On today’s show: Rob, Lang and Roser breakdown championship week in the NFL, ask if Jimmy G is good enough to get the job done, discuss Patrick Mahomes outdueling Josh Allen and more before getting Lance Taylor’s thoughts on this week’s games and giving picks of their own.
This week, Grind City Media’s Kelcey Wright Johnson and Lang Whitaker give their votes on the All-Star reserves.
On today’s show: What we learned this week from the Wild Card round + preview of Bengals/Titans and Bills/Chiefs (1:00) + 49ers/Cowboys and a preview of 49ers/Packers (25:37) + Rams/Bucs and our picks for this weekend (38:31).
This week, Grind City Media’s Kelcey Wright Johnson and Lang Whitaker give their votes on who their starting five all-stars are.
On today’s show: Rob, Lang and Roser recap the CFP national Championship Game, discuss Stetson Bennett’s performance and more before being joined by Lance Taylor for a conversation about this week’s NFL playoffs action. The fellas give their picks on this week’s action.
I did not believe.
Let’s start right there. On Monday night, the Georgia Bulldogs beat the Alabama Crimson Tide in the college football National Championship Game, to win UGA’s first title in 41 years.
But yeah, in retrospect, I’ll admit it: I did not believe.
In whom did I not believe? Well, there’s a long list.
First and foremost, Stetson Bennett: I did not think the former walk-on was a good enough quarterback to lead the Georgia Bulldogs to a National Championship. He certainly has an inspirational story, but a great background tale is traditionally not enough to beat the devil himself, Nick Saban.
I also did not believe that Kirby Smart was a good enough football coach to defeat Nick Saban. After all, Kirby Smart had lost four straight times to Saban, and didn’t really seem to be any closer to solving that puzzle than he had been four years ago, when Saban last beat UGA in a title game. Smart is undeniably a gifted recruiter, but he has not been able to get his football team past Saban’s.
Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning had recently been hired as the head coach at Oregon, but I didn’t believe that he was any closer to understanding how to stop Alabama than he had been 37 days ago when Bama put up 41 points against this vaunted Dawgs defense.
Zamir White? George Pickens? William Poole? Dan Jackson? AD Mitchell? All terrific players, who contributed to UGA being 13-1 heading into the National Championship game. But were they the kind of players who would help UGA win their first title in 41 seasons?
Well, I didn’t believe that they were. In fact, I didn’t think UGA was going to beat Alabama in the National Championship game. Perhaps this was a conditioned response to years of Alabama beating UGA, but in the days leading up to the game, I found myself at peace with the thought of Alabama beating UGA. There is an order to life, after all, and Georgia losing to Nick Saban’s Alabama teams just seemed like part of that natural order.
I also had trouble believing because I’d been hurt before. I still clearly remember 2017, and I remember 2012. I remember Eric Zeier and Jacob Eason and all the QBs who were supposed to lead us to titles. As someone who has rooted for the University of Georgia Bulldogs for my entire life, I was led to believe that we just weren’t good enough.
And the Dawgs certainly began the game like they were outmatched. On the opening drive, Stetson Bennett fumbled (and recovered) the ball, then drew a delay of game penalty before UGA was forced to punt. Better warm up JT Daniels, our five-star back-up QB, I thought. When UGA had 6 points at halftime, I once again thought about Daniels and wondered if he would get a chance.
The good news, at least for UGA, was that they blitzed the Tide early and often, and continued to bring it throughout the night. It was a simple adjustment, one even a pedestrian like myself noted might be prudent, and it turned out to be correct—when Bryce Young was on the run, he struggled to complete passes. Once Jameson Williams went down with a torn ACL, the Tide seemed even shorter on options to stretch the field.
(I understand that Alabama was already without wide receiver John Metchie III, and then they lost Williams. Yet I find it hard to believe that a team with a top three recruiting class year after year after year only has two wide receivers who are any good on their depth chart. But I digress…)
UGA opened the second half with another punt, and I was really getting antsy. UGA’s defense was playing well, holding Alabama to field goals whenever they reached the red zone. UGA got an interception and took over inside the 50, but had to punt again. This much I knew for sure: Stetson Bennett was not good enough. Kirby Smart wasn’t going to take Bennett out. And UGA was not going to beat Alabama.
Then UGA ran the ball four plays in a row and went 80 yards for a TD. Alabama ripped off 9 points to go ahead 18-13.
Which was when Stetson Bennett turned into Aaron Rodgers, leading UGA on consecutive TD drives (one 75 yards, one 62 yards) to go up 26-18. I didn’t think he had it in him. I didn’t believe. But Bennett believed.
