Final SECCG thoughts: clean, old-fashioned respect

In my humble opinion, Mark Richt’s biggest task this afternoon is to find the right button to push.

Georgia’s played its best in four games this season:  Vanderbilt, Florida, Auburn and Georgia Tech.  What all those games had in common is that Richt’s team found a way to channel its emotions into focused effort.  But unlike Alabama, every one of those teams faces Georgia season after season.  And every one of those teams had created conditions that got Georgia players’ blood up.  Georgia’s not angry at Alabama, so where does Richt find the motivational lever that gets his team playing maximally?  Damned if I know, but he’d better figure that out.

I’ve been trying to get a handle on how to explain the difference between the two defenses.  Ole Miss’ offensive coordinator, who saw both, has the answer I’ve been looking for.

Ole Miss offensive coordinator Dan Werner, whose Rebels were among the few SEC teams to play both Alabama and Georgia this season, said the Crimson Tide and Bulldogs were “by far the best teams we played defensively.”

“Against Georgia, we actually moved the ball a little bit early and they just got in a base defense and outmanned us,” Werner said of the Bulldogs, who beat Ole Miss 37-10 on Nov. 3. “Every play we called, it just looked like it was well-blocked and all the sudden the hole would close and it would end up being a 2-yard gain.”

Werner said Georgia outside linebacker Jarvis Jones, who leads the SEC with nine sacks and 14½ tackles for loss, is “as good pass rusher as I’ve seen in a long time. We actually had a couple schemes put in just for him, to slow him down.”

Alabama, meanwhile, is tough to scheme against because the Crimson Tide doesn’t seem to have any weaknesses, he said. “I never had a good feeling that, ‘Man, this is something we can exploit,’” said Werner, whose Rebels fell 33-14 to the Tide on Sept. 29 . “They’re so solid, so well-coached, and they’ve got great players, too.”

That’s good.  Bobo’s got to defeat a well-managed scheme.  Alabama has to figure out a way around players like Jones and Ogletree (who’s been Georgia’s best defender the last two weeks).  And that’s going to be a lot harder to do if Richt’s got his guys fired up and ready to go.

Richt’s second biggest job today is making sure his quarterback is on and not overly amped.  As Pat Forde notes, you don’t beat Alabama without your quarterback playing well.

For anyone to beat Saban over the past five seasons, it has taken exceptional quarterback play. There have been just seven Alabama losses in that time, and the common denominator has been an opposing quarterback playing about as well as he can possibly play.

The list of quarterbacks who have beaten ‘Bama in that time includes some Heisman-quality guys: Tebow, Cam Newton, Johnny Manziel. And it includes some unlikely guys who played a great game: Utah’s Bryan Johnson, South Carolina’s Stephen Garcia, LSU’s Jordan Jefferson twice.

I think Richt does one of the best coaching jobs of his career today in that he accomplishes both.  That’s why I like Georgia to cover the spread.  My problem in going further with the positives is that Georgia’s offensive line is, at least on paper, the weakest unit trotting out on the field today.  I’m not as freaked out about it as I was watching the mismatch between last year’s o-line and LSU’s front seven, because unlike last year, the Dawgs have a running game that Alabama is going to have to respect going in and because Alabama lacks the physical freaks on the defensive line that the Tigers kept sending.

But Alabama’s as good as I’ve seen at steadily grinding you down until you can’t hold up.  I don’t expect to see much blitzing from the Bama defenders.  I do think we’ll see them doing everything they can on defense to bottle up Gurley and Marshall, as well as playing physical press coverage on Georgia’s receivers in the hopes of forcing Murray to hold on to the ball too long.  And honestly, that’s got a good chance of succeeding, because I question whether the o-line can stand its ground all game against that.  So Bobo is going to have to stay one step ahead of Saban/Smart, much like he did in the first half of last year’s SECCG, and his players are going to have to make the plays he calls, unlike much of what they did in that same first half.  They’re under more pressure, I think, than Alabama’s offense is because of that.

