LORAN SMITH COLUMN: UGA plays fantasy football

Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith

Albany Herald Guest Columnist Loran Smith

Although I am not into fantasy football, its very name gives away its true meaning: make-believe football — a game fans play every day, a game that can be seductive, often leading to disappointment. You get your hopes up, your team lets you down.

Rebuke, second-guessing and castigation follow.

Already, Georgia fans are being sucked into thinking that the forthcoming season will be a good one based on what everybody seems to think is a favorable schedule. Swapping Missouri for Alabama and moving South Carolina down in the schedule is, at first glance, very good indeed — but why the sudden rush to counting victories? There are no gimmes in the SEC, lest anyone forget.

Coming off a disappointing bowl game performance, fans, nonetheless, look at the 2012 schedule as a plus, and with several highly-rated prospects committed to play for the Bulldogs, enthusiasm is rapidly peaking. Fans everywhere are excited about next year.

“How many you think we can win next year?” a fan quizzed in the Atlanta airport last week.

My response: “I just want to win the first one.”

I’m still trying to get over losing a bowl game Georgia should have won. It’s not all that easy to move on without being troubled about the second half in Tampa. In case you are interested, that is how the Georgia coaches are feeling lately. They put a positive spin on things, but privately, they are smarting.

Wouldn’t it be in order to ask these questions?

Are we going to GATA (get after their [anatomy]) in spring practice?

Are we getting stronger in the weight room?

Is everybody going to be eligible?

Will those highly regarded freshmen come in ready to play fundamental football and forget about their Internet reputation as superstars?

It is at times like these that I chuckle at what Vince Dooley would be saying. By March he’d have Buffalo, the Bulldogs’ opening opponent, worthy of playing for the National Championship. All the incoming freshmen would be lucky to make the scout team.

Missouri? Don’t get too worried.

It is time to get serious. Consider that since 1960 when Dan Devine was the Tigers’ head coach, Wallace Butts was running the show in Athens and Fran Tarkenton was the Bulldogs’ quarterback, Missouri has won only one Big Eight title (1969). However, the Tigers have played in eight bowl games in 11 years, and while there are more Insight.com and Independence bowl games than BCS and New Year’s Day bowls on its holiday resume, Missouri has not been exactly a pushover in its recent past.

They beat Oklahoma in 2010 when the Sooners were ranked No. 1 in the country, and the last two times they played SEC opponents, they went home smiling: 38-7 over Arkansas in the 2007 Cotton Bowl and 38-31 over South Carolina in the 2005 Independence Bowl.

Under Gary Pinkel the Tigers have won 61 percent of their games, and last fall they posted an 8-5 record with another bowl victory, averaging 36.5 points per game and yielding 19.8 points on defense. Pinkel is not a guy with a flashy reputation, but he has had solid teams in his tenure as the boss of the Tigers. Remember what it was like when a team with a big reputation (Oklahoma) played in Columbia?

Georgia will take that type of reputation to the “Show Me” state in September.

It will be hot — not like it would be in Columbia, South Carolina — but plenty hot. The Mizzou fans will be hotter. They’ll want to show Bulldog fans they belong in the Southeastern Conference. They’ll want to show Georgia, the SEC, and the nation.

Why am I concerned about all this fantasy football? Sometimes when you drink heady wine in preseason, it turns into hemlock.