Welcome back to the UGA Mailbag. It’s championship week: Georgia vs. Auburn. Winner makes the College Football Playoff. Loser gets a set of steak knives. That doesn’t leave much time for dilly-dallying. Let’s get right to it.
The SEC championship is going to come down to the fight on the line of scrimmage. Can UGA match up with the physical play of AU’s lines? ― Tray Tankersley
And thus we arrive at the main question of the week. I’ve had a lot of conversations this week with people about the game, including my old podcast partner, and when you consider that Georgia just lost to Auburn by 23 points, it’s amazing the amount of people who expect UGA to win this game. I can see it too, thanks to the intangibles: Auburn loses the immense home-crowd advantage it had the first time, the revenge factor, possible overconfidence on the Tigers part, etc. And if Kerryon Johnson can’t play because of a right shoulder injury or isn’t as effective, chalk up another factor for UGA.
So those are reasons my gut is telling me Georgia wins this time. But my head keeps coming back to the line of scrimmage, and whether in three weeks Georgia can fix how much it was dominated there.
I don’t think Georgia’s defensive front will be dominated as much as it was the first time. It’s too talented to have that happen again. That doesn’t mean it will flip the script on Auburn, but I’d expect this game won’t be as bad.
But I don’t know that Georgia’s offensive line, even with Ben Cleveland in there now, can do much better. Auburn’s front is just too nasty. What Georgia can do differently is scheme around it. Jim Chaney didn’t seem to have a Plan B in the first time when the run failed. This time they’ll have one. Quicker passes. Help for Andrew Thomas when Auburn shifts Jeff Holland over to him. Maybe even a screen pass!
That’s not to say it will be enough. Auburn defensive coordinator Kevin Steele isn’t going to sit on his hands and not have his own plan for Georgia’s adjustments. But the above reasons are why I’m at least expecting a closer game this time. (Full disclosure: I don’t usually make predictions unless asked, and Al.com asked me for a prediction for a story running Friday, and I picked Auburn, 27-20. Did I feel very confident about that? No, not at all. But feel free to throw your slings and arrows my way.)
Just doing some planning
I realize No. 1 will play No. 4 & No. 2 will play No. 3. However, I cannot seem to get a handle how the venues of New Orleans & Pasadena are determined. Is it solely determined by the committee or do the other parties involved have input like the 4 schools, conferences, and TV networks? Sure hope Delta airlines will plan to add additional flights to New Orleans and the LA airports by 1 PM on Sunday.
― Jimmy Taylor
Based on the travel ferocity of Georgia fans, Delta would indeed be advised to buy some more planes. Perhaps build another airport.
The selection committee mantra is that seeding is first priority, then they place the game in the bowl, trying their best to place based on geography and bowl history. For instance, ACC-SEC in the Sugar Bowl would be ideal, especially if Oklahoma-Big Ten is the other semifinal. That would be easy to assign – but what if the committee feels strongly that the seeding doesn’t work for that?
What if Clemson is absolutely the No. 1 seed and thus gets the Sugar Bowl, and Georgia absolutely must be a No. 2 or No. 3 seed? Then Georgia goes out west. Also, what if Alabama does get chosen over Ohio State, presuming the Buckeyes win Saturday?
So there’s too many unknowns for you to buy any plane tickets until it’s official. Unless you’re absolutely loaded with money. Or Delta builds that extra airport.
Just doing some panicking
Talk this maybe somewhat paranoid Georgia fan off the ledge. IF we beat Auburn to win the SECCG, is there any way we don’t make the playoff?? It seems like all of the national media, when discussing scenarios, are quick to say that Auburn is DEFINITELY in if they win and we are probably/likely in…
― Alex Issa
Worry about whether Georgia will beat Auburn. Don’t worry about whether UGA will be left out of the field if it wins. I’m actually curious which media members hedged on that. The one-loss SEC champion is absolutely getting in this year. Oklahoma and Clemson would probably get the top two seeds, if they win this weekend, and then Georgia would be third in my estimation, though Wisconsin could sneak in there by beating Ohio State.
But I don’t see a scenario where a fourth team – a one-loss Wisconsin or one-loss Alabama gets in over a one-loss Georgia team that, unlike those two teams, can boast of a conference championship.
Holiday season basketball segment
Is it possible that losing to San Diego State and then beating St. Mary’s actually works in our favor come March?
