Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Mark Richt and Georgia have everything to lose; Bobby Johnson and Vanderbilt have nothing to lose

Brandon Barca, who works in the Vandy athletic department and keeps an excellent blog, is comparing the Commodores' current plight to that of their next opponent, the Georgia Bulldogs.

I live in Georgia, and Dawg fans are indeed poor-mouthing themselves these days and wondering if Mark Richt is too nice a guy to be a football coach and even telling Vandy fans like me that the Commodores are going to beat them.

To which I say, "We lost to Army last week."

To which they say, "Oh, yeah." And they start to smile in anticipation of a victory.

But Vanderbilt's situation is very different from Georgia's:

• Georgia is a perennial powerhouse and this is the first time Richt has ever started 3-3. Bobby Johnson has only had two seasons in which he started better than 3-3.

• Georgia is loaded with athletes who were recruited by every Top 10 school in the nation. Vandy DT Greg Billinger allegedly had a scholarship offer from the Dawgs and John Stokes had an offer from Bama... and that's about it. Georgia's got a stadium that seats about 90,000 fans. Richt makes more than $2 million a year. So when he doesn't contend for a national championship, everybody goes nuts.

• Georgia never has to play a home-and-home series with a team from a second-tier conference or an independent — like Vandy did against Miami-Ohio last year and Rice and Army this year — and so they don't do it.

Bobby Johnson should not be on the hot seat, even if he does finish this season 2-10. When Georgia has a young quarterback, and a secondary and offensive line beset with injuries, and a couple of receivers with the dropsies, and some coordinators who are struggling to call the right plays, the Bulldogs tend to win only seven or eight games and get a bid to a lesser bowl game. And Richt is on the hot seat.

But when Vanderbilt has one of its best and most opportunistic teams since the Eisenhower administration, the Commodores win six games (barely) and get a bid to a lesser bowl game. And Bobby Johnson is named SEC coach of the year.

Sure, some fans think Johnson should win seven games this year and return to a bowl or be shown the door. Not me. Johnson is slowly building talent and depth with undersized and/or underrated recruits flying under the radar, and then getting those underrated recruits on the field right away (D.J. Moore, Casey Hayward, Warren Norman, Eddie Foster) and sending the undersized guys to the weight room and the training table (Broderick Stewart, Wesley Johnson).

Yes, we've got to get this new offense installed and shore up our offensive line and break in a young quarterback and a new fleet of receivers. But we knew going into this season that the offense was a problem.

Anyway, Vandy fans need to be realistic. Georgia is loaded. Remember what happened the last time the Dawgs got blown out in Knoxville? That was two years ago. They struggled against us in Nashville, won on a last-second field goal, and were so relieved that they stomped on our star, which angered Richt, who essentially told his team to pick on somebody their own size. In their next game, they punched Florida in the mouth and didn't lose another game for the rest of the season. And I believe if Vandy or Kentucky had beaten Tennessee that season — and both teams came mighty close — then Georgia would have beaten LSU in the SEC championship game and then beaten Ohio State to win the national championship instead of LSU. Instead, Tennessee backed into the SEC championship game.

That's what happened the last time Georgia was blown out in Knoxville. So don't buy into the fact that Richt is a lame-duck coach and his team is on a slide. Vandy beating Georgia in Nashville would be a much bigger upset than Army beating Vandy at West Point.

If Vandy loses to Georgia, nobody on either side is surprised. If Georgia loses to Vandy, Richt is in big trouble. He's got everything to lose, and his teams generally step up when that's the case.

As for the Commodores, we've got nothing to lose.

And we tend to play better when that's the case.


VandyPhile said...

I agree that Johnson deserves our patience as he continues to bring improvement. We are [slowly but] steadily getting better. The anger of some Vandy fans against him is just the curse of success.


Yes, Johnson is experiencing the curse of success. Fans still don't realize that as much as we've improved, we still don't have the talent that other SEC teams have. We've got to play a perfect game to beat anybody.

Greg M said...

I'm sorry, I have to call bull$#!+ on the patience thing. Bobby, has done a good job and has plenty of time to do it. The fact is, if we had an offensive co-ordinator that was of average high school competence we would have beaten Miss St and Army and be 4-2 as we should be. No more patience, Have to clean house on offense asap.


And how do we clean house? What specifically do you propose? We spent all spring trying to find a capable second offensive tackle who weighed more than 270 pounds and we found one in James Williams. Who was Zac Stacy running behind when he gained most of his 90 yards against LSU? James Williams. Did you see on TV when Ted Cain slammed his fist down on the press box counter when he saw Williams go down? Why did he do that? He knew we were screwed. And so we were.

You never know, but I think we'd be 4-2 with Williams. I'm willing to wait this season for the new offense and especially all the new skill guys to start clicking.