Given that the only significant football news yesterday was the announcement that Georgia's starting strong safety was leaving school early, it seems odd to be saying this but... yesterday was a heck of a day for UGA sports.
First off, any day Georgia Tech gets trounced (and despite what seemed like a relatively close final score, that was a thorough butt-whooping by Iowa) in a BCS bowl game, UGA fans have to chalk that up as a big win.
Then add to it that Mark Fox's supposedly rebuilding Bulldogs toppled the No. 17-ranked Yellow Jackets at Stegeman (keeping Tech's winless streak in Athens at 38 years and counting!) and the results are one heckuva day for Dawgs supporters and a pretty sad day for St. Simons & Co.
As for Fox's Dawgs, last night was really a signature moment for the team.
For one, it was UGA's first win over a top-25 opponent in nearly three years (the last being a buzzer-beater over LSU in January of 2007).
Secondly, it was an in-state rivalry game that both bolstered Georgia's credentials significantly and proved to be an epic fail for Tech. In many ways, it was exactly what Tech did to UGA on the football field two years ago, only Georgia was actually the better team throughout this game as opposed to Tech's one big quarter against Reshad Jones, et al.
Third, make no mistake, this was a marquee opponent, if only because Derrick Favors was on the court. Favors is one of the biggest recruits to come out of the state in years, and he picked Tech over UGA in large part, he said, because Tech was the better program historically. Well, what might the next big recruit in the state be thinking when he watches that undermanned UGA team completely thwart Favors and pull out the win?
(Besides, who could want to go to Tech when the school is known for things like this?)
Fourth, while there were plenty of scouts there to see Favors, who spent much of the game on the bench after early foul trouble, it was Trey Thompkins who looked like he was ready for the NBA. He scored 14 of his 20 points in the second half, grabbed six boards, had two steals and was 8-of-9 from the charity stripe. And while Tech can function without Favors, Thompkins is the Georgia offense. He more than shouldered the load.
And fifth, the timing of the win couldn't have been any better for Georgia. No. 3 Kentucky looms this Saturday, and coming off a bad loss to Missouri, a confidence booster was big for the Dawgs. Fox said before the season began that confidence might have to come from areas beyond wins and losses because, quite frankly, no one could be sure how many games this team would win. Instead, the wins have turned out to be a pretty decent measure, and the results have been surprisingly good. The players, I think, really believe they can go into Rupp and win on Saturday. (Of course, they actually did do that last year, so anything's possible.)
Based on pure numbers, the Dawgs are actually one game worse than they were at this point last year, but no one is saying this team has underachieved. Quite the opposite.
Georgia still isn't likely to be a tournament team, but with wins over Tech and Illinois, the Dawgs are clearly better than most of us thought. And it's not that they're any more skilled -- by that measure, too, they might be worse than a year ago -- but they have a ton of fight in them, which makes them more than worth rooting for.
And there's the problem. Simply put, there aren't many people rooting for Georgia.
“I thought the crowd was good, but there weren’t enough of them here," Fox said after the game. "The ones who were here were good late in the game, and we appreciate them. This team’s going to have to overachieve for the next couple of months, and we’re going to need bigger, stronger and better crowds every time out because tonight they were a big factor.”
Hey, it's not my job to be a shill for UGA and tell you to fork over money to see a basketball game at Stegeman. Times are tough, money's tight, and I'm certainly not going to lecture you on your responsibility to support an athletics department that generates more revenue than the GNP of some small countries.
But if you're in the market for something to do, and if you've got that cash to fork over, chalk me up as a believer that this team has earned your money. Last year was a makeshift group with zero direction. This year, it's a team that plays with a ton of heart, even if the skill level isn't exactly SEC caliber up and down the roster.
It was a fun game to watch last night, and my guess is that there will be more fun games to watch the rest of the way. And that's not something anyone has been able to say about the action at Stegeman in a while.
OK, on to some links...
-- Yahoo! anonymously sources information that seems to be the common opinion these days that Todd Grantham is going to be Georgia's next defensive coordinator.
Now, Mark Bradley is no doubt shaking his head in disgust at the mere notion of someone other than Kirby Smart landing the job, but let me tell you why I think this would be an exceptional hire...
While the argument can certainly be made that Grantham isn't an SEC guy and won't be an asset on the recruiting trail, I think just the opposite could be true.
When the top-flight recruits are trying to decide between a handful of elite programs, there are minimal distinctions from one school to the next. But Grantham offers a big asset to Georgia that Bud Foster and Vic Koenning and Kirby Smart and John Chavis would not -- he knows the NFL.
Want to get prepared to make the jump to "The League"? Well this guy isn't just going to tell you that he can do it, he has the resume to prove it. He has the connections at the next level to get your name out there. He knows every bit of what coaches in the NFL are looking for and can make sure you are armed with those skills before you leave Georgia.
Think about this: Yes, Florida will be sending a ton of players to the NFL in this year's draft. That's a big deal. But here's the sales pitch Georgia can make...