― Chris Duncan
Perhaps so, although you never know, San Diego State and St. Mary’s may both end up RPI top-50 teams by the end of the year. The best thing would have been to beat San Diego State and then Washington State in the Legacy Classic championship game.
Still, the tournament went pretty well for the Bulldogs’ résumé: They notched a probable top-50 win (over St. Mary’s) and a true road win (over Cal State Fullerton). This weekend they get a chance to potentially get both in one game when they visit Marquette. It’ll be tough but doable: Marquette (4-2) was picked to finish seventh in the Big East – by both Athlon and SI.com – and just dismissed a starter, junior guard Haanif Cheatham, who averaged 8.2 points and started the team’s first five games this year.
Turtle Jackson’s emergence has been huge so far. He’s playing with a lot of confidence. Georgia won that St. Mary’s game on the strength of Tyree Crump’s outside shooting, which validated my incessant drumbeat that he should play more. But as others reminded me, Crump struggled to make 3-point shots in previous games, and he occasionally will cost the team with his defense.
Deep thoughts and hall monitors
Would Jim Mora Jr. still be the UCLA coach if Roquan Smith signed with them? If so, would Chip Kelly be the UF or UT coach now?
― Shag Harvey
Hmmmm …. Mora’s problems ran deeper than just the defense, but the defense was really bad this year: last in the Pac-12 in total yards given up. And Roquan Smith is a difference maker. But that much of a difference maker? I’m not sure anyone is. I also suspect Chip Kelly’s availability had a lot to do with UCLA pulling the plug on Mora.
As a journalist, is it more fun covering a winning team? Or do you secretly wish you could be on the Tennessee beat with all the drama going on there?
― Nicholas Graham
Oh no, believe me, there are beat writers covering 13 other SEC teams thanking their creators they don’t cover Tennessee. It would be fun to cover it from a talk radio or columnist standpoint; it is great fodder every day. But there’s a difference – no offense to those fine people, whose jobs are harder than it seems – between just opining on what’s going on and trying to find out what’s going on. Coaching searches are the worst. And Tennessee’s coaching search has been about five times worse than that.
Yes, generally it’s more fun covering a winning team. The people on the team typically are happier, the coach is usually happier – though, ahem, not always – and we tend to get more clicks. Frankly, we don’t root for a team to win or lose. We root for a good story. And our own personal well-being. A coaching change is a good story but hurts our personal well-being. A team winning is (usually) a good story and (normally) good for our personal well-being.
There are some exceptions.
Does UGA place any monitors in the hallway of the hotel the night before a game to ensure the players don’t leave their rooms and engage in any funny business?
― Bryan Carson
What do you mean by funny business? Telling jokes? Pranks? I hear Sony Michel loves to short Nick Chubb’s sheets! Hah! I’m pretty sure that’s not what you meant by funny business.
Yes, I would assume there are monitors, and if you’re a Georgia football fan, you should hope they’re better monitors than the ones employed at the Gettysburg, Pa., baseball camp when I was a counselor there, because let’s just say that was a fun summer for me. But anyway ….
Cam Nizialek’s near injury at Kentucky (plus him leaving at the end of year) made me wonder what the situation is like behind him. Is it a significant drop off? He has been a game changer.
Marshall Long was warming up after Nizialek’s injury, which was surprising because playing would have burned the punter’s redshirt for the season. So I would be curious what would happen in the SEC Championship Game if Nizialek were to get hurt again. But as far as I know it would be Long, who punted OK last season but after the injury wasn’t the same this year in practice.
Important subject for SEC Championship week
Favorite Christmas song? Least favorite?
I feel like Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer doesn’t get its due as an American classic, and it also should have inspired at least one holiday special starring Angela Lansbury. I also heartily approve of the dogs barking Jingle Bells.
But if we’re listing favorites, I’ll go contemporary with Christmas in Sarajevo by the TransSiberian Orchestra. A good workout song when you’re, you know, running in that Georgia snow. As for least favorite, there are so many to choose from because everyone and their mother has recorded a Christmas album – like my mother. I love her, but it was awful.
I’m still hoping to arrange a version of Baby, It’s Cold Outside from Greg McGarity and Jeremy Pruitt.
And finally …
Will Fromm’s beard be the deciding factor in Saturday’s game?
― Twitter user Amen_Go-Dawgs
I’m surprised that “Fromm’s Beard” hasn’t acquired its own Twitter account. (Cue that changing in 3 … 2 … 1 …)