Welcome back to another edition of “Overreaction Monday,” where the Georgia Bulldogs and Atlanta Falcons are ready to take over the world and Georgia Tech just inadvertently tied its shoes together again.
GEORGIA (4-0, defeated Southern 48-6)
Overreaction narrative: I don’t care if they’re 4-0. Nothing matters until the Alabama game!
Reality check: Well, yes. I don’t want to diminish anything the Dogs have accomplished but, well, OK, let me diminish what the Dogs have accomplished. The four teams they’ve beaten are Louisiana-Monroe (Sun Belt), Vanderbilt (1-3, 0-2), South Carolina (2-2, 0-2) and Southern (FCS). The best of that group is South Carolina, and it’s clear the Gamecocks are a mess. Composite computer rankings of FBS teams have Georgia ranked fifth in the nation behind Ohio State, Mississippi, UCLA and LSU. The same rankings have Louisiana-Monroe 98th, Vanderbilt 78th and South Carolina 54th. Georgia coaches will remind their players, as delicately as possible, this week that they really haven’t done anything yet. The season starts against the Alabama game.
Georgia is a 2-to-2½-point favorite in most Las Vegas sportsbooks. This is a winnable game for the Dogs. They’ve had some occasional hiccups in the secondary but their defensive front is strong, their running game is arguably the best in the nation (for a pro-style offense) and quarterback Greyson Lambert is settling into the starting position. But this is Alabama. The Crimson Tide has had its own problems but it’s still a top 10 team and a program that smacked Georgia the last time it came to Athens in 2008. This week’s game is a major test for: 1) Lambert; 2) The defense. Lambert doesn’t have to throw for 250 yards. He just has to complete enough key passes on play-action when Alabama brings up eight defenders to stop Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Also, he can’t afford turnovers. The defense also needs to get a pass rush on Alabama quarterback Jake Coker in hopes of forcing him into mistakes, which was the case in the Tide’s loss to Mississippi. Georgia is 4-0. But let’s take a pulse again after Saturday.
FALCONS (3-0, won at Dallas 39-28)
Overreaction narrative: “We’re going 27-0 baby! Wait, how many games do we play?”
Reality check: The logical side of my brain says: Something will go wrong at some point. But sometimes the logical side of my brain is just a rumor. At the outset of the season the first three games against NFC East teams (Philadelphia, at New York, at Dallas) looked like the toughest part of the Falcons’ schedule. This will change, but as of today: Of the remaining 13 opponents on the Falcons’ schedule, only three currently have winning records: Minnesota (2-1, Nov. 29) and Carolina twice (3-0, Dec. 13 and 27). Indianapolis, whom the Falcons face Nov. 22, figured to be one of the better teams this season but opened with two losses before outlasting Tennessee 35-33 Sunday. The Falcons’ next two games are home against Houston (1-2, only win over Tampa Bay) and Washington (1-2). So at the risk of jumping ahead, they could be 5-0 going to New Orleans on a Thursday night (Oct. 15). This team’s strength isn’t in any particular area as much as it is resolve and a belief that it can come back and win in the fourth quarter. It’s a refreshing change from the last two seasons. There are offensive line and defensive front issues still to be fixed but to be 3-0 when those problems exist exceeds what most expected. (I was thinking 1-2 or 2-1.)
GEORGIA TECH (2-2, lost at Duke 34-20)
Overreaction narrative: The Jackets’ offense gagged against the only two good opponents they’ve faced (Notre Dame, Duke) so it’s clear everybody has caught up to the option.
Reality: No. I don’t think everybody has caught up to the option. But I do think Tech is in trouble. I mistakenly dismissed getting punched in the mouth at Notre Dame as an aberration for what I thought to be a really good team. Now I’m not sure they’re a really good team. To respond the week after the Notre Dame game — when players should be angry, driven and focused — by getting outscored 19-3 in the first quarter at Duke sets off alarms. The Jackets suddenly can’t run block, which is something I never thought I would see in the Paul Johnson era. Quarterback Justin Thomas, universally admired, now is trying to do too much to make up for the weaknesses and is failing woefully (6 for 21 passing with an interception at Duke). The Jackets got better as last season went on, so I’m not going to predict they’ll go 6-6. But against Notre Dame, they didn’t look like a major bowl contender, and against Duke they didn’t look like an ACC contender. If they lose next week to North Carolina, they’ll be 0-2 in the conference going into a stretch against Clemson, Pitt and Florida State. If Tech doesn’t wake up, the season could be over before Halloween.
KENNESAW STATE (3-1, lost at Dayton 31-27)
Overreaction narrative: They smoked their first two opponents, then got cocky!
Reality check: I picked the Owls to win two games and that blew up when they started 3-0. But it’s easy for some to forget this is a new program that’s going to have some growing pains, particularly when it goes against teams that have been together for more than five minutes. Kennesaw State nearly lost to Division II Shorter last week. Then they lost at Dayton. So maybe this is the market correction after overwhelming East Tennessee State (56-16) and then Edward Waters (58-7). This week’s game against Point (NAIA) likely will be easier than the following week (Gardner-Webb, which is in their conference, the Big South and has been playing football since 1970). But nobody should expect any easy game for a first-year program.
•Recent ramblings Dawgnation: Georgia now can prepare for opponent that matters most: Alabama Dawgnation: Short takes on Georgia’s win over Southern AJC: Weekend Predictions: Lilly takes the lead and likes Falcons MyAJC: Falcons’ fourth-quarter fizzles absent so far under Dan Quinn AJC: Braves have been more adept at building off field than on it AJC: Overreaction Monday: Are things as they seem with Falcons, Dogs, Jackets? Dawgnation: Georgia chases away Spurrier demons with dominating performance Dawgnation: Short takes: Lambert says, ‘I just had to go through a rough patch’ Dawgnation: Georgia can’t blow game, Tech can’t blow chance AJC: Weekend Predictions: Tech over Irish, Georgia over South Carolina (but not by 17) Dawgnation: Tech has something Georgia would like — comfort at quarterback position MyAJC: An impressive opening by Dan Quinn’s new Falcons AJC: Short takes: Gruden praises Falcons’ defense after win Dawgnation: Georgia looks like a shaky 2-0 with its passing game Dawgnation: Short takes: Another Georgia win but QB issues continue AJC: Weekend Predictions: I can’t block this Falcons’ upset from my brain AJC: Poll: I say 9 wins for Falcons, national media mixed, what say you? MyAJC: Falcons’ late roster scramble not a good sign AJC: Fredi Gonzalez needs to make more of his losing hand Dawgnation: Lambert good but didn’t do enough to cement starting job Dawgnation: Lambert, lightning and the joy of Keith Marshall MyAJC: Kennesaw State’s little startup off to a dazzling start AJC: Weekend Predictions: Dogs, Jackets roll, Spurrier escapes, Petrino goes down AJC: Falcons won Julio Jones trade but would like to forget 2012 draft Dawgnation: Greyson Lambert’s big test won’t come in opener, it will be later AJC: Hello, football: Thoughts on UGA, Tech, Kennesaw, both GSUs Dawgnation: It’s Lambert over Ramsey for now, but assume nothing for future at Georgia AJC: Falcons were never going to let Julio Jones get away