We are almost at the end of the 2008 college football season and there have been contenders and most certainly pretenders.

What gives with the Georgia Bulldogs?

A team with so much promise turned out to be a real dud. And before you start to at me yell through your computer screen, let me state my case. Yes they could win 11 games and that would be a success. But those close to the program know that it has been a long and topsy-turvy journey to this point. It started with the No. 1 ranking from pretty much every media outlet in the country. What happened next we might never know.

What we do know is that the sense of urgency that Georgia played with at the end of the 2007 season seemed to dissipate with every game the Bulldogs played. Sure, they had key injuries and those injuries were along the lines of scrimmage—those positions and that experience are not easily replaced. Linemen are often under-appreciated until they miss a block or assignment.

Just think of the drill “The Bear” ran with his lineman. He would put four players face to face and have them beat each other senseless until one fell out at which point a whistle would blow and a trainer would come to haul the guy away. This went on until all the offensive linemen were as mean as snakes; and rightfully so, when you are protecting your field general and making holes for running backs.

But I digress; the “patchwork” offensive linemen have done a serviceable job this season, except when it really counted. By that I mean the games that the Bulldogs had circled. Certainly the Alabama game was a game where they wanted to make a statement. And make a statement they did. They were so busy making a statement in the first half that they forgot to play football.

It seemed to be more of the same in the Florida game. Except this time, it was Florida doing all the talking and Georgia listening, mostly while on their backs.

So we are approaching the end of the year and there is only one regular season game left for the Bulldogs. It is Georgia Tech and there is a real chance this year that Paul Johnson and his gang can beat the Bulldogs, or at least hang with them. Who would have thought that the Bulldogs would be looking to this rivalry game to validate their season?

But there is always next year. I don’t mean that tongue and cheek. Often times we are a year off as prognosticators. And who’s to say that if Mathew Stafford, Knowshon Moreno and others in critical positions (i.e. lineman) decide to come back, that it will not be the year for the Bulldogs.

At least one of those critical cogs in the wheel of a championship season has announced that he will be back for another year. Junior defensive tackle Geno Atkins left nothing to ponder when he talked about the team’s high hopes for next year. “That was a big factor. I want to leave here with a national championship or an SEC championship. That was one of my goals when I was coming here. So that did play a role.”

His mentor, senior Jeff Owens, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the Bulldogs’ opener this year. The two formed one of the best interior defensive lines in the conference last season. Owens has applied for a medical redshirt but has not decided whether he will return next year. Atkins hopes that his decision will influence Owens to stay at Georgia another year.

Surely these two know that their personal decisions to forego the possibility of a NFL career will weigh heavily on the rest of the team. I believe that in 2009 with a much more manageable schedule and this potent offense, another season under their belts, paired with a defense that will return close to every player, is pretty much a sure thing for a championship season.

And you can quote me on that one.

To contact Rachel Baribeau or for more information please visit www.rachelbaribeau.com.


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