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Local News

  • Going to Athens and watching the Dawgs 'between the hedges' is one of the best ways to spend a Saturday. Sure, we may be biased, but there are very few environments like it in the country. According to a recent ranking by “For the Win,” the University of Georgia was ranked the second-best college football town in America. TRENDING STORIES: Lawsuit: Sun Dial restaurant ‘had no protections' to stop 5-year-old's death Police: Man who stole Chick-fil-A catering van taken into custody WSB-TV plans extensive coverage of the Georgia Dome demolition “For the Win” tracked social media activity among college football fans to create the rankings. “Come for the great music scene, stay for the football,” the rankings said about UGA. Georgia was beaten only by the University of Wisconsin in Madison. The Texas Longhorns in Austin, the LSU Tigers in Baton Rouge and the Michigan Wolverines in Ann Arbor rounded out the top 5. CLICK HERE to see the complete rankings. Information from JuliaKate E. Culpepper, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, was used in this report.
  • It can happen in the branch office or the boardroom. Volkswagen did it to pass emissions tests. Wells-Fargo did it to squeeze more profits from their customers. Some school districts have it done it to boost their standardized test scores. Workplace cheating is a real and troublesome phenomenon, and new research from the University of Georgia explains how it starts-and how employers can help prevent it. 'It's the desire for self-protection that primarily causes employees to cheat,' said Marie Mitchell (pictured), an associate professor of management in UGA's Terry College of Business. 'Employees want to look valuable and productive, especially if they think their job is at risk.' In a recently published paper in the Journal of Applied Psychology, Mitchell and her co-authors examined performance pressure in the workplace and the behaviors that result from it. They found when employees feel their job depends on meeting high benchmarks, some fudge results in order to stay employed. For example, when Wells Fargo employees were told to meet new goals that included opening sky-high numbers of new accounts, thousands began to open fraudulent accounts in order to meet their quotas. Wells Fargo was fined $185 million in 2016 and publicly scorned as a result. Similar scenarios can play out across all industries, Mitchell said. 'We've seen it in finance, we've seen it with educators and test scores, we've seen it in sports, it's everywhere,' she said. 'Performance pressure elicits cheating when employees feel threatened. Even though there is the potential of getting a good payoff if they heighten their performance, there's also significant awareness that if they don't, their job is going to be at risk.' This is especially true when employees feel they cannot meet expectations any other way. That perception leads to anger, which in turn leads to unethical behavior, Mitchell said. This crucible of pressure and anger causes employees to focus on doing what is beneficial to them-even if it harms others. 'Angry and self-serving employees turn to cheating to meet performance demands. It's understandable,' Mitchell said. 'There's a cycle in which nothing is ever good enough today. Even if you set records last month, you may get told to break them again this month. People get angry about that, and their self-protective reflex is elicited almost subconsciously.' An expert on 'dark side' behaviors and a former human resources manager, Mitchell has been interested in cheating phenomena since her graduate school days. 'There were individuals in law school who would race to get to law journals before anyone else and tear out certain pages so that other students couldn't be as prepared in class,' she said. 'So I know cheating happens. I've seen it. But the research on this has taken place in behavioral labs, and that doesn't always translate well to the workplace. I wanted to find out a bit more about what actually happens at work.' To do so, her research team devised three studies. The first created a measure of workplace cheating behavior through a nationwide survey that asked participants about cheating behavior at work-what it is and if they'd seen it. The second and third studies were time-separated field surveys in which employees were asked about their performance pressure at one point in time, then were asked about their feelings and perceptions of the pressure and their cheating behaviors about a month later. The findings led to a breakthrough. The key, Mitchell said, is for managers to understand the potential threat of performance pressure to employees. If they coach employees on how to view pressure as non-threatening and focus on how to enhance performance ethically, cheating may be prevented. 'It could be that if you pair performance pressure with ethical standards and give employees the right kind of assurance within the workplace, it can actually motivate great performance,' she said. 'There have been many scholars who have argued that you need to stretch your employees because it motivates them, makes them step outside of their normal boxes and be more creative. Our research says that it could, but it also might cause them to act unethically.' The paper, 'Cheating Under Pressure: A Self-Protection Model of Workplace Cheating Behavior,' was co-authored by Michael D. Baer of Arizona State University, Maureen L. Ambrose and Robert Folger of the University of Central Florida and Noel F. Palmer of the University of Nebraska-Kearney.
