Bama (Natl Champ)
Alabama Crimson Tide (National Championship)
L, 23-26

The current state of the "Junkyard Dawg" defense is a really tough thing for me to swallow. After last season, I was more than a little upset about the play of the defense. An apparent lack of focus and fundamentals had me calling for staff changes since those two things (along with recruiting) are the main reasons these guys make the crazy money they make. The easy analysis of the 2009 season is that we're seeing more of the same and Willie Martinez should be dialing up George O'Leary for some resume advice. I really want to rant and be that "fanatical" fan, but I just can't do it. Call it excuse-making or blind homer-ism or whatever you like. Let's take a closer look at the South Carolina and Arkansas games (ignoring the OSU game since I think most would agree the D really didn't play that bad).

South Cakalaka: The biggest tell for this game is clearly time of possession. The Gamecocks had the ball almost 10 minutes more than the Dawgs (34:21 to 25:39)!! That time differential led to USC getting 83 offensive plays to UGA's 53. Yes, they outgained us 427 yards to 308, but looking at average per play and you'll see that we actually outgained them 5.8 yards per play to their 5.1. Now, let's factor in 3 turnovers, one of which was a pick-six (totally not on defense) and the other two were deep in Georgia territory (both inside 30 yard line). In spite of the career day by Garcia and the horrible situations the defense continued to find themselves in, the Gamecocks were still forced into 5 field goals and only converted 35% of their 3rd downs. Finally, penalties continue to plague us; 4 of the 13 penalties committed by Georgia resulted in first downs for the Gamecock offense. This was not a good performance by any means, but it was hardly the gashing it appears on the surface.

Arkansas: This was a slightly different story, but, again, not as bad as it seems. The first thing I have to say about this game is that Ryan Mallett will be playing on Sundays. He is the real thing at QB, so there has to be a certain amount of kudos you have to give Arkansas for just simply executing. Having said that...turnovers continued to be a problem and kick return coverage also hurt. Two more fumbles and an interception resulted in Hawg points and a kick off return deep into UGA territory also reared its head in the form of points. The good from this game is that Arkansas managed only 77 yards on the ground and converted only 3 of 14 third down attempts (21%). Those are solid numbers by any defensive standard. A lack of pressure on Mallett and the big play were really the undoing for Georgia in this game.

So, basically, my point is that I'm not quite ready to pass judgment on the 2009 Dawg defense. Clearly, I'm VERY unhappy with the points on the other side of the scoreboard thus far this season, but I can also see that the defense isn't entirely to blame for all those crooked numbers. Let's see how the defense performs when the offense protects the ball a little better and special teams performs the way they should.