Probably not the guy you were expecting, though.
Better late than never, I suppose.
I’ll bounce around on both sides as the week progresses, but I’m gonna start in Debbie Downer mode.
We’ve all focused on the shortcomings of the defense, but if you ask me, there’s an equally troubling development that’s cropped up at a most inopportune time. I’ll let Year2 explain.
Thanks to the magic of SEC video box scores, I took some time to break down Georgia’s rushing game in conference play based on whether it had a numbers advantage up front or not. I wanted to get an idea as to why the UGA rushing game had worked so well earlier in the year but not so well in the past two games…
Anyway, so what caused the drop off in these rushing averages over the course of the last two games? It’s pretty simple: a lack of big plays.
Only nine of UGA’s 31 rushes against Tennessee went for more than five yards, but three of those nine were big home runs. Take out the touchdown runs of 51, 72, and 75 yards, and they rush for just 3.54 YPC on the game against one of the league’s iffier run defenses. Todd Gurley’s 44-yard run against Mizzou by itself raises the average by 1.4 YPC from 3.57 to the 4.97 you see above. UGA had just one run of over ten yards, a 15-yarder to start the game, against South Carolina, and it likewise had just one rush, for 12 yards, of more than ten against Kentucky.
Now South Carolina I can understand – a bad combination of Lorenzo Ward’s excellent game plan, the collective freak out by Georgia’s staff and offensive linemen over Jadeveon Clowney and a game score that led to an abandonment of the running game – but Kentucky? Kentucky’s run defense… well, Kentucky’s run defense isn’t good. And, no, it wasn’t as if the UK defense was set up to shut down the run. For one thing, the Wildcats’ pass defense is even worse and those guys needed all hands on deck for that. For another, Year2 counted and found,
… you’re probably expecting me to say that Kentucky loaded up on the run just like the Gamecocks did. After all, Murray had another excellent game going 30-for-38 (78.9%) for 427 yards, four TDs, no INTs, and a passing efficiency of 208.1. However, Kentucky didn’t do that. Georgia had an advantage on 14 rushes versus 11 rushes against equal numbers. The Wildcats didn’t focus on the run particularly hard; UGA’s big guys up front just couldn’t get a consistent push or open holes with regularity for the backs. That goes for even when they had a numerical advantage.[Emphasis added.]
That was my impression watching, as well. The offensive line has disappeared in the last two weeks. I don’t know if the guys were shell-shocked after the debacle in Columbia, but it was obvious that UK’s line played more physically. With Florida next, that’s not a good place to be.
… Against pro-style running attacks that are similar to the Bulldogs’, Florida rarely has loaded up the box against the run. In the few times they do equal up the numbers, it’s usually because they’re playing nickel (six-man front) against a one-back, no TE/FB look from the offense. Will Muschamp partially does this thanks to great line play and partially because his safeties are excellent at coming up in run support. Josh Evans and Matt Elam are actually the team’s leading tacklers, and you’ll see them a lot in run play defense this weekend.
Georgia’s offensive line has to have a better game this weekend than last, full stop. If it doesn’t then Evans and Elam will be able to stay back more for passing coverage, something that will hurt Murray’s chances through the air. Murray bailed out the running game with his arm in Lexington, but he probably won’t be able to against the nation’s third-best passing efficiency defense. If Gurley and Marshall don’t get openings to make some more of those big plays again, then we’re going to see yet another Florida win in Jacksonville.
You never know if one thing is the be-all and end-all, but I will say that if Georgia can’t run a lick Saturday and has to rely solely on Murray and the receivers to move the ball, it’s going to make things a lot tougher. In that case, you can expect the Gators to press Georgia’s receivers in the hope of disrupting the Dawg passing attack just as South Carolina did.
The good news, if you want to call it that, is that Florida doesn’t have a single player who’s as disruptive as Clowney. The bad news is that Kentucky didn’t, either. And Florida’s defensive line is far deeper and more talented than UK’s.