Are you a talented tailback? Well Florida's offense is built around these multi-dimensional speed guys that leave NFL guys scratching their head wondering how they'd fit in a pro-style offense. At Georgia, we're the school that has produced Herschel Walker and Garrison Hearst and Knowshon Moreno. We're Tailback U. You'll get your chance to shine here without being upstaged by the "system." You are our system.
Are you a budding star at quarterback? Hey, Florida has a guy people are calling the greatest college player ever and because he never played under center, NFL folks are wondering if he should play fullback at the next level. At Georgia, we just made a QB the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, and our system is as close to what you'll play in at the next level as you'll find in the SEC. Heck, Matthew Stafford's coach called him the most prepared college QB ever. That's what we can do for you.
Are you an elite wide receiver? That's great. We've got a guy named Mohamed Massaquoi who just turned in a heck of a rookie year in Cleveland because we prepared him for the NFL. Oh, and I know we haven't had a history of big-time receivers here, but all that has changed. We've got a guy named A.J. Green who is going to be a first-round pick in the next NFL draft, and he's changed the paradigm here. You can be a part of that, too.
Are you a high-end defensive star? You obviously have your sights set on the NFL, and our new defensive coordinator knows exactly what it'll take to get you there. He's been in The League for a decade, has tons of connections and has worked with some of the best players the NFL has to offer. He can make you that good, too.
That last one was the missing link in that sales pitch the past few years. And it's not that Georgia wasn't recruiting good talent on defense, but who was the last Georgia defensive player to get drafted high and really make a big impact in the NFL? It's been a while, and don't think for a second that recruits don't notice. Hiring an NFL guy is like a get-out-of-jail-free card for the Bulldogs on the recruiting trail. Now we have the answers, they can say.
Moreover, it would be more than just a sales pitch. For all of you fans concerned about the strength and conditioning program or how well prepared Georgia's players are to perform at an elite level -- here's a coach who knows from experience. He has spent the last decade working with NFL players and knows how they prepare. He'll have a say in making sure Georgia is doing it the same way.
And no, he's not a "Mark Richt guy." But isn't that what everyone has been complaining about for the past two years? Too many Mark Richt guys. This is clearly an outside voice who is going to bring a much different perspective to Butts-Mehre than there has been for the vast majority of Richt's tenure. That's a very good thing.
Yes, it's a concern that the college and NFL games are different, and he'll need to adjust to offensive schemes he hasn't seen much in the pros and he'll need to hit the recruiting trail hard, which is something he hasn't done in a while. But much of that can be balanced out by hiring the right assistants. And the benefits of bringing in someone with Grantham's resume are pretty obvious.
-- And here's a perfect example of a story Georgia recruits might have been turned off by before: Dannell Ellerbe clearly has tons of talent, and yet he went undrafted. He's proving himself at the NFL level now, but he had to work that much harder to get there.
-- Of course, if Georgia wants to stay in the market longer, money should really be no object (h/t Kathleen). (And as a side note to that article, it's great to see Syracuse listed as one of four profitable programs that lost money on their football team.)
-- On the other hand, while Mark Richt is a patient man, 18-year-old kids often are not. And it might be that Richt is pushing the envelope on their patience about as far as it can go.
-- Jon Fabris landed on Charlie Strong's staff at Louisville where he will again coach defensive ends (and, with a little luck, will also be handling kickoffs when they play Syracuse next year).
-- The Detroit News says it's time for the Lions to take off the kid gloves in their handling of Matthew Stafford. Funny, I didn't realize throwing him out there behind a joke of an O line all year was using the kid gloves.
-- After tearing up the D league, Sundiata Gaines is getting his shot with a 10-day contract with the Utah Jazz.
-- I fully support this business decision. After all, ugly people get all the breaks and attractive people have such a hard time finding Mr. or Mrs. Right.
-- In the last decade, the cost of listening to music or reading the newspaper or watching a movie essentially fell to zero thanks to the Internet. And yet cable companies continued to jack up prices. And it's going to get worse.
I just moved and, after years of having DirecTV (which I generally liked, even if it was a bit more expensive than I'd like) I was forced to switch to Charter, thanks to the treeline surrounding my house. Now I'm paying even more than I did before for fewer channels, far less HD channels, less DVR space and a ton of headaches that didn't exist with DirecTV. And I have no other options. Ugh.
Worst of all, I can't watch the end of the season of "Friday Night Lights" now until it comes on NBC (with commercials!) in the spring.
-- On a bright note for TV, "Chuck" is set to return this week, and I'm intrigued by the new look of the show.
-- Here's yet another Q&A with the creators of "Lost" who have to be approaching some sort of record for doing these types of things.
-- In our bad idea for an 80s remake section this week, we can only hope the delay of the new "Robocop" gets extended indefinitely.
-- And finally, who woulda thought you needed someone to "invent" the quarter-pounder? I mean, it's just a cheeseburger with, you know, a quarter-pound of meat. Anyway, the guy who came up with this tasty bit of genius died (though the story doesn't say whether it was from heart disease).
And for all you Michael Scott's out there, I'll allow you to chime in with "that's what she said" following this line: "I felt there was a void in our menu vis-a-vis the adult who wanted a higher ratio of meat to bun."