THE TEN AT 10
1. A week after rushing for 163 yards, scoring two more touchdowns, recording one more hurdle of a defender and throwing a 50-yard pass, Todd Gurley has moved past Marcus Mariota and into consensus No. 1 spot among most of the weekly Heisman Trophy polls.
Mariota, the Oregon quarterback, occupied that spot a week ago. But that was before the Ducks fell to Arizona at home this past Thursday.
Gurley is now No. 1 in weekly surveys provided by CBSsports.com, USA Today, ESPN, HeismanPundit.com and several others. The other player that made a big jump this week is Mississippi State quarterback Dak Prescott, who now occupies the No. 2 spot in most of these surveys. In fact, Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com put Prescott ahead of Gurley on his weekly ballot.
But, of course, there’s a long way to go in this “race.” As ESPN’s Desmond Howard told me recently, “it’s not sa race you want to be leading in October.” And he should know. He owns one of these trophies.
2. As Gurley and all of the candidates are well aware, the Heisman ultimately is a team award. While it’s possible to win it on a team that is not necessarily in the championship picture, it would take some freaky production to do that.
Of course, Gurley is putting up some freakishly big numbers at this point. At his current SEC-leading pace of 154.6 yards per game, Gurley has a shot of becoming only the 16th collegiate player of all time to rush for more than 2,000 yards in a season.
Including a bowl game, which at this point you have to assume the Bulldogs would qualify for, the junior tailback would finish with 2,033 yards. The last time a back busted the 2,000-yard barrier that was 2013 when Andre Williams of Boston College had 2,177 yards. Three did it in 2007: UCF’s Kevin Smith (2,567), Tulane’s Matt Forte (2,127) and Rutgers’ Ray Rice (2,012).
Barry Sanders is the all-time leader with 2,628 yards at Oklahoma State in 1988. Herschel Walker is, of course, Georgia’s all-time leader with an SEC single-season record of 1,891 yards in 1981. It should be noted that his totals – including 5,259 career yards – does not include bowl games. Those are now included.
Anyway, it’s unlikely Gurley could sustain his current pace with the stretch and magnitude of games coming up and it’s probably premature to project. But it sure is fun to think about.
3. Georgia coach Mark Richt reiterated again Monday that the Bulldogs would “more than likely” employ some sort of quarterback rotation on Saturday against Missouri.
They substituted redshirt freshman Brice Ramsey for senior Hutson Mason for the third offensive series of the game this past Saturday against Vanderbilt. While Ramsey didn’t play again until the fourth quarter, he said it helped him knowing he was going in early.
“It was exciting to get in early in the game and not just do mop-up duty at the end,” said Ramsey, who was 2-of-3 passing and led the Bulldogs on a 74-yard scoring drive that first series. “It was nice to go down the field and get a touchdown.”
Ramsey was not as thrilled about not getting back into the game until the fourth quarter. Not because he didn’t think Mason was doing a good job, but because he got cold.
“The first drive, I was warm,” said Ramsey, who finished with 31 yards on 2-of-4 passing. “As the game went on, I got real cold sitting over there on the sideline. Couldn’t really get loose. That’s no excuse, though. You’ve still got to go in there and be able to make the throws. But overall felt good about it. It was exciting and I had a lot of fun out there.”
As for what the coaches have planned this week, Ramsey said, “I honestly have no idea. I wish I knew.”
4. Meanwhile, how does Mason feel about sharing snaps? He’s saying and doing all the right things.
“You can really only worry about yourself,” said Mason, who had 121 yards on 11-of-17 passing with two TDs and one interception on Saturday. “It’s something you have to teach yourself because it’s something that doesn’t come naturally. … Really all I was worried about this week was Hutson Mason and how I was going to handle this new approach this week and answering the bell and showing up and performing the way I need to.”
As Mason aptly pointed out, Georgia is “probably not going to be a team that needs to throw the ball 300 yards a game” this season. And he’s doing a pretty good of managing the Bulldogs’ offense. He’s completing 69 percent of his passes for 137 yards per game with 7 TDs and 3 interceptions. More important, Georgia’s offense is producing 45 points per game.
But now Mason has another whole dynamic to handle with this rotation equation.
“It’s not easy,” he said. “You want to be the guy 100 percent of the time. But you have to show you can be the guy 100 percent of the time. I knew Brice was going in and I just didn’t let it affect me and tried to control what Hutson Mason could control.”
5. Georgia kept its “SEC accolades” streak alive on Monday. Tailback Nick Chubb was named the SEC’s freshman of week, according to an announcement from the league office. Technically Chubb was co-freshman of the week. He shared the honor with Florida defensive back Jalen Tabor.
In any case, that marks the fifth time in as many games the Bulldogs have had a player been tabbed for one of the SEC’s weekly awards. Gurley was named the offensive player of the week twice (Clemson, Tennessee), senior inside linebacker Amarlo Herrera was named defensive player of the week once (Clemson) and freshman tailback Sony Michel was designated freshman of the week after the Troy game.
