In this cornah: final thoughts on Georgia-LSU

Make no mistake, tomorrow’s game has all the makings of a knockdown, drag out, heavyweight fight (sort of like Georgia’s last trip to Baton Rouge): two tough power offenses going up against two tough SEC defenses.

Of course, the last matchup Georgia had along those same lines a few weeks ago didn’t go too well.

Anyway, add to that what’s at stake for both schools – national championship aspirations and SEC divisional races – and you’ve got all the ingredients for a classic conference slobber knocker.

If you want the details and breakdowns, Jody and Doug have done their usual excellent jobs with that.  (Kyle should have his up soon, as well.) There’s also this message board post that I recommend reading.  Instead, I’m going to go off on my typical tangent and start with some random observations.

LSU may want this game to be all about Alabama, but LSU ain’t Alabama. You have to figure that the Tigers would like nothing more than to clone what the Tide was able to do in Athens – rely on superior line play on both sides of the ball and close to perfect execution on offense – to dominate Georgia.  And there’s no doubt that LSU has the talented offensive and defensive lines, as well as an excellent running game, to make that a possibility.

The catch is that, for whatever reason, these guys haven’t put together a total game against an opponent all year.  Their win against Auburn is looking less and less impressive each week.  They put up less resistance in their blow out loss to Florida than Georgia did in its similar loss to ‘Bama.  And there’s something about having to pull out a defensive gimmick against a less than stellar South Carolina squad to overcome a first half deficit and pull out a seven point victory.

Speaking of gimmicks, there’s also this offensive wrinkle that LSU introduced last week:

LSU unveiled “The Pistol” package last week against South Carolina, and it was a hit. The Tigers feel like they’ve just scratched the surface of what they can do with it, which means Georgia better be ready for a few new wrinkles out of it this Saturday. It’s essentially a triple-option hybrid with Keiland Williams lining up as the deep back, Charles Scott at fullback and world-class sprinter Trindon Holliday also lining up in the backfield as another running threat…

Like I said, teams that are really dominant shouldn’t have to reinvent what they’re doing in the middle of the season against middling competition.

While we’re on the subject, Georgia’s offense ain’t South Carolina’s offense. Make no mistake about it, LSU’s defense dominated the Gamecocks’ offense in the second half last week, much to Spurrier’s chagrin.  They held SC (can I say that?) to minus-7 yards of offense in the fourth quarter.  Much of its success came from a blistering array of all out blitzing that the ‘Cocks simply couldn’t handle.  But given that South Carolina was playing a quarterback making his first start, has had no running game to speak of this season and boasted an offensive line that’s last in the conference in yielding sacks, the bigger question is why the LSU defensive brain trust waited so long to go balls out against those guys.

Unlike South Carolina, Georgia can run the ball.  Matthew Stafford is a bit more experienced than Stephen Garcia.  And while the Dawg offensive line has looked shaky at times due to injuries and personnel shuffling, it’s given up less than one third of the sacks that the Carolina line has.  The strategy that succeeded brilliantly in Columbia may not bring the same results in Baton Rouge.

–  Georgia isn’t going to win by out-talenting LSU. The Dawgs have been the clearly better bunch from a talent standpoint in every game this season, except for ‘Bama.  But LSU isn’t Tennessee or Vandy and Georgia can’t expect to show up and simply wear out the Tigers by the end of the game.  The focus and execution that were missing against Alabama have to be there on Saturday for the Dawgs to have a chance to win.  The good news is that LSU’s had focus issues of its own this season.

Keys to the game:

  • No matter what, don’t abandon the run. Knowshon needs his touches and the team needs what he brings to the table when he gets those touches.  Buck Belue mentioned earlier in the week that Georgia’s record under Richt when it has a 100-yard rusher is exponentially better than when it doesn’t.  Bobo has to keep his poise with his playcalling.
  • Matt Stafford. Speaking of poise, Stafford’s got to trust his pass protection.  He needs to make his reads and he needs to concentrate on his footwork.  Georgia doesn’t have to have an unbelievable game from Stafford to win; it just needs a smart, controlled game from him.
  • Make LSU one-dimensional on offense. That this is oldest cliche on the books when it comes to defensive strategy doesn’t make it wrong.  Stuff the run and take your chances with two first year quarterbacks being left to win the game.  On the other hand, if Georgia sits back in that soft zone and lets Lee and Hatch look like John Parker Wilson by picking the defense apart with play action, screens and underneath stuff, it’s really time to start screaming about the scheme (and despairing about the Florida game, for that matter).
  • Mimbs and Walsh need to be on their games. Trindon Holliday is scary enough on his own.  Georgia doesn’t need to make his job any easier.  And missed field goals in Baton Rouge have a tendency to come back and haunt you.  Just ask Billy Bennett.

