If you haven’t seen the team stats from yesterday’s Alabama-Vanderbilt game, they almost defy comprehension. I don’t know if I’ve ever before seen a team with a 38-3 advantage in first downs.
Thought last night’s upholding of the Swift fumble call was bad? Nah. Bad is when the SEC has to come out and admit the official blew the call — a non-reversible call.
Last week, I fretted about Georgia’s offense being somewhat predictable due to Jake Fromm’s limits.
Speaking of pre-snap reads, those are even easier for Fromm to handle when he’s making them from the shotgun or pistol rather than under center. Given his background and experience, that’s hardly surprising. Unfortunately, that can make for predictable playcalling.
Looking at last week’s game against Samford, Georgia broke away from at least one tendency it had the game prior against Notre Dame. Georgia increased its plays from under center with its first-team offense. In total, the Bulldogs ran 21 plays under center compared to 30 plays in the shotgun against Samford.
While Smart said switching between shotgun and from under center is “overrated” when it comes to analysis, it does play a part in what the opposition is trying to find out.
“They can look at those things, see it, try to get tendencies off it,” Smart said. “I think every coach in America is trying to break his tendencies.”
But the reason for noting the number of plays under center and out of the shotgun in the Samford game is important for one particular reason. Of the 21 plays under center, quarterback Jake Fromm threw from this spot zero times.
Fromm received only one passing call from under center against Notre Dame and he was sacked on the play.
The tendency here is that Fromm isn’t going to throw the ball when Georgia is under center.
All you can do is all you can do, obviously, and, to be fair, Georgia was going to run the ball down Samford’s throat no matter what formation in which it lined up. Still, with an opponent like Mississippi State, which showed last week it does an excellent job with its game prep, that’s got to be a major concern. Maybe Chaney deserves to be cut a little more slack than he gets.
Instead, it looks like a certain former Georgia defensive coordinator got baited.
During the week of practice, Georgia’s offense practiced the flea-flicker play over and over.
On Thursday, the offense was told it would begin Saturday’s 31-3 win over Mississippi State with the particular play. It was something head coach Kirby Smart saw on film that he believed would work early in the game. Plus, taking a deep shot that early might soften Mississippi State’s box against the run…
On the play, quarterback Jake Fromm lined up under the center on what looked like a run play. After all, Fromm did not attempt a pass from under center the week before against Samford. Mississippi State loaded the box to prevent the run in response.
Fromm handed the ball off to running back Nick Chubb, who then pitched the ball back to Fromm. Godwin was left wide open for what turned into a 59-yard touchdown reception.
Smart said he spoke with offensive coordinator Jim Chaney about the potential play call on Wednesday, which is when the final decision was made to go with it.
“I thought it was there. And it worked,” Smart said.
That wasn’t the only unpantsing that worked.
Throwing the ball only 12 times, Fromm posted a 270.70 passer rating last night. Passer ratings from Mississippi State’s three other 2017 opponents: 53.25, 93.30 and 84.51. In the last decade, no other quarterback has eclipsed that mark against MSU.
After his third start as a true freshman, Fromm is now second in the SEC in passer rating. Somebody’s putting him a position to succeed.
Last night was a great time to be a Dawg fan. A dominating win over an opponent riding high after its own big win the week before will do that for you.
Today, I find myself thinking of October 3, 2004. That was the day after Georgia eviscerated Nick Saban’s LSU team 45-16. It was a dominating win over the defending national champs and it caused some in the media to write stuff like, “Georgia’s offense finally showed up, and the Bulldogs now truly look like a team that’s capable of challenging for a national championship.”
Georgia was ranked third in the country, on the receiving end of a few first place votes. That all came crashing to a halt six days later when the Dawgs fell to Tennessee. Georgia didn’t even win the SEC East that season, let alone play for a national title.
Fast forward to today. Finebaum is lauding Georgia as “the legitimate threat to Bama.” This SBNation post is similarly breathless: “Georgia’s the SEC’s last best hope to stop Bama.” That’s one helluva 180-degree turn in a couple of short weeks.
Welcome to managing the expectations, Georgia edition. How does Georgia handle the inevitable media narrative? Well, they at least know the right words.
So now begins the “ignore the praise” portion of the season.
