It’s almost here – the game on Georgia’s schedule that I hate most to lose. (On the flip side, there are few things in life more enjoyable than walking through the crowd outside Bobby Dodd Stadium after a Georgia win.)
Here come the statistical bullet points.
- There were two big things I took away from last year’s win. The first is that Georgia couldn’t stop Anthony Allen on the dive play (29 carries, 166 yards). If one of the axioms about the triple option is that you have to stop the dive play to defend successfully, then it’s no wonder that Tech wound up with an astounding surplus in number of plays run (92 to 48) and time of possession (sixteen and a half minutes). Tech also wound up outgaining the Dawgs by almost 90 yards on the day.
- Despite all that, Georgia won. And won in part because of the second big thing: Tech’s secondary offered little to no resistance to Aaron Murray, who finished with an astounding 250.86 passer rating. Murray averaged more than fourteen yards per pass attempt.
- Do those first two points mean that both offenses gained something from their familiarity in practice with the 3-4 defense? Maybe, but it’s not like either had much trouble moving the ball against the 4-3 in the two earlier years of the Paul Johnson era.
- Aside from Murray’s excellence, Georgia also won because of turnovers (+2 in turnover margin, including an 18-yard fumble return for a TD by Justin Houston), special teams (missed extra point) and a couple of Paul Johnson coaching decisions that didn’t work – the call to let Washaun Ealey score unimpeded to put the ball in the hands of Tech’s vaunted passing attack to try to tie the game and the puzzling move to go for it on fourth down on Georgia’s 19 instead of kicking a field goal after Chapas fumbled the opening kickoff.
- By the way, when Tech is forced to pass at the end of a game to win, should we call that the defense’s victory formation?
- Returning to my “double positives” post from a couple of days ago, Tech won the explosive plays battle, 14-12. Georgia hasn’t given up fourteen explosive plays to any team it’s faced this season, but it’s probably worth noting that Vandy, which was successful with quarterback running plays, managed 13.
- Turning to this season, Tech’s B-back is David Sims. Check out the splits on his performance in Tech’s wins versus losses. Breaking it down by game: 35 yards against Virginia, 29 yards against Miami and 32 yards against Virginia Tech. Good things happen when you stop the dive play, baby.
- On the other hand, the Jackets’ A-backs are ripping and running. Two of them are averaging more than 10 yards per carry on the season and a third, Roddy Jones (hasn’t he been on the Flats for like seven years now?) is close with a 8.93 average. Some of that has to do with a wrinkle that Johnson introduced this season, to devastating effect – a toss counter to the A-backs. Tech averaged more than 12 yards a carry against Kansas; I don’t care how bad a team is, 12 yards a carry is an amazing number. That play, which is a perfect call against a defense that gets caught up in overpursuit, worries me more than the dive this year.
- For all the talk about Tech’s reinvigorated passing attack, it’s worth noting that Tevin Washington continues a tradition, in that he’s completing less than 50% of his pass attempts. But he’s got a gaudy passer rating of 164.32, because his TD/INT ratio is 11-6 and he’s averaging a remarkable 11.8 yards per pass attempt. (That last figure would lead the country, if he averaged 15 attempts per game.)
- Stephen Hill does lead the nation in yards per catch, at a ridiculous 30.74 rate, more than ten yards ahead of the next receiver. But again, his split stats in wins and losses tell a familiar tale: 175.4 yards per game in the eight wins and 66 yards per game in the three losses.
- Tech’s defense has been okay, but not stellar this season. Groh’s 3-4 ranks 42nd nationally in total defense, which is also middle of the pack in the ACC. By and large that’s been good enough, considering how prolific the Jacket offense is. Indeed, the defense hasn’t played that much worse in Tech’s losses than in the wins (in fact, Tech turned in its best defensive performance against a D-1 opponent in the loss to Miami).
- I don’t feel comfortable enough about this to say that Georgia enters the game with an advantage at special teams, but I will say that Tech isn’t particularly scary in that department, either. Although one area where Tech doesn’t trail Georgia – punt returns – makes me a leetle nervous.
- On the other hand, I feel pretty good about turnover margin. Tech is 1-2 in games when it’s had a negative turnover margin, and the win was an ugly 38-31 affair over sad sack Duke.
So after swirling that around, where does that leave us? Well, for one thing, I think it’s kind of silly to talk about matchups between Georgia’s defense and Tech’s offense, because the triple option is at its heart an anti-matchup scheme. I think what Grantham wants to do is take away the dive play and limit the big plays from Tech. That to me suggests clamping down on Hill and the option pitch to the A-backs. That’ll mean Washington will get some yards on the ground, but better him than Roddy Jones or Orwin Smith. (Plus, don’t forget the second axiom of defending the triple option: make the quarterback pay.)
On the other side of the ball, outside of T.J. Barnes, Tech’s front seven personnel is smallish. The Jackets have averaged giving up 220 yards rushing in each of their three losses. The Dawgs have a size advantage with their offensive line and I expect Bobo to try to repeat the power running game formula that Virginia and Virginia Tech used with success. I expect Groh to counter with tactics like Kentucky’s (63rd in total defense) decision to put eight in the box and run blitz to jam the rushing lanes which held Georgia to one of its lowest offensive yardage totals of the season. Will that work tomorrow? I’m not sure. For one thing, Tech doesn’t have a linebacker in the same class as Danny Trevathan. For another, Kentucky wore down in the second half and Brandon Harton still wound up rushing for more than 100 yards. If Bobo stays tough with his playcalling, he’s got plenty of mismatches to exploit, starting with his tight ends.
As I posted the other day, I like Georgia’s chances if the Dawgs win the double positive. And, riding a 9-1 wave against Tech, they shouldn’t feel tight approaching this game. Here’s to hoping for another enjoyable crowd outside BDS tomorrow afternoon.