Georgia’s offensive line doesn’t have to be fabulous Saturday. But it does need to show up and hold its own.
On of my other hobbies is that I’m a bit of an audiophile. High-end audio is a small industry, one that tries to appeal to consumers at all points on the price scale. One thing you’ll hear audio engineers say often is that it’s easier to build cost-no-object gear than it is to build something excellent to a specific price point, but that doing the latter can be more rewarding from a development standpoint because it forces you to design more for less and that’s often an exercise that can payoff even with bigger budget equipment.
The point to my tortured analogy (this is a college football blog, so I’ve got to be heading somewhere with this, right?) is that when SEC schools start shuffling the deck chairs after the season is over, and we hear about the Grudens, the Petrinos and the Tubervilles (don’t laugh, I’ve heard his name being mentioned in connection with the Arkansas job more than once), maybe somebody ought to be talking about Iowa State’s Paul Rhoads. Here’s what Mike Gundy has to say about Rhoads:
Coming off a win against Iowa State, Gundy expressed his respect for Paul Rhoads while on SiriusXM College Sports Nation, and not just because the Cyclones ended the Cowboys’ national championship hopes last year.
“I have a lot of respect for coaches that are at schools that don’t have the traditions and luxuries that some people have,” Gundy said. “They have work at everything they do. They have to find a way to recruit, they have to find a way to stop people, manufacture points, be smart, special teams, team attitude, all those things. Paul knows this. I told him before the game how much respect I have for what he’s accomplished.
“I know they gave him a 10-year contract. They should give him a 20-year contract because he maximizes the talent that he has, and they play smart football.”
Iowa State is hardly a football glamor spot. And Rhoads was the guy who got called in when Chizik left the school holding the bag. He hasn’t exactly played with the strongest hand since he got there. All things considered, he’s built an impressive resume in less than four seasons. He’s also got a year’s coaching experience in the SEC, ironically as Chizik’s successor as the Auburn defensive coordinator.
He does the emotion thing pretty well, too.
As Gundy notes, Rhoads has a long-term contract at ISU. And he seems like a loyal guy. Kind of a younger version of Jim Grobe. But if I were an SEC school needing a head coach, I’d at least gauge his interest. He knows how to build to a price point.
The plaintiffs in the O’Bannon law suit are pulling out all the stops.
About now, Mark Emmert probably wishes he could deal with the judge in the same way he dealt with Penn State.
Look, I get that Shawn Williams is frustrated with the play of his defensive teammates. If you’re a Georgia fan, unless you’ve been in a coma the past month or two, how could you not share the sentiment? And I can even give him a pass for going to the media with it – he knows his guys a helluva lot better than I ever will, so maybe he’s convinced this was the only way to light a fire under them.
But, in a year when the SEC has made it known that it is paying attention to certain forms of on-field activity at a level that borders on the fetishistic, how smart is it for a player who was suspended for the first half of last year’s game because of questionable play to say something like this, even in jest?
Williams kept digging in, when asked what the team needed in order to get in the right mindset. He seemed only half-joking when he invoked the New Orleans Saints bounty scandal.
“It seems like we need the coach from the Saints, it seems like we need him. It seems like we need a pay-for-play system,” Williams said. “That’s what it seems like we need though. We need Sean Payton.”
On the 1-10 dumb scale, that’s about a 14.
The sound you hear in the background is Penn Wagers feverishly punching his speed dial for Steve Shaw to beg for the opportunity to be assigned to Jacksonville this Saturday.
This is manna from heaven, if you’re Will Muschamp. Boom will tell his players to do everything legal they can – trash talking, Gator chomping (the GPOOE™ established that’s constitutionally protected free expression, not taunting) and playing hard into that split second past the whistle – to provoke a response. It’ll be the response that the officiating crew will be anticipating. Eagerly. And don’t think the Gator coaches won’t be as helpful as they can be from the sideline pointing out transgressions, real or imaginary.
Take the over on personal fouls this week, people.