  • A ceremony is set for 11 o’clock this morning at the courthouse in downtown Athens: they’ll unveil the official portrait of former State Court Chief Judge Kent Lawrence. From the Athens-Clarke County Public Information Office... Athens-Clarke County State Court Judges Ethelyn N. Simpson and Charles E Auslander will host a portrait unveiling ceremony in honor of former State Court Chief Judge N. Kent Lawrence at 11:00 a.m. on November 17, 2017 at the Athens-Clarke County Courthouse, 325 East Washington Street, Athens.    The judges of Athens-Clarke County will dedicate the portrait of Judge Lawrence, which was commissioned by the Western Circuit Bar Association and painted by Ms. Suzanne Royal, to hang in the State Court Courtroom of the Athens-Clarke County Courthouse. A reception will be held prior to the ceremony at 10:00 a.m. in the Courthouse Atrium, located on the 2nd floor.   Judge Lawrence presided over State Court from 1985 until his retirement in 2011 and was the founder of the DUI/Drug Court, which was the first DUI Court in the state of Georgia and one of the first nationwide. In the Athens DUI/Drug Court program, participants are held strictly accountable for their behavior. The participants are on intensive probation supervision, take frequent drug and alcohol screens, and participate in intense substance abuse treatment. Participants typically spend 14 to 20 months in the program.    Since 2001, the DUI/Drug Court has had over 300 participants successfully graduate from the program. In 2012, Judge Lawrence received the National Center for DWI Courts (NCDC) Leadership Award, the highest national honor, in recognition of his vision and commitment in the field of DUI courts. The DUI Court has been recognized as one of only four DWI Academy Courts in the United States, an honor bestowed by the NCDC in partnership with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). As an NCDC Academy Court, the Athens DUI/Drug Court helps to develop, identify, and test national best practices for DWI Courts, including answering questions, providing advice and hosting visitors, including court teams from other jurisdictions participating in training.    While nationally Judge Lawrence may be best known for his tireless efforts in promoting and starting accountability courts, he was best known for the first half of his life for his outstanding accomplishments as a University of Georgia football player. Lawrence’s service for the Athens’ community began shortly after an injury ended his football career and he returned to the University of Georgia to pursue a Master’s in Education.    When given the opportunity to work in law enforcement while being a student, Lawrence seized it. He worked as a University of Georgia police officer, then moved on to working as a detective within the UGAPD followed by serving as the first Police Chief of Clarke County in 1974. Judge Lawrence attended the Law School of Atlanta by working during the day, then making the two-hour round trip to school in Atlanta every night. After graduation, Lawrence worked with a private firm in Athens, then as a prosecutor under Harry Gordon, the former District Attorney for Athens-Clarke County. In 1985, Lawrence was appointed by Governor Joe Frank Harris as State Court Judge of Clarke County where he served for 26 years.
  • We are on the eve of the final home football game of the Georgia Bulldog season: the seventh-ranked Dogs host the Kentucky Wildcats in tomorrow’s SEC finale. Kickoff for UGA Senior Day is set for 3:30 in Sanford Stadium, with national television on CBS.   The senior ceremony will begin at 3:16 p.m. ET at Sanford Stadium. Kickoff for the Bulldogs’ final home game of the season is set for 3:30 p.m., with the contest nationally televised on the CBS.  The 31 seniors to be recognized are John Atkins, DL, Thomson, Ga.; Davin Bellamy, LB, Stone Mountain, Ga.; Jeb Blazevich, TE, Charlotte, N.C.; Aulden Bynum, OL, Valdosta, Ga.; Lorenzo Carter, LB, Norcross, Ga.; Reggie Carter, LB, Stone Mountain, Ga.; Nick Chubb, RB, Cedartown, Ga.; John Courson, LS, Athens, Ga.; Aaron Davis, DB, Locust Grove, Ga.; Jordan Davis, TE, Thomson, Ga.; Alex Essex, DL, Richmond, Va.; Turner Fortin, RB, Johns Creek, Ga.; Trent Frix, LS, Calhoun, Ga.; Jacob Gross, RB, Thomaston, Ga.; Carson Hall, OL, Dallas, Ga.; Daniel Harper, LB, Atlanta, Ga.; Matthew Herzwurm, LS, Augusta, Ga.; Tim Hill, DB, Atlanta, Ga.; David Marvin, K, Charlotte, N.C.; Miles McGinty, TE, Savannah, Ga.; Sony Michel, RB, Hollywood, Fla.; Cameron Nizialek, P, Chantilly, Va.; Malkom Parrish, DB, Quitman, Ga.; Christian Payne, RB, Athens, Ga.; Brice Ramsey, QB, Kingsland, Ga.; Dominick Sanders, DB, Tucker, Ga.; Dyshon Sims, OL, Valdosta, Ga.;Thomas Swilley, OL, Athens, Ga.; Shakenneth Williams, WR, Macon, Ga.; Javon Wims, WR, Miami, Fla.; Isaiah Wynn, OL, St. Petersburg, Fla.
