Wednesday, June 4, 2008

High Praise (or a curse?) from TSN

Could Matt Stafford, the man playing big spoon in the picture above, be cruising for an upset in Tempe? According to Matt Hayes at The Sporting News, it could happen.

In the June 9 issue of TSN, Hayes publishes a list of the top five non-conference matchups of the 2008 season, and the #1 game on that list is the September 20 game between Georgia and Arizona State at Sun Devil Stadium.

"What in the world makes anyone think this Arizona State team, with a revamped offensive line, can bang heads with Georgia, which has one of the best defensive lines in the nation? Here's a reason: ubertalented Dawgs quarterback Matthew Stafford strugges in true road games and still must embrace the concept of incompletions instead of interceptions."

Some interesting notes about that "road game" comment thanks to Hayes: Georgia will travel over 1,800 miles to Tempe. They have traveled a combined 358 miles to NC road games since 1998, making this trip five times longer than their combined road trips in the last decade. The Dawgs also have not played west of the Central time zone in the regular season since 1960.

To the comment about Stafford's interceptions, he did reduce his INT total from '06 to '07 from 13 to 10 and his completion percentage improved three points over that span, but still to only a smidge over 55%.

Not counting the rivalry game at Georgia Tech, the Bulldogs played "true" road games at Alabama, Tennessee, Vanderbilt and Florida. In those games, Georgia went 3-1 with the loss coming in Knoxville and Stafford threw for 816 yards, 8 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, completing his passes at a rate of 53%. Looks OK? Maybe?

However, upon closer examination, the Bulldogs blew a halftime lead and needed OT to get by Alabama. Against Vandy, the Dawgs needed a last-second field goal from Brandon Coutu and 157 rushing yards from Knowshon Moreno to put down the lowly Commodores. And in a wild 42-30 win over Florida, Stafford only threw 18 passes while Moreno ran wild...33 carries for 188 yards and three touchdowns.

All of this could be for naught, obviously, as Stafford DID lead the Dawgs to a Sugar Bowl victory and has had the Spring and all of the off-season to improve, and most reports say that he has. One only needs to cite the fact that The Sporting News will name Georgia their preseason #1 in their Season Preview and many other polls are expected to follow suit to show this team's improvement over last year's tremendous season in Athens.

For the record, here are the other four top non-conference games: 2) Ohio State at USC (9/13), 3) Auburn at West Virginia (10/23), 4) Illinois at Missouri (8/30) and 5) Alabama at Clemson (8/30).


Devildawger said...

Matt Hayes has not been a fan of the Devils. Just a week ago he wrote about how we were on the 6-6 train and were overrated. Plus, he ranked the Pac 10 players and snubbed the Devils for lots of Cats. Guess he figured he would throw us a bone (pun intended) by saying Matt Stafford struggles in road games. The main problem with road games last year were that they came early in the season as a young offensive line was coming together. The Dawgs O-line got stronger and the team played lots better as the year progressed. Stafford will come to play for sure but the main factor on this game will be: whether UGA can get up for two road games in a row after facing the other USC in Columbia the Saturday preceding the ASU game. Spurrier beat Georgia 14-9 in early Sept and then proceeded to rub the Dawgs face in it with his post game comments. The Dawgs will be sky high for that game and that definitely helps the Devils

Paul Westerdawg said...

I really don't get Hayes stance on Stafford. He's 17-4 as a starter.

His 4 losses as a starter were to:
-- Florida (2006) We lost by 7 points to the national champs. Stafford's offense scored just as many points as the UF offense. The difference was an RB fumble return for TD.

-- UK (2006 road) when the OL was bad, and he played like complete crap. The following we beat #5 Auburn on the road as he went 14-of-20 for 219 yards and he rushed for another 83 yards scoring TDs on the ground and air. So it's not like he wasn't getting better after this game. MOST of his "bad" road stats come from the UK game. The box score is a freak show.

-- SC home (2007) - He didn't play particularly well, but we also had about 5 critical back breaking dropped passes, and the rookie offensive coordinator didn't run the ball enough.

-- UT (2007) - We had issues bigger than QB play. The defense was obliterated, and it was 28-0 before the first half ended. Out went the game plan. He didn't play "awful." His line was 16-33 for 176 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT. he also wasn't playing linebacker. That was the real problem. lol.

His other big road performance...he lead the comeback vs. Ole Miss in Oxford his FR year after Joe Cox had us going nowhere. And he came in Game 2 of his FR year after the starter went down in Columbia with an ankle injury. He threw 3 picks, but we beat Spurrier 18-0.

Long story short....I think there are reasons for opponent optimism that UGA will falter better than Stafford.

Namely the inexperience at RG, the questions around the 2nd WR, the kicker, and speed rushing DEs.


Paul Westerdawg said...

sorry - didn't realize i was being so long winded until it was too late.