Michael Chang/Getty Images
TCU coach Gary Patterson (left) and Georgia's Kirby Smart faced off in the Liberty Bowl last season. Could they meet in the College Football Playoffs this season?

UGA mailbag: Fine, let’s discuss Georgia and the College Football Playoff

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 discuss marijuana policies, Mark Richt’s recruiting influence on the 2017 Bulldogs, and Mecole Hardman, and we also tackle some over-unders, true-false questions and the lightning round.

But first, let’s dig into the ol’ irrational, exuberant and optimistic chamber of hypotheticals.

Feeling confident that UGA will win out and then lose a close game to Alabama in championship game. After that though, I am not sure what happens….
Your thoughts?
— Charles

That is confident, but not an outlandish scenario the way Georgia is playing. The only game it figures to be an underdog in is at Auburn, and even then the Bulldogs have had Gus Malzahn’s number, whether it be Mark Richt or Kirby Smart coaching.

Georgia Tech and Florida are also potential stumbles, especially the former with its triple-option offense, which gave Smart’s defense fits last year. That’s also not overlooking Kentucky and South Carolina, but … let’s overlook them now for the purposes of this scenario.

The answer to every question about the playoff is this sentence: Georgia will make the playoff if it is 12-1 or 13-0 and wins the conference championship, and as for every other scenario, it depends.

If Georgia’s only loss is to Alabama in the SEC championship, it depends on how competitive that game is. Most of all, it depends on how the rest of the national picture shakes out. It’s much like in college basketball when people plan out what Georgia has to do to make the NCAA Tournament, forgetting that they take 68 teams regardless. It depends on what happens elsewhere.

So let’s say Georgia does go 12-0 in the regular season and then loses to Alabama. My guess is if there are three other unbeaten Power 5 teams for the playoff committee to pick, Georgia will miss out. There are still unbeaten teams in every conference, so that could happen. But if it becomes a question of which one-loss teams to include – and my guess is it will – then Georgia fans should root hard for Notre Dame. That win keeps looking better and better.

We’re still a long way from all this becoming reality. Still, it’s nice that it’s an issue. Georgia’s 2002, 2007 and perhaps even 2012 teams could have benefited from a four-team playoff, when who knows what would have happened.

Hey Seth. After hearing about the news about Natrez Patrick it made me wonder what the drug policies were in states where marijuana is legalized? What is Colorado and Colorado State’s drug policy in their athletic programs? I understand that you have to follow the rules in front of you but I am wondering if the rules are different where pot is legal? Could it affect recruiting? Thanks.
— Scott Harris

It’s still against the rules at Colorado and Colorado State, and it is as far as I can tell at any college football program, even in states that have legalized it. For one thing, it remains an NCAA rule subject to testing. For another thing, every school and athletic department discourages it. Colorado State, for example, suspends a football player two games for his second positive marijuana test and dismisses him for their third. (The first one leads to required counseling.)

Here’s an interesting story from The Coloradan about a former Colorado State player who said he quit football because of fears his marijuana use would lead to his being dismissed.

One point people forget about all this: It’s not always necessarily about whether something is legal or not. You’re dealing with athletes, and you want them healthy, so athletic departments don’t want them smoking marijuana or tobacco, or drinking excessive amounts of alcohol and such. It’s just that with marijuana technically illegal, you can test for it.

And yes, many people believe that pot aids football players in recovery from strenuous practices and games, which is why many partake. That’s what makes this a complicated issue. One about which perhaps there should be a deeper conversation by the powers that be.

UGA MSU Nick Chubb Lifted Celebrate
Nick Chubb (27) and the man lifting him (Isaiah Wynn) were both members of the 2014 signing class. (Bob Andres/AJC)

Hello Seth. Last year, many UGA fans blamed Mark Richt for the 2013 recruits as the reason for the mediocre season. I guess they ought to praise Richt this year for the 2014 recruits that are providing leadership thus far this season.
— Dan

Well, yeah. Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, Lorenzo Carter, Isaiah Wynn, Lamont Gaillard, Kendall Baker, Dominick Sanders, Jeb Blazevich and the departed Isaiah McKenzie. That’s pretty good for a 2014 class that was jeopardized by the late departure of defensive coordinator Todd Grantham. You’ll notice that few of those names were on the defensive side – Jeremy Pruitt came in and grabbed Sanders, and then the 2015 class was also pretty strong. (Trent Thompson, Roquan Smith, Terry Godwin, Jonathan Ledbetter, Natrez Patrick and so on …)

This was why it was silly last year for people to blame things on a lack of talent. The talent was there, I always said. The 2017 team is using most of the same players but is having a lot more success. The majority of the starting lineup is juniors and seniors, and that’s huge.

Liked your Mecole Hardman article. Wouldn’t it be a consideration to let him go back to DB and develop J.J. Holloman or Trey Blout or Jayson Stanley?
— Rosenberg

There were several questions about this, and Mecole Hardman’s drop issues make that understandable. I wouldn’t rule out it happening if Hardman keeps having trouble catching the ball, but my sense is he’ll stay at receiver.

For one thing, they tried to develop him at cornerback last year and ended up moving him to offense. For another, coach Kirby Smart pointed out again this week that Hardman didn’t play offense in high school and is still adjusting to the position.

Do you think Jacob Eason’s body language at the end of the Vanderbilt game — the whole leaving with helmet on thing — is any reason for concern? In a way I hate it for the kid, losing the starting gig and all, and I don’t want to see him fall into any sort of downward spiral. Do you think there is any danger of this happening?
— BC

This has to be a rough time for Jacob Eason. By all accounts, he was excited about this season and had made a lot of offseason improvements. Then he got hurt in the first quarter of the first game of the season, and now it appears he’s lost his job, through really no fault of his own. This isn’t at all what he expected, and it’s new territory for him.

