Hawaii can hang, but Georgia has too many marks on its side of the ledger
NEW ORLEANS » A local reporter was roaming among the media attending yesterday's Georgia practice at the Superdome asking fellow members who they thought would win tomorrow's Allstate Sugar Bowl.
Anytime I saw him coming my way, I tried to find a Georgia player or coach to talk with so I wouldn't have to answer him. In my jumbled mind, it was hard to predict which team would win the BCS game that pitted the most traditional conference in the land against some upstart from way out West.
Truth be told, I had been going back and forth as to whether Hawaii had any chance to beat Georgia in what is basically a home game for the Bulldogs. There may be thousands of fans here from the islands attending this historic meeting for the Warriors. But they will be seriously outnumbered.
Since I have no ties to either university, my opinion is basically unbiased. What the Warriors have accomplished this season is nothing short of a miracle, no matter how they fare against the big, bad Bulldogs. Finishing as the only unbeaten team in America would be an astonishing accomplishment for a program that barely has two cents to rub together when compared to Georgia's athletic budget.
As I was finishing my final interview with Georgia running back Knowshon Moreno -- who wanted to talk more about watching LeBron James play Saturday night in the Hornets' win over the Cavaliers than the upcoming Sugar Bowl -- I felt someone lightly tap me on the shoulder.
It was him.
Before I could duck out, he had his tape recorder in my face asking who I thought would win the game. I had a vision flash before me of Greg McMackin holding up my prediction that Georgia would win to his defensive unit to spur them on, much as he had done when ESPN's Craig James and Mel Kiper Jr. downgraded Hawaii's stock, which brought a smile to my face.
SOMETHING IN THE back of my head kept telling me to take Hawaii, but I paid little attention to it. Of course, I picked Georgia. Who in his right mind wouldn't? No matter how well UH quarterback Colt Brennan plays tomorrow, he's just one man against a team that has faced and beat the likes of Florida, Auburn and Kentucky -- all nationally ranked foes.
The defense led the SEC in quarterback sacks. The offense is a well-balanced machine that can run and pass with equal efficiency. Hawaii is basically a one-dimensional team on offense that has to avoid too many three and outs or risk having the defense carried off on a stretcher.
Moreno is the best back the Warriors will have faced this season. Quarterback Matthew Stafford isn't a stat machine like Brennan, but he has won 10 games in a schedule that boasts 10 BCS opponents. Brennan beat one that finished dead last in the Pac-10.
It's hard to even make a case for the Warriors, but then, most said the same thing about Boise State in last year's Fiesta Bowl shocker over Oklahoma.
When asked what I thought the final score would be, I said, "Georgia 41, Hawaii 37."
He raised his eyebrows at such a high final score, but hey, this is a WAC squad, bubba. Teams in this conference often score as many points as they give up. I asked if anyone had picked Hawaii and he said no.
I'm in good company at least, I thought to myself. Now, if I can only convince McMackin of that fact, I may live to see another day.
Sports Editor Paul Arnett
has been covering sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1990. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org