murray threw for 3,149 yards and 35 touchdowns last year (and 14 INTs), and he’s going to frighten a lot of players.

Like it or not, the loss of Orson Charles to the NFL is going to be a big loss for the Bulldogs, but helping Murray will be WRs Tavarres King, Marlon Brown, Mitchell and Michael Bennett. As we mentioned earlier, we expect Mitchell to be playing both ways – especially if Richt needs another option through the air.

THE 2012 SCHEDULE

Sept 1 – BUFFALO

Sept 8 – At Missouri

Sept 15 – FLORIDA ATLANTIC

Sept 22 – VANDERBILT

Sept 29 – TENNESSEE

Oct 6 – At South Carolina

Oct 20 – At Kentucky

Oct 27 – FLORIDA (at Jacksonville)

Nov 3 – OLE MISS

Nov 10 – At Auburn

Nov 17 – GEORGIA SOUTHERN

Nov 24 – GEORGIA TECH

THE BOTTOM LINE: Georgia Bulldogs fans will be laughing (again) that they miss out on playing LSU, Alabama and Arkansas this season, while South Carolina gets LSU and Arkansas and Florida gets just LSU. They will also benefit from playing absolutely no-one in the non-conference (please Dawgs fans, don’t tell us that Buffalo, Florida Atlantic and Georgia Southern are good teams).

We think that if the Bulldogs can avoid a bullet in a fright-of-your life game at Missouri, then they should be 5-0 before they roll into South Carolina. The Cocktail Party two weeks after (Kentucky in the middle) won’t be a lot easier, meaning that Georgia could easily be 6-2 – or 7-1. We’re predicting the Dawgs go 11-1. But will it be enough to go to the SEC Championship Game for the second straight year?


SEC Schedule: Top 10 In-Conference Games You MUST watch this season

Every year the SEC dominates other schools in bowl games (unless you’re Michigan State, but less said about that the better) quite simply because they have the most difficult conference. EVERY game is a bowl game,  a potential National Championship Game, or a big-time match-up. If you don’t believe us, ask CBS why – every year without fail – they always screen Florida vs Tennessee, even though both sides weren’t going to compete last year, and could possibly be put down as ‘afterthoughts’ for the last couple, at least.

Anyway, here’s our Top 10 games (IN-CONFERENCE) on the SEC schedule. And there should be no surprises who’s going to be No.1….

1) Alabama vs LSU (Nov 3)

Night game. LSU vs Alabama. Saban’s back in town. The LSU fans have been waiting for revenge since January for this one, and this game could well not only decide the SEC West, it could well decide who goes to the National Championship Game from the SEC. Why not both teams? Because Southern California and Oregon could well have something to say about that…

2) Georgia vs South Carolina (Oct 6)

If Alabama – LSU might be a SEC West decider, then this might be a decided for the SEC East – if both sides can get past Florida and an exception defense that’s being built in Gainseville. Can Georgia’s suddenly-vaunted ‘D’ stop Marcus Lattimore? Can Jadeveon Clowney muscle Aaron Murray out of the game? Will Georgia’s wide receivers learn to catch a pass? This is going to be a cracker of a showdown.

3) a) Florida at Texas A&M (Sept 8)

b) Georgia at Missouri (Sept 8)

These games probably wouldn’t make the list any time else, but since it’s Mizzou and A&M’s first games in the SEC, these are calendar highlights. An insider at Georgia already told the SEC Football Blog that they were “worried” about going to Farot Field – and as they should be. Will the Bulldogs have their defense after their off-season troubles. Who’s going to be running back? And for Florida, it’s guaranteed that Kyle Field’s going to be noisy and pretty unforgiving – even if they don’t have male cheerleaders (something’s that has GOT to be changed now that the Aggies are in the SEC). These two games are going to be fun.

4) LSU at Arkansas (Nov 24)

Not an easy Thanksgiving trip for the Tigers – especially as the Razorbacks will be in the mood after losing so badly in Death Valley in 2011 after starting so well. We look forward to seeing how the Mathieu-less defense deals with the one of the best QBs in college football in Tyler Wilson, as well as the ground threat of Knile Davis.

5) Florida at Tennessee (Sep 15)

Not an easy September schedule for Florida, who has back-t0-back SEC road games. The trip to Knoxville isn’t a guaranteed win in 2012, particularly as Tennessee brings back so much talent – especially WR Justin Hunter off the physio’s table, Tyler Bray’s arm and a vaunted, experienced offensive line. Personally, we can’t get enough of ‘Tiny’ Richardson, Tennessee’s 6 ft 6, 329 lb left tackle. But for the Gators, it’s all going to be about whether Will Muschamp’s worked out who he wants to be his QB (Jacoby Brissett or Jeff Driskel) and whether the offense has ‘it’ this season – something we’ll see before this game. Expect fireworks in Neyland.

