Roy Exum: Georgia Picked By 6½

Monday, November 29, 2021 - by Roy Exum
Roy Exum
Roy Exum

So help me, I can hear the legendary Bear Bryant telling his players: “Bingo, we got Georgia right where we want ‘em, They are cocky, fat and sassy … all we got to do is keep our wits about us and do the things we know we can do. I know we can do it. Now, let’s get ready to play Georgia the game of their lives …”

The trouble is Coach Bryant died almost 40 years ago and this week, when Alabama rolls into Atlanta to play arguably the best Georgia team in the vaunted history of Athens proper, the Crimson Tide is suddenly a rarity. ‘Bama is a 6 1/2 underdog and not many can remember the last time Nick Saban’s collection of premier talent was not the favorite in any game.

As a matter of fact, the unwritten rule in gambling parlors is: “If the Crimson Tide isn’t favored, bet a wad on Alabama.”

Then again, Georgia – unbeaten all year – is evermore a juggernaut. In 12 games this year the best defense in the country has given up only eight touchdowns. To put that in perspective consider the fact over 30 football teams have given up that many in just one game this fall. In 12 games, Georgia has played with a brilliance that left Georgia Tech a 45-to-nothing wreck last weekend.

At the same time in a state next to Georgia, Alabama won a four-overtime triumph in the renewal of the Iron Bowl. Oh Lord have mercy, the Tide was down by 10 as the fourth quarter began, but all that did was set the stage for the most exciting comeback in all of college football this season.

Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, just a sophomore, solidified his grasp on the Heisman Trophy with a scratch-and-claw touchdown in the waning minutes and a 10-10 tie with the Tigers laid way to four spine-tingling overtimes before Alabama would leave Auburn with an exhausting 24-22 triumph. The Iron Bowl, an historic game between rivals Alabama and Auburn, has never had an overtime – now it’s had four. My gracious, has it ever.

On paper, Georgia and Alabama match up exceedingly well. The two teams mirror one another except at quarterback, where Heisman Trophy front runner Young’s heroics overshadow a gutty Georgia quarterback, the former walk-on candidate Stetson Bennett. Bennett emerged from a crowd in fall practice as a capable and ofttimes splendid field general.

Yet Young has been sensational from the get-go this season. He’s passed for 3,901 yards and 40 touchdowns. He can run the ball. Any Heisman voters will discount that in the face of his heroics in the Auburn game and the fact he can run the ball make him – I believe – the frontrunner as America’s greatest player.

Don’t be dissuaded, Bennett fits Georgia like custom shoes. The Dawg offense is sound … c’mon they’ve “run the table,” and had it not been for the defensive prowess Kirby Smart has spawned “between the hedges,” accolades for the Bulldog offense would be as plentiful as a Thanksgiving feast.

A most unfortunate spearing call on Alabama’s top receiver – Jameson Williams – took him from the Auburn game but did you notice others like John Metchie stepped right up? That’s the truth of both teams – the talent level is extraordinary.

This Saturday’s SEC championship game could be one for the ages; at 4 p.m. make sure you can watch it.

* * *

BILLY NAPIER TO COACH AT FLORIDA

(From ESPN:) Our hero Billy Napier, who grew up in Murray County, Ga. (Chatsworth) has been chosen as Florida’s new coach. Florida has hired Napier as the Gators' next football coach, the school announced Sunday.

"We are humbled and honored to accept this incredible opportunity to be the head football coach at the University of Florida," Napier said in a statement. "Our team, staff and entire organization will work daily to establish a program with integrity and class that we all can be proud of. More importantly, we will build a culture that is centered around making an impact on our players; as people, as students, and on the field.

“We embrace the expectations and are excited about the challenge ahead. We will assemble a special group of people and immediately get to work building a great program. A special thank you to President Dr. (Kent) Fuchs and Athletic Director Scott Stricklin. We look forward to getting to Gainesville and starting this journey!"

