Monthly Archives: November 2010

About that scoring streak…

Richt told the media yesterday that he doesn’t anticipate making any changes to his staff in the offseason.  In response to a pointed question about Mike Bobo, Richt had this to say:

“All I can say, if I’m not mistaken, we broke some kind of school record of consecutive games of over 30 points and a lot of really good things happened offensively,” Richt said. “The bottom line is whoever calls plays is going to get critiqued, they’re going to get criticized. It’s just the nature of the beast.”

In fairness, there’s some truth to that.  The Dawgs finished the season scoring 30 or more points in seven straight games.  That’s not exactly chopped liver; no other SEC team, including the high-powered outfits at Auburn and Arkansas, can make a similar claim.  It’s particularly impressive when you consider that Georgia is still doing things primarily out of pro sets, as opposed to the newfangled spread.

But it’s not the whole truth.  Georgia dropped two of those seven games, including one to a Florida team which offense was borderline pathetic over the second half of the season.  Bobo’s responsibility isn’t simply to make sure his offense scores a bunch of points.  It’s to make sure that it scores more points than the other team does.  And there lies the rub about his success as a coordinator.  Context is a bitch when your team goes 6-6.

Context in this case is supplied in this Ben Dukes post about Georgia’s defense.  Blame it on a coordinator whose NFL experience left him ill-prepared for the college spread attack, or blame it on personnel shortcomings which arose as a natural result of a scheme change, but the fact is that Georgia’s defense had a hard time all season with offenses that ran the ball out of spread/option schemes.  If you’re Bobo, maybe you can tell yourself mid-year that your defense will get better as it climbs the learning curve, but by the time the last two games of the year rolled around, it should have been obvious that wasn’t going to happen.  Georgia’s defense needed every bit of help it could get from their offensive mates.

Bobo’s pulling in the reins against Auburn was a dumb decision, because Auburn’s offense had proven itself to be explosive all season and it was wishful thinking to believe that the Dawg defense would succeed where so many other schools failed.  But if that call was dumb, doing the same thing against Georgia Tech was even dumber, because Bobo had just seen that exact strategy flop.  Against the Jackets, by the time Georgia got the ball back in the second half clinging to a seven-point lead, it was plain that neither team’s defense could stop the other’s offense.  Based on what was taking place on the field, Bobo had no justification for taking his foot off the gas, but he did it anyway.

And staying aggressive against Tech and pushing that lead back out to fourteen would have made a difference.  For all Mark Bradley’s chirping about it, Paul Johnson’s decision to wave Washaun Ealey into the end zone wasn’t that big a deal because the Tech offense was going to have to go the length of the field in a very short time to get a shot at a tie game.  Which meant they were going to have to throw the ball, which is about as far out of their comfort zone as you can get them.  (ESPN had an interesting stat about Tech’s undefeated record under Johnson when it scores 30 or more points in a game.  I would like to see Johnson’s record in games where Tech trailed by a touchdown or more with less than two minutes to play.)

Getting Tech’s offense out of its comfort zone got Georgia’s defense in its.  Todd Grantham may not be that familiar with the triple option, but he knows what to do when the other team is down by eight with a minute to go.  The most striking thing I saw watching the replay was the body language of Georgia’s defense on their last two series of the game – “finally, something we can handle!”  It’s no surprise that after floundering around for the better part of three quarters, they came around with newfound energy and two solid stops with the game on the line.

And that’s my point.  Bobo, had he pushed the offense at 35-28 and gotten the game out to 42-28, would have forced Johnson’s hand much earlier and made Grantham’s job that much easier.  That’s the lesson Bobo hasn’t learned yet, or won’t admit to himself.

For all the talk we’ve heard over the years about how Urban Meyer’s offense was going to change the SEC, I’m wondering if we’ve finally hit that new era (ironic, if that’s true, given the state of Florida’s offense this season).  The two highest ranked teams in the conference, including the one which will play in the BCS title game if it wins this Saturday in Atlanta, finished sixth and ninth in total defense.  The winner of the SEC East did little better, finishing fifth.  The top four teams in total defense, including the last two national champions, combined for fourteen conference losses.

Maybe it’s not your father’s SEC anymore.  Now the goal on defense may not be to be good, but merely good enough.  And the better the offense, the greater the margin of error on defense.  It’s something Mike Bobo and Mark Richt need to ponder this winter.

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Bird in the Hand

Vanderbilt is rumored to be very interested in hiring Gus Malzahn as its next head coach.  While I’d be happy to see Malzahn buried at a place that isn’t ever going to attract the kind of talent that Auburn gets, I honestly don’t think that’s going to happen, mainly because he’s going to be one of the hottest, if not the hottest, names out there this offseason.

But what’s really puzzling about this is that if Vanderbilt is looking for an offensive guru to revive its football fortunes, it’s already got somebody on staff who fits the bill in Herb Hand.  Hand would seem to have an ideal resume:  he’s a Rich Rodriguez protegé who worked with Malzahn at Tulsa and per Brophy, taught Gus a thing or two about the power running game.

Besides, isn’t a guy who says something like this worthy of consideration?  I’d sure line up an interview.

