[NOTE: This is the last of the series.]
Ah, now we come down to it, the final match up of note: Mike Bobo vs. John Chavis.
We’re all familiar with the formidable numbers LSU’s defense has generated this season. And Chavis is certainly no stranger to coaching stout defenses. The thing is, as Phil Steele’s chart shows, it’s not like Chavis dominated Georgia’s offense during his time at Tennessee. He’s had his good years, like 2004 and 2007, but he’s also had years like 2003 and 2005 that weren’t. (Even 2006, which was a UT win, doesn’t look so hot: the Vol defense gave up yards and points to a Georgia team initially quarterbacked by JTIII.)
My point here is simply that it’s not a superior scheme that’s got LSU playing defense the way it is this year; it’s talented, well-coached players being properly deployed that’s doing the trick.
Some of the success is situational. This is a team that has had the lead in its games for most of the season – big leads, often. And that’s reflected in the breakdown of defensive rushing stats by quarter. In the first half, LSU’s opponents have run the ball a total of 226 times. That number declines to 164 in the second half. But you can’t explain it all with that, for LSU’s opponents also pass less in the second half. That tells you LSU’s offense is doing its job controlling the clock once the Tigers lock into a lead.
So some of what Bobo needs to happen to be successful (running 70+ plays) is dependent on Georgia’s defense getting LSU’s offense off the field. But I don’t think that’s the key for Georgia’s offense tomorrow, at least not based on what the stats say.
For that, take a look at the Georgia situational passing stats. There’s a number on the page that should jump up and slap you in the face. It’s 184.38. That’s Georgia’s passer rating on first down this season. It’s an incredible number when you look at the breakdown: 65.5% completion rate, 17 to 4 TD/INT ratio and 10.12 yards per attempt. Bobo’s boys have kicked some serious ass on first down. (By comparison, LSU’s first down passer rating is an above average 153.80.)
And if you’re becoming a believer in the double positive, first down is also Georgia’s biggest down for explosive passing plays. Corch would describe first down for Georgia’s passing offense as a big deal, in other words.
As for LSU’s passing defense on first down, it’s what you’d expect. Good. No, make that really good. Opponents have been limited to a first down passer rating of 87.86. Given that the Tigers’ defense also holds opponents to an average of 2.55 yards per rush on first down, you begin to understand where all that stoutness comes from. Simply put, they win first down.
Something’s gotta give here, obviously. If LSU can shut down Georgia’s passing game on first down, I’m having a hard time seeing how the Dawgs can compete without Grantham pulling off the defensive coaching job of the season. (And even then it’s a tall order, because you’d also have to count on Georgia winning the turnover battle and not having any special teams hiccups to avoid disaster.)
It’s safe to assume that Chavis isn’t stupid and that passer rating has already got his attention. It’s what LSU’s defense does to counter Georgia’s first down success that’ll be interesting to watch. And what Bobo does in response. That first Aaron Murray no-huddle look to the sideline had better be rewarded with a good answer.