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Curtis Compton/AJC; Al Bello/Getty Images
Jake Fromm and Aaron Judge both could be rookies of the year in their respective leagues.

Are the Georgia Bulldogs the New York Yankees?

Welcome back to the UGA Mailbag, where each week we invite readers to tap into our expertise (low bar) about Georgia football, UGA athletics or whatever springs to mind. This week we go masochistic on the Georgia-Florida game, reveal a potential first for the 2017 Bulldogs, discuss practices and the Greg McGarity question, and also do basketball true-false and a football lightning round.

But first, we can’t pass on the SEO benefits of this headline subject matter, so we open with …

Aren’t our Dawgs just like the Yankees this year?  Currently ahead of schedule and essentially playing with house money.  If the Dawgs win the East I’d still consider this season a glowing success with an eye toward the next few years as real contenders.  As long as there are no “letdown” games I suppose the only very difficult games look like at Auburn and the SEC Championship.  What’s your take on realistic fan expectations this year and going forward?
— Alex K.

That’s an excellent comparison, at least as far as expectations this season. The same percentage of fans in each fan base probably dared to dream, but just as Yankees fans generally would have been happy with just making some noise in the playoffs, Georgia fans would’ve been content with a solid season that resulted in winning the SEC East.

Now that just seems the minimum. The Yankees are one game away from the World Series (though heading back to Houston needing to get it), and the Bulldogs are squarely in the playoff picture (though still need to probably get through Alabama to get there.) Barring an unforeseen collapse, both teams have already clinched at least a good season that will leave its fans optimistic about next year and the future.

That’s where the buzzkill beat writer steps in.

It was in this very space a few months ago where I agreed with a reader who essentially asked: Hey, why is 2018 supposed to be the big year, not this one, and in fact couldn’t there be a drop-off in 2018? Georgia stands to lose a lot of talent from the 2017 team, especially on defense, and while it’s recruiting really well, the veteran experience of this team will be hard to replace.

That isn’t to say that next year couldn’t still be a great one. But Georgia fans should savor this run. You never know what will happen in the future. 

If Georgia loses to Florida, is it the worst Georgia loss of the Seth Emerson beat era?
— Ye Olde Jochino

That depends on how the rest of the season plays out. If it’s like 2002, and Georgia inexplicably loses to Florida but wins out to go 13-1, then unlike 2002 it will still have a chance to play for the national title (at least in a semifinal), and the Florida loss would be a footnote.

But if Florida upsets Georgia, and then the Bulldogs win out in the regular season but then fall to Alabama, it would likely cost the Bulldogs a chance at the playoff. And yes, it would arguably be the worst of this decade.

My time on the beat (not counting my Albany days) began in 2010, and the worst loss in terms of costing the team a title run was the 2012 SEC Championship Game. But that was a well-played game until the very end. It ties for the most painful loss in an otherwise good game with the Auburn game in 2013. As far as the worst loss in terms of inexplicable and badly played, take your pick among the following: Vanderbilt (2016), Alabama (2015), Florida (2015), Florida (2014), South Carolina (2012), Boise State (2011), Colorado (2010) and Central Florida (2010).

All this said … I have no expectation of Georgia losing this game. The talent gap is too huge, and Florida has too many distractions. Three years ago the talent was actually pretty close; Florida was just playing badly entering the game.

Is it possible for UGA to have three rushers over 1,000 (yards) this season? Has that ever happened? If so where?
— Mr. Lukeman

That’s never happened before, and it’s still very unlikely this season: Nick Chubb (688) is on track, but Sony Michel (492) is just off pace assuming a 14-game season, and D’Andre Swift (358) is further off pace.

But Georgia has never even had two 1,000-yard rushers in the same season. So a big game or two from Michel, and there could be history. They came close in 2014: Chubb had 1,547 and Todd Gurley had 911.

Could Georgia have two 1,000-yard rushers for the first time in school history? (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Also: Georgia as a team is on pace to break the school record for rushing yards in a season: 3,352 yards in 2014. Assuming Georgia plays 14 games – and yes I’m assuming that right now – then the Bulldogs are on pace for 3,960. So they may break that even if somehow they don’t win the SEC East.

I remember reading Kirby saying that one of the big lessons he learned from last year is to dial back the physicality at practices, essentially blaming the loss to Georgia Tech on having a tired football team. 

However, it seems the story line this season is that the key to the team’s success has been tough, hard practices on Tuesdays and Wednesdays that make the game on Saturday seem easy by comparison. What’s your take on that? Do we now have the depth to handle the strain during the week (even though we had two D-linemen out for Mizzou due to practice injuries)? Is strength and conditioning now so much better that the players can handle the practices?
— F.L. in N.C.

