WordPress just reminded me that GTP turns six years old today. Yay!
A sincere thanks to all who have stuck around for the ride so far. It’s been a gas and it wouldn’t be the same without you.
Chase Stuart dials up a scenario that’s guaranteed to raise the volume level.
Winning your division = Bad
We saw this last year, when Alabama ended the year as BCS #2 and therefore had locked up its spot in the national championship game, while LSU still had to go play in the SEC Championship Game. In this particular case, I don’t feel too bad about the fact that Florida would be given a free pass to the four-team playoff while Georgia has to go play Alabama, but only because Florida has faced a much tougher schedule.
But what if instead of what actually happened — Florida beating South Carolina, South Carolina beating Georgia, and Georgia beating Florida — the order was reversed, and Georgia beat South Carolina, South Carolina beat Florida, and Florida beat Georgia? In that case, Florida would likely be #2 or #3 in the BCS, while Georgia would sit pretty at 4. And Florida would go play Alabama for the right to win the SEC… with the loser being left out of the playoffs. That’s patently unfair. Being the third best team in your conference could be preferable to being the second best team. This is a lock to happen at some point during a four-team playoff. This is also going to be a bigger problem generally as conferences get bigger, because conference schedules will become unbalanced. [Emphasis added.] The Big 12 has a round robin where everyone plays everyone, but in a 14-team conference, you can easily see a better team end up with a worse record than an inferior team due purely to scheduling.
Is there any doubt what will happen in response? Of course not – they’ll just grow the postseason to make sure injustice is served. If you’re a brackets fan, this is a feature, not a bug.
The best part of this is that it’s totally unplanned. It’s like the weird bastard love child of conference expansion and postseason revenue greed. Which of course makes it hard to figure out where it will stop, because the next fix will just create a new set of problems. Ah, what the hell… it’ll go on until ESPN tells ‘em to STFU, financially speaking.
Shorter Actual Chris Low: “No matter how hard you try, it’s difficult to get the version of Georgia that lost by four touchdowns to South Carolina earlier this season out of your mind. There’s no doubt the Bulldogs are playing at a different level right now, but this is also a more dialed-in Alabama team thanks to the loss to Texas A&M a few weeks ago.”
Amazing how those outcomes work.
If this is the quality insight ESPN comes up with, I’m feeling better and better about Georgia’s chances Saturday.
Yesterday, I told you what concerned me most. This time, you get what gives me the most hope.
Offensive diversity. I don’t want to say that the injuries to Bennett and Brown have been blessings in disguise, but the way Bobo and the offense have taken up the slack in the wake of their departures is impressive. Here’s what Bill Connelly has to say about that:
… Quietly, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray has put together one of the most impressive, underrated seasons in recent memory. Despite losing two key cogs in his receiving corps — Michael Bennett (71 percent catch rate, 10.1 yards per target) went down after five weeks, Marlon Brown (65 percent catch rate, 11.5 yards per target) after nine — Murray has produced at a high enough level to place Georgia first in the country in Passing S&P+.
With no Bennett or Brown, receiver-turned-cornerback-turned-receiver Malcolm Mitchell has once again stepped up on the offensive side of the ball, and players like tight end Arthur Lynch and sophomore receiver Chris Conley have raised their production in recent weeks. As a result, Murray has developed almost no season-long tendencies whatsoever. Including Mitchell and Brown, four Bulldogs have been targeted between 34 and 56 times (Tavarres King 56, Mitchell 45, Brown 40, Bennett 34), and seven more have been targeted between 12 and 26, or once to twice per game. Murray throws to whoever is open, period…
Georgia is rather conservative on passing downs, running the ball 44 percent of the time (the 15th highest average in the country) but moves with perfect balance between Murray’s right arm and the legs of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall (combined: 24 carries and 155 rushing yards per game) on standard downs. They do whatever you cannot stop, and they are brutally effective.
This is what a good pro-style offense is supposed to offer as a challenge to a good defense. In its own fashion, it may be more difficult for Alabama to defend than what TAMU threw at it. (Assuming Georgia’s offensive line can hold up its end of the deal. And, yes, I know that’s a big if.)
Tight end production. Sure, some of that’s a factor of the aforementioned injuries, but give the Dawgs credit for making lemonade out of lemons. 10 of Lynch’s 18 catches this season have come in the last four weeks. For Rome, it’s a similar story, with 8 of his 10 coming in that same period. Even better, both are averaging higher yards per catch than Orson Charles did last year. The flexibility this gives Bobo with his formations and playcalling shouldn’t be underestimated.
Jarvis Jones isn’t ‘da man anymore on defense. Don’t get your hackles up. That’s a good thing, as Bill C. explains.
… Since Williams spoke out, Georgia has allowed 8.6 points per game and 4.6 yards per play. The Georgia defense has improved, incredibly, from 71st in Def. F/+ to 25th.
This is the unit we expected to see all year, with Jarvis Jones wreaking havoc (19.5 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles, three passes defensed, and if you believe the Georgia stat-keeper — and having seen Jones play live, I think I do — 30 quarterback hurries), linebacker Alec Ogletree flying from sideline to sideline (Ogletree leads Georgia in tackles despite playing only eight games), and safety Bacarri Rambo playing the role of Ball Hawk Extraordinaire (against Georgia Tech last week, Rambo forced two fumbles, recovered and returned one for 49 yards, and returned an interception for 27 yards while also logging 6.0 tackles). After single-handedly accounting for a good portion of Georgia’s big defensive plays against teams like Missouri and Florida, Jones has gone from the country’s most valuable player (at least a co-MVP with Kansas State’s Collin Klein) to simply a cog in a destructive, physical defense.
