Jim Brown-US PRESSWIRE
How could there be any disagreement about the Dawgs after that big win in Jacksonville? Oh, the Manic-Depressive Preview will find a way.
Last week's big win over Florida took its toll on our Manic-Depressive Previewers. Manic Doug, of course, partied at The Landing until he had to be kicked out by a security guard a little after 7 a.m. Sunday. What neither he nor any of us could've expected was that Depressive Doug wouldn't be waiting for him at the beach house when he got back. Instead, Depressive Doug wound up in a hotel room in Jacksonville Beach with a bunch of ZTAs and had to ride back to Columbus separately. With that week of debauchery behind them and the Dawgs back in control of the SEC East, both Manic and Depressive try to clear their heads and focus on the next task at hand: beating a surprisingly competitive Ole Miss team in Athens this Saturday.
Manic Doug: Holy crap, dude, what happened to you?! I tried to call you all day Sunday and finally just decided I needed to come back alone. How'd you even get here?
Depressive Doug: Hitched a ride with a group of very accommodating Zeta Tau Alphas from UGA, who were lovely traveling companions, by the way. Really grateful for them taking such a big detour on my account.
MD: Where'd you end up staying Saturday night, though? We got separated after the game and I never saw you after that.
DD: A gentleman never kisses and tells.
MD: Man, that sounds suspiciously like code for "I met up with some friends and we played Magic: The Gathering in their hotel room all night."
DD: There was a hotel room, there was a group of people, and there was, uh, playing. But I'm not going into any greater detail than that.
MD: Fine, nerd, you can be that way if you want. But forget about that for a minute, because oh my God, how 'bout them Dawgs?!?
DD: Yeah. Wow. I still can't quite believe that happened. Our defense . . . good Lord. That's how I was hoping we'd look all year.
MD: With that interception in the end zone?
MD: And then Jarvis Jones knocking that ball loose to ice the game?!
DD: Oh, man, it was incredible, start to finish. Not the prettiest performance, but . . .
MD: Dude, it's Florida, I'll take it. So who predicted the win? Anybody you know?
DD: Fine. You did. Props to you, buddy.
MD: Thank you. And will you ever doubt me again?
DD: Nah, probably not. Not after that.
MD: Good. Because you'll recall that I had us pegged for a second straight SEC East title in the offseason, and you were all, "Oh, no, no, don't tempt fate like that, it's bad karma . . . " Glad to see you're finally a believer.
DD: In what? That we're headed back to the SEC Championship Game?
DD: Oh, ha-ha, no, not that. That's not actually going to happen.
MD: Whatever happened to you never doubting me again?
DD: Yeah, sorry about that. But we're going to lose to Ole Miss this weekend. I mean, it was a great win over Florida, we had a good run, but . . .
MD: Let me make sure I have this straight. We go to Jacksonville, a place where we've been fortunate to win at all the past 20 years, we knock off our biggest arch-rival, a team ranked in the top five with one of the nation's best defenses, and you're saying that after all that, we come home and lose to fricking Ole Miss? On Homecoming?!
DD: Yep, looks like you pretty much summed it up.
MD: What have you been smoking? And can I have some? No, wait: If it gives you a personality like that, I don't want any.
DD: It's not what I've been smoking, it's what the Georgia players have been drinking. As in their own Kool-Aid. All week long they've had sunshine blown up their rear ends about what an amazing win they pulled off in Jacksonville, how they're back in control of the division, how it's time to start looking ahead to the SEC title game. Basically, they're being set up for a prime hangover opportunity. And it's not like last year, when they get to take a breather after the Florida game by playing New Mexico State, a team they could literally beat with their top four RBs tied behind their back. This is Ole Miss, a conference team that just happens to be 5-3 right now and playing way better than anyone expected.
MD: It's also Ole Miss, a team that only three weeks ago broke a 16-game SEC losing streak. And did so by beating Auburn, which might as well be a WAC team right now. I mean, sure, Hugh Freeze has done a great job making the Rebels look respectable in his first year, but don't let that 5-3 record fool you into thinking they're some juggernaut — they still haven't beaten an FBS team with a winning record this year. What makes you so afraid they're going to pull it off in Athens this weekend?
DD: For starters, their offense might be faster-paced than anything we've seen all season. Despite switching to a brand-new system this season, they've actually adapted to it pretty well — they're running the ball nearly 200 yards a game thanks mainly to Jeff Scott, who's the fifth leading rusher in the conference. And their quarterback, Bo Wallace, is a dangerous rushing threat himself; he's got 263 yards and five TDs already this season. That worries me because we're still not defending mobile QBs well —
MD: Yeah, like Jeff Driskel. His negative-four net rushing yards really killed us last week in Jacksonville.