  • The University of Georgia’s annual Blue Key awards banquet is on tap for tonight, set for 6:30 at the Georgia Center. UGA says Blue Key recognizes undergraduate and graduate men and women of outstanding character and ability who have achieved distinction for scholarship and recognition for service and leadership. From the University of Georgia master calendar…   Blue Key recognizes undergraduate and graduate men and women of outstanding character and ability who have achieved distinction for scholarship and recognition for service and leadership. Blue Key Service Awards will be presented to Randy Nuckolls, partner in the Washington, D.C. office of Dentons US LLP; Susan Waltman, executive vice president for legal, regulatory and professional affairs and general counsel for the Greater New York Hospital Association; Victor Wilson, vice president for student affairs at the University of Georgia; and David Williams, associate provost and director of the Honors Program at the University of Georgia. Matt Crim, cardiologist for the Piedmont Heart Institute and assistant professor of medicine with the Augusta University/University of Georgia Medical Partnership, will receive the Blue Key Young Alumnus Award. Recipients of the Tucker Dorsey Memorial Scholarship, the Richard B. Russell Student Leadership Award, and the AT&T Student Leadership Award will also be announced.

Bulldog News

  • ATHENS – One million, eight hundred and sixty thousand. Dollars. At the very least, that is how much “The Big Four” left on the table to play for the Georgia Bulldogs this season. Probably would’ve been more. As far as I know, nobody has ever referred to Davin Bellamy, Lorenzo Carter, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel as The Big Four. But how can you not? That is essentially certainly what they’ve been for Georgia this season. I’m not talking about statistical contributions, necessarily. Yes, they’ve all contributed significantly to the Bulldogs’ cause in terms of what they bring to the team on the field each Saturday. But it’s really a more intangible effect that the Big Four has had on the 2017 squad. It started with them walking away from that pile of money last December. “Those four guys (coming back), it just shows their commitment,” said fellow senior Jeb Blazevich, a tight end. “I think that really set the tone for the rest of the team. It said, ‘hey, we’re investing another whole year into this.’… Even the younger guys are thinking, ‘this season is special.’” And it has been special. Still is, despite that aberration that occurred last Saturday at Auburn. With a win Saturday against the Kentucky Wildcats (7-3, 4-3 SEC), the No. 7-ranked Bulldogs can improve to 10-1 on the season and finish the year undefeated at home. They’ve already punched their ticket to Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the SEC Championship Game. With that in hand, all other possibilities remain in play. That’s right, College Football Playoffs and national championship. Scoff if you like, but that remains these seniors’ objective. “We made a decision; we came back for a reason,” Carter said after the Bulldogs’ practice on Wednesday. “I think we’ve done a pretty good job so far. But all of us seniors – even the underclassmen – we let them know we’re not done yet.” We never got an exact assessment of what The Big Four were told by the NFL when they asked for a draft evaluation after last season. It’s a very formalized and private process nowadays. Essentially, underclassmen can inform the NFL’s college advisory committee that they’re considering foregoing their college eligibility to play professionally. Made up of high-level NFL personnel evaluators and individuals from scouting organizations, the advisory committee then reviews data and video provided by the players and their schools and offer a generalized assessment. They receiver either a “first- or second-round evaluation” or a “stay in school evaluation.” Not everybody accepts their assessment. In 2016, 107 underclassmen entered the draft. Of those, 30 of them went, according to the NFL. Without the benefit of these guys telling us the exact evaluation they received, there’s no way to know how much money The Big Four left on