Good Day, UGA: The watching-the-weather edition
Good day, UGA. Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant UGA football news and takes every Monday through Friday morning. Today, we look at alternate venues for the South Carolina game and commiserate on the most painful UGA losses.
Where, when and if …
It’s become a strange week for Georgia football. Because of Hurricane Matthew’s impending arrival on the South Carolina coast this weekend, most of the talk so far this week has been about the weather, not football.
We still don’t have any definite details about what officials have planned for the weekend. South Carolina released a statement saying that as of now the game is still scheduled for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff at Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday.
— Gamecock Athletics (@GamecocksOnline) October 4, 2016
But the more time goes by, the more likely it seems the game won’t be played in Columbia, if it’s played at all. South Carolina governor Nikki Haley has already called a state of emergency along the South Carolina coast, and USC canceled classes on Wednesday, with plans to cancel on Thursday and Friday, as well. Even Haley said she “can’t imagine” the game being played in Columbia.
“It’s a complete decision based on the schools,” Haley said, according to the State. “As of now, I can’t imagine that happening, but certainly we’re going to continue to watch this. I would love nothing more than to see this take a right-hand turn and go out to sea. As it looks right now, we’re looking at Friday afternoon into Saturday being pretty brutal.”
So, what are the options if the game can’t be played at Williams-Brice? Playing in Athens is one possibility, although I doubt USC officials are too keen on that considering last October’s flooding forced the Gamecocks to play a “home game” against LSU in Baton Rouge. Clemson plays in Boston on Friday, so theoretically a game could be played in Death Valley on Saturday, an idea that’ll probably gag any Clemson fans reading this.
However, the most likely scenario, as reported by DawgNation’s Chip Towers, is moving the game to the Georgia Dome. This wouldn’t be simple, though. Georgia State is scheduled to play Texas State in the Dome at 3:30 p.m. Towers reports that if the decision is made to play in Atlanta, the Georgia State game would likely be moved to noon and the UGA game moved to 8 p.m. to give enough time for the event staff to reset between games. It is far from an ideal scenario, but for Atlantans who weren’t planning to travel to Columbia, it could be a chance to squeeze an extra Georgia game into your football season.
Relocation isn’t the only option, though. Postponement is another one, but it would also be a tricky proposition. USC has a bye next week, and Georgia has a bye the week after, so there’s not shared open week to play each other. The only option I can think of is Nov. 19. Both teams play cupcakes — Georgia plays UL Lafayette and USC plays Western Carolina — ahead of rivalry week. Those games are meaningless, so, if necessary, they would be the games you cancel to fit UGA vs. USC into the schedule.
Then there’s the DOOMSDAY SCENARIO, and it’s pretty simple: cancel the game. No rescheduling. Just choose not to play. That seems preposterous considering it’s a division game, but both teams appear to be out of the SEC East race, so not playing it probably wouldn’t have any further ramifications. Of course, this is the SEC East, where chaos reigns supreme, so if they cancel the game, the division would somehow come down to UGA and USC. It’s the Murphy’s Law of the SEC East.
The Ballad of Kirby and Will
On the actual football field — well, on the sideline, technically — the big story of the week is the head coaching matchup between Kirby Smart and Will Muschamp, former teammates and defensive backs at UGA. Just today there were a few good pieces about the relationship between the two.
Towers wrote about the history between the two coaches and spoke with Ray Goff, their head coach at UGA. He also got some colorful quotes from Smart on Tuesday. Talking about the relationship between the two for the brief time they were in Athens together in 1994, Smart said, “I was the little prick on the scout team that’s running around. He was the big man on campus.”
Barrett Sallee at Bleacher Report has a fine piece of his own that includes an anecdote about Smart diagramming a play with 10 (or 12) men during an interview with Muschamp for an assistant coaching position at Valdosta State. Another has Smart beating Muschamp so bad in a game of pickup basketball that the USC coach stormed out of the gym and disappeared for four hours. There’s no doubt these two will have their competitive juices flowing on Saturday.
Learning on the job
This is a few days old, but I only just caught wind of it. In a recent piece, Bruce Feldman at Fox Sports included this little nugget about Smart’s overall management of the program:
“Word is first-year Georgia head coach Kirby Smart is struggling with his overall management style of the football program and its effect on the operational aspect of the team,” Feldman reports.
That’s a bit disconcerting, but not completely unexpected. Smart is a first-year head coach, so many of the operational and managerial tasks being thrown at him are probably things he’s never dealt with before, and maybe never thought he would deal with.
