Finally, some hope for both Manic Doug and Depressive Doug as they soldier through a pivotal season for the Georgia Bulldogs: The Dawgs' performance against lowly Coastal Carolina on Saturday went beyond even Manic Doug's most wildly optimistic prediction. Now it's back into the trenches of conference play, with Georgia headed to bucolic Oxford, Miss., to face the Ole Miss Rebels, a/k/a the one team in the eastern half of the country with a coach on thinner ice than Mark Richt is. Let's check in with our debaters.
Manic Doug: Two hundred ninety-seven, two hundred ninety-eight . . . two hundred ninety-nine! Whoo! Worked up quite a sweat on that one!
Depressive Doug: . . .
MD: Yup, all those push-ups in one sitting -- only got to about a hundred and fifty before I got tired and started using both arms.
DD: You'll note that I didn't ask.
MD: Did one push-up not just for every point we scored against Coastal on Saturday . . .
DD: Still haven't asked.
MD: . . . but for every point we had each time we scored, which added up to nearly 300.
DD: Still haven't asked, and don't plan to.
MD: Gotta get in shape for the trip to Oxford this --
DD: OK, seriously, enough. You thinking we're gonna blow them out by so much they're actually gonna send you out on the field with the third or fourth string?
MD: Of course not, numb nuts, though we are going to whip their asses up and down the field. No, I gotta get in shape to impress the ladies of Oxford. I don't think I need to remind you what a vast stockpile of female talent they have at Ole Miss.
DD: No, you don't, but you might have to remind me why you haven't just committed treason. The women of Athens, Georgia, aren't good enough for you all of a sudden?
MD: That's not it at all, dude -- you have to look at the bigger picture. Thousands of Georgia girls and thousands of Ole Miss girls in one town all at the same time? Plus it's an event that only comes around every four years or so. This is like my Olympics, bro-ham.
DD: Well, I can honestly say I hope you perform better with them than you did the ladies of Boise State. But before you get too busy predicting how that's gonna go, how about you offer your prediction of the actual game?
MD: Happy to! Georgia rolls. Game's not even a contest midway through the third quarter.
DD: And how do you arrive at that?
MD: Because Ole Miss sucks. Look, I love their town, I love their campus, Lord knows I love their women, but that's one raggedy-ass football team they're sporting this year. Bottom 10 in the nation in total offense. Next-to-last in the SEC in both rushing and passing yards, and dead last in passing efficiency. Next-to-last in total defense, too, now that I think about it. And this is after playing a mediocre BYU team, an FCS school, and Vanderbilt. Look, I know we have the same record, but you can't even say Ole Miss and Georgia are even on the same level right now.
DD: On paper, that may be true, but we just got fat and happy -- and probably overconfident -- off beating Coastal frickin' Carolina. Meanwhile, they just got blown out by Vanderbilt, their pride is wounded, they're fighting for their coach's job --
MD: And we're not? Look, I know where you're leading us here: Ole Miss is backed into a corner, they're at home, and they're gonna play lights-out in a game they're supposed to win. Did I about sum up your line of argument there?
DD: Surprisingly accurately, yes.
MD: OK, fine. So let's say I spot you all that -- the wounded pride, the backs to the wall, the desperate need for a win, everything. Even if I grant you all those intangibles, Ole Miss still doesn't have the horses to pull off a win this weekend. Let's start with their QB, who's averaging fewer than 150 yards a game and managed to throw five picks against Vandy last weekend. Now, you might be asking yourself, how does a guy throw five picks in one game? Wouldn't most coaches yank him after the third or fourth? And they would, but that's the problem Ole Miss faces here: Zack Stoudt is as good as it gets. They bench him, their choices are Barry Brunetti, who's completed six passes in his career, or Randall Mackey, who's attempted even fewer and was suspended for the season opener because of a disorderly-conduct charge. I know our pass defense has taken its lumps the past few seasons, but on their worst day they couldn't screw this up.
DD: Go on.
MD: Meanwhile, their running game has been almost as bad -- with Brandon Bolden out since he fractured an ankle bone against Southern Illinois, they've averaged fewer than three and a half yards per rush, and that's with a I-AA opponent factored in.