the table. But based on where I’m sitting, it’s at least the number I mentioned above. That’s based on my personal view that each one of these guys would have made an NFL roster, regardless of their draft position. The NFL minimum salary for 2017 is $465,000. Multiply that by four and you get $1.86 million. I don’t know what The Big Four’s presence has meant financially for UGA. I guess you could say without them, the Bulldogs probably aren’t eyeing a “New Year’s Six bowl” and certainly not an SEC Championship Game or playoff berth. All those come with their resident monetary rewards. Intangibly, though, it’s hard to put a number on. “That’s a group of guys that have been really special to me,” said Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who advised the Big Four to come back. “But they’ve been really special to the DawgNation and the legacy they leave behind.” Of course, it’s not just The Big Four who have made the Bulldogs into what they are this season. In fact, there are a bunch of seniors that have contributed to the cause this season. That goes beyond those who receive full-ride, grants-in-aid. Including walkons, there are 31 seniors who will honored during Senior Day before Saturday’s game. Not all of them have been here the last four years, but most of them have. Guys like safety Dominick Sanders, who needs one pick to tie the school record for career interceptions; like Aaron Davis, who has started 41 games, most ever by a non-kicking walkon; or tackle Isaiah Wynn, who has played in all but two games the last four years, most of them starts. Including a year at prep school, John-John Atkins has been pledged to Georgia since 2012, and has likewise been a block of granite for the Bulldogs at noseguard. Together, they’ve amassed a 37-12 record (.755). A couple more wins and they’ll finish among the Top 10 most successful teams of all time, which span 125 years. As for the money, Carter has maintained that it really wasn’t about that for him or the other seniors that came back. “We didn’t go out last year like we wanted to,” he has always maintained. “I feel like I had a lot more to do here so I couldn’t leave yet.” Nevertheless, Carter may have benefited the most in that regard. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound outside linebacker from Norcross has been mentioned as a potential NFL first-rounder for next April. Regardless, each of the Big Four has left an indelible mark on this program: Chubb became just the second rusher in Georgia history to exceed 4,000 career yards and will finish as UGA’s second all-time behind Herschel Walker in rushing yardage, rushing scores (39), and all-purpose yardage (4,669). His 4,318 rushing yards are the fourth most in SEC history. Michel is the fifth-leading rusher in Georgia history with 3,142 yards and could finish as high as third. He’s on pace to finish among the top five in all-purpose yards (3,755) yards as well. Bellamy has played in 33 games, collecting 108 tackles and 19.5 tackles for loss. He ranks third on the team with nine quarterback pressures this season. And Carter, he had a team-high nine tackles and a sack in the 42-7 win over Florida, a couple of huge sacks and fumble recoveries in the win at Notre Dame and 13.5 sacks in his career so far. Except for that stinging loss at Auburn last Saturday, senior year has been nothing but a blast for Carter and his classmates. But it’s not over yet, Carter points out. That’s why, if you’re going to Saturday’s game at Sanford Stadium, you really need to be inside and sitting in your seat by 3 p.m. Kickoff between No. 7 Georgia and Kentucky is not until 3:37 p.m., but setting aside an extra half-hour to honor these 2017 seniors rather than gulping down another cold one will be time well spent. “These guys have meant a lot to this program, meant a lot to me personally, meant a lot to the staff, and they’ve meant a lot to this university,” Smart said. “I think we all owe it to them, as a fan base and as a coaching staff and as a team, to make sure that we give them our best effort.” You can be assured that Georgia’s seniors will be bringing it. The post If ever there was a UGA senior class to see honored, this 2017 bunch is it appeared first on DawgNation.
