Those who followed my personal blog (currently on indefinite hiatus) know that there's a definite split personality to my Georgia fandom. In the days leading up to a game, no matter how in the bag a win might seem, I'm a nervous wreck, hunting down all the statistics I can find that would seem to indicate a Bulldog victory even as I try to steel myself for all the reasons, tangible and not, that we might lose.
Should Georgia actually win the game, I transform into the drunk, obnoxious Georgia fan memorialized in song, taunting the rival we've just vanquished while warning future opponents of the pain and humiliation that awaits them -- for a couple days, at least. Then the reality of the next game sets in and it's doom and neurosis and paranoia all over again. Why anyone would subject himself to this roller coaster is a mystery, but that's SEC football for you.
Reconciling these two completely different philosophies proved to be a fool's errand, so last year I said the hell with it and just let the two Dougs hash it out on their own -- and that's how I'll be previewing each of this season's games.
Manic Doug will give you all the reasons why Georgia is going to steamroll its upcoming opponent, and any worries to the contrary are just so much pointless hand-wringing; he'll also give you ways to trash-talk said opponent if you're feeling gratuitous. Depressive Doug, on the other hand, will fend off all these confident declarations like a full-count batter desperately hacking pitches into foul territory and explain, in excruciating detail, why and how Georgia is going to go down in flames.
Sound kinky? Let's meet our debate panel.
Physically, Manic Doug was born June 4, 1978 in Roanoke, Va., but mentally he was born right around the time Georgia notched a fifth straight win over Georgia Tech in November 1995. Which puts his mental age at 16, and that sounds about right. Manic Doug has no filter -- he tells the jokes you wouldn't tell in polite company, feeds outlandish lies to telemarketers just to have fun with them, and looks at scorching not-visibly-attached hotties at the bar on weekends and thinks, "Yeah, I can totally swing that." He will also trash-talk rival fans to the very brink of a fistfight, and should Georgia end up down by four TDs at halftime, that's just an excuse to take another pull off his flask and downshift into "IS THAT ALL YOU GOT?!?!" mode. Not always the most socially acceptable fellow, but he's the one you want next to you in a foxhole, right up until he gets you both beaten to a pulp for calling the opposing team's nose tackle a "fancyboy."
Depressive Doug, meanwhile, is an older and more mature soul, if by "older and more mature" you mean "constantly miserable and more likely to believe everything is horrible." A lifetime of painstakingly nurtured Catholic guilt has led him to fear the righteous consequences of even a tiny bit of trash talk, so whether next week's game is Florida or Florida A&M, he can come up with a laundry list of reasons why the opponent is dangerous and how Georgia will be punished for being overconfident. No matchup is too one-sided, and no lead is too massive, to keep him from rocking back and forth on the couch, white-knuckled hand over his mouth, mumbling "Oh God, oh God, oh God, oh God." It's not a happy existence, to be sure, but if you'd just listened to him, he could've warned you that we were going to lose to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl.
Now that you've met our debaters, here's our topic: Georgia vs. Boise State, this Saturday night in the Georgia Dome. Go!
Manic Doug: WOOOOHOOOOOOO! Football is BACK, baby! I've been waiting eight long months for this, and it's finally here.
Depressive Doug: Yeah, and I've been dreading this for eight long months, and now my worst nightmares are about to be realized.
MD: What the hell are you even talking about? You're not excited that it's football season again?
DD: I would be, except some genius in the athletic department decided it was a good idea for a team reeling from a 6-7 season to start the following season against a top-five Boise State squad. That's like being diagnosed with coronary artery disease and going, "Well, no worries, I think I'll go run the Boston Marathon now."
MD: Man, of all the times to go soft on a brother. Here we are, on the brink of glorious college football returning to our lives, and you can't let yourself enjoy it because you're too busy walking out on a ledge over Boise State? A team we pounded by five TDs the last time we saw them?
DD: See, one benefit of always expecting the worst is that I knew you were going to pull out that fakakta line of reasoning even before you opened your mouth. You don't seriously think that a game that happened six years ago has even the tiniest bearing on what's going to happen Saturday, do you?
MD: Sure, a lot has changed since then, but here's what hasn't: They're still a mid-major puffing up their record against a mid-major schedule, and they're still smaller than we are across the board.
DD: Ask Virginia Tech if that helped last season. Or Oregon the season before that, or Oklahoma back in 2006...
MD: Now who's dredging up old news? Listen up, because this is important: Across our defensive front, our average player outweighs theirs by more than 12 pounds. They're just not used to practicing against guys as big and as fast as what we're going to throw at them. Todd Grantham finally has the personnel in place to make his 3-4 alignment work the way he wants it to, and that's going to be the difference this year.
DD: I grant you we'll probably be a lot better up front, but what about the secondary? We've moved Alec Ogletree to linebacker, and the two guys remaining at safety, Shawn Williams and Sanders Commings, are guys even a rabid fan such as yourself probably couldn't have picked out of a lineup three or four months ago --
MD: Hey, I could've picked out Sanders Commings, at least.
DD: -- fine, but what the hell's going on with Bacarri Rambo? He's one of our most experienced guys back there and he's not even going to play. And considering that we were the worst team in the SEC last year at allowing third-down conversions, we're gonna need all the help we can get.
