The Bulldogs' 2012 debut against Buffalo was, shall we say, less-than-whelming, but that hasn't dampened the enthusiasm of the Manic-Depressive Previewers: Manic Doug, as you'll see, has no idea what happened, while Depressive Doug didn't have enough enthusiasm to register in the first place. Today they prepare for the Dawgs' first-ever trip to Columbia, Missouri, to take on the Missouri Tigers, a team they're going to have to get used to as an SEC East rival.
Depressive Doug: Hey. Hey. Wake up. We got a game to do.
Manic Doug: (groggy, bleary-eyed) How'd we do?
DD: What do you mean "How'd we do"? We haven't even played the game yet.
MD: What, no, I mean how'd we do last week.
DD: You didn't even watch?!
MD: Well, I mean, I saw when Todd Gurley returned that kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown, we went up 14-0, I figured we had things under control and I sort of passed out.
DD: You "sort of" passed out.
MD: Dude, you gotta understand, I'd been drinking since like 8 that morning. The Notre Dame-Navy game came on at 9, so I figured . . .
DD: Well, while you were celebrating the return of football by pickling every organ in your body, Georgia was giving up 23 points to a below-average MAC team. Final score was 45-23.
MD: (does some painstaking math in his head) So you were kind of right in your prediction, then, huh?
DD: "Kinda right," yeah, you could say that.
MD: Whatever, we're still gonna roll this week.
DD: Oh, gee, glad to see you've put five whole seconds' worth of thought into this.
MD: Dude, what's to think about? So we slopped around against a scrub opponent. Big surprise. Probably looking ahead to this game anyway. Look, I know everybody's been talking about this as a prime opportunity for Georgia's season to get ruined early on, but it's just not gonna happen.
DD: And you know this how?
MD: Games are won and lost on the lines, and theirs just aren't very good. Their offensive line only brought back two starters from last year, and one of those guys — the left guard, no less — will be out of this game with a torn triceps. That's bad news when your quarterback was gimpy from a torn shoulder muscle to begin with. Meanwhile, they've been shuffling players on the D-line too — they might not start a single senior against us on Saturday. That dingleberry Sheldon Richardson, who made the "old man football" comments about our offense? He had shoulder surgery in the off-season, too, and he's a converted tight end, for crying out loud. Our average O-lineman outweighs their average defensive lineman by 30 pounds. We're gonna pave them this weekend.
DD: OK, but what if we don't? Did you see how we got run ragged by Buffalo's running back and their mobile QB? They had 147 rushing yards against us in the first half alone. Every time we turned around, one of their guys was running around in our secondary.
MD: But how many yards did they get in the second half, though?
DD: In the second half? Hold on . . . (checks the game stats) Fifty-two.
MD: See? Whatever adjustments Todd Grantham made at halftime, they worked.
DD: For all we know, those "adjustments" didn't amount to anything more than a halftime speech so profane it would've peeled the paint off David Mamet's walls.
MD: Maybe it wasn't, but the point is, our defense focused and got the job done. I mean, can you really blame them for not taking Buffalo seriously? Hell, they were probably looking ahead to this game.
DD: I almost kind of hope they were. Whatever you think of Buffalo, you gotta know we're taking a huge step up in talent this week.
MD: Well, Missouri is too. Not only are they finally playing an FBS team, they're playing one ranked in the top 10, with a defense much stronger than those sieves they faced in the Big 12. And between you and me, I think we're gonna get Alec Ogletree and Bacarri Rambo back, too.
DD: And you know this how?
MD: Call it a hunch.
DD: Oh, good, we're bringing hunches into this now.
MD: Calling our defense "good" is a little bit better than a hunch, bro.
DD: Only a little, after what we saw in Week 1. What if we don't get them back? What if we're still short-handed in the secondary and Mizzou's receivers — most of whom are 6'4" or taller, including Dorial Green-Beckham, the No. 1 recruit in the country this past year — smoke us over and over again?
MD: If that happens — and I'm not conceding it will — we'll just have to score more than they do. They finished 61st in the country last year in total defense, 94th against the pass. If Aaron Murray can get on the same page as his receivers and get decent protection from the O-line, they won't be able to stop him.
DD: Easier said than done. He started off awful rusty with the deep ball against Buffalo, and he also got sacked three times.
MD: Maybe, but he eventually got synced up with his receivers and threw some gorgeous deep balls for TDs. As for the pass protection . . . well, it'll get better.
DD: How? John Theus hurt his ankle, so even if he plays, he won't be at 100 percent; Todd Gurley, as good as he was out of the backfield and on that kickoff return, really struggled in pass protection.
MD: Then I guess we'll just have to use him as a rusher. That's bad news for Mizzou.
DD: Oh, I'd love to live in your little fantasy world, where everything's just that simple.
MD: Better than your world, where everything is terrible for no good reason. You're freaking out because we had one subpar game — no, one subpar half — against a scrub opponent nobody's going to remember a week from now.
DD: But you're just assuming all our problems on defense are solved because we made some adjustments at halftime. I'm telling you they're not, particularly if we can't get our suspended players back.
MD: You really think the situation is that dire?
DD: Yes. I do. Against a potent offense, in a hostile environment where everyone's going to be geeked to the rafters over playing their very first SEC game? I think they get to 30 points. Which they did seven times last year. Our defense isn't going to be able to contain their QB, James Franklin, either on the ground or through the air. I think we'll score some points ourselves, don't get me wrong, but in the end I think we're looking at a 34-30 loss.
MD: You mentioned the "hostile environment" — I mean, come on, these guys have played at Neyland, Williams-Brice and Jordan-Hare, to name just a few places. I hardly think Faurot Field is going to bother them, particularly if we can take the crowd out of it early. I think we do that by bringing pressure on James Franklin early, and a sack by one of the Jones Boys, Jarvis or Abry, should do the trick. Get Franklin rattled, force him into some bad decisions, silence the crowd a bit, and we should be able to take control in the first half and then just ground and pound with Gurley and Ken Malcome in the second. Missouri's got the horses on offense to try and mount a late comeback, but I don't think it'll be enough. Final score: Georgia 34, Mizzou 23.
DD: Pretty detailed analysis for someone who was only conscious for a quarter of last week's game.
MD: Yeah, well, when you're actually looking at statistics and matchups rather than just wailing "Oh woe is me we're all gonna diiiieeee," you find some pretty interesting angles.
DD: Uh-huh. Well, congratulations: Your boundless optimism means that our two predictions average out to about a 32-29 Georgia win . . .
MD: Yeah it does! I'll take it.
DD: . . . of course, it's also jinxed us terribly. I hope you're proud of that.
MD: Man, you think I'm "jinxing the team" if I so much as mention that Aaron Murray has been making some nice throws.
DD: No, but I kind of think you're jinxing us if you're getting drunk and yelling it in people's faces, which has been known to happen.
MD: Oh, gee, I'm so sorry for being enthusiastic about my team. Look, this is something Mizzou fans are gonna have to get use to if they want to hang in the SEC.
DD: I suppose you're right. Look, let's just try to be gracious hosts as a conference, the same way we'd hope they'll be gracious hosts for the game this weekend, all right?
MD: I'll nod and say "OK" if that'll make you feel better. But I think we both know there's not much chance I'm actually going to do any of that.
DD: (heavy sigh) No. No, we sure don't.