  • We are on the eve of the final home football game of the Georgia Bulldog season: the seventh-ranked Dogs host the Kentucky Wildcats in tomorrow’s SEC finale. Kickoff for UGA Senior Day is set for 3:30 in Sanford Stadium, with national television on CBS.   The senior ceremony will begin at 3:16 p.m. ET at Sanford Stadium. Kickoff for the Bulldogs’ final home game of the season is set for 3:30 p.m., with the contest nationally televised on the CBS.  The 31 seniors to be recognized are John Atkins, DL, Thomson, Ga.; Davin Bellamy, LB, Stone Mountain, Ga.; Jeb Blazevich, TE, Charlotte, N.C.; Aulden Bynum, OL, Valdosta, Ga.; Lorenzo Carter, LB, Norcross, Ga.; Reggie Carter, LB, Stone Mountain, Ga.; Nick Chubb, RB, Cedartown, Ga.; John Courson, LS, Athens, Ga.; Aaron Davis, DB, Locust Grove, Ga.; Jordan Davis, TE, Thomson, Ga.; Alex Essex, DL, Richmond, Va.; Turner Fortin, RB, Johns Creek, Ga.; Trent Frix, LS, Calhoun, Ga.; Jacob Gross, RB, Thomaston, Ga.; Carson Hall, OL, Dallas, Ga.; Daniel Harper, LB, Atlanta, Ga.; Matthew Herzwurm, LS, Augusta, Ga.; Tim Hill, DB, Atlanta, Ga.; David Marvin, K, Charlotte, N.C.; Miles McGinty, TE, Savannah, Ga.; Sony Michel, RB, Hollywood, Fla.; Cameron Nizialek, P, Chantilly, Va.; Malkom Parrish, DB, Quitman, Ga.; Christian Payne, RB, Athens, Ga.; Brice Ramsey, QB, Kingsland, Ga.; Dominick Sanders, DB, Tucker, Ga.; Dyshon Sims, OL, Valdosta, Ga.;Thomas Swilley, OL, Athens, Ga.; Shakenneth Williams, WR, Macon, Ga.; Javon Wims, WR, Miami, Fla.; Isaiah Wynn, OL, St. Petersburg, Fla.
  • ATHENS — The best thing about what happened to Georgia last week on The Plains and what might happen Saturday against at Kentucky at Sanford Stadium is that the Bulldogs happen to play football with 18-to-22-year-olds. “Kids are more resilient than the adults and the fan base, I can promise you,” explained coach Kirby Smart, talking about the 23-point loss to Auburn on 680 The Fan’s Bulldog Roundtable on Thursday. “They live in a generation of ‘onto the next thing.’ They want 60 seconds; they’re two or three lines on Twitter; they go on SnapChat. That’s all they think about. So for them, it’s onto the next one.” There are some objectives for the Bulldogs beyond just winning the next game. Starting with that ill-fated trip to Auburn, this is the most challenging stretch of the season, and the SEC Championship game awaits, whether Georgia is ready for it or not. It will be paramount that the Bulldogs shore up some things, mentally as well as physically. “It’s important to gain some confidence in how they play, especially early in this game, so that they can get back to believing in themselves. At the end of the day, it’s the next opponent, a good opponent and an SEC opponent, so they’ve got to go out and perform and be ready for a four-quarter battle. I fully expect it to be that way with Kentucky.” Whether it could help or hinder that objective remains to be seen, but the Bulldogs will be honoring a huge group of seniors. They’re led the high-profile foursome of Davin Bellamy, Lorenzo Carter, Nick Chubb and Sony Michel, but there are numerous others who have distinguished themselves with their service in games or in practices. A whopping 31 players will be honored during Senior Day ceremonies, which will start promptly at 3 p.m. That group has logged a 37-12 record over the last four years. With a couple more wins, they have a chance to finish among the Top 10 most successful classes of all time in the 125-year history of Georgia football. “These seniors have been a tremendous asset for our staff,” Smart said. “They’re a lot of high-character kids who care a lot about the University of Georgia. We can give back to them and their families by honoring what they’ve done for the university. Here’s what has to happen to send them out the right way: Back to Bulldog Basics The Bulldogs have to find a way to get back to what had made it successful before Auburn humiliated them 40-17. Primarily, that is establish the run and stop the run. Georgia was overwhelmed in both of those respects against the Tigers, recording season lows in rushing on offense and defense. When Nick Chubb leads the Bulldogs with 27 yards rushing, you know it’s a bad day. There is nothing automatic about being able to do that against the Wildcats. They’re actually similar to Auburn statistically when it comes to stopping the run. They’re fourth in the SEC at 121.9 yards, or 3.5 yards more a game than the Tigers’ vaunted defense. So Georgia has to address its newly-exposed issues on the offensive line. The Bulldogs were experimenting in practice this week with big Ben Cleveland (6-6, 340) getting some looks at left guard. On the flipside, Kentucky already has called out Georgia to some degree. Sophomore Benny Snell promised the Bulldogs that he was going to be “bringing it” against them on Saturday. And he has more than a little something to bring. Snell (5-11, 233) is the SEC’s third-leading rusher (101.3 yards per game) and is coming off his third consecutive game in which he has scored three touchdowns. Snell had 114 yards and two touchdowns against Georgia last year when the Bulldogs eked out a 27-24 victory. Throw the