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Filed under SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Please, God…

Or Gator Bowl committee, make this happen.  If nothing else, it ought to provide fodder for at least three good EDSBS posts.

Who says minor bowl games can’t be fun?

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Filed under Gators, Gators..., The Adventures of Zook, The Blogosphere

My Week Thirteen Mumme Poll ballot

  • Arkansas
  • Auburn
  • Boise State
  • Missouri
  • Ohio State
  • Oklahoma
  • Oregon
  • Stanford
  • TCU
  • Wisconsin

COMMENTS

  • My ballot is full of equivocation and second thoughts this week.  For example, I still think Oregon is the best team in the country, but I’m not so sure the Ducks will beat Auburn in the title game should they face off.
  • Curse you, Big Ten, for your stupid scheduling.  At least that’s something that’ll change next year.  In the meantime, it cost Michigan State a spot in my top ten.
  • If Ohio State (Sagarin #64 SOS) and Wisconsin (Sagarin #71 SOS) deserve to be on my ballot, then so does Boise State (Sagarin #62 SOS).  Take that, Gordon Gee.
  • But Nevada still doesn’t.
  • Still missing:  ACC and Big East.
  • This ballot took a while longer than the last few weeks’ to construct.  Call it 35 minutes.

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SEC Power Poll, Week 13

As the regular season is over, I thought I’d spice my last power poll up with a look at how every team did in net yards per conference game.  There should be a rough correlation between net yardage and wins/losses.  That’s a little distorted this season, as eight teams finished in positive territory, thanks to a truly egregious number racked up by Vanderbilt.

  1. Auburn (+91.70). Can you say team of destiny?  I thought you could.
  2. Arkansas (+101.4). They got better as the season went along.  With apologies to Gus Malzahn, Bobby Petrino is the best offensive mind in the SEC.
  3. LSU (+39.6). Les says some strange things and may have a few clock management issues, but as the net yardage number indicates, he can coach a little.
  4. Alabama (+62.0). Coach Saban, Coach Saban.  You had the tape of the Georgia game and you still decided to take your foot off the gas against Auburn.  Big mistake.
  5. South Carolina (+38.8). Closed with a great November, which is unusual for the Gamecocks.  The Chicken Curse may indeed be dead.
  6. Mississippi State (-36.5). Classic overachiever story.  Dan Mullen squeezed every drop he could out of his players this season.
  7. Georgia (+27.2). Really, almost a coin toss with Florida here.  The Dawgs get the nod because their finish wasn’t as abysmal as the Gators’ was.
  8. Florida (+42.2). Yesterday, Mark Bradley referred to Urban Meyer as “my role model in all things”.  That explains a lot.  There’s no way this team should have finished with four conferences losses, or as badly as it did.
  9. Tennessee (-52.3). Call ‘em Kings of the Dipshits, if you’d prefer.  But as poor as that net yardage number is, the Vols still finished with more conference wins than any of the last three teams on this list (and beat two of them).
  10. Kentucky (+6.0). They were one Marcus Lattimore injury away from having a completely forgettable season.  Not an auspicious start for Joker Phillips’ head coaching career.
  11. Mississippi (-74.9). I don’t think Dan Mullen started the Houston Nutt-to-Colorado rumors that surfaced yesterday, but you can be damned sure he’ll be mentioning them on the recruiting trail this week.
  12. Vanderbilt (-245.4). Twelfth place with a thud.  And, yes, that net yardage number is epically bad.  No, make that apocalyptically bad.

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Observations from the 35, Tech edition

Okay, so it wasn’t the prettiest of games – after the third fumble in the space of two-and-a-half minutes, you’d be excused if you wondered if either wanted to win the sucker – but let’s not lose sight of the fact that Georgia has now won nine of the last ten games in the series, which is as dominant a stretch as a Georgia fan will likely ever see.

Even better, those last two wins were delivered by the two worst teams of the Richt era.  So, good times, people.

Speaking of which, how badass was it seeing Samuel L. Jackson decked out in red before the game on the big screen?  The only thing better would have been him delivering a little righteous Ezekiel 25:17 on Tech’s butt.

Anyway, on to the game:

