Commentary: Long, strange trip

Brad Stephens brings his own Southern flavored sports perspective and humor to Bartow Sports Zone. He is a Bartow County native and has his own law office in Cartersville, but he's mostly a Georgia Bulldogs' football fan.


“What a long, strange trip it’s been…”

This very appropriate line from the Grateful Dead’s megahit “Truckin’” can apply to any journey in life. A great college experience, a memorable friendship, a meaningful career or especially so, a sports season. Perhaps no team in college football can attest to the applicability of this line more than the Georgia Bulldogs.

A season that began with question marks became one of promise, then quickly reversed itself into one of despair. The Dawgs have had glimpses of greatness followed by moments of utter confusion. A pass rush that went from daunting to haunting. An NCAA passing record followed up by the inability to grip a wet football. A blowout of your arch-nemesis to a disappearing act at home that left Dawg fans in the lurch. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, Jerry Garcia said it all: “sometimes the light’s all shining on me, other times I can barely see.”

Georgia (4-2, 2-2 SEC) continues to be a no-show in the big game, a reputation that sadly precedes them now. Gone are the days of Greene & Pollack, the Hobnailed Boot and Blackouts that actually work. They have been replaced by games where the Crimson Tide freshmen get game experience and unwanted three-star Georgians in Knoxville, Tennessee hang an “L” on their five-star counterparts from Athens. The entire season is now up in the air and the team’s best player can only play football on a Playstation. Woe, thy name is Georgia. ​

There is a glimmer of hope, strangely enough. Missouri is falling back to earth after a couple of appearances in the SEC title game. Florida’s upstart quarterback, Will Grier, will be on the couch for a calendar year after testing positive for some drug that may have enhanced his performance. Ligandrol? That sounds like a character from “The Lord of the Rings.” In any event, the Gators’ season is now in turmoil and they are headed to Death Valley to take on the LSU Fighting Fournettes. It could be ugly.

Auburn is struggling in their third year on “The Gus Bus” and Georgia Tech is currently enduring a four-game skid that has Jacket fans already talking about basketball season. Kentucky has some momentum but lost at home to Florida and struggled against Eastern Kentucky two weeks ago. The Wildcats have nowhere to go but up, but how far up remains to be seen. That leaves Georgia Southern, a team the Dawgs should be able to beat….but ask the Gators about that one.

Strange things seem to happen when the Dawgs get backed into a corner. In 2007, after two inexplicable losses and a season going straight into the toilet, Richt’s squad turned around and smashed their way to a #2 ranking at the end of the season. The 2012 team saw a blowout loss to South Carolina followed up by a run at the National Title that was ultimately thwarted by Alabama. Last season was discarded after Todd Gurley was suspended, only to have the emergence of Nick Chubb revive the team to finish much higher than anticipated.

If Florida goes into the tank, Tennessee loses to Alabama and the Dawgs win out, we could see Georgia in Atlanta once again. Is it time to rejoice if that happens? Frankly, the outlook would not be rosy. The Georgia Dome has not been kind to the home team in recent years and the SEC West is absolutely dominating the SEC title game right now. This season looks to be no different.

Georgia has lost its last three December visits to the Dome and all signs point to a loss again – the leaders of the West are far more physical and Georgia simply is not responding to punches in the mouth these days. It has even spread to the fanbase. In fact, I overheard a Georgia fan remark that his “degree was worth more” to an Alabama fan as I left Sanford Stadium. Oh man – that is vitriol you hear when you leave Vanderbilt and Georgia Tech after winning. Are the Dawgs resorting to academia in the trash talk arena? Maybe we can compare SAT scores and pocket calculators at halftime.

I am not sure what will happen at this juncture. The offense looks anemic, the defense is porous and the kicking game is as reliable as a Land Rover engine. Richt’s seat is heating up, Pruitt is facing his first criticisms and Mike Bobo has probably gotten a few “we miss you, Dawg” tweets. Players who were supposed to step up have disappeared, tackling seems optional and the injured are being stacked like cordwood on the sidelines. I sound like Larry Munson mixed with Cormac McCarthy.

The Dawgnation will have to don their rose-colored glasses and prepare for the “long, strange trip” that will be the rest of the 2015 season.


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