ball downfield As much as the Bulldogs need to establish the run, they also have to prove they can throw the football. They’ve done that with some success this season, but not consistently and certainly not in the fashion that makes a defense respect it and change what they’re doing. Georgia’s freshman quarterback Jake Fromm not only has been extremely good at completing third-down throws and occasionally hitting defenses with big plays in the passing game. His yards per attempt continues to be one of the best in the country. But where the Bulldogs are lacking is in a consistent downfield attack that utilizes the middle of the field and give the safeties something else to think about. To date, most of Fromm’s attempts and completions have come on 50-50 plays against one-on-one coverage in the short to intermediate flat and up and down the sideline. That limits the risk of a turnover within the chaos that is the middle of field. If there’s a team Georgia might be able to exploit in this regard, it’s Kentucky. The Wildcats struggle in pass coverage. In fact, they’re last in the SEC against the pass, allowing 282.3 yards per game and giving up 18 touchdowns through the air.It may be time for Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to show more trust in the freshman Jake Fromm and let him try to exploit the middle of the defense. This, in turn, could get the Bulldogs’ impressive group of tight ends more involved in the passing game. Tighten up special teams It could be argued that Georgia has won the special teams matchup in every game it played this season. Well, up until last week’s game at Auburn. Actually, the Bulldogs remained dominant when came to the act of kicking and returning kicks. But they were flagged for two devastating personal-foul penalties on special teams plays, committed a turnover and missed a field goal. That undid all the good work displayed by return specialist Mecole Hardman, who had 183 yards in returns but muffed a punt that led to an early second-half touchdown by the Tigers. Kentucky is decidedly average on special teams, and is especially vulnerable on kickoff returns. This area of Saturday’s matchup is a clear advantage for the Bulldogs, and one of which they need to take full advantage. The post Planning for Opponent: Millennial mentality should serve Dawgs well vs. Kentucky appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS – A battle was being waged on my personal Facebook page earlier this week. For once, it didn’t involve opposing opinions about our president or the people who ran against him last year. No, this scrum was among Georgia football fans – in-fighting, if you will — and they were going back and forth in a pretty heated argument about Mark Richt vs. Kirby Smart. It has been kind of debate for a while, but apparently it intensified over the weekend with the Bulldogs’ loss to Auburn and Miami’s win over Notre Dame. Georgia head coach Kirby Smart tips his caps to fans after beating Missouri 53-28 in a NCAA college football game to remain undefeated on Saturday, October 14, 2017, in Athens. Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com Specifically, some folks thrilled that Georgia’s former coach is enjoying so much success in his new job at Miami Miami, where he landed after the Bulldogs fired him. Others were attempting to devalue what Richt has done so far in leading the Hurricanes to a 9-0 record and a place among the nation’s Top 4 teams in the College Football Playoff Rankings. That quickly devolved into an argument about whether or not Richt should have been fired from Georgia at all, about whether Smart was a better coach and a debate over which approach to leading a football program was better. Generally, Richt’s philosophy was described as being focused on turning his young players into great men, with winning being a secondary motivation. Smart, it was argued, ascribes to more of a national-championship-or-bust philosophy out of the mold of Nick Saban. Winning them all is what it is all about for him and nothing else. These polarizing positions were debated ad nauseum on my timeline. I never weighed in. I will here, though. Clearly, both approaches can work. I think they ARE both working. And I believe it’s possible to root for both of these guys. Well, at least until they go head-to-head in a college football playoff game. That, by the way, is still a distinct possibility. Of course, both of their teams have to get there first. But both will. If it doesn’t happen this season, it will in the near future. Maybe a few times. As for Smart, he has come a long way toward convincing me that he is going to win big at Georgia. That was the expectation when UGA’s power brokers began to make the moves to get Richt out and get Smart here in 2015. Smart, then Alabama’s defensive coordinator, was moving quickly toward taking the South Carolina job, which had come open during the season. The Bulldogs knew this. They needed to take drastic steps to get him, lest they sit by idly and watch him go instead to an SEC East rival. That was understandable, but it came with inherent risks. Though wildly successful as Saban’s right-hand man while