I’m not saying Georgia has to play perfectly to win today – who really plays a perfect game in an environment like this against an accomplished opponent like Alabama? – but it will have to play a complete game.  LSU had Alabama for 58 minutes… and lost.  Texas A&M jumped out to a three-TD lead… and needed a last-minute turnover to hang on for the win.  So a great defensive first-half effort like we saw last year won’t get it done.  And taking the foot off the gas to protect a late lead isn’t likely to work.  They really do have to finish the drill today.

I’m sure the Alabama players will tell you today is just another game.  And maybe it is for them.  But it shouldn’t be for Georgia.  Games like today’s don’t come along too often if your heart bleeds red and black.  Georgia hasn’t won an SEC title in seven years.  It hasn’t played for a national title in thirty.  The trick today isn’t to act like you’ve been there before.  It’s to take that hunger to grab the brass ring that’s been out of your grasp for so long and channel it into playing as ferociously smart as you’ve ever played.  Would that be enough to overcome whatever shortcomings in the offensive line Saban might expose?  Could be.  Although a +2 turnover margin sure wouldn’t hurt.

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59 Comments

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59 responses to “Final SECCG thoughts: clean, old-fashioned respect

  1. Rusty

    Biggest opportunity in 30 years. Richt and Company get this done a grown man may cry. GATA!

  2. AusDawg85

    In all the build-up, what I find interesting is this….Georgia seems to be favored if we play to our full capabilities. So this suggests a slight nod/edge to our scoring O, ability of the D to stop a pedestrian attack like Bama’s, and even provide competent ST play. So why the angst? Our history in big games. The mental side for the players and coaches. Really, at this stage, with this team, at this time, that should no longer be a concern.

    If it really is about these “intangibles”…I like the Dawgs to win. GATA!

  3. Lord, I wish Larry was here. Well he is and with the big guys help we may have a repeat of that wonderful memory of 1981. Go DAWGS LICK THOSE Fighting Irish. THE 2012 SEASON, one that books will be written about.

  4. This – I know a grown man who will cry and be damn proud of it :)

  5. DawgFaithful

    Definitely gonna take a good game from Murray and the line. It would be nice to run it a little. I think you’ll see way more Gurley than Marshall similar to Fl game. And yes Senator… +2 turnovers would be HUGE for us. This is our time! Go Dawgs!

    • NRBQ

      Not being in the arena, it nonetheless occurs to me that there’s one aspect of UGA’s talents that Bama cannot be prepared to stop: Murray running the ball.

      He hasn’t run since the coaches put the leg shackles on during his freshman season, when he had several impressive carries (not to mention his HS stats). I think it may surprise UA completely to run an occasional QB draw, or roll him out of the pocket with a pass/run option.

      This is the game that calls for pulling out all the stops. Time for the coaches to trust Murray. Hit ‘em where they ain’t.

  6. Rusty

    As much as anything else or anyone else, I want this for Coach Mark Richt. No matter what people make of his flaws-which he has like the rest of us- he is a great coach as well as a man of great integrity and character. And I’m going to say it-he is a man who loves his LORD. Our guys will always remember him this way.
    Go win today, Coach !

  7. gastr1

    For our chances to win,
    for Mark Richt’s and Mike Bobo’s national perceptions,
    for his sake as a DGD,
    for his chances in the pros,
    for his sake as a player and person that I like and admire,
    and for his sake as confident, well-rounded young adult,
    I hope Aaron Murray plays a great game today.

    Love you, Aaron. Do it, man.

    • Cosmic Dawg

      +1

      I have questioned at times if AM has a better arm but if HM may have a calmer disposition perhaps HM should have seen the field from time to time – actually think the ND coach does this with his jumpy QB.