Actually, what Smart said was that his regret last year wasn’t being too physical at practices all season, but holding a Monday practice as usual the day after the win at South Carolina. (That game was moved to Sunday, as you’ll recall.) Georgia didn’t take the next day off, and Smart believed that contributed to losing the Vanderbilt game that ensuing Saturday.

The overall question does remain important: Does this 2017 team have the depth and stamina to keep this going? Based on the evidence right now, you’d have to say yes. Even the team last year didn’t necessarily wear down. It was one bad quarter against Georgia Tech from finishing with five straight wins.

The team this season has more depth, and has (so far) avoided the ravage of injuries that could hurt that. Guys have been hurt but are coming back. No season-ending injuries to key players yet.

I incorrectly thought that (Malkom) Parrish would lock down one side of the field prior to his injury.  And now that he’s returned, he seems to have lost his job. I didn’t see him at all vs. Mizzou. What’s his role now? You predicted he wasn’t a lockdown CB but thought he was solid, you may remember.  Do we have some CB depth now?
— David 

Much like (Jacob) Eason, it appears Parrish simply lost his job because the person who replaced him after he was injured, sophomore Tyrique McGhee, played too well to come out. So Parrish was relegated to the dime package for the past four games. That said, McGhee did get beaten a few times by Missouri, so I’d be curious whether Parrish gets another look at that left spot. But the other cornerback spot is set: Deandre Baker had a very good game against Missouri and has been solid all season.

Is there any chance that the undisclosed injuries to some of Georgia’s more high-profile players were in fact not injuries at all? Is it possible that the coaching staff decided to keep higher-profile players out in order to give players behind them in the depth chart the opportunity for playing time? I ask this because some of the more notable returns from the injury list are happening right when our strength of schedule arguably is starting to get tougher.
— BcD

No, I think those guys are definitely injured. While Reggie Carter’s injury is officially undisclosed, everyone saw with their own eyes in the Tennessee game that he got hurt and can take a guess on what it was.

David Marshall and DaQuan Hawkins-Muckle were the other two with the “undisclosed” tag for the Missouri game, and they were not at practice on Tuesday. They wouldn’t just sit out two D-linemen, especially with Trenton Thompson already out.

The risk with not disclosing injuries is that fans speculate on what it is. Hopefully a few can read between the lines, and perhaps we’ll have enough information in the future to report the injuries. But I do believe they are real injuries.

I’ve noticed as the season progresses and UGA football has enjoyed great success, the furor surrounding Greg McGarity has subsided substantially. Are you still hearing any discontent behind the scenes, especially considering the Minick and Woerner letters were so scathing, or has it become a moot point?
— Palm City Dawg

There’s no doubt that the football team doing well deflects attention away from McGarity. The decision to replace Mark Richt with Smart was, as I’ve said before, an institutional one, not just by McGarity. He didn’t make the decision driving home from Atlanta after the Georgia Tech game, nor did he decide after a few days that Smart should be the replacement. Many forces are at work in such a monumental decision.

But when you’re the A.D. you get the credit or the blame, so if Smart had struggled this year, the pressure would only have increased, so with the team doing so well, he gets credit. Or at least the grumbling subsides. The main reason you’re not hearing much is all attention is on football, and the news on that front is all good.

The criticism of McGarity, however, didn’t center too much on football in the first place. It was the overall performance of Georgia sports teams, especially ones in which he made hires (baseball, gymnastics, etc.), as well as a perception of his handling of financial matters, being late to the facilities arms race, a perceived lack of vision for the program, etc. The women’s soccer team, for instance, continues to struggle this fall. But no one notices because football is doing so well.

Alabama’s athletics teams aren’t great overall either. But few care because of Nick Saban’s teams. Football cures all.

True-False: The Basketball Edition

Will in Athens offers up the challenge, and I try to answer it.

UGA finishes seventh in the SEC (media just picked them to finish eighth). True. That’s about where I have Georgia pegged, in the middle of what is an improved SEC. Florida and Kentucky are the top tier, with Texas A&M and Vanderbilt close behind. Then I expect Georgia to be jumbled up in a group that includes Alabama, Auburn and Missouri – three teams that added a lot of young talent but may need some time to jell.

Yante Maten finishes the season averaging 18 points per game. True. Maten will get a lot of attention from opponents, but he has Derek Ogbeide and Rayshaun Hammonds in the post to share the load with this season.