Julian Rochester, who came to Georgia at the same time as Eason last year, said this week that Eason is still smiling. Smart said Eason is still competing and doing well. We can only take them at their word. Maybe Jake Fromm is Tom Brady, running with a job after an injury. Remember Brady got hurt in that first Super Bowl run, and Drew Bledsoe — the man Brady replaced — entered the 2011 AFC championship game in his stead.

I wouldn’t write off Eason just yet. They’re going to keep him involved, and I’d be surprised if he doesn’t keep getting at least a series or two, even more. They could need him later in the season the way Brady needed Bledsoe.

I know we’ve not thrown to the tight ends much this season, but it seems to me that when we do, it’s to Isaac Nauta and Charlie Woerner. I remember when Jeb Blazevich was a pretty important target. What changed?
— Mike Ruffin, Yatesville, Ga.

There were also several questions along these lines this week. For my answer, I’ll point to Isaac Nauta’s comments in my story Wednesday night.

That said, I’ll add that I do think if this team has any hope of a run at an SEC title and the College Football Playoff, then they will need to have a bigger passing game. They will face better defensive fronts who won’t easily give up running yards, thus forcing Georgia to air it out. When that happens, Terry Godwin and Javon Wims can’t catch every ball, so some well-timed passes to Nauta, Woerner and Blazevich – but especially Nauta – will go a long way.

Over-under

Courtesy of Forestry Dawg, my faithful over-under provider:

  1. Drew Lock completion percentage, 52.5 percent … Over. Lots of high-percentage passes coming in the second half, I bet.
  2. Drew Lock interceptions, 0.5 … Over. He has thrown 3 interceptions in three SEC games so far, and while I believe Lock will rack up some yards, Georgia’s secondary will be watching for the pass and ready to pounce. Dom Sanders is due.
  3. Fromm pass attempts, 13.5 …. Over. Maybe as many as 20!
  4. Damarea Crockett rushing yards, 60 yards …. Under. Yeah he’s averaging 76 yards per game, and Georgia will be without Trenton Thompson and Natrez Patrick, but I’ll bank on Georgia’s run defense this game. And Missouri not running it that much.
  5. Fumbles caused by clubs, 0.5 …. Under. Although I could see myself fumbling a club sandwich onto Chip’s laptop.
  6. UGA time of possession, 38:30 … Under. And wow you’re getting in the weeds here.
  7. Mentions during the broadcast of former Missouri defensive coordinator DeMontie Cross, 1.5 … Over. And also at least one video clip of Fromm playing in the 2011 LLWS.

True/false/eh?

Once again, thanks to Forestry Dawg:

  1. Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will both rush for 100-plus yards. …. True, with the only way it doesn’t happen being if they’re pulled early.
  2. Jacob Eason will come in before the half. …. False.
  3. Prather Hudson will be one of Georgia’s Special Teams Players of the Week for the third week running. …. Eh. 

Lightning round

Yes, how in the hell can we take college football awards seriously when Roquan Smith isn’t even on the Butkus watchlist?!
— Geoff S.

There’s a reason I ridicule the watch lists when they come out over the summer. They’re done just for publicity and have no real value other than that. Yeah, Roquan Smith wasn’t on the preseason watch list. That doesn’t mean he can’t still win the award. He’ll surely be on the first “semifinalist” list that is released soon.

Georgia v Notre Dame 2017
Roquan Smith is going to get some postseason recognition, no matter the preseason watch lists. (Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Do you foresee Eason transferring at end of season? If not, how do they spread the reps over the next few seasons?
— Richard Wingate

Let’s just say there’s a long way to go between now and the end of the season. For all we know, everything could change as soon as Saturday. The only thing I’m sure of is Kirby Smart will do his best to keep Eason around, and the last year has shown the skill of his persuasive powers (Nick Chubb, Sony Michel and to a lesser extent, Brice Ramsey).

Does Coach Smart substitute more than Coach Richt did? Or is it that Coach Smart has had more out-of-reach games as of late?
— Bruce in PA

It’s more the latter. Smart has been able to substitute more this year than he did last year, simply because five games have been blowouts. Only one was last year. But in the first three quarters, the substitute philosophy hasn’t changed very much from Richt to Smart. It just depends on the depth at each position and the ability to do so.

Any update on Netori Johnson’s health? Who is still eligible for a redshirt?
— Oldon 42

Netori Johnson has returned to practice but appears headed for a redshirt, as does OT Isaiah Wilson and OT D’Marcus Hayes (a JUCO transfer), OLB Robert Beal, DB Latavious Brini, DB Eric Stokes and DB Tray Bishop. Two other freshmen, receiver Matt Landers and linebacker Jaden Hunter, only played in the opener and haven’t since then. But there’s been no word on injuries for them, so with their redshirts presumably burned, they may still see action.

Over/Under 4 – Number of SEC players that take a knee during the anthem this week.
— Patrick Yaggy

Zero, because teams aren’t on the field for the national anthem. And I’m sure the SEC and college football in general is very happy about that right now. But it’s also praying this blows over soon so it doesn’t become a controversy in college basketball, where the players are out there.

Can you confirm or deny rumors that Nick Saban is on a plane to @ussoccer headquarters at this very moment?
— Vineyard Dawg

This is the best idea I’ve heard in the history of good ideas. It allows me to go on a mini-tirade: For all the people who love to bash soccer and brag about how little they pay attention to soccer, please. And I say this as someone who’s not a big soccer fan and can’t name more than one MLS player. Or one MLS team. But the national soccer team and the World Cup is like the Olympics. Not many people pay attention to swimming all the time, but every four years it’s pretty important. And so fulfills my soapbox quota for the week.