In the end, it all comes back to focus and execution.  We all know there’s a game each year where everything finally comes together for Georgia.  Tomorrow would be a good time for that sort of effort to make an appearance.  If both teams are playing at their best, I think Stafford makes the difference in the end.

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9 Comments

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9 responses to “In this cornah: final thoughts on Georgia-LSU

  1. dean

    A+ on your keys to the game. I’m a little anxious to see how our OL handles their DL. It’s time for these guys to step up and play as a unit for an entire game. They’ve already faced three of the best DL’s in the conference/country so the inexperience excuse is no longer valid.

  2. NebraskaDawg

    I think this will be a typical Georgia game (you know way too close for comfort, lots of mistakes and penalties, missed field goals, red zone woes, etc.) We’ll all pace the floor, scream at the TV, bitch about CWM & Bobo and the Dawgs will eventually win 19-16. I’ll take that against LSU any day.

  3. Pete

    I agree with most of what you said, but would like to make a point on one of your statements:

    “Like I said, teams that are really dominant shouldn’t have to reinvent what they’re doing in the middle of the season against middling competition.”

    Remember that Georgia essentially reinvented what they were doing mid-season last year, though not with anything as drastic as the pistol. So, while dominant teams shouldn’t have to reinvent themselves, sometimes doing so may make you more dominant. LSU’s changes shouldn’t be overlooked and we better be prepared for them. Perhaps watching tape of Nevada to get an idea of what all can be done out of the pistol offense would be a good idea.

    Anyway, great blog, keep up the fantastic work.

  4. Pete, thanks for the praise. Nothing like being stroked a little…

    I’m curious about your point, though. Exactly what changes do you think Georgia made mid-season last year?

    The big developments I saw were personnel related – Moreno becoming a feature back out of necessity and his rise to the occasion and the defensive line’s ability to generate a pass rush.

  5. Ally

    Did anyone read the comment on PWD’s blog asking Quinton if he’d heard the report on 680 The Fan about us changing our defensive scheme for this game? The commenter said he heard on 680 that we were also moving to an all D-end line, a la LSU, for this game. I’m wondering now, after reading Chris Low’s link, if the commenter possibly confused what he heard.

    Besides, I think we would’ve heard about parades breaking out all across Georgia if Willie were really changing his scheme.

  6. Right now, Georgia barely has enough defensive ends to play in a regular scheme with the tackles, so I’d be skeptical of that.

  7. Pete

    The biggest things I noticed last year were our change from a balanced offense to a more run heavy offense. Prior to the Florida game, we were running ~54%. From the Florida game on, that number rose to ~63%.

    Though our D-line was able to generate a better pass rush, I think Martinez called a more aggressive game plan, including more blitzes.

    So, though we didn’t do anything drastic like implement a new offense, we definitely had a shift in tendencies mid-way through the year.

  8. Ally

    Pete, those changes weren’t gimmicks and we didn’t have to reinvent anything. Far from it actually, we just started plying better & smarter.

    I wouldn’t even say there was a “shift in tendencies”, offensively at least. If you remember, we had an awfully young Oline last year as well that didn’t help the run game too much. Once they gelled, we didn’t give up on the run so easily.

    Did we change tendencies defensively? Maybe in terms finally playing like we wanted to rip a qb’s head off. We certainly amped it up quite a bit. But I don’t recall cwm relying on gimmicks or changing his scheme. His soft zone scheme just started working once we got the pass rush going. Again, I think we just finally started playing to win, rather than playing not to lose. Just my take though.

  9. The biggest things I noticed last year were our change from a balanced offense to a more run heavy offense. Prior to the Florida game, we were running ~54%. From the Florida game on, that number rose to ~63%.

    Georgia won most of those games fairly handily. Generally, you run more at the end of those types of games than you pass.

    The outlier game from last year was the South Carolina match up, and I bet if you ask Bobo now, he’d tell you that he regrets not running Moreno 8 or 10 times more in that game.