In the waning moments, when Kelee Ringo picked off Bryce Young and weaved his way to the end zone, running 79 yards for a TD, putting UGA up for good, 33-18, I stood in my mancave and silently danced in a little circle. In that moment, I thought about the symmetry of Ringo wearing number 5, like Garrison Hearst wore back when I attended UGA, and like DB Damian Swann wore a decade ago. I thought about all the other players who have come and gone without winning a title. I thought about all the time I spent on that campus, all the days I spent wandering around downtown Athens, wondering what I was going to make out of my life. And I realized that it was happening. UGA was actually going to win a National Championship. I sat back down on the couch and smiled and felt a little woozy.
Your favorite teams aren’t supposed to win titles every year. Championships are the rarest of achievements, built through years or even decades of work. Alabama could go one hundred years without winning another title, and I would feel no sympathy. You aren’t supposed to get six titles in 13 years, or whatever it is that Saban has done at Alabama, or what Jordan did in Chicago, or what Wooden did at UCLA. Maybe you have an incredible circumstance and get back-to-back rings or something like that, but for the most part, a championship is an incredibly rare and precious thing.
Which is why we cherish the sensation the way we do. That’s why we cry when our teams win, it’s why we hug strangers and high five random people because of the t-shirt they’re wearing. It’s why I got a million text messages and DMs on Monday night, and it’s why I’ve been making intermittent barking noises in public over the last few days.
It was a journey to get here, but finally, my college football team won it all. And now I’m sitting in my office, listening to R.E.M. (shoutout Athens) the morning after the Georgia Bulldogs finally beat Nick Saban to win a National Championship. What a time to be alive.
Woof, woof, woof, woof, woof.
On today’s show: Rob, Lang and Roser preview the CFP Championship Game, discuss the impact of John Metchie III being out for Alabama, talk about what Kirby Smart needs to do to get over the Nick Saban hurdle and more. The guys also give their picks for the week too.
It started with a squirrel.
A few months back, one day we heard what sounded like a scratching noise coming from inside the eaves over our garage entrance. Well, I thought, I guess we have a critter in there. My wife, an aspirant naturalist, immediately told me that under no circumstances would we call an animal control specialist to remove the little beast. It must need shelter, she reasoned. Why else would it colonize our home? And since the eaves isn’t actually attached to our home, how much damage could it do?
A few days later, my neighbor texted me a video of the squirrel poking his head out of his forced entrance hole on the edge of the eaves. The squirrel was calmly looking up and down the street, surveying the neighborhood like Tony Soprano wearing a bathrobe at the end of his driveway. This is ridiculous, I thought.
A few weeks later, I woke in the middle of the night and heard the squirrel scratching against the interior wall that separates the eaves from the actual house. A day later, an animal control expert we had to pay dearly rousted the squirrel, sealed the hole and set a trap in case Lil Tony Soprano managed to return. If we’d just dealt with it at the beginning, maybe we would have avoided the cash expense? Letting it linger only caused problems.
The squirrel seemed to move on, perhaps to a roomier home in the suburbs, but literally one day later, I was outside the back door of our house when I saw a small brown mouse dart past me toward a weep hole in the foundation. Nah, I thought, there’s no way he’s going into the house. We’ve lived here for almost five years, and we’ve never had a problem with rodents. Now they’re all coming after me at once, like I’m Doctor Doolittle?
A day later, I opened the pantry and found several packages of food chewed through, and the bottom shelf sprinkled festively with tiny turds. After cleaning up the party detritus, I found a slim gap in the back of the pantry, which we taped over until we could manage to seal it more effectively. A day later, the tape was chewed through, and a different shelf had been turded.
Immediately, I drove to Home Depot and picked up a half dozen glue traps, as well as some of that expandable hardening foam stuff I could use to fill his entryway. But first, before filling the hole, I baited the traps with peanut butter and chocolate and left them in the pantry. A few hours later, while I was at work, my wife reached out.
“The mouse is stuck on the trap,” she texted.
“Great,” I responded. “I’ll be home in a bit.”
“I’m putting it in a box in the laundry room. Our son is in love with him, by the way. He’s super cute.”
“I’m going to kill it,” I said.
It had taken me a while to reach this moment, but I was at a breaking point. I had done my best to be understanding, to forgive and accept, to respect life and nature. But in doing all of those things, I was losing. I was ready to win. It was time for me to win.
Next week, my Georgia Bulldogs will take on the Alabama Crimson Tide in the college football National Championship game. The Dawgs are currently 3-point favorites in the game.
