Sunday, Dec. 24 (8:30 p.m. ET, ESPN)
Georgia (7-4) vs. Virginia (6-5)
In a game that marks the end of a tremendous coaching career for Virginia's George Welsh, it is also the final opportunity for Jim Donnan to lead the Georgia Bulldogs into battle.
For Welsh, the season began with a disappointing overtime loss at home to BYU, when the Cavaliers allowed a huge lead to slip away in the second half. Their four other setbacks were all against teams headed to bowls, while their major victory came against the bowl-bound Wolfpack of N.C. State. The Cavaliers were not able to hold their own from a defensive standpoint, due in large part to the lack of top-drawer personnel on that side of the ball.
|QB Aaron Brooks, now with the Saints, was a key performer for George Welsh at Virginia.|
When I look at Virginia, I just don't see the type of personnel base that was evident throughout Welsh's very successful tenure with the Cavaliers. Keep in mind, in past years, Virginia went into battle with talented performers such as QB Aaron Brooks, RB Thomas Jones, WR Germane Crowell, TE Casey Crawford, DE Patrick Kerney, LB Wali Rainer, LB James Farrior, LB Jamie Sharper, CB Antwan Harris and safety Anthony Poindexter just to name a few.
Jim Donnan, on the other hand, has more star power but also lacks the quality depth that is necessary to slug it out for four quarters against elite opposition. To his credit, Donnan and the Bulldogs managed to come away with a 21-10 victory over Tennessee at Athens. A key loss, though, came late in the season when they fell to Auburn 26-29 in overtime.
That game, plus the disappointing regular-season finale that saw the Bulldogs be handled rather easily by in-state rival Georgia Tech, led to Donnan's demise.
Was this fair? I have always been a strong believer in Jim Donnan and his ability to get the job done. While I understand that losses to Florida, Auburn, Georgia Tech and South Carolina this season tended to seal his fate, I also feel that another year or two would have allowed Donnan the time to rebuild the quality depth that is critical to gaining a measure of consistency against top-flight opposition.
Overlooked by Donnan's critics is the fact that with a win against Virginia, he would accomplish something that has escaped every previous Bulldogs' head coach -- that is, four consecutive victories in bowl games. During Donnan's tenure, Georgia has handled Wisconsin, Virginia and Purdue in postseason action.
||I have always been a strong believer in Jim Donnan and his ability to get the job done. ”
As far as the talent base at Georgia is concerned, Donnan managed to assemble some big-league performers. At the top of the list are senior DTs Richard Seymour and Marcus Stroud, along with MLB Kendrell Bell. While Seymour and Stroud enjoyed solid campaigns, they lacked consistency over four quarters in several key games.
In this game against Virginia, Seymour and Stroud need to dominate from start to finish for Donnan. If that's the case, the physically gifted Bell will be able to flow from sideline to sideline. This will also open up big-play possibilities for opportunistic junior CB Tim Wansley.
If both teams put forth the type of effort you would expect for Welsh and Donnan in their final game, talent should win out -- meaning Georgia comes up with the victory.