One team (Georgia) can't lose. One team (Falcons) forgot how to win. One team (Georgia Tech) suddenly can't beat even Virginia, so say goodbye to a bowl. How's that for a range of emotions? Welcome back to Overreaction Monday (a little late due to technical difficulties).
Georgia (9-0, 6-0 in the SEC)
What happened: Georgia remained unbeaten with a 24-10 win over South Carolina.
What's next: The Bulldogs play their toughest game to this point when it travels to Auburn (7-2, 5-1).
Overreaction narrative: "You see Jake Fromm throw?! You see our national championship odds?! Ain't no stopping us now!"
Reality check: First, about the odds. According to online oddsmaker Bovada, Georgia's national championship odds dropped from 11-1 to 4-1 in the span of a week. Alabama (5-7) is the only team with better title odds. Three things caused the shift: 1) The Bulldogs were ranked No. 1 in the first college playoff poll; 2) They clinched the SEC East with two conference games still to play; 3) Jake Fromm threw for 196 yards and two touchdowns in a win over South Carolina and clearly is the next Johnny Unitas. He's at least temporarily quieted the narrative that Georgia has a one-dimensional offense. Fromm has far exceeded what I believed a true freshman starting quarterback could accomplish, so credit to not only him but offensive coordinator Jim Chaney and obviously coach Kirby Smart for bringing him along. OK, all that said, beware this week. Playing at Auburn represents a huge challenge. A case could be made the Tigers are a better team than Notre Dame was at the time Georgia played in South Bend. Auburn's only losses this season came at Clemson (14-6) and at LSU (27-23), two of the most difficult stadiums for an opponent. They're unbeaten at home, including a 49-10 destruction of Mississippi State, and won easily at Texas A&M Saturday 42-27. They have a great offensive line, which could make things difficult for Georgia's defensive front, rank second in the SEC in scoring at 36.9 points per game (behind Alabama, ahead of Georgia) and have the conference's No. 2 rusher (Kerryon Johnson: 866 yards, 5.2 yards per carry, 15 touchdowns). But I think Georgia's defense will be fine. This game comes down to Fromm. The opponent and the venue make this his toughest challenge. Each win raises the stakes for the next game. The only bigger game than this week will be the SEC championship game against Alabama. Will he have a meltdown? Unlikely. Nothing about his temperament suggests that. But whether he's ready for a moment like this remains to be seen. It's his next test. Should be interesting.
What happened: They lost at Carolina 20-17 to fall to 4-4 at the midway point of their season.
What's next: They're home next Sunday against Dallas. Their best hope might rest on whether Ezekiel Elliott is allowed to play, pending his on-again/off-again league suspension for alleged domestic violence.
Overreaction narrative: "I don't care if they have eight games left. They're done."
Reality check: They're not done. They just look like they're on their way to done. Hey, here's a thought? How about if somebody gets angry? I understand public rants by coaches and players are sometimes loved by only fans and media and don't necessarily equate to improvement. But this, "We'll be OK," talk is getting old. It's eight games into the season. Again: It's eight ... games ... into ... the ... season. Isn't a verbal kick in the butt appropriate about now? From Dan Quinn? From Matt Ryan? From Julio Jones? From Arthur Blank? It's concerning that the Falcons' previous ability to bounce back from a bad performance has not been evident. It was most notable when they came back from a bye after a home loss to Buffalo and proceeded to blow a 17-0 to Miami and lose at home again. It was noticeable again in Charlotte Sunday, when they followed an uneven performance in a win over the New York Jets and spiraled after a 10-0 lead over the Panthers in their first NFC South game of 2017. They've lost four of their last five. They don't look like a playoff team. The problems haven't consistently centered on one player or one area of the team. Is the season over? No. Hardly. They're two games behind New Orleans in the South. They have yet to play the Saints and still have five games left against division opponents. But what position are they going to be in after playing Dallas and at Seattle the next two weeks? Quinn doesn't seem to have an answer for the hiccups. He actually genuinely seems surprised by the problems. Join the club. The defense has made some progress the last two weeks. That's more than can be said for the offense, where issues include Steve Sarkisian's play-calling, Ryan's accuracy, offensive line play and too many dropped passes. That's a lot to fix. It would be nice to hear something other than, "We're working on it."
Georgia Tech (4-4, 3-3 in the ACC)
What happened: The Yellow Jackets were upset at Virginia 40-36.
What's next: Now they play the better Virginia team -- Virginia Tech at home Saturday.
Overreaction narrative: "We'll be lucky to make it to a bowl game."
Reality check: Well, yeah. Tech will be an underdog against two of its final three opponents: Virginia Tech and Georgia. The other game is home against Duke. So the odds say they'll finish 5-6. Qualifying for a bowl would require special dispensation for having an early season game against Central Florida canceled because of a hurricane. Even then, we're probably talking the Value City of bowl games. Hello, Shreveport. It's one thing to lose by a point in overtime to Tennessee in the opener and by one point at Miami after a fluky catch led to a Hurricanes' comeback. And nobody expected Tech to beat Clemson. But there's no excuse for losing to Virginia. To be more specific, there's not excuse for allowing 40 points and 260 yards passing and blowing a 28-13 second-half lead to Virginia. The Cavaliers' offense had three touchdowns and a field goal in the second half. It wasn't all on the defense. Quarterback TaQuon Mashall was only 6-for-22 and threw two interceptions, one of which led to a touchdown. But continued struggles makes you wonder whether coach Paul Johnson will take another look at his coaching staff after the season, and whether he determines this is simply about his lack of defensive talent. Either way, if Tech doesn't go to a bowl game, it doesn't deserve it.
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