There's nothing wrong with being exuberant about Georgia's chances this season. As emotions go, "exuberance" certainly beats, say, whatever we were feeling after the end of the Kentucky game (which for me personally was "despair at having imploded against Kentucky" and "shame at having cursed out the guy a couple rows behind me within earshot of some young children"). But irrational exuberance does nobody any good. Irrational exuberance is what leads to stuff like stock-market crashes, New Coke, and hitting on 16.
And make no mistake, Dawg fans, this is irrational exuberance:
3. GeorgiaPredicted Record:: 10-2
Why Georgia Should Be No. 1: Don’t be fooled by last year’s slide. The loss of Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno, along with a laughable array of injuries, kept Georgia from being Georgia, but this year’s team should be back to form thanks to a deep offensive line that will be among the best in the country (if everyone stays healthy), a phenomenal linebacking corps, a strong backfield, and a future NFL star in WR A.J. Green. Throw in the best kicking game in college football, and shhhhhh … here’s your sleeper for the national title.
Now then. I know there's some stuff in this preview that's, well, not inaccurate (we do have a strong backfield, A.J. is a future NFL star), and I know I just got done estimating that 9-3 was an entirely reasonable expectation for the Dawgs this year, which isn't far off from CFN's 10-2 figure, but . . . third in the nation, guys? Seriously? Ahead of Florida, Boise State, and Texas?
Now, keep in mind, that's coming from CFN, where quality control is not exactly a strong suit: This is the outfit that wrote glowingly of the prowess of a Notre Dame OL recruit who'd fallen to his death from a hotel balcony less than four months prior. Still, though, maybe it's time to tap the brakes on some of the UGA exuberance comin' down the track for 2010, lest some of us end up very sad boys and girls come January. And as an unremitting cynic who barely has time to enjoy a given win before he's already biting his nails and Eeyoring about the next game, I think I'm eminently qualified to do that. So, throwing out the games that are gimme wins even under the worst-case scenario, as well as the Florida game, which we all know is a steep mountain to climb, here are the reasons why Georgia could lose the other eight games on the slate in 2010.
AT SOUTH CAROLINA (Sept. 11)
Win or lose, shootout or defensive trench battle, this game is rarely anything but a nailbiter. We knew back in the spring that the Gamecocks were returning as much experience as any team in the SEC -- four out of five on the offensive line, three out of four in the secondary, top three running backs, a two-year starter at QB. But now we also know Aaron Murray will be making his second career start in a noon kickoff in one of the single hottest locations on the planet. Seriously, ask anyone who was at the '08 game; most of them will tell you they'd rather have been drinking hot coffee in Death Valley than battling heatstroke in Williams-Brice that afternoon. This might be Spurrier's last best chance to take the 'Cocks on a legitimate run to the SEC East title, and the Dawgs are always a scalp he'd like to claim early.
VS. ARKANSAS (Sept. 18)
Coming home from Columbia, we jump right back into the fire in another noon kickoff against what might be the most potent offense in the conference. Behind Ryan Mallett, the Razorbacks strafed us for 485 yards and 41 points in Fayetteville last year, and while Georgia managed to pull off a wild shootout win, now they'll have to repeat that feat with a freshman QB and an almost completely retooled defense.
AT MISSISSIPPI STATE (Sept. 25)
The Bulldogs don't often travel to Starkville to face their bizarro brethren; this time they'll be facing Dan Mullen, who previously terrorized us with his spread offense at Florida and who's had one season and two recruiting classes to get his system in place at MSU. State could field one of the most-improved defenses in the conference, and they're also sandwiched between the big game with Arkansas and a cross-country road-trip . . . AT COLORADO (Oct. 2)
You might find it easy to laugh at Dan Hawkins -- he's 16-33 at Colorado, he says stuff like "Go play innermurals" -- but don't go taking his team for granted: They return 17 starters this year (including all but one on offense) and comprise the second game of what is, for the Dawgs, an unusual early-season two-game road swing. Georgia also will be playing 1,500 miles from home and more than a mile above sea level, which are even less familiar playing conditions for the Dawgs.
VS. TENNESSEE (Oct. 9)
Georgia will likely be winded when they return home from their lengthy road trip, and they'll be going up against a team that waxed them 45-19 last season. Granted, this year's Vol squad is only a shadow of its 2009 self personnel-wise, but they've still got a dangerous running back (Tauren Poole) who can carve up our re-jiggered front seven if we're not paying attention, as well as a back seven that already knows they're capable of making us look silly.
AT KENTUCKY (Oct. 23)
Still having acid flashbacks of Derrick Locke and Randall Cobb flying by our defense on the outside? Bad news, slugger: They're both coming back this year. The Wildcats will also wield a veteran defensive line and will be in position to take advantage if Georgia is looking ahead to its trip to Jacksonville the following week.
AT AUBURN (Nov. 13)
Last year Gus Malzahn fashioned Chris Todd (Chris Todd!) into Auburn's all-time single-season record holder for touchdown passes; imagine what he can do with Cam Newton, once upon a time considered good enough to be Tim Tebow's heir apparent at Florida. Forget about the one-time "home-field curse" in this series; the home and road teams have split the last 10. And don't take the Tiger defense for granted -- they underwhelmed last year but bring back six starters in the back seven, and should be fierce against the pass.
VS. GEORGIA TECH (Nov. 27)
Yeah, Dawg fans, it sucks to admit it, but this one's not a gimme anymore. Our new 3-4 defensive alignment will have nearly a full season's worth of work under their belts by that point, but they'll still get a monstrous challenge from Tech's triple option, and we all know what happened the last time this game turned into a shootout in Athens.
There! You now have all the information you need to carry a healthy degree of skepticism into the 2010 season. Sure, it's kind of a stressful way to live, but for some of us, being secretly (or not-so-secretly) terrified of losing every single game is an integral part of the college football experience. And who knows, come January, we might just be pleasantly surprised.