      But it has never been out of lack of love for AM. Ever since that game in his Freshman year when he threw himself into the end zone scrambling I have thought he was a gamer, and you simply could not ask for a kid to live out and articulate the values of his coach and our school any better than AM. Truly one of the all-time best DGDs, and I hope he can lay some demons to rest today. I believe he will, I really do.

  8. watcher16

    I’m reading a lot how Bama doesn’t blitz that much, but seems to me this would be the game they would throw in some blitzes and surprise everyone.

    • gastr1

      The problem is that they might not have to. They may have enough strength up front to break down our OL like SC did, because SC did it from more places than just Clowney but almost never with more than four.

      We did a decent job of holding off UF. That’s what I hold on to in this scenario.

      Plus, everyone says you can’t run against Alabama…but LSU did. Was that just because of their OL?

    • Cosmic Dawg

      I agree. Think Bama’s biggest key to the game is getting in Murray’s head, and Georgia’s biggest key to the game is Murray making them pay for it when they sell out.

      Given Bama’s depth, which I am just assuming b/c it is always deep, believe we have to have a fast start while all things are equal and go for TD’s, not FG’s, while our horses are as fresh as theirs.

    • The Lone Stranger

      All about BELIEF — if the Dawgs believe this is theirs to take, they’ll take it. I would love to be a fly on the locker room wall during pregame and halftime because I’ll betcha CMR gets the old Bobby Bowden spirituality cooking in there today and the TEAM comes out as focused as a rocket.

  9. Brandon

    If our players can’t get their dander up for a game like this then they aren’t alive. Richt shouldn’t have to say much more than “this is it gentlemen, G.A.T.A.”

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      If someone is looking for motivation beyond the obvious–winning the SEC Championship and getting to the BCSNCG–look no further than the Bama fanbase. They don’t respect the Dawgs. The Bammers are all acting like it is a forgone conclusion that they will win and play ND. I have already been the recipient of snarky comments from Bammers I know. They say that UGA doesn’t deserve to be on the field in the SECCG. That UGA had an easy schedule. That UGA was lucky. That the Tide is going to run the Dawgs out of the stadium. I say to Dawgs and Dawgfans everywhere–remember 2008? UGA had been picked to be #1 and was undefeated. Bama came into our house and laid 31 first half unanswered points on the Dawgs and won the game. Ruined the Georgia season that year. UGA winning this game will expose Bama and ruin Bama’s season. It’s time for payback. Karma–it can be a real bitch.

  10. TennesseeDawg

    Here’s your motivation: Winner plays for a national championship

  11. Senator, General Harold Dye sends his regards. Had lunch with him at Kings Bridge yesterday. Being the wonderful TECH MAN he is he wants this for the DAWGS. He wants this for his precious state of GEORGIA. He wants this for ATLANTA. He thinks you are a real Senator. Looking glorious at the ripe vintage age of ninety five.

  12. WF dawg

    Anybody else have trouble sleeping last night?

    • Not me. Slept like a baby.

    • Mayor of Dawgtown

      Not me. I slept like a baby, too.

    • mg4life0331

      I began last night with a warm up brown water and ice. Ill begin to start again shortly.

    • WF dawg

      Me, I’m just too excited. I keep running over scenarios of how we could win. Who will immortalize themselves in Georgia lore? Aaron Murray, who throws for 3TD and no INTs to rewrite the book on himself? Todd Gurley, who proves to be the toughest back on the field? A defensive pick-6 from Rambo? A scoop and score for Tree or CRob? JJ, who turns in 4 sacks and a forced fumble? Or MM on a late KO return? Will one of the new starters at WR become a household name for our grandchildren? Chris Conley? Former walk-on Rhett McGowan? Will Zander Ogletree punch in the game winner? Will Sailors or JHC force a ST fumble? And thus, this Dawg tossed and turned dreaming of Atlanta glory.

  13. Coweta Dawg

    Let the Big Dawg eat ! GATA, for the full 60!

