With the last game of the season about to be under way, we got together and had a nice chat with Macon Dawg, one of the very kind people over at Dawg Sports (check them out reader). We talked about sports, our memories, and some of our favorite things. Enjoy everyone!
1) How is everyone over at Dawg Sports feeling about this game?
Truthfully I don't think anyone knows exactly what to expect. Georgia has been very up and down this season, as you would expect from a team playing a lot of young players. And the last minute come-from-ahead loss to Georgia Tech to conclude the regular season did not create any optimism. I think it would be fair to say that we're expecting to see a lot of what we've seen so far in 2016: lots of athleticism, a few bone-headed mistakes, and hopefully TCU making enough mistakes to allow Kirby Smart to walk out of Memphis with a win.
2) So I know this season has been a little up and down for the Dawgs (Go Dawgs by the way), but that being said, how do you think Kirbs has done in his first season as the Georgia head coach?
It's worth noting that if Georgia wins this bowl game Kirby Smart will finish 8-5 in his first season in Athens. Mark Richt went 8-4 with a redshirt freshman QB and arguably a good bit more veteran talent to work with. But Smart's first season hasn't had the kind of signature moment that Richt's featured with the "Hobnail Boot" win over Tennessee. Instead Georgia lost a last second, utterly improbable heartbreaker to the Vols. Whereas Richt's first team pulled away from Georgia Tech late to break a three game losing streak to the Jackets, Smart's guys inexplicably forgot that college football games last 60 minutes and lost to the Ramblin' Wreck in Athens.
There are signs of progress. The defense was okay to start the season and has only gotten better. Jacob Eason has been inconsistent, but you can see that he's going to be something special when he puts it all together. But all in all Smart still has a long way to go to prove that the decision to let Mark Richt go was the right one.
3) Who is one offensive player, other than the usual suspects, as well as one defensive player that TCU fans should watch out for in this one?
Keep an eye on freshman tight end Isaac Nauta. In his first year in Athens he caught 27 passes for 353 yards and a pair of touchdowns, showing a flair for being open when Eason most needed him to be. Freshman wide receiver (sensing a pattern here?) Riley Ridley has also proven to be a major downfield receiving threat, but will miss the Liberty Bowl, which is a big advantage for TCU.
4) Alright, so I'm a little bit of a closet Georgia fan. I was able to catch a couple of their games when I was younger and I really loved the way they played. So I do my best to follow them every year. One of my favorite players of all time is AJ Green. The Gawd. (Still can't believe they lost 4 games that one season smh). ANYWAYS, do you see any similarities between the two seasons that these two squads have had?
These squads exemplify the old football saw that every game (and in fact every season) is decided by only a handful of plays. Frogs o' War readers don't need me to rehash this, but I saw a couple of losses in which TCU was not that far away from pulling it out (Arkansas), and I saw some in which they were perhaps a little lucky to survive (who goes to the fourth quarter trailing Kansas? I mean other than Charlie Strong?). Georgia had the same kind of year, essentially winning three games in the last minute and losing three more. Had the breaks gone perfectly this could have been a 10-2 Georgia team that played in the SEC Championship Game. It could also have been a 4-8 Georgia team if we're being honest.
5) Are there any TCU players that you think are going to cause significant problems for Georgia in this one?
I hope this doesn't sound lazy, because it is very sincere. Kenny Hill worries me. I don't know which Kenny Hill made the trip to Memphis. This Georgia defense has struggled to play disciplined football at times, and to stick with plays. Hill is a guy who can hurt you for doing that. By contrast, if Hill wants to turn the ball over like he's been prone to, that would be nice.
6) You may be familiar with him during the very brief time that he was in the SEC, but do you think Kenny is Trill? How would you compare his play to that of Jacob Eason this year?
I feel just a little inadequate on this one because I really only watched Hill against Oklahoma, Kansas, Texas, and Kansas State. So I feel like I missed a lot of his best work. But the sense I got was that he's like those basketball players who have to shoot their way out of slumps and into rhythm. When he's got that rhythm, he can be very good. And as he showed against Kansas, he's able to put bad plays behind him and move on which is utterly critical for a quarterback, especially one in an air raid-type offense, where you can't just stop throwing the ball. But I also noticed that he's still working to build chemistry with his receivers, and that's something that won't sort itself out until 2017, most likely. By the way, everything I just said goes double for Jacob Eason.
7) Favorite Georgia Bulldog player of all time? (Not named Herschel Walker)
That's like saying what's your favorite thing to do besides breath.
In all seriousness, I'd probably have to go with David Greene. Greene was a fairly highly rated quarterback out of Gwinnett County in metro Atlanta who picked Georgia despite his family having strong ties to Auburn. He redshirted during Jim Donnan's last season in Athens then took over the starting job in Mark Richt's first season, leaving Georgia as the winningest quarterback in college history and breaking the SEC record for total yards. He also had the physique of a Sigma Chi who really, really enjoys 25 cent wing night and an arm that was, well, let's say "strong enough."
But David Greene threw the ball away better than any quarterback I've ever seen, and knew how to take what defenses gave him. Having him for four years had a lot to do with Richt's early success in Athens, in the same way that I'm hoping Jacob Eason will provide a focal point while Kirby Smart rebuilds.
8) Alright, give it to me straight. What is your verdict for this showdown in Memphis? Who's going to be strolling through M-town with the victory?
Honestly I think Gary Patterson is going to have his team motivated to avoid a losing season. Georgia appears to have had some good practices in preparation for the bowl game, but when a team whose biggest issue for most of the season was execution takes a solid month off, their execution is not likely to get better. It will be an ugly football game no matter who comes out on top. TCU: 27, UGA 20
NOT SO SERIOUS QUESTIONS
9) Did Dez catch it?
If he did, I'm sure there's an antibiotic for it.
10) Favorite TCU player of all time (if you have one)
Not to be predictable, but I have to go with LT. It's so rare to see a college player put together two seasons like Tomlinson did in 1999 and 2000.
11) Favorite non Georgia player in all of college football right now?
Alabama defensive lineman Jonathan Allen. The guy is just dominant. He doesn't stop coming at you, is incredibly athletic for his size, and would have gotten my Heisman vote if I had one. Also, the fact that I would give the award to a defensive tackle is reason #29 of 484 why I don't in fact have a Heisman vote (but should).
12) Is Aaron Murray the best QB of all time? (In my mind he always will be)
He was better than he got credit for, at least until his senior season when he picked off every major SEC passing record one by one. He also never got enough credit for his ability to burn teams with his legs.
13) Best thing to do when visiting Athens?
Walk downtown on the Saturday night following a big Georgia win. There are something like 80 bars within a half mile of the Arches which form the gateway onto campus on Broad Street. Everything from refined cigar bars with leather chairs and triple digit bourbon selections to dives with drink and drown specials where they end up just passing bottles around by the end of the night. If you're lucky one of Athens' many musical residents like Patterson Hood of Drive-By Truckers, Michael Stipe of R.E.M., or John Bell of Widespread Panic may just show up to play.
14) Can they please wear the Black Uniforms again? At least against any team not named Alabama?
This year's Louisiana-Lafayette game was the first time those suckers have been uncorked in 8 years, but I think they're probably going to become an annual thing. Look for them to be used most often at Homecoming and Senior Day games against directional schools, a situation in which they cannot be blamed if the 'Dawgs don't show up.