MD: Look, I'm not going to sit here and deny that Boise State has a pretty potent offense, but they had two game-breaking wide receivers drafted back in April, Titus Young and Austin Pettis, and that's going to level the playing field some. At this point, the guys who'll be replacing them are Tyler Shoemaker and Mitch Burroughs, the latter of which is only 5'9" and weighs less than either of us.
DD: I'd like to get excited about that, I really would, but with a QB as accurate as Kellen Moore slinging passes, it almost doesn't matter who the receivers are -- plays just get made.
MD: Funny, you could say the same thing about Aaron Murray.
DD: Could you really? Let's talk about the Colorado game last year, shall we? When A.J. Green was on the field and healthy, our average play went for more than nine yards. When he was out, our average play went for less than three yards. And now we have no A.J. and thus no home-run receiver in whom Murray can can have absolute confidence.
MD: OK, our next home-run threat may not have proven himself yet, but from what I'm hearing, Tavarres King and Marlon Brown looked really good in practice and are going to surprise some folks. And then we've got the deepest tight end corps in Division I-A, meaning that even if the long ball isn't there for Murray, he can still dump it off short and we'll just nibble 'em to death five or six yards at a time.
DD: Yeah, while we're "nibbling them to death," Boise is bringing back most of the integral pieces from an offense that was No. 2 in the nation in total yardage last season. You'll have to excuse me if I don't sound optimistic about that comparison. And oh, by the way, where are our rushing yards going to come from this year?
MD: "Hi. We must not have met. I'm Isaiah Crowell."
DD: "Hi, we must not have met either. I'm a defensive front that was top-10 in rushing defense last season."
MD: Again, that was mostly against WAC offenses and WAC offensive lines. Our average starting offensive lineman outweighs their average D-lineman by more than 40 pounds, and our strength and conditioning has made a huge leap in the off-season, meaning we're not going to have a bunch of big uglies walking around gassed after a couple quarters and change.
DD: So you hope. Look, I know we're bigger than them, and the players they consider "blue-chip" probably would've been lucky to earn scholarships at all at UGA, but the fact is they're smart, they're incredibly well-coached, and they've won enough big games that they're not going to be intimidated by the likes of us. Not when they're 61-5 under their current coach while we're coming off a losing season and just trying to save our coach's job at this point.
MD: So, what, then? You think we walk into the Georgia Dome and get blown out in front of our own fans? Is that how this plays out?
DD: No, I don't think we're gonna get blown out. I think we keep it close for a half, same as we did with the better teams on our schedule last year. But as the game wears on, I think Boise is going to adjust better than we will, particularly on defense -- against an offense with no game-breaking receiver and no proven workhorse running back, they're going to make the stops they need to make, while our defensive secondary gets burned one too many times by an offense that knows where to put its passes and can burn us outside with the running game. I think the Broncos lead going into the fourth quarter, then tack on one more score to ice it and win 37-27.
MD: Well, I think you're gonna be surprised at how well our defense performs. Given how much bigger and better we've gotten on the defensive front, we're going to completely take away the middle as an option for their running game, and if they try to bounce it outside, you've got Doug Martin and D.J. Harper -- both of them only 5'9" -- going up against Jarvis Jones or Alec Ogletree, both of whom are 6'3" and around 240 pounds and who are going to hit them like freight trains. I'm going on record right now as saying Boise won't go over 120 rushing yards as a team . . .
DD: . . . When they were averaging more than 200 yards rushing per game in 2010? That's a bold statement, sir. Almost sounds like you think this is going to be a defensive struggle.
MD: More so than people are expecting, yeah, I think it will be. But Aaron Murray will get good protection and move the chains with the short passing game, while Richard Samuel and Isaiah Crowell provide just enough of a threat in the backfield to keep Boise's defense guessing. I think we tire them out with a couple long drives in the second half and we're the ones who get a late score -- a long field goal off the infallible foot of Blair Walsh -- to ice a close game, and we win 25-21.
DD: Well, that's certainly a detailed analysis --
MD: More so than "Wahh, wahh, we went 6-7 last year, Boise is so good and so well-coached, we can't possibly win, woe is us," yes, I'm glad you noticed.
DD: -- but you average those predictions out and on aggregate we've still got Boise winning, 29-26.
MD: Hey, you want to be the angel of death here, fine. That's clearly your shtick. But be prepared to hear "I told you so" before the clock hits midnight on Saturday. Drunkenly, and through a megaphone.
DD: I would ask "Where are you going to get a megaphone," but . . . you probably would go and get one, wouldn't you.
MD: Hey, I'm people who know people.
DD: Ass. We know all the same people! We are the same people!
MD: We may inhabit the same body, but in no way, shape or form are we the same person, buddy. I'm the one who's going to be partying like it's 1999 Saturday night celebrating our stunning victory, while you're the one who's going to be sitting home on the computer, desperately searching for reasons we're going to go out and lose to South Carolina next week.
DD: Dammit, I told you to stop snooping through my day-planner.
MD: Uh-huh, yeah, I rest my case. I can already tell this is going to be a fun season.