  14. Macallanlover

    As always I put the responsibility for the performance much more heavily on the players. These are men, they are accomplished athletes, many sacrificed leaving early for the easy dollars to do something they would remember all their life. I am not saying the coaches don’t play a significant role in scheming and developing a plan, or making adjustments to the action on the field, but other than providing the framing/perspective for these young people who may not realize what this will mean for decades to them, nothing will be said by the staff that can hype these guys any hugher than they should be as they awake today. The players will be stoked on their own, and they will be prepared.

    This game will be decided by talent, the players’ execution, and a break or two. My estimate is the odds favoring Bama to win are about 60/40, which is my way of saying it should be very close, and could go either team’s way. The winning edge, imo, is the difference between the two teams is Alabama’s OL versus Georgia’s OL. Georgia seems to have the more spectacular playmakers/talent, but the Bama OL edge can more than offset that. I am hoping the talent edge for UGA, or a good bounce/call, and making fewer mistakes will give UGA the upset. It is within our reach, and destiny just might owe us one.

  15. SouthGa Dawg

    Eric Zeier on a national radio show nailed it. He said the biggest key would be how UGA would respond to adversity in the game…an untimely Ga turnover, a Bama big play, etc. Something like that will happen. How will we get past that moment? Fold their tents like last year vs LSU or rise up like this year vs UF. Dang, I can’t wait until 4pm.

  16. ChicagoDawg

    No insight or analysis to support it, apart from just watching both teams progress over the year, but I think GA gets it done by 8-10pts. It sounds crazy and probably is, but that is feeling I get on this one.

    • Cosmic Dawg

      Me too. I think we are going to surprise ourselves and Bama with our performance today. We may not outscore them by a lot, but I think we are going to take control early and dominate this game for four quarters.

  17. Scorpio Jones, III

    Despite tears, random goosebumps, hats and all, I believe there is nobody in the known world who wants to win this game more than Mark Richt…nobody

  18. I wanna Red Cup

    I would like to see some substitution along the defensive line some in the first half to keep those hogs fresh for the 4th quarter. While I hope we can have a big third quarter to take control of the game, I believe it is going to come down to the 4th quarter and I hope, in the words of Pat Dye, we are man enough.

  19. Dawgsense

    Very excited and hopeful for a great performance by UGA.

    As an aside, my wife, who knows I’m an avid GTP reader, put this on my phone where I normally check the blog:

    http://gizoogle.net/tranzizzle.php?search=http%3A%2F%2Fblutarsky.wordpress.com%2F&se=Go+Git+Dis+Shiznit

    I found it to be very funny on what is a nervous morning awaiting the game.

    Go Dawgs! GATA!!!

    • Governor Milledge

      Hahaha, the first line is enough of an endorsement:

      “In mah humble opinion, Mark Richt’s freshest task dis afternoon is ta find tha muthafuckin right button ta push.”

  20. LawDawg12

    Richt has beat Saban before we will again.

  21. CoastieDawg

    If CMR needs to find something to motivate our boys, how about the fact that EVERYONE has written us off. I haven’t seen anyone pick us in this game.

  22. heyberto

    I’m nervous.

  23. W Cobb Dawg

    I know bama’s OL is a veteran group, but our D has a ton of experience too, except for Jordan Jenkins – who is an emerging freak. Our D is going to be terrific today. If Gurley has a big day we go to the mnc.

  24. Will Trane

    Oh hell yes. ESPN and all their people give us no damn chance, and ND already has the trophy in South Bend.

    And how many teams in the SEC were ranked in the Top 10 this season. Yeah we hear about the Gators,and Boom, Carolina and the Old Ball Coach, A&M and Johnny Football, LSU and the Mad Hatter…The Tide and Bama and all those rings and etc. Guess the Dawgs were just barely good enought to get here. Hell other than Bama no of those other freaking teams were good enough to get here two years in a row.
    I say to hell with them Dawgs. Play tough, smart, and have fun.
    Will Friend and the most inexperienced O line in the SEC….Dawgs’ Marshall MVP.