Alabama has beaten UGA seven straight times, which includes Tua coming off the bench four years ago to throw a game-winning score in UGA’s last trip to the National Championship game. Of course, those seven games stretch past the beginning of the Kirby Smart era, as Smart himself is on the hook for just four of those losses against Saban. It feels like it stretches back forever: My son was born nine years ago, and we were discharged from the hospital just as Aaron Murray led UGA on a final, fruitless drive down the field against Alabama in the SEC Championship.
For years now, Alabama coach Nick Saban has called media attention “rat poison,” but after Alabama beat Georgia in the SEC Championship game a few weeks ago, he spun “rat poison” in a different direction. “The rat poison that you usually give us is usually fatal,” Saban said, “but the rat poison that you put this week was yummy.”
It was a strange analogy, and his delivery made it a bit creepy, but I think what Saban meant was all the experts and pundits predicting an Alabama loss were feeding into the underdog narrative Saban was selling to his squad. (How in the world Nick Saban convinced his team of defending national champs and five-star recruits and a Heisman winner that they were the underdogs in any matchup is another column altogether.) What’s really wild is Saban had Alabama believing they were the underdogs, and that tactic worked and they won, and now this week they’re playing the same team that they beat before, and somehow now they actually are underdogs!
I love the Dawgs, but I don’t know if I believe UGA can actually beat Bama. A large part of the blame for Georgia’s recent failures has fallen at the feet of QB Stetson Bennett, who is 0-2 when he starts against Alabama. At the same time, EVERY QUARTERBACK who has started against Alabama over the last three seasons has gone a total of 3-37. Beating Alabama is really, really, really hard, and there’s no shame in Bennett failing at the two chances he’s had to defeat the Tide. Would backup QB JT Daniels be a better option for the Dawgs? Perhaps – you could argue he wouldn’t do any worse than Bennett has done — but Bennett was terrific last week against Michigan (20-30, 313 yds, 3 TDs/0 INTs), and it’s hard to believe there’s anyone in the UGA quarterback room who is any hotter than Bennett at the moment.
Perhaps UGA is favored because Alabama will be without WR John Metchie, who helped Bama torch UGA’s secondary in the last matchup. But Alabama has plenty of fine receivers, and that “next man up” mentality is particularly applicable at a school loaded with five-star recruits.
The only way I think UGA stands a chance is if they try and speed up Alabama QB Bryce Young. During the SEC Championship loss, UGA seemed content to sit back and let Young pick them apart. And so he did. As Seth Emerson wrote in The Athletic…
“Yes, Georgia did use plenty of four-man rushes: By my count on re-watch, 22 of Young’s 48 dropbacks saw Georgia only rush four, while there was also one three-man rush. Almost all of Alabama’s big plays came out of those. Meanwhile, there were 12 five- or six-man rushes, and they went much better. There were also 14 other passes where the ball got out so quickly it either wasn’t evident how many rushed or it didn’t matter.
The results: Young was 13-for-19 for 297 yards and three touchdowns when Georgia rushed four or fewer defenders. When Georgia rushed five or more, Young was 1-for-11 for 24 yards. So…yeah, pretty stark.”
Alabama is great because they drill down on whatever your weakness is and they relentlessly attack that weakness. Against UGA they passed down the field. Last week, against a smaller Cincinnati team with a good secondary, Alabama ran for over 300 yards on their way to a blowout win.
Alabama hits you where it hurts. Now it’s up to UGA to be prepared for that possibility. It’s been a long haul for UGA to get to where they are this week, and they’ve got the mouse (the elephant?) cornered. Instead of poison, however, perhaps this time they’ll try a glue trap? A wooden trap? Anything other than rat poison. We’ve seen how Nick Saban loves rat poison.
By the way, I got home from work and found myself summarily overruled regarding the mouse. My wife and son had rescued him from the glue trap and placed him in a shoebox. My son and I then drove to a field a few miles away and released the mouse, where he cautiously stumbled out of the box and trotted off into the tall grass. As my son and I drove away, I started doing the math in my head, trying to figure out how long it might take that mouse to make it back to my house for another all-he-can-squeak buffet.
To be honest, I am totally expecting that mouse to show back up at my house in a day or so. We removed our pest from the equation, but we didn’t take him out when we had the chance. If there’s anything we’ve learned from Nick Saban, it’s that you have to take advantage of that opportunity when it’s presented.
Because otherwise, the rat can start to enjoy the poison.
This week, Grind City Media’s Kelcey Wright Johnson and Lang Whitaker posed predictions on who the new All-Stars will be this year.
On today’s show: Rob and Lang preview the CFP semifinals matchups, discuss Michigan’s and Cincinnati’s chances of pulling off upsets, preview other bowl games of note and give you their picks for the week.