Despite jinxing the Georgia program to within an inch of its very existence with his premature SEC Championship Game travel planning last week, Manic Doug managed not to doom the Bulldogs to a crushing loss, much to Depressive Doug's shock. One presumes that he will be treating this weekend's matchup with 4-6 Kentucky as a mere formality, though if his insolence were enough to doom Georgia to a karmic loss in that game, it might be time to start wondering if we've hit the End of Days. Let's see if we can't focus on more upbeat matters as the Manic-Depressive Previewers chat about the final SEC contest of the 2011 season.
Depressive Doug: Well, you know how loath I am to take any game lightly, but if ever there were a week to do that, it's this one -- Kentucky is dead last in the SEC in every major offensive category except rushing, for which I guess they need to send a fruit basket to Tennessee's line. They've got four wins, but they came against a mediocre Sun Belt team, a bad MAC team, a I-AA squad and an Ole Miss team that appears to be even worse than what Ed Orgeron put on the field. So it all begs the question: How bad would Georgia have to play to lose this weekend?
Manic Doug: Yeah, leave it to you to focus on the negative. We can get to all that in a minute, but first you need to do something.
DD: Uh . . . what's that?
MD: You need to admit I was right.
DD: (heavy sigh) Oh, yes. We've got a game to talk about, but by all means let's make sure we fulfill our real responsibility here, which is to talk about how awesome you are.
MD: Don't put this on me, you're the one who was talking doom and gloom all last week. "Auburn wins the field-position battle all day" . . . "McCalebb and Dyer can move the chains pretty consistently" . . . and you were all up on my jock for looking up hotel rooms in Atlanta.
DD: First of all, I make it a point to never come anywhere near your jock. But yes, Georgia is clearly better than I gave them credit for, so in that sense, you were right. Can we get down to business now?
MD: Sure. Georgia 52, Kentucky 10.
DD: Uh . . . is that the extent of your "analysis" this week?
MD: I don't know, am I missing anything? Georgia's offense has hit its stride and will be at full strength personnel-wise, our defense is ranked fourth in the nation and will be going up against a Kentucky attack that would be better off just taking a knee on the majority of its offensive snaps. I'm probably giving them too much credit by even predicting them to get in the end zone at all, but I figure we'll have the second- or third-string defense in there eventually. Seriously, have I left anything out?
DD: Look, even I'm not gonna argue that Georgia has major talent and statistical advantages across the board. But I'm still steeling myself for an ugly game -- not because we're not good enough to blow them off the field, but because Georgia's players have spent the last week hearing from guys like you about how they've already sewn up the SEC East. Do you really expect them to take Kentucky seriously and give 100-percent effort after all that?
MD: You didn't expect them to do that against Auburn, did you, and look what happened . . .
DD: I'm never gonna hear the end of that, am I.
MD: My Magic 8-Ball says "Signs point to no." But look, how can you just assume they'll be down for this game? They were in a two-touchdown hole against Florida, and instead of folding up the tents, they came storming back. They had a prime letdown opportunity and were without their four top running backs against New Mexico State, but instead of going through the motions they dropped the highest point total of the entire Mark Richt era on the Aggies. And last week they were playing a statistically inferior opponent at home, but instead of losing, or even squeaking by with a close victory, they won by 38 -- and it could've been even worse. Isn't it possible that the Dawgs are a lot tougher and more mentally mature than you're giving them credit for?
DD: Those are actually excellent points, and -- wait, did you just say something about "mental maturity"?
MD: I understand there is such a thing. I'm not too familiar with it myself.
DD: Look, there's no denying that Georgia's playing at an awfully high level right now. I've just gotten conditioned to seeing them play terribly in these late-season matchups with Kentucky. Two years ago we committed four second-half turnovers and coughed up a win at home. The year before that our supposed national-title-caliber team got caught up in a shootout in Lexington. Basically what I'm saying is I'm never all that confident we're going to play up to our potential in games like this.
MD: Well, look at it this way: Last year we stumbled into Lexington with a losing record and still managed to be up on the Wildcats 28-3 barely halfway through the second quarter. Our team is worlds better this year, while theirs is demonstrably worse. There's just no tangible reason to believe this one will be close. And hey, how come I'm the one busting out statistics and past scores and whatnot while you're the one going with your gut? You know I'm not comfortable in this mode.
DD: Trust me, I'm just as upset as you are.
MD: Well, look, explain to me just how close you think this is actually going to be, so I can decide whether you're merely neurotic or a full-blown lunatic.
DD: Well, for starters, I think we go with a super-conservative game plan, running the ball early, which is hardly a crazy idea given that the Wildcats are allowing nearly 200 rushing yards a game. But Isaiah Crowell's knee is still a little gimpy, so maybe we don't move the chains quite as consistently as we'd planned. Meanwhile, all it takes is one or two defensive breakdowns -- you know, like the kind we had on our first couple drives against Auburn last week -- to get Kentucky in the end zone and ensure that we've still got a game going at halftime. Richt and Grantham will give our guys a good chewing-out at halftime, and they'll get their heads screwed on straight enough to hold off the Wildcats in the second half, but . . . even then I think the final score looks ugly, and we certainly aren't going to cover a 30-point spread or whatever it's gotten up to by now. I'm gonna say Georgia 28, Kentucky 16.
MD: Well, at least you're not predicting a loss, I was getting worried there. But I'm standing by my 52-10 prediction. The 'Cats barely got the ball moving at all against Vanderbilt or Mississippi State the last few weeks, and with our strengths at running back we oughta be able to get at least 30 points without even throwing a single pass.
DD: So our predictions average out to Georgia 40, Kentucky 13 . . . man, have we ever had a combined prediction that lopsided before?
MD: Probably. But it's still not covering the spread. I'm disappointed.
DD: Well, if you're disappointed, I'm terrified. The more we talk about this, the more I become convinced something terrible's going to happen . . .
MD: Oh, wow, really? Because that only makes this game like every other game we've previewed, ever. Seriously, stop sweating Kentucky, dude. You might as well start focusing on Georgia Tech, get a head-start.
DD: OK, well, I will, but first things --
MD: I mean, we beat them, we'll head into the SEC Championship Game with a full head of steam, having swept our Big Four rivals for the first time since Herschel Walker was --
DD: Oh my God, seriously, you have to stop.
MD: And who knows, a couple of breaks go our way and we could even beat LSU --
DD: Seriously? There are any number of blunt objects within easy reach right now. Don't make me use one.