“As long as they don’t start believing all the things that y’all say about them, they’ll be OK,” head coach Kirby Smart said of his defense.
Our defense is capable of being one of the best in the country,” sophomore safety J.R. Reed said. “But as a defense, in order to stay (that way) we can’t read the headlines, we can’t let those guys blow up our heads. We’ve got to keep going, keep our head down, pounding.”
Kirby’s been there before, as he reminded us last night.
You know a team played well when its head coach devotes as much time and energy to deflecting praise as he does providing it himself.
“We’ve got to do a good job managing our team,” Kirby Smart said toward the end of his postgame question-and-answer session with reporters. “If you have a mature team, they’ll handle things well. It does concern me because I do worry about those guys reading it and believing it. But I was around a guy for 10 years who did a good job of managing that.”
That’d be Nick Saban, who has patented “the process” at Alabama.
The catch is that none of his current players has ever set foot in Tuscaloosa.
This should make for an interesting week on the intangibles front. Georgia is riding high, being taken seriously as a program for the first time under Kirby Smart. Tennessee, meanwhile, is a mediocre 3-1, with a head coach whose future is the subject of much speculation. On paper… well, as we all realized on October 9, 2004, the Tennessee game isn’t played on paper.
Every week is a new kind of test, right?
I guess the Dawgs were man enough last night.
Is Mississippi State a good team?
It’s pretty amazing that in the space of a mere week Dan Mullen’s gone from being the second-best coach in the SEC to THE SECOND-BEST COACH IN THE SEC!
All it took was embarrassing Ed Orgeron, whose SEC career record now stands at 18-28.
Of such things legends are born.
By contrast, Kirby Smart’s second season has been a steady grind: a one-point road win against Notre Dame sandwiched between two slices of comfortable wins over cupcakes… oh, yeah, and the Dawgs managed to score more than forty point in a game for the first time in the Smart era. (Thanks, Samford!)
I don’t mean to make light of Georgia’s 3-0 start, which has been accomplished without its original starting quarterback and has also managed to avoid any truly embarrassing efforts like last year’s Nicholls game. The team has progressed.
The end result is that today’s meeting has turned out to be of more import than we anticipated back in August. Tonight we’ll find out whether Kirby’s grind can handle Mullen’s flash.
I’ll have to be honest with you: barring turnover diarrhea, it looks like a tough battle from where I sit. Mullen’s offensive scheme is tough to handle when he’s got the right personnel to deploy, and Nick Fitzgerald is the right personnel for that. Meanwhile, MSU’s Jeffrey Simmons is the kind of disruptive lineman you can build a defense around, which it appears is what Todd Grantham has done. Making things even tougher, Simmons will be prepared to exploit one of Georgia’s obvious weaknesses, the interior of its offensive line.
So while I think Georgia is the more talented team — and while I also think that, unlike LSU, Georgia will be prepared both mentally and emotionally to take on Mississippi State — those two factors are pretty decent levelers.
That’s why this game boils down to the obvious: (1) can Georgia play sixty minutes of assignment football on defense and (2) can the middle of Georgia’s offensive line handle Simmons. It’s going to be a long night if the answer to both of those items is no.
I don’t think it will be, though. Beating LSU by 30 points was the biggest favor Mullen could do for Smart. You can bet the coaches didn’t have to waste any time last week stretching the truth to prepare the team. They’re woke.
Still, Georgia is a young team feeling its way with a freshman quarterback making only his third start. That’s not a recipe for a blowout. Along those lines, if you follow this…
The ‘under’ is 3-0 for UGA with its combined scores averaging 45.3 PPG. Meanwhile, MSU has seen the ‘under’ go 2-1 overall, but the ‘over’ hit in its lone road assignment. Mullen’s team has seen its games average combined scores of 57.0 PPG.
— Georgia owns a 1-5 spread record in six games as a home favorite since Smart took over. On the flip side, Mississippi State has compiled a 9-3 spread record in its last 12 games as a road underdog.
… it adds up to a low-scoring game in which Georgia fails to cover, which sounds about right to me. Playing in Athens winds up being the difference for the home team. I’ll take that.
As usual, this is your invite to use the comments for your game observations. See you on the other side.