6) South Carolina at Vanderbilt (Aug 30)

Vanderbilt might be good this year? Everyone loving the Commodores and James Franklin, especially when he’s talking about recruiting? Well, ‘Jay Fray’, as we’ve now nicknamed him, is going to get the surprise of his life when South Carolina roll into town, with Connor Shaw and Marcus Lattimore running things offensively and  Devin Taylor and Jadeveon Clowney preparing to do damage on the other side of the ball. Jordan Rodgers, watch out. This could be fireworks – especially if Carolina aren’t clicking properly (as they have a habit of not doing on Game 1 of the season).

7) Alabama at Arkansas (Sept 15)

We’ll make this bold-ish prediction: Both Alabama and Arkansas will be 2-0 before both sides meet in Fayetteville. Arkansas fans will be screaming blood after losing so badly at the Crimson Tide last year, and Tyler Wilson and Knile Davis will be ready to test an Alabama defense looking to prove that it’s going to win back-to-back championships and against a coach who’s one of the best in the game. This game’s going to be a war, people.

8) Ge0rgia vs Florida (Jacksonville) (Oct 27)

You know the drill. Show up four days before the game, drink as much as you possibly can, fight with an opposing fan, tease an opposing fan for being a redneck (Georgia) or for wearing jorts (Florida), laugh about both sides’ mascots and both join in in saying unkind things about Steve Spurrier. Then, steel yourself for a monster SEC East game, which is played in the worst possible spirit. Isn’t college ball fun?

9) Arkansas at Auburn (Oct 6)

Remember this: Auburn will upset one of LSU, Arkansas or Georgia this season. That’s because Gene Chizik’s too good of a coach to make this happen. And Jordan-Hare at night is too great of a place NOT to score a big-time win. We think it could well happen against the Razorbacks. Then again, we haven’t seen much of either team, have we?

10) Auburn vs Alabama (Nov 24)

Because it’s the biggest game on the schedule for both teams, and if there’s a National Championship to worry about from Saban’s standpoint, this one’s even bigger. We’ve got a (State of) Alabama-sized heartbeat just thinking about it…

 

 

Penn State: Richt looking at Penn State LB

Mark Richt has admitted that Georgia is already looking at Penn State players after NCAA sanctions on the Nittany Lions meant the school will effectively have nothing to play for over the next four years, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution has reported.

Richt told press at a UGA Day:  “Some colleges are going to be interested in some of their players, and we’re one of those schools. It’s pretty well-documented that we’re under our 85[-scholarship] limit. We’ll try to get in touch with some of these young men and see if they’re interested.”

He added: “We do have some space available and if somebody fits a need and they’re excited about coming we would look into that possibility,” he said. “There may not be anybody. But we’re at least going to explore. … I don’t want people to think we’re trying to load up a bunch of them. It could be zero, it could be one or two.”

One of those mentioned has been Penn State linebacker Khari Fortt, who chose Penn State over UGA in 2009.

Quick reflection on SEC Media Days: Why didn’t people mention soft scheduling?

This is going to sound really nasty bearing in mind that this is a blog on the SEC and the fact that we are read by SEC fans, but we’ve been looking for the ‘juiciest’ (trust me, there aren’t very many) quotes from the SEC Media Days, and we struggled to get anything that kept us particularly awake.

However, like the ghost that haunts us and never seems to give up, we couldn’t help but think: Why on earth did NO-ONE ask either Commissioner Slive or any of the SEC head coaches about Non-Conference scheduling?

Here is why: When the 2014 play-offs come along and the Committee -whoever they might be – are deciding ‘strength of schedule’, they hopefully will not just think about how good a team’s in-conference schedule is.

You see, you can’t decide in-conference schedules: They are given to you year in, year out. There are no choices. The ADs don’t negotiate them. You play who’s in front you, be it non-conference, fixed clashes, or one non-conference team.

But you CAN decide out-of-conference schedules. In his press conference, Mark Richt basically said that powers-that-be at Georgia preferred a joke non-conference home schedule rather than play BCS conference teams year in, year out. “After living it out a little bit, went to Arizona State, Oklahoma State, those are long road trips. It takes a lot out of you just to prepare for a team like that, then it also takes it out of you on the traveling part of it. All of a sudden you’re flying home in the middle of the night, your guys are trying to find a place on the floor on the plane to sleep. You get behind the eight ball that way. I love having seven home games.”