Going back to the Mark Richt era, I think a lot of fans don’t give Richt enough credit for how adept he was in this department. He was a great CEO coach. Under Richt, the program ran like a machine, as you would expect from someone who’s led a program for more than a decade. It isn’t surprising Smart has had problems adjusting if he’s being compared to Richt’s standard, which is the only thing most people around the Georgia football program know.
That’s the gamble you take with someone who’s never been a head coach before, though. Muschamp, for example, is a hell of a position coach, but during his stint as Florida head coach it seemed like everything outside the X’s and O’s was a bit beyond him. And remember, Smart was a longtime Nick Saban assistant, and I can imagine Saban having a managerial style where he handles all problems so his assistants can focus on just coaching the players.
It takes coaches a while to figure out exactly what their managerial style is and how to fit into the CEO role. But if a good coach is given time to figure it out, he can yield spectacular results. The best example I can think of is Dabo Swinney. Swinney had never even been a coordinator when he was hired by Clemson, so he spent the first few seasons learning on the fly. I can remember him actually signaling in plays — one of his duties while a WR coach under Tommy Bowden — his first season as head coach. He just didn’t know any different or better.
After a while he figured out his recipe for a winning football program. He stopped worrying about the X’s and O’s and play-calling (and play-signaling) as much and hired two of the best coordinators in America — Chad Morris and Brent Venables — to run his offense and defense. Then he switched his focus to being a rah-rah motivator, ace recruiter and face of the program. A few years later, Clemson is in the national championship game and in a position to keep challenging for a title for years to come.
Although it would’ve been great to see Smart arrive in Athens and immediately have Richt’s managerial skills, it isn’t surprising that he doesn’t. He likely never had a chance to touch any of that business under a totalitarian coach like Saban. Smart having a few managerial problems in his first season is kind of expected and ultimately fine. Sort ’em out, learn and make yourself a better coach. Every new coach has had to do it. If any kind of managerial problems persist into year two or three, though, then you’ve really gotta worry about Smart being Muschamp 2.0.
- Inside linebacker Reggie Carter suffered a mild concussion in the Tennessee game, according to Smart, and was absent from Tuesday’s practice. Senior backup outside linebacker Chuks Amaechi shifted to the middle to cover for the missing Carter.
- Georgia quarterbacks threw wet balls in practice to simulate rainy conditions in preparation for the game this Saturday.
- Scott Woerner, a member of the 1980 national championship team and College Football Hall of Fame, wrote about his reception from the fans when he was honored on the field during the Tennessee game.
- Edward Aschoff of ESPN wrote about the growth Jacob Eason has shown through just five games in college.
- Georgia was also scheduled to play USC in both volleyball and equestrian this Friday, but USC has already postponed both events.
The most painful Georgia loss
Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald posed an interesting question Tuesday on Twitter:
Three days later, which of these UGA losses do you rank as most painful?
— Marc Weiszer (@marcweiszer) October 4, 2016
As of writing this, the 2012 SEC title game is running away with the contest. That’s no surprise. Georgia was a Chris Conley incompletion away from winning the SEC and getting a national championship matchup with a ridiculously beatable Notre Dame team. The manner in which it happened wasn’t as shocking as others on the list, but the stakes make it the clear No. 1. Here’s how I rank them, from least-to-most painful:
4. 2014 Georgia Tech overtime — This one was painful, but with Hutson Mason at quarterback and no Todd Gurley, I can’t say it wasn’t completely unexpected at the time.
3. Tennessee Hail Mary — This game may be too fresh for me to properly rank. The shock still hasn’t completely worn off. But all the little mistakes — from the penalties to the missed tackles — make this loss kind of make sense. The Prayer at Jordan-Hare was just a fluke, which makes it hurt more.
2. Prayer in Jordan-Hare — This one hurt because of the comeback. Had UGA never scored 21 points in the fourth quarter to take the lead and instead just lost, it would’ve only been another loss to Auburn. Still painful, but nothing too bad. That tipped Hail Mary makes it nightmare fuel.
1. 2012 SEC title game — Only one of these games caused my college roommate to walk quietly onto the porch, launch our grill into the cold night air and curse as it smashed to the ground into a dozen pieces. That’s what I call pain.
Which one of these was the most painful moment for you? And can you think of any more Georgia losses as painful as these? Leave your answers in the comments. Until tomorrow.