the Crimson Tide contended for national championships every year, Smart did not have head coaching experience. Therefore, nobody could be sure how Smart might do, especially with so many other Sabanites not necessarily lighting it up as head coaches. In Richt, UGA had a known commodity who had won at a high rate and at a high level relative to the school’s history. But you could see in 2015 that perhaps his best days at Georgia were behind him. For whatever reason, though his teams often knocked on the door to national championships, the Bulldogs could never walk through. His demeanor and coaching style had worn thin on some fans, as they tend to do with long-tenured coaches. I dare to say that some had grown tired even of Richt’s Christian credo. But there is no denying how beneficial the transaction has been for both parties. Never mind Georgia’s de-pantsing this past Saturday at Auburn. The No. 7-ranked Bulldogs (9-1, 6-1 SEC) are still a formidable team in 2017, and way ahead of schedule as far as Smart whipping them into championship contention. Say what you will about anything they’ve done this season, or what you think they might do in the coming weeks, the fact of the matter is Georgia’s destiny is completely in its own hands. Anything is possible once it lines up against Alabama or Auburn on Dec. 2 in Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Either way, Smart is in line for SEC coach of the year, and national coach of the year depending on how things go from there. Richt’s going to be on the national ballot, too. I’m not sure how anybody who watched Richt’s work at Georgia for 15 years can’t enjoy seeing what he’s doing at the U. Clearly, returning to his roots as a play-caller and coordinator has rejuvenated Richt and done wonders for Miami. He is at his best with a playsheet in his hands and a headset over his ears. The Hurricanes are going to be favored over Virginia this Saturday and Pitt the next. Then they’ll get a shot at Clemson in the ACC Championship Game. I sincerely hope they get through clean. If both Georgia and Miami do, odds are good they’ll meet in the playoffs. And if neither do, you can bet the four remaining bowls of the New Year’s Six – Chick-fil-A, Cotton, Fiesta and Orange —  will angle to pit these two teams together. I sure would. That’s a bowl game I’d definitely pay to see. Wouldn’t you? For me, this is not as much about winning an argument as to which program got the better coach or whose way is better. Moreover, what has happened with these respective teams is a validation of the decisions these schools made and, on a larger scale, why these moves are sometimes necessary to kick start a stalling Power 5 program. As we’re witnessing, all this upward movement has occurred in Year 2 of these coaches’ administrations. That also happens to be when Richt’s Georgia program took off 15 years ago, and when Saban got it going at LSU and Alabama, and Urban Meyer at Florida and Ohio State, and Bob Stoops and Pete Carroll and Jim Tressell, and so on. On that note, that’s why we should all probably pay close attention to these hires that are about to take place throughout the SEC. Florida and Tennessee are actively looking for coaches right now, Arkansas is expected to join the search soon (if it’s not already) and Texas A&M and Ole Miss might be soon to follow. But forget those guys for now. Georgia and Miami have the best story in the country brewing right now. It’d be the perfect final chapter if they could somehow meet in the last game of year. That’s what I’m rooting for. The post Loving what’s happening for Georgia with Kirby Smart — and with Miami’s Mark Richt appeared first on DawgNation.
  • ATHENS — Regular readers of  “An Opposing View” will no doubt remember Joe Mussatto as our guest for Kentucky week last year. If you do, then you’ll know you should pay attention to what he has to say. Mussatto provided a very accurate breakdown of last year’s game, in which he predicted “Georgia will win in a close one.” Boy, howdy, was he on target. You’ll recall that the Bulldogs won 27-24 on Rodrigo Blankenship’s 25-yard field goal with no time remaining. Spoiler alert: Mussatto isn’t expecting the same kind of anxiety-riddled contest for Georgia fans this year (see his full prediction below). But as our second-year Kentucky football beat writer for SEC Country, Mussatto knows the ‘Cats better than anybody. So he does his usual bang-up job of filling us in what to expect from this year’s team. Be sure to follow Mussatto on Twitter to keep up with everything going on in UK’s camp. As for a little background on Joe, he’s originally from Oklahoma City and went to the University of Oklahoma, so he went from covering one Stoops brother to another. By the way, Mark Stoops, brother of Bob, is doing a pretty good job. He has the Wildcats sitting at 7-3 overall, 4-3 in SEC play. Here’s Mussatto’s answers to the questions I sent him, followed by a detailed prediction: 1. Obviously, 7-3 is good in the historical context of Kentucky football. But it looks like the Wildcats were tantalizingly close to having nine wins at this point. What do the make of the Cats’ football season