It was a quietly effective game Chubb played as the primary backup for Gurley against Vanderbilt. The 5-foot-10, 228-pound from Cedartown had career-high 78 yards on eight carries (9.8 average) and scored a 33-yard touchdown in the 44-17 win over the Commodores. On the year, Chubb is Georgia’s second-leading rusher with 224 yards on 31 carries (7.2 average) and two touchdowns. He also has three catches for 31 yards and a score in the receiving game so far in 2014.
6. Georgia wasn’t merely lucky to have landed the noon time slot for Saturday’s game at Missouri. UGA officials were uncomfortable with the word “lobbied,” but they definitely let the powers that be know that the travel burden the team would incur from possibly having to fly back to Athens through Atlanta after a late game on Saturday would be extraordinarily taxing and possibly unfair, especially considered they would to turn around and make another trip out to Little Rock five days later.
CBS this week exercised its six-day option for deciding on Saturday’s games. The network chose Auburn at Mississippi State for its prime 3:30 p.m. slot. ESPN, which then had the next two picks, took Alabama at Arkansas for the 6 p.m. spot and Ole Miss at Texas A&M for 9 p.m. CBS then snapped up Georgia-Missouri for the first game of a doubleheader. LSU at Florida, another matchup in the mix, ended up getting slotted at 7:30 p.m. on the SEC Network.
At the end of the day, these kickoff decisions are always made by television executives, with input from the conference office. But Georgia definitely got a sympathetic ear as its travel situation is a little more complicated these days.
Because Delta ended its regional charter business before this season, UGA can no longer fly three smaller planes in and out of Athens’ Ben Epps Field. So the team now has to bus to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to catch its charters. That adds two hours on either end of its commute.
The Bulldogs would have been looking at getting home sometime near daybreak Sunday if they had been involved in a 9 p.m. game, which at one point looked like the likeliest of scenarios. That would have put the whole team behind for the week from both a preparation and energy standpoint before making another long trip to Little Rock, Ark.
7. I’ve been meaning for a while to provide a note on Davin Bellamy. The redshirt freshman outside linebacker from Chamblee has been lauded by coaches and teammates for his tremendous attitude in the wake of the stiff punishment he received after getting arrested for DUI shortly before preseason camp began. Bellamy was suspended for the Bulldogs’ first two games of the season and had to undergo community service and drug and alcohol counseling.
“It was my mistake and, the way I was raised by my mother, if you do something own up to it,” Bellamy said last week. “It was nobody else’s fault. I shouldn’t have put myself in that situation. So whatever punishment happened, I felt like it was something I needed to do without complaining. You usually complain when you think something wasn’t fair or wasn’t right. But I knew it was my mistake and it was going to lead to that. So there was no reason to complain about it.”
Slowly but surely, the 6-foot-5, 235-pound athlete is starting to show the promise his coaches have seen in him since he arrived as a 4-star prospect. As a backup to entrenched starter Jordan Jenkins at the Jack position, Bellamy has recorded six tackles and a tackle for loss in three games.
“It definitely made me appreciate the game more, made me appreciate every snap,” Bellamy said. “I could have been kicked off the team, but Coach Richt decided to give me another chance. So every time I’m out there playing, I’m reminding him and thanking him for giving me that second chance.”
8. UGA has moved on fairly quickly in the process of replacing former executive associate athletic director Frank Crumley, who resigned Sept. 16 after his affair with a married subordinate was discovered. Athletic Director Greg McGarity this week said the Bulldogs have had 42 applicants for the position, described on the university’s employment website as “Senior Associate Athletic Director/Chief Financial Officer.”
McGarity said he has already identified numerous extremely qualified candidates, and not all of them are coming from the college athletics sector. McGarity is also considering applicants from the private sector.
9. It’s starting to become evident that the Georgia soccer team is in the midst of a special season. The 20th-ranked Bulldogs picked up yet another sweep this past weekend as they recorded a 3-1 road win over Mississippi State on Sunday and defeated Tennessee on Friday in Athens. What’s more, Georgia did it without one of its best players.
Forward Marion Crowder had to sit out both games as part of the SEC-mandated punishment for receiving an red card for “fighting” in the previous win over South Carolina. I’ve since seen video of the alleged fighting and it was was quite a stretch for officials come to that conclusion (Crowder pulled down a defender by the jersey as the two were battling for the ball on a throw-in).
Nevertheless, the Bulldogs overcame the loss of one of their best offensive weapons and improve to 9-2-1 (4-1-1 SEC) heading into an open weekend. Now in sole possession of second place in the league, they resume play Oct. 17 and 19 at home against Missouri and LSU.
10. This and that: Georgia’s men’s and women’s basketball teams have both began practice for the 2014-15 season. … The No. 7-ranked men’s golf team found itself down a man early in the Nike Golf Collegiate Invitational on Monday in Fort Worth, Texas. Junior Lee McCoy, the nation’s top-rated player per Golfweek/Sagarin, had to withdraw early in the first round with an injury. McCoy’s exit meant the Bulldogs’ remaining four players would be counting the rest of the way. The Bulldogs were in 10th at 38-over-par heading into Tuesday’s third round.