Napier, 42, has been at Louisiana the past four seasons and led the Ragin' Cajuns to 10 or more wins in each of the past three seasons. Before his arrival, Louisiana had never won 10 games in a season in program history.

He turned down multiple SEC head-coaching opportunities in recent years and again emerged as a target for several high-profile positions this season. LSU and Virginia Tech were also interested in Napier during this hiring cycle.

"I've followed and studied Billy Napier's career with interest, and he became the primary target immediately after this position came open," Stricklin said in a statement. "We felt confident he would be an excellent leader for the Gators, which is why he was the only candidate I met with about the job."

* * *

DAVID CUTCLIFFE OUT AT DUKE

(From ESPN)

Duke and coach David Cutcliffe have mutually agreed to part ways, the school announced Sunday. Cutcliffe spent the past 14 seasons with the Blue Devils, leading them to 77 wins with six bowl appearances and the 2013 Coastal Division championship.

But in recent years, Duke has struggled to win at a consistent level, finishing 2021 at 3-9 with eight straight losses to close out the year, its third straight losing season. The Blue Devils failed to win an ACC game for the first time since 2007.

Duke associate head coach Trooper Taylor will serve as the interim head coach until a new coach is hired.

"We are extremely grateful for David's leadership over the past 14 seasons," athletic director Nina King said in a statement. "He lifted our program to unprecedented heights, both on and off the field, while maintaining the core values of the University and we could not be more appreciative of his mentorship of every student-athlete who played for Duke during his tenure. David and Karen have been tremendous ambassadors of Duke University and the Durham community and we wish them, along with their family, all the best going forward."

Under Cutcliffe, Duke won its first bowl game since 1961. He also led the Blue Devils to a final national ranking in 2013 for the first time since 1962.

His mastery with quarterbacks has been well told, serving as coach to both Peyton and Eli Manning in previous stops at Tennessee and Ole Miss. At Duke, he coached Daniel Jones to a first-round selection with the New York Giants in 2019.

In July during an interview with ESPN, Cutcliffe said he would not be a coach who hung around too long if he could not find a way to help the Blue Devils win.

"If I ever feel like I'm a hindrance, then nobody's going to have to ask me to go," Cutcliffe said at the time.

* * *

OH MERCY, RILEY BOLTS OKLAHOMA FOR SOUTHERN CAL

(From ESPN) Lincoln Riley said he wasn't leaving Oklahoma for LSU.

He didn't say he wasn't leaving the Sooners for USC.

In a stunning move on Sunday, Riley, 38, accepted the head-coaching position at USC, according to ESPN and multiple reports. He replaces former Trojans coach Clay Helton, who was fired in September after posting a 46-24 record in seven seasons.

Riley guided the Sooners to four consecutive Big 12 titles and three College Football Playoff appearances in his first four seasons. Oklahoma was eliminated from the Big 12 championship game following a 37-33 loss at Oklahoma State on Saturday night.

Following the Bedlam loss, after there was widespread speculation that he was LSU's choice to replace the departing Ed Orgeron, Riley said, "I'm not going to be the next head coach at LSU."

Former Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops, who will be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame on Dec. 7, will coach the Sooners' bowl game, a university source told ESPN's Adam Rittenberg, confirming multiple reports.

Stoops coached the Sooners for 18 seasons before retiring in June 2017. He led Oklahoma to a national championship in 2000, 10 Big 12 championships and 14 seasons of double-digit victories and held a 190-48 overall record before handing off the program to Riley ahead of the 2017 season. He has remained active around the program, including helping to coach a practice last year when the staff was short-handed due to COVID-19 cases.

Riley's departure is a big blow to the Sooners, who are about to transition into the SEC. Riley had a 55-10 record in five seasons, including a 37-7 mark in the Big 12.

Oklahoma has targeted Arizona Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury as one of the potential replacements for Riley, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

royexum@aol.com


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