It took a little while, but the pieces have come together for defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and the Georgia defense like we thought it might at the beginning of the year.
Make no mistake: Alabama’s defense is still possibly the best in college football. But Georgia’s might be the hottest.
Next up – do Georgia’s plusses outweigh its minuses?
This made me laugh out loud.
Ron Higgins writes, “Mark Richt might be the best football coach in SEC history that has spent the most time on the hot seat.”
I’m of a generation that recalls a time when fifteen and twenty-year head coaching careers at the same school weren’t rare, so on one level, that Mark Richt has survived at Georgia for twelve seasons doesn’t make me sit back and go wow. But when you measure his tenure in Athens by other coaches, as Seth Emerson does here, it’s rather remarkable.
As he summarizes, since Richt’s hire, “the rest of the (pre-expansion) SEC schools have churned through a combined 33 coaches, not counting the four new ones to be hired, or interim coaches.” Thirty three! (Soon to be thirty seven.) Holy moly. The longevity, while remarkable, isn’t what impresses me most about Richt today, though. It’s what he’s done in the last three seasons that does.
As Dan Wetzel puts it,
There are only three coaches still in the hunt for a national title, and Richt is the only one who had significant parts of his fan base either crying for his firing or expecting it to be inevitable just two years ago.
That was December 2010, at the completion of a dreadful 6-7 season, complete with a loss to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl where the Bulldogs managed a pathetic two field goals against a Conference USA defense. The team was hampered by the suspension of three players, and the program’s first losing season since 1996 came on the heels of an already worrisome 8-5 campaign. Even worse Auburn, coached by Gene Chizik of all people, was about to win a national title starting a superman quarterback from outside Atlanta.
Hey, I plead guilty. And the reality is that you can point to a moment more recent than two years ago if you want. But, perhaps improbably, Richt’s picked himself up, dusted his team off and has the program on the brink of something every Dawg fan has hoped for – maybe even expected – since the 2002 season. That is something to celebrate.
And it’s worth acknowledging how difficult a task it’s been. I’ve written before that I’m a believer in the battleship theory of big college football programs like Georgia’s. They’re hard to turn around quickly. That’s especially true when you’re asking a coach who’s steered the battleship into troubled waters in the first place to be the one to make the course correction. Inertia is a bitch. Yet here we are. Richt’s made an effort to reinvent his approach, often at the cost of affecting personal relationships that matter greatly to him, and it’s made a difference. We can all argue about the timing, but the truth is that there are plenty of coaches who wouldn’t have the humility to admit that what once worked no longer did.
Yes, the header is facetious in a way. The preseason expectations surrounding Georgia were high enough that this 11-win season isn’t as special as what’s gone on at places like Florida, Ole Miss and Texas A&M (although there is this). But as a fan who’s watched this program’s one step forward, two steps back dance for more years than he’s liked, this has turned out to be an exceptional year, one to savor. And that’s why from my selfish standpoint, Mark Richt is my COTY.
I’ve long respected Gary Danielson’s acumen as an in-game analyst. In fact, he’s been good enough in that department that I’ve been willing to overlook his embarrassing SEC homerism and blind stubbornness about the spread offense. So needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to hearing what he has to say about Georgia this week.
The heavens quaked, the earth moved… and Danielson opined this:
Danielson said it’s tough to judge Georgia because they’ve played a relatively soft schedule since a turnover-filled 17-9 win over Florida on Oct. 27.
“We don’t know how real Georgia is,” he said. “They hit a terrible slump in the middle of the season when even their own players called their team out. That seemed to ignite them. They played a very good defensive football game against Florida where their quarterback had a really tough first half and he almost kind of tossed a game away that they should have won pretty easily.
“But since then, when the rest of the country was playing really tough football games, Georgia has played Ole Miss, Auburn, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech. They haven’t been tested. So they’re basically coming from the Oct. 27 game into the championship game and we don’t know if they’ve gotten any better or where they stand.”
That’s it? I mean, gee, Gary, that’s a little underwhelming. You can’t tell us anything about Georgia from its play over the last month? Nothing at all?
Here’s what good football teams do against mediocre opposition: they dominate. And very good teams do it consistently. (The difference between Alabama and Georgia is that what Georgia’s done for a month or so, the Tide has done pretty much all season long.) So can’t you draw some conclusions from Georgia’s defense holding its last five opponents to their season lowest scoring totals? How many other schools have done so five times this season, let alone consecutively? What does it say that Georgia over the last month leads the nation in defensive scoring? Isn’t that what elite programs should do with football teams that don’t test them?
And as far as Aaron Murray goes, he’s been putting up obscene numbers since that “almost, kind of tossed away” time you’re focused on. That doesn’t tell you anything? Besides that, you’re the guy who, as you sat there analyzing the Georgia-Florida game in the fourth quarter, felt that Georgia was going to have to turn to Murray to put the game away with another score and then watched exactly that happen. And took (justifiable) credit for calling it!
I’m a dumbass blogger who’s never been in the arena, but even I can tell from my limited vantage point that Georgia’s playing well over its last five games. So I’m a little dumbfounded that Danielson, who’s exposed to a lot more football week in and week out than I am, can’t see that. Or won’t.
I don’t know what this is about. Maybe he thinks he’s being profound. Maybe he’s unwilling to make a prediction. Maybe he’s got too much respect for Saban to come out and say that Alabama will be seriously tested. And I get that everybody’s fixated on Georgia’s schedule (which, by the way, comes in at a respectable if not stellar 42nd in Sagarin’s SOS rankings). But, geez, how much would it hurt to take something resembling an analytical stand here?