Two other players finish the season averaging at least 10 points per game. True. I could actually see a handful of guys finishing right around 10 ppg (Ogbeide, Hammonds, Juwan Parker, Tyree Crump, Turtle Jackson) so you figure a couple will. Or a bunch of guys could finish around 9 ppg.

One player finishes the season averaging over 1 steal per game. True. Jackson does.

Tyree Crump-Yante Maten-UGA-basketball
Tyree Crump (4) and Yante Maten (1) could be Georgia’s two leading scorers this year. (John Kelley/UGA)

Mark Fox heads into the SEC schedule with 9 wins. False. While the schedule is easier, the history just doesn’t provide much reason for optimism. I’ll project wins over Bryant, USC-Upstate, Texas A&M-Corpus Christi, 2 wins in the Wooden Legacy tournament and Winthrop, and 2 wins among Marquette, UMass, Georgia Tech and Temple. If Georgia goes 3-1 in those latter four games, then it enters SEC play in great shape.

Two freshmen average more than 10 minutes per game in SEC play. False. Hammonds and Nicolas Claxton have a chance, though 10 minutes per game is asking a lot.

Team finishes the season with a .750 FT percentage. False. Not with J.J. Frazier off the team.

Team finishes the season with a .325 3-PT percentage. False. Crump will hoist a lot of 3s, which is a good thing even if he misses a bunch, because enough will go in and it will stretch the defense. If I were Fox I’d tell him to just shoot and shoot and hope for the best.

Dawgs lose one game because they don’t know how to inbound a ball. Uh … false, but only because they’ll fix the problem from last season. That doesn’t mean a new one doesn’t replace it.

UGA sells out one home game. True. But a sellout is different from every seat filled. The Georgia Tech game on Dec. 19 does set up well, but it’s also at 9 p.m. and the students will be out, which will hurt. There are five SEC home games on Saturdays, so at least a couple of those will do really well.

Football: Lightning Round

How many players can Georgia take on the road to Jacksonville? Any chance Thompson travels if he’s not “100%”?
— Matt from Brisbane

It’s a 70-man travel roster, the same as any SEC game. I’d be surprised if Thompson doesn’t at least travel, as they’ve taken guys that have a chance to play. But how much he plays remains up in the air.

How can we push for the Georgia/Florida to be home/home series instead of going to Jacksonville?????
— Logan Sigwald

I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Too much invested on all sides (UGA, Florida and the city of Jacksonville) to change it.

Is it just me or are our sack totals down this year? You agree Dawgs must firm up this weakness to have a chance at “Glory, glory….”
— JV, Newnan

They are definitely down: Georgia is tied for last in the SEC in sacks. I’ll have a story coming up on this, but pass pressure remains an issue, along with the secondary.

Do you think the Mark Webb move will be permanent?
— Joe MacArthur

Yes, if I had to guess right now. But it probably depends on recruiting over the next few months, and how the young players at cornerback and receiver develop.

UGA-Florida 2016
The uniform combinations aren’t changing this year, as far as we can tel. Hyosub Shin/AJC

I was wondering if and when UGA/Florida could do away from both teams having to wear their home colors for this game?  Or if they must wear a colored jersey, maybe UGA could wear black and UF could wear orange and have sort of a Halloween theme to the game.  If that’s not an option, I wish we could go back to one of the teams wearing a white jersey every other season.
— Noah 

I’ve heard nothing different about the setup this year. I know Georgia is wearing red again, as that’s what the offense is wearing in practice. Do you really not like the red vs. blue? It seems most people like it, but maybe I’m wrong.

I assume you get to travel to away games. If so, your pick for game 1: Pasadena or New Orleans?
— TFK Fanboy

I love New Orleans, but I haven’t been to Southern California for two decades. There’s little hope of covering Georgia in the Rose Bowl other than the playoffs, so I’d take the Pasadena trip. We’re a long ways from that, however.

All UGA questions were answered on Saturday night’s broadcast — Jake Fromm did indeed play in the LLWS and  Nick Chubb is from Chubbtown.
— Nick

All big if true.

Did David Greene and David Pollack know each other before they were teammates at UGA?
— Actuary Dawg

That’s a great question, I’ll try to find out.

And finally…

Non-football question: What song have you not heard in the stadium that you think would be a perfect game-day selection?
— Billy, Tucker, Ga.

Oh, there’s so many, but it depends on what point of the game you’re talking about. The team may need a good song to start the second half, so may I suggest the opening to “Last of the Mohicans”? That’s not a movie geek talking; a few years ago a quarterback recruit told me he listened to that before he left the tunnel for games. Give it a listen. You’ll see.