Yesterday, I told you what concerned me most. This time, you get what gives me the most hope.
Offensive diversity. I don’t want to say that the injuries to Bennett and Brown have been blessings in disguise, but the way Bobo and the offense have taken up the slack in the wake of their departures is impressive. Here’s what Bill Connelly has to say about that:
… Quietly, Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray has put together one of the most impressive, underrated seasons in recent memory. Despite losing two key cogs in his receiving corps — Michael Bennett (71 percent catch rate, 10.1 yards per target) went down after five weeks, Marlon Brown (65 percent catch rate, 11.5 yards per target) after nine — Murray has produced at a high enough level to place Georgia first in the country in Passing S&P+.
With no Bennett or Brown, receiver-turned-cornerback-turned-receiver Malcolm Mitchell has once again stepped up on the offensive side of the ball, and players like tight end Arthur Lynch and sophomore receiver Chris Conley have raised their production in recent weeks. As a result, Murray has developed almost no season-long tendencies whatsoever. Including Mitchell and Brown, four Bulldogs have been targeted between 34 and 56 times (Tavarres King 56, Mitchell 45, Brown 40, Bennett 34), and seven more have been targeted between 12 and 26, or once to twice per game. Murray throws to whoever is open, period…
Georgia is rather conservative on passing downs, running the ball 44 percent of the time (the 15th highest average in the country) but moves with perfect balance between Murray’s right arm and the legs of Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall (combined: 24 carries and 155 rushing yards per game) on standard downs. They do whatever you cannot stop, and they are brutally effective.
This is what a good pro-style offense is supposed to offer as a challenge to a good defense. In its own fashion, it may be more difficult for Alabama to defend than what TAMU threw at it. (Assuming Georgia’s offensive line can hold up its end of the deal. And, yes, I know that’s a big if.)
Tight end production. Sure, some of that’s a factor of the aforementioned injuries, but give the Dawgs credit for making lemonade out of lemons. 10 of Lynch’s 18 catches this season have come in the last four weeks. For Rome, it’s a similar story, with 8 of his 10 coming in that same period. Even better, both are averaging higher yards per catch than Orson Charles did last year. The flexibility this gives Bobo with his formations and playcalling shouldn’t be underestimated.
Jarvis Jones isn’t ‘da man anymore on defense. Don’t get your hackles up. That’s a good thing, as Bill C. explains.
… Since Williams spoke out, Georgia has allowed 8.6 points per game and 4.6 yards per play. The Georgia defense has improved, incredibly, from 71st in Def. F/+ to 25th.
This is the unit we expected to see all year, with Jarvis Jones wreaking havoc (19.5 tackles for loss, six forced fumbles, three passes defensed, and if you believe the Georgia stat-keeper — and having seen Jones play live, I think I do — 30 quarterback hurries), linebacker Alec Ogletree flying from sideline to sideline (Ogletree leads Georgia in tackles despite playing only eight games), and safety Bacarri Rambo playing the role of Ball Hawk Extraordinaire (against Georgia Tech last week, Rambo forced two fumbles, recovered and returned one for 49 yards, and returned an interception for 27 yards while also logging 6.0 tackles). After single-handedly accounting for a good portion of Georgia’s big defensive plays against teams like Missouri and Florida, Jones has gone from the country’s most valuable player (at least a co-MVP with Kansas State’s Collin Klein) to simply a cog in a destructive, physical defense.
It took a little while, but the pieces have come together for defensive coordinator Todd Grantham and the Georgia defense like we thought it might at the beginning of the year.
Make no mistake: Alabama’s defense is still possibly the best in college football. But Georgia’s might be the hottest.
Next up – do Georgia’s plusses outweigh its minuses?