DD: But think of the game before that, when Jalen Whitlow and the fricking Kentucky Wildcats ran it all over us. Or the game before that, when Connor Shaw and South Carolina blasted us into the ionosphere. Yeah, we looked great last week because our own players were challenging their teammates, it was a must-win game, and the defense amped themselves up emotionally and played lights-out. But what happens when the pressure is off again? Do you really think they see this as another critical game, or is it gonna be another game like Kentucky or even Buffalo or FAU, where they think they can take a few quarters off and it won't matter?
MD: Of course I think they're gonna take this game seriously. You see the situation as our team looking to take a game off after a big win; I see it as a switch being flipped and our defense playing like maniacs the rest of the season. And let's not kid ourselves into thinking that Freeze has turned the Rebel offense into some juggernaut overnight. Yeah, Wallace has had some pretty efficient performances, but they've mostly come against lousy pass defenses like Arkansas or Auburn. Against Alabama? Fewer than 150 yards, no TDs, two picks. Hell, he had a zero-touchdown, three-interception performance against Texas, and look how bad their defense has turned out to be.
DD: Guess we're just going to have to agree to disagree on this one. Still worried about the team's focus and emotional state after beating the Gators. And I'm definitely worried about John Jenkins being limited this week, particularly since we're still gonna be without Abry Jones on the D-line.
MD: OK, fine. Let's say for the sake of argument that we're distracted and complacent and the line doesn't hold up Ole Miss moves the ball right down the field — for a half, anyway. Even then, why should anyone think they can keep up with us on the scoreboard? The Rebel defense is giving up close to 30 points a game. Their defensive linemen are the size of our linebackers, and their linebackers are the size of our defensive backs. I mean, our offense didn't exactly look like a well-oiled machine against Florida, but even the Gator fans I've talked to admitted that the Georgia O-line controlled the trenches, protected Aaron Murray well and opened up some nice lanes for Todd Gurley. If Florida couldn't impose their will on our line, why should anyone think Ole Miss will be able to?
DD: Kentucky did, which is why they more than doubled us up in rushing yards.
MD: Yeah, and what happened then? Murray had a career passing day against their secondary.
DD: After last week, though, I'm not so sure I want the entire game piled on Murray's back.
MD: Yeah, he threw three picks, but then he shook it off and threw that TD strike to Malcolm Mitchell that iced the game. And again, that was against a much tougher pass defense than what we'll see from the Rebels.
DD: I don't know, man. Yeah, on paper we beat the Rebels and it's not even close. But I'm still afraid of the post-hangover Florida effect. In 2007, we scored that big upset in Jacksonville and came right home and ended up in a shootout with Troy. Back in '97, we beat Spurrier by 20 points, had the SEC East right in the palms of our hands, and came home and got punched in the mouth by Auburn.
MD: So you really think we lose to Ole Miss on Homecoming, huh.
DD: Yeah. I can see the nightmare vision playing itself out right in front of my face — Ole Miss has the same big first half that Buffalo, FAU, Kentucky and a bunch of other teams have had against us this season, only this time we can't turn it around quick enough. The offensive line has an iffy day and the running game never really breaks free the way it was doing early in the season, but Murray leads the team down the field in the fourth quarter to score a go-ahead touchdown — and then Ole Miss heads right back down the field, puts our defense on its heels and scores their own touchdown to win it, 31-28.
MD: Nope. Nope, nope, nope. Not on Homecoming, not in Sanford Stadium, not after having lost to every FBS team they've faced with a winning record, not in a box, not with a fox. They'll put together a couple good drives behind Wallace and Scott, maybe kinda-sorta keep pace in the first half. But once our offense gets into a rhythm, forget about it. They'd be hard-pressed to stop us if they just had to face Gurshall or our passing game, but there's no way they can stop both of them. I think we go over 40 points for the sixth time this season and win convincingly, 48-21.
DD: Hope you're right. That's all I can say.
MD: I seem to recall someone saying not 30 minutes ago that they'd never doubt me again, so you might as well just assume I'm right and stop worrying about it. And despite your ridiculous prediction of doom and gloom, our predictions still average out to a 38-26 Georgia victory, so turn your fricking frown upside down already.
DD: Sorry. Just isn't how I'm wired.
MD: Apparently not. Man, it's almost like you didn't have any fun in Jacksonville last week.
DD: I'm not going to comment on that.
MD: Don't worry, I wasn't asking. Man, your cell phone has been beeping like a fricking slot machine the entire time we've been talking — what the hell is going on?
DD: Probably just political campaigns with their hands out for donations. Nothing you need to worry about.