  • At the start, the joint was rocking as Tech kicked off.  Unfortunately, Chapas’ mishandling of the kick sucked all the oxygen out of the place.
  • The defensive line simply got destroyed for most of the night.  It’s commonly thought that the first thing a defense has to do to stop the triple option is to shut down the dive play and that didn’t happen.  The greatest recruiting priority Georgia has in this offseason is to find some viable options for the defensive line.
  • The other member of the defense who got blown up most of the evening was Branden Smith, who was taken out of every outside play run to his side (and Tech went out of its way to find him) with ease.  The option is hard enough to defend playing eleven on eleven.  How bad was it?  Grantham had no choice but to pull Smith and replace him with Jakar Hamilton – and the outside coverage improved.
  • Needless to say, Justin Houston had a tremendous game, not just with the turnovers, but also in playing the quarterback on the option.  Too bad his support on the pitch man was spotty.
  • I thought Brandon Boykin had a good game on defense, with one spectacular play when he tossed off the blocker and blew up an outside pitch for a loss.
  • Yeah, in hindsight, it would have been nice if Washaun had taken a knee at the one after Tech’s defense let him run through untouched for the last score.  But why wasn’t Georgia in victory formation there in the first place?  There was only about 1:30 left in the game at that point and Tech had no timeouts left.  Three running plays (if Richt didn’t want to risk a field goal) would have delivered the ball back to Tech deep in their territory with only a few seconds remaining.
  • I’m not going to link to today’s Mark Bradley fellatio-fest extolling Paul Johnson’s coaching genius, but you wanna bet that Johnson would have liked a mulligan on his fourth down decision to go for it on Tech’s first drive after Chapas screwed up the opening kickoff?  Those three points he passed up sure would have come in handy at the end of the game.
  • As big as the Houston fumble recovery for a touchdown was, don’t forget that it was set up by a tremendous effort from Alec Ogletree on the first down pass attempt to Stephen Hill.  That may have been the best play I’ve seen from a Georgia safety in pass coverage all season.
  • I really, truly hope that Isaiah Crowell enjoyed himself last night.  Georgia’s second biggest personnel need is a game-breaking tailback to complement Aaron Murray.
  • Nice save, Marlon Brown.
  • Caleb King, you’re supposed to follow Chapas when he’s your lead blocker clearing traffic, not turn into the line where all the, you know, tacklers are.
  • Man, that touchdown pass to Orson Charles was a thing of beauty.
  • Georgia did an excellent job bottling up Tech’s kickoff return team.  Other than that, special teams play was hardly that.  Although at least Blair Walsh didn’t, um, you know what.
  • And the defense wasn’t burned on the wheel route.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Georgia Tech Football

Mike Bobo, international man of mystery

Last night I saw everything about Mike Bobo that’s driven me crazy all season.

Let’s start with the easiest part.  Bobo and Belin are the two best position coaches on the staff.  The job Bobo has done with Aaron Murray this season is nothing less than phenomenal.  Murray finished last night with an otherworldly passer rating of 250.86.  He didn’t throw an interception in his last three regular season games.  Barring injury, when all is said and done in 2010, he’s likely to surpass 3,000 passing yards and has a legitimate shot at setting a new season passing TD record at Georgia.

Nationally, his accomplishments are dazzling for a redshirt freshman:  ninth in passer rating, top thirty in passing yards per game, top thirty-five in total offense per game and top thirty in points per game.  He accomplished all that despite ranking only sixty-seventh in the country in passing completions per game.

It’s not just the cold, hard numbers, either.  The two touchdown passes Murray threw to the tight ends last night showed him to be one cool customer, buying time in the pocket waiting for a receiver to come open and putting throws right on the money for the score.  The toss to Figgins was particularly impressive.

What was he, the fourth option on that play?  It’s play like that which makes me slightly less concerned about next year’s offense post-A.J.

Anyway, all this praise has a point.  Mike Bobo has done a whale of a job with a kid whom a decent chunk of the fan base was ready to demote after the G-Day game.  That’s nothing to be sneered at.

Which makes Mike Bobo the playcaller all the more frustrating to watch.  When I checked the game stats in the parking lot after the game, the number that jumped out was 14.3 – the average yards per passing attempt.  (Not per completion, per attempt.)  In other words, every time Murray looked downfield, the odds were good his team was going to get a first down.  As was the case with Auburn two weeks ago, the Tech secondary simply wasn’t capable of handling Georgia’s passing game.  Bobo deserves credit for taking advantage of that.  Georgia’s longest scoring drive of the night took all of 4:26 to run; it was the only score that took more than three minutes to carry out.

And yet… and yet, as we’ve seen so many times this season, Bobo hits these inexplicable stretches where he can’t stand success.  The first half would-be scoring drive that stalled when Georgia couldn’t convert the fourth-and-short, the drive which took four running plays and two time outs to pick up a measly six yards to put Georgia up 28-21 (all that after Tech proved it simply couldn’t cover A.J. on three straight completions to open the drive) and, most inexcusable of all, the patented three-and-out series in the fourth quarter – all of that was both utterly predictable and maddening to watch at the same time.

Am I nitpicking here?  Maybe I would be, except that in a game in which Georgia Tech ran a whopping 92 offensive plays to Georgia’s 48, every call was precious.  Once it was clear that Georgia’s defensive line couldn’t stop the dive play, Paul Johnson’s offense was going to get its yards.  It was also clear that Georgia’s defense was gassed in the fourth quarter (how could in not be?).  Georgia averaged a better than decent 5.3 yards per rush, but so what?  When the downfield passing game was getting as little resistance as it was and when the quarterback whom you’ve done a first-rate job of developing is having his game of the season, only throwing the ball 19 times, compared to 29 rushing calls, is doing a poor job of utilizing your resources.

I believe Bobo has it in him to be an excellent offensive coordinator, I really do.  But he’s not going to get there unless he comes to realize that balance in and of itself doesn’t win football games.  Balance is nothing but a means to an end.  Last night, just like two weeks ago, Georgia’s defense desperately needed the offense to keep its foot on the gas.  There’s no reason that couldn’t have happened except for the caution of the driver.

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