DD: They say Bolden might come back for the Georgia game, though.
MD: So what if he does? Guy's spent the last three weeks in a walking boot. You can't tell me he's gonna be 100 percent for this game, plus he's gonna be up against a Georgia defensive front that's finally figured out how to contain a decent running back.
DD: Yeah, we really "contained" Marcus Lattimore a couple weeks ago -- dude only gashed us for 176 yards as opposed to 182.
MD: You can't even compare Bolden to Lattimore, though. Physically the guy's closer to Doug Martin from Boise State, who we handled, even though we ended up winning the game. And both of those guys had passing games with elite receivers we had to respect, which the Rebels don't. So why don't you explain to me why you're so pessimistic about this game?
DD: Because this game is coming at a bad time for us. We've just blown the doors off an overmatched opponent and pitched a shutout after two shaky defensive performances, so we're headed into this game thinking all our problems are solved. Meanwhile, Ole Miss is desperate for a win and they're going to be playing over their heads. That's an especially bad combination if they're going to have Branden Bolden back, since he's unquestionably their best player on offense. If he gives them the spark they've been missing, that could spell trouble, given the way we let Marcus Lattimore run over us a couple weeks ago. And though the Rebels are most assuredly not a good team right now, the strengths they have shown -- decent pass defense, good QB protection -- will be going right up against aspects of our game that still aren't as strong as they should be: Aaron Murray still isn't as sharp as we all thought he'd be, and we're still getting minimal pressure on the quarterback.
MD: We're getting pressure, we're just not getting all that many sacks. And how is it you've decided a quarterback with a 160 rating after facing the toughest opening three games in the conference isn't "sharp"? No, no, forget all that -- are you really trying to tell me Georgia loses to a team that just got handled in every phase of the game by Vanderbilt?
DD: No, I'm not saying that. In fact, I think Georgia wins this game.
MD: Thank you! Jeez! So what are we even arguing about at this point? Can't we go back to talking about the girls?
DD: But I don't think it's a blowout. Coming back to Oxford, playing in front of the home crowd, maybe getting their best player back, I think Ole Miss makes a game of this. Bolden's not going to go off for Lattimore yards on us, but he'll do just enough to move the chains. Looking at the rushing yards Ole Miss has given up the last couple games, I think Isaiah Crowell will have a decent enough day, but keep in mind this is the kid's first true road game, and our O-line is dinged up. The offense might move the ball well between the 20s, but I think we're gonna struggle to put enough points on the board to really pull away from the Rebels; it's a fight well into the fourth quarter, and we end up escaping by a score of 27-21.
MD: Wow. So we're not even gonna score as many points as Vanderbilt did, huh? Try this instead: Crowell has a breakout game, the Rebel defense keys in on him and opens things up for Murray. On the other side of the ball, Ole Miss accomplishes nothing even with Bolden back, because we've got a bunch of massive guys in the front seven and they've given us nothing to respect in the passing game. I think we'll put, oh, 14 points on the board before they even cross midfield. Dawgs cruise to the finish and win 37-13.
DD: Two touchdowns before the Rebels even make it to the other side of the 50, huh? That's a bold prediction.
MD: I'm a bold man.
DD: Uh-huh. Well, you average our two predictions and it comes out to Georgia 32, Ole Miss 17 -- not quite the blowout you said there'd be, but still a pretty convincing win, it looks like. You happy with this?
MD: Still think we'll beat them by at least as much as Vandy did, but yeah, I'll live. As long as there are plenty of Ole Miss girls needing consoling after a crushing loss, I'll be fine.
DD: I think you might be overestimating their emotional fragility. If the Rebels get waxed by as much as you're saying, those girls may not have time to come seeking your warm embrace because they'll be too busy trying to figure out how they can get somebody fired.
MD: That may be a foregone conclusion even if Ole MIss somehow manages to pull off the win.
DD: I don't even want to think about that. For right now I'm just going to marvel at the fact that somebody in the SEC is on a hotter seat than Mark Richt.
MD: Feels good, doesn't it?
DD: "Good" isn't the word I'd necessarily use. But it sure beats the alternative.