in Bluegrass Country? Mussatto: Mark Stoops was asked Monday about how close Kentucky could be to 9-1. Even he couldn’t stop himself from saying “What if?” The Wildcats were blown out at Mississippi State, but they led both Ole Miss and Florida in home games late in the second half. Kentucky ended up losing both. The Florida streak was extended to 31 years and I’m not sure if the fan base has recovered, especially with how bad the Gators have looked. But for all those who are saying Kentucky is close to being 9-1, keep in mind that the Cats came dangerously close to losing home games to Eastern Michigan, Missouri and Tennessee. Kentucky’s best friend has been its schedule. The bottom line is that 7-3 is a great season by Kentucky’s standards and the Cats are one win away from their first eight-win regular seasons since 1984. 2. I’m assuming everybody’s happy with Mark Stoops these days? Please tell us about the contract extension/new contract he recently received and how do you believe he and Kentucky fit in as the Eastern Division continues through this transitive state? Mussatto: Kentucky isn’t close to passing East programs like Florida and Tennessee, but things are much more stable in Lexington than they are in Knoxville or Gainesville. Stoops’ contract will be extended by one year for every season in which he leads Kentucky to seven wins. Stoops earned that seventh win last Saturday, and his contract was extended to 2022 — a season in which he’ll be due $5 million. If Kentucky wins 10 games in a season, Stoops gets a two-year extension. And on top of those provisions, he nets a $250,000 bonus for every UK win starting with its seventh. So yeah, it’s pretty good to be Mark Stoops right now given that contract. Kentucky is committed to him and back-to-back seasons with four SEC wins is impressive given where Joker Phillips left the program. 3. The Bulldogs know all about Benny Snell from last year when he was so effective against him. You see him every week. Does he belong in the same class as the other elite backs in the SEC? And do you expect to see UK run him a lot out of the Wildcat formation like it did last year, especially after seeing what Auburn’s Kerryon Johnson did last week? Mussatto: I think he deserves to be in that class. He’s second in the SEC in rushing yards behind Kerryon Johnson and he’s tied for the league lead with 15 rushing touchdowns. He’s scored three touchdowns in each of his last three games. There’s a good chance Snell finishes his career as the best running back in school history. He’s only a sophomore and he already holds the school record for career rushing touchdowns. He’s also the only UK back to rush for 1,000-plus yards in back-to-back seasons. As for the wildcat, Kentucky hasn’t used the formation as much as last season but it’s still a part of the offense. Expect to see Snell taking snaps in short-yardage situations. Freshman receiver Lynn Bowden is a faster and shiftier option out of the wildcat. 4. Where do you think Stephen Johnson ranks among SEC quarterbacks and do you expect Kentucky to use the passing attack much against Georgia’s defense? Mussatto: I’d put him in the five-to-seven range, and that’s a big improvement compared to where he was last season. He’s completed 63 percent of his passes and that’s second in the conference behind only Jarrett Stidham at Auburn. He’s sixth in the conference with 180 passing yards per game but has thrown only 10 touchdowns against four interceptions. He’s also averaging 35 rushing yards per game and is very good when reading whether to keep or hand off. Better than Johnson’s physical ability has been his toughness and knack for winning games. He’s 14-7 as Kentucky’s primary quarterback. The offense is established through Snell, but how much will Kentucky be able to run on Georgia? Johnson has to make Georgia respect the pass if Kentucky is going to have any chance. 5. What’s your assessment of Kentucky’s defense and, first and foremost, its ability to stymie Georgia’s rushing attack? Mussatto: Kentucky has been the worst defense in the SEC against the pass, but the Wildcats are giving up only 122 rushing yards per game. That stat might be a little skewed though. A run-first team like Mississippi State got whatever it wanted on the ground. Kentucky’s linebackers are the strongest group for Stoops’ defense, and they along with the defensive line need to play their most physical game to have a shot at slowing down Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Georgia has the advantage up front and it’ll likely be a big day for the Bulldogs on the ground. MUSSATTO’S PREDICTION: I expect Georgia will be extra motivated coming off its loss to Auburn and with a bid at the College Football Playoff still within reach. Kentucky has made significant strides in the last two years, but Georgia still has the advantage when it comes to talent. That’ll be evident in the battle up front. Georgia’s offensive and defensive line will control the game and the Dawgs will win big. Georgia 41, Kentucky 13 The post Opposing View: Timing of UGA game not good for Kentucky, but don’t overlook these ‘Cats appeared first on DawgNation.