OK, Mark (and Nick Saban, who refused to play a home-and-home against Wisconsin recently), so what happens if 2014 comes along, and you are still playing the likes of Buffalo, New Mexico, and Coastal Carolina? Are you going to argue that you’ve got one big non-conference game of the season and brush the three terrible games under the table? And what happens – and this could well happen with Georgia Tech (or in South Carolina’s case, Clemson) – if the rivals are having a down year? Won’t that make the philosophy of ‘play nobody’ look a little stupid?

And we know: You Alabama and LSU fans will look at us and say: “Heck! We scheduled Michigan and Oregon in successive seasons! We’re great!”. Actually, you’re not that much better, either. Here’s why: It was on NEUTRAL TURF, which takes out home field advantage. What makes college football so great are the games when a No.1 school walks into their big-time rival. Just ask Missouri about the time they hosted No.1 Ohio State, or LSU fans about the time when they went into West Virginia. Or the home-and-home rivalries that continue with Clemson and South Carolina, or Georgia Tech and Georgia? Are you telling me that the Chick-Fil-A Bowl in a neutral venue is more special than a road win at a hated rival? And more’s the case, what happens to your season ticket holders? I can bet that the tens of thousands of Alabama season ticket holders would rather see their team play Michigan in person in Tuscaloosa that in Dallas, Texas – and they would probably LOVE travelling to The Big House for the return game in 2013 (Alabama fans inform us that the Penn State home-and-home was a great experience).

The Bottom Line: SEC teams NEED to start playing big-time non-conference rivals (two if possible), because if they don’t, they’ll get punished by The Committee come 2014. Or they should.

EXCLUSIVE: Could another UGA star de-commit after shock transfer decision?

Four-star Georgia recruit Brandon Kublanow has told The SEC Football Blog that he’s now uncertain as to whether he will be a Bulldog in 2013 after Mark Richt announced that linebacker / defensive end Brandon Burrows was to transfer.

Marietta, Ga.-based Kublanow – who is ranked as one of Rivals top 150 players in the nation – and the second-best centre in Georgia tweeted after the news that Burrows was leaving: “Disappointed Brandon is leaving the team, really wanted to play with him, he’s like a bro”.

When asked by The SEC Football Blog if this was going to his own decision to go to UGA, he replied: “idk”, which is known to mean ‘I Don’t Know’.

And it’s not as though Kublanow was short on offers before he opted for Georgia in late May, with a long list of suitors – including LSU, Florida, South Carolina and Vanderbilt in the SEC, and USC, Nebraska, Florida State and Clemson asking for his decision.

BOTTOM LINE: UGA doesn’t need any more high-profile de-commits – especially after big-time running back Derrick Henry decided he would play his football at Alabama instead of Athens.

UGA linebacker to transfer

UGA linebacker Brandon Burrows has been granted an unconditional transfer, the University of Georgia has said.

Mark Richt, Georgia’s coach said: “Brandon is an outstanding person, student-athlete and has a wonderful family. We’ve enjoyed having him as part of our program and will provide whatever assistance we can in his transition. I am completely understanding of his decision and wish him nothing but the best.

Burrows’ statement said: “I came out of high school playing the defensive end position in a 4-3 defense which is what I truly love. The coaching change here led to a 3-4 defense. I have worked with that transition but decided that I want to get back to playing defensive end. I think another program may give me the best opportunity to succeed at that. I’m eternally grateful for the opportunity Coach Richt has given me at UGA and for the fact that he gave me an unconditional release. I know I’ll be hard-pressed to find a group of coaches and players that will develop into the leaders and friends that I have known here in Athens.

Burrows had not played for Georgia in anger, after redshirting in his first season and being forced to miss his sophomore season after shoulder surgery.

Burrows came out of his high school in Marietta, Ga. as one of Rivals’ top 30 defensive ends in the country and in his junior year in high schools he had 10 sacks.

BOTTOM LINE: Mark Richt would obviously have liked to keep Burrows for depth reasons, but Burrows wanted a starting job, and possibly hopes to get it in 2012 – despite not playing a moment in anger since his junior year of high school. In his past he’d been recruited by Alabama, Florida, Clemson, NC State and Oklahoma (amongst others) – could one of them come in again to give the kid a fresh start? Georgia fans will hope it won’t be the Tide or Gators!

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