LORAN SMITH COLUMN: Careful with that ‘run the table’ talk

The railbirds are pontificating along with other soothsayers who are prone to look ahead and to forecast icing on the cake — essentially based on emotion and an updraft of celebratory feelings from a game when most everything went right for the Bulldogs.

Immediately, after the 41-30 handcuffing of South Carolina, the Saturday night revelers moved post-haste into predicting a grand and glorious finish for the home team. After the game, I was at the grill savoring victory when the comment about “running the table” gave me indigestion before I had taken a bite out of my Bubba Burger. “Yes,” was the response, “If the rest of the games are at home and the team plays lights out as it did against the Gamecocks.”

It is pure folly to count victories before games are played. Georgia has players. The Dawgs have playmakers and there is talent on both sides of the ball. This is a team which can mature into a solid and competent contender. Sometimes when fans look ahead, players can get caught up in all the excitement and that is how you spell u-p-s-e-t.

Take time to review past years when teams were either champions or contenders and you find that common thread confirmed that they won close games and found a way to win when they had an off day. Peak performance is hard to come by every big game. You work to that objective, but history confirms that somewhere along the way, teams will render one or more flat performances. Should that happen when the competition rises to the occasion, then it’s, “Houston, we have a problem.”

Taking games one at a time is not realistic with all too many college football fans. What was the difference in the South Carolina game compared to Clemson when the Bulldogs lacked the edge playing on the road? The big difference came with Aaron Murray finding the strike zone. Like the ace of a pitching staff who has control issues some days, Aaron simply had an off day in a hostile environment in the opener. The key to success for the offense will be whether or not he can keep from having an off day in Knoxville, Nashville, Jacksonville, Auburn and Atlanta. Nobody will work harder at his craft than Aaron, but there are no guarantees.

In his early days with the hapless Tampa Bay Bucs, following another agonizing loss, Coach John McKay was asked what he thought about the execution of his team. McKay cracked, “I’m for it.” Coaches today know what to do when it comes to game planning. Both sides usually have competency with regard to this objective, but the team which usually wins is the team which has the fewest flaws in executing the game plan.

For Georgia to win a championship, there has to be improvement in several areas. Special teams need more efficiency, but the most critical factor in developing a winner will be for the defense to cause more turnovers. One turnover in two games — although it was a very critical one for the Dawgs on Saturday when Conner Shaw fumbled at the Georgia 25 — suggests that the defense lacks the maturity to give the Bulldogs the edge it needs in close games. Those young players must grow up in a hurry. They are going to be good, but can they measure up with the heavyweight competition ahead? Todd Grantham believes they will.

Let’s hark back to the fourth quarter, Georgia leading 41-30, the Gamecocks driving with hopes for a touchdown and another opportunity on offense. The Gamecocks had a first down inside the ten yard line after having driven down the field from their own 27. Here the young Bulldogs grew stout. On fourth down and one, South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier called for the option, a play the Gamecocks had scored with earlier. Why not give the ball to a back who is having a productive day. Mike Davis had gained 150 yards at that point, but when he made his move to the goal line the Bulldogs Amarlo Herrera and Ramik Wilson were there to greet him for a one yard loss and a goal line stand to remember.

In a conversation with Todd Blackledge of CBS on Friday night, he was paying tribute to Steve Spurrier’s unparalleled expertise at play calling. My guess is there is a lot of gripping in the Palmetto State today about the goal line call. Execution? We are all for it, but we don’t always get it.