Daily Archives: September 28, 2012

Georgia-Tennessee preview: a reluctant admission

Lord knows, I’ve tried to avoid coming to this conclusion, but I can’t deny it (and the football god of hubris will probably make me regret it).

I feel good about Georgia’s chances tomorrow.  Real good.  Not just to win, but to cover the spread.  Comfortably.

It’s not because I think after four games Georgia has become some sort of unstoppable colossus.  As confident as I feel about tomorrow’s outcome, I’m that nervous about what will happen a week from then in Columbia.  But that’s because South Carolina has two things Tennessee doesn’t have –  a credible running threat in Marcus Lattimore and a scary defensive front.

It seems to me that, stripping away all the statistical comparisons, assuming that Georgia won’t be in sleep mode given the profile of the game and the return of Ogletree and Rambo, and putting aside the any given Saturday threat of Georgia going minus-four in turnover margin, for Tennessee to have a legitimate chance to win this game, it has to be able to answer two questions in the affirmative:

  1. Can the Vols run the ball as well as the Dawgs?
  2. Can the Vols stop the run as well as the Dawgs?

Sorry, but I don’t see it.

On the first question, if it happens, it’ll be a first for a Derek Dooley-coached Tennessee team.  If you want to argue that the Vols’ rushing stats would look better in comparison to Georgia’s because the Dawgs haven’t faced a team with a defense as good as Florida’s, I think that’s the point.  Tennessee doesn’t rush well against good defenses.  Shoot me, but I think Georgia qualifies as having a good defense.

On the second question, whatever misgivings I had on that were due to the Georgia offensive line.  Maybe I’m reading way too much from my replay viewings of the Vandy game, but for the first time in a long while, I see a Georgia team that can run the ball credibly between the tackles.  And, yeah, Tennessee has a big ‘un in the middle, but he’s playing in a defense that’s still trying to figure its way around a new scheme.  Florida gashed these guys for 336 yards on the ground, and while some of that was on quarterback runs and an 80-yard scamper by Trey Burton, Gillislee managed 115 yards of his own and averaged over six yards a carry.  I don’t think the Vols can hold up against the Georgia troika at running back.

I love Justin Hunter.  He’s the best wide receiver in the SEC as far as I’m concerned.  And I can see why Mark Richt badly wanted Patterson.  Tennessee’s got a couple of other good receiving options for Tyler Bray.  But that’s not going to decide the game.  Instead, the team that has to bring a safety in for run support tomorrow loses.  And I don’t think that’ll be Georgia.  I think Grantham will be able to keep his guys back, hold UT’s passing game in front of them and wait for Jarvis and the rest of the defensive front to get to Bray.  (Any time you want to go into beast mode, Cornelius, feel free to do so.)

Readers, don’t hate me because they’re pretty.  I can’t help myself.  And believe me, I tried.

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange, Georgia Football

Is this year’s LSU offense improved?

I finally got around to watching the replay of the Auburn-LSU game the other night, and I’ve got to say that Bill Connelly is spot on with this assessment:

There was no magic here. Auburn didn’t blitz much, even on passing downs, choosing instead to read and react, tackling well. Aside from those two swing passes, they remained disciplined. Auburn forced Mettenberger and the LSU offense to remain error-free and score on longer drives, and for the most part the Bayou Bengals couldn’t do it.

Make no mistake: this game was a lot closer to becoming an easy LSU win than an Auburn upset. Auburn’s only touchdown drive began at the LSU 26, and only twice did Auburn advance from their own territory into LSU’s. Auburn’s offense moved sideways or backwards almost as much as it moved forward, and LSU lineman Sam Montgomery was a wrecking ball, logging 3.5 tackles for loss and one sack. But Auburn proved that LSU’s offense is not necessarily in better shape than it was last year; if you tackle well and force LSU to make one more play to score, the Tigers may eventually stall out, botch a snap, miss a field goal or come up with other ways to avoid scoring. The LSU running game is still mostly devastating, but if you can keep the game close and prevent the Tigers from simply running out the clock, you can give yourself a chance.

What I saw was VanGorder coaching VanGorder defense and LSU never moving him out of his comfort zone.  As Bill puts it,

… For the most part, the Tigers avoided both overthinking and overpursuit, and it paid off. LSU doesn’t exactly hide its intentions — they ran 67 percent of the time on standard downs (80 percent with just one player lined up wide, 69 percent with two). Aside from a couple of successful swing passes to Spencer Ware, Auburn was well-prepared for what LSU was trying to do.

A couple of follow up observations to that – first, if you’re going to run two-thirds of the time on standard (i.e., non-passing) downs, it’s hard to see what you gain from swapping Mettenberger for Jordan Jefferson.  Yes, Mett has a better arm, but he poses no running threat to keep a defense from keying on the back.  Now LSU is loaded enough from a talent perspective that I’m not sure that’s going to matter too often, but you could have said the same thing about last year’s team and the contribution it got from the quarterback position.  And while it may not matter too often, when you occupy the same division as Alabama, it may not have to matter more than once.

Secondly, having watched Mett’s play in that game, it seems that the preseason hype may have been too breathless.  Mettenberger is a huge kid at 6-5, 237.  He appears lanky, almost to the point of gangly.  He’s got long arms.  I don’t know if it’s a result of his physique or something else, but it almost looks like he has to wind up a little when he throws.  He’s never going to have an Aaron Murray-like release (a difference that was readily apparent at the two G-Day games in which they both appeared), but I didn’t see much of an improvement in his mechanics from his days under Bobo’s tutelage.  The height helps, of course, but I wonder if Mett is going to pay a price for his delivery against certain defenses.

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Filed under SEC Football

“Every punt [return] doesn’t have to be a touchdown.”

It sounds like Mark Richt yearns for the quieter, simpler days of Logan Gray fielding punts.

“We’ve just had, overall, too many bad decisions,” Richt said. “We’ve caught the ball inside the 10 when we shouldn’t. We’ve let the ball bounce and not field it when we should’ve. These aren’t all Malcolm’s issues. This has been the last couple of years.

“It may end up being Rhett McGowan before it’s over if he can communicate the best, secure the ball the best and field the ball the best. We’re trying to find an answer there.”

In all seriousness, he’s got a point.  There’s been some dicey play in Georgia’s punt return game so far.  And in limited action, I’ve liked what I’ve seen from McGowan better than anyone else I’ve watched field punts this season.  He gets north-south in a hurry with very little wasted motion; you can make up for not having elite speed with good vision and instincts.  In that sense, McGowan kind of reminds me of Thomas Flowers.

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Filed under Georgia Football

As gestures go…

this one is pretty much pitch perfect.

The University of Georgia home radio booth at Sanford Stadium will be named Saturday for the late Larry Munson, legendary voice of the Bulldogs for 42 years. The “Larry Munson Broadcast Suite” will be officially recognized before the start of Saturday’s Georgia-Tennessee game, which kicks off at 3:39 p.m.

A plaque will be placed outside the Larry Munson Broadcast Suite that reads: “Dedicated to legendary Bulldog play-by-play announcer Larry Munson who served as the voice of the Bulldog Nation from 1966-2008. His dedication, loyalty, passion and extraordinary delivery over 42 years endeared him to Georgia fans in every city, state, and nation around the world, always urging the teams, and fans, to ‘hunker down you guys.’”

Well played, folks.  Well played, indeed.

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Filed under Georgia Football