Daily Archives: January 1, 2014

The end is near: final Gator Bowl thoughts

Sometimes, stats really do have a story to tell. Bill Connelly may have the best summary of Georgia’s defensive identity I’ve read:

Typically, methodical drives are hard to pull off because they require offenses to go mostly mistake-free for quite a few plays in a row. College offenses don’t do that very well.

But in the case of the Georgia defense, it’s the opposite. The Dawgs are the ones who struggle to avoid mistakes over a long series of plays, and it costs them. While Georgia was particularly strong against the run and was perfectly sound on a play-for-play basis, the defense was one of the worst in the country at preventing methodical drives. If you can peck, poke, and maybe convert a couple of third-and-sixes, Georgia will eventually break down and give you some points.

This makes sense when you look at Georgia’s two-deep. While there is solid experience up front, there are six freshmen or sophomores among eight players at linebacker, and there are four true freshmen playing roles in the secondary. No matter how athletic or talented, young players are infinitely more prone to random stupidity.

Keep those paragraphs in mind if you can ever stomach watching a replay of the Auburn game, because they’re a perfect encapsulation of what happened.

Now, Nebraska’s offense isn’t a juggernaut on the level we’ve seen from Auburn over the second half of the season – in fact, it’s not even on Georgia’s level – but if you pour pore over Bill’s numbers carefully enough, you can see the Cornhuskers’ path to victory.  They need to turn the game into a grind it out nutbreaker on both sides of the ball, because they hold big advantages over Georgia when it comes to what Bill calls methodical drives (the percentage of each offense’s drives that run 10 or more plays).  On defense, that likely means selling out to shut down Todd Gurley and the run and hoping that Bobo can be forced into a lot of obvious passing downs. In other words, what we saw that worked in the first half of the Auburn and Georgia Tech games.  Of course, what we saw in the second half of both of those games was that Bobo and the offense adjusted.

As for Georgia’s defense, honestly, at this point, who in the hell knows what to expect?  The suspensions don’t help, of course, but it’s fair to say that there’s been little improvement in the secondary from game one through game twelve anyway.  Nebraska isn’t exactly scary when it comes to throwing the ball, but neither was Georgia Tech.  You feel like you should have some confidence in Georgia’s strength on strength matchup when it comes to running the ball, but if I’m calling plays for Nebraska, I’m sure looking for ways to make hay running to the boundaries instead of between the tackles.

There are two x-factors in play today.  One is turnover margin.  As I’ve already mentioned, Georgia’s poor in that department, but Nebraska is even worse, especially over the latter half of the season.  And there ain’t nothing better for breaking up long drives than turning the ball over.  The other, always big in bowl games, is motivation.  We won’t know how that goes until play starts, but I do think Hutson Mason wants to go out as a winner this season and I’d be surprised if he came out complacent.

The stats, as Bill notes, favor Georgia.  Here’s hoping he’s right and the season closes with a bang.

Consider this your game day post invitation in the comments.

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Filed under Georgia Football

“As long as I’m the head football coach here.”

Man, I don’t have a problem understanding why Bill O’Brien is leaving Penn State.  At all.

I will be curious to see who succeeds him, though.

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Filed under You Can't Put A Price Tag On Joe Paterno's Legacy

But at least there was closure.

John Pennington reminds us once more that it rarely pays to put all your cards on the table with Mark Emmert’s NCAA:

Then there was the autograph caper of Johnny Manziel.  As summer wound down, a number of sources claimed that the Texas A&M quarterback had received thousands of dollars in exchange for his autograph on merchandise that could be re-sold for greater profit.  Anyone with a brain knows that Johnny Football wouldn’t volunteer hours of his time to make someone else a boatload of money… all out of the goodness of his heart.  Who of us would?

But the NCAA wanted no part in opening up what could have become a skyscraper-sized can of worms.  Just as Manziel surely received payment for his time and/or autographs, other college athletes have no doubt done the same (they simply weren’t fingered by autograph brokers after the fact).  Knowing this, the NCAA handed Manziel a suspension lasting for all of one half of one game for not — get this — not trying to stop someone from profiting from his image.  Uh, right.

The one-time Heisman-winner sat out the first two quarters of the Aggies’ season opener and the story faded from the front page.  More importantly, the NCAA had set a precedent.  Not having the time or manpower to investigate every claim of a kid signing autographs for cash, Emmert’s group can now simply drop a one-half suspension on any player it believes accepted money for his John Hancock.

Interestingly, it was just three years ago that the same NCAA suspended Georgia receiver AJ Green for four whole games because he had sold a game-worn jersey for 1000 bucks.  Like Pearl and Tressel, Green must feel that he simply got popped at the wrong time.  Had he broken a rule in the current environment, he might’ve been benched for one half or one game rather than for a full 16 quarters, a third of his final season in Athens.

Don’t forget – nobody anonymously dropped a dime on AJ.  He volunteered the information that hung him, presumably upon the advice of somebody in Georgia’s compliance department.  Here’s hoping that nameless soul has either been re-educated or is making a living somewhere other than in Athens.

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Filed under Georgia Football, The NCAA

The SEC’s New Year’s Eve bowl experience: our kids can beat up your honor students.

Wins over Rice and Duke don’t sound like much, because, well, they’re wins over Rice and Duke.  And, in fact, the Liberty Bowl was in little doubt from the first play from scrimmage, as MSU’s monster-sized quarterback carried what looked like two-thirds of the Owls defense for three or four yards.  If there’s one thing Dan Mullen is experienced with, it’s beating programs from lesser light conferences.

The Chick-fil-A Bowl, on the other hand…

Texas A&M lived up to the new SEC motto – “Defense doesn’t win championships; it’s just something you do until the offense comes back on the field” – with a vengeance.  And if there’s anybody who knows how to exploit a shitty defense, it’s David Cutcliffe.  (If he watched the game last night, Willie Martinez was probably having acid flashbacks to that 2006 debacle in Athens.)

In the end, though, despite Duke’s best efforts, the game wound up being a giant platform for the talents of one Johnny Manziel, who simply wouldn’t quit.  His defense finally caught up with him and made a couple of big plays, but if the rumors are true about Johnny Football, this game was one helluva farewell to college football from him.

And it was also a reminder about how puzzling the media response to Manziel was this season.  Sure, he’s brash at times.  But it’s not like he got somebody pregnant, was caught dealing drugs or brandished an AK-47 (although I’m not sure that gets you in trouble in Texas these days).  He had another dazzling year and yet it’s almost as if it didn’t matter.  And it should have, because, at least for me, he’s been the most fun CFB player to watch since Darren McFadden.

I mean, what can you say about this?

Let’s see A.J. McCarron top that.

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Filed under SEC Football, WOAH! It's Johnny Football!