Monthly Archives: November 2012

Some losses are more equal than others.

Shorter Actual Chris Low“No matter how hard you try, it’s difficult to get the version of Georgia that lost by four touchdowns to South Carolina earlier this season out of your mind. There’s no doubt the Bulldogs are playing at a different level right now, but this is also a more dialed-in Alabama team thanks to the loss to Texas A&M a few weeks ago.”

Amazing how those outcomes work.

If this is the quality insight ESPN comes up with, I’m feeling better and better about Georgia’s chances Saturday.


Filed under Media Punditry/Foibles

Second thoughts on SECCG

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?


Filed under Georgia Football

Sometimes, you don’t need to spell anything with UT.

This made me laugh out loud.


Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange

Coach of the year

Ron Higgins writes, “Mark Richt might be the best football coach in SEC history that has spent the most time on the hot seat.”

I’m of a generation that recalls a time when fifteen and twenty-year head coaching careers at the same school weren’t rare, so on one level, that Mark Richt has survived at Georgia for twelve seasons doesn’t make me sit back and go wow.  But when you measure his tenure in Athens by other coaches, as Seth Emerson does here, it’s rather remarkable.

As he summarizes, since Richt’s hire, “the rest of the (pre-expansion) SEC schools have churned through a combined 33 coaches, not counting the four new ones to be hired, or interim coaches.”  Thirty three!  (Soon to be thirty seven.)  Holy moly.  The longevity, while remarkable, isn’t what impresses me most about Richt today, though.  It’s what he’s done in the last three seasons that does.

As Dan Wetzel puts it,

There are only three coaches still in the hunt for a national title, and Richt is the only one who had significant parts of his fan base either crying for his firing or expecting it to be inevitable just two years ago.

That was December 2010, at the completion of a dreadful 6-7 season, complete with a loss to Central Florida in the Liberty Bowl where the Bulldogs managed a pathetic two field goals against a Conference USA defense. The team was hampered by the suspension of three players, and the program’s first losing season since 1996 came on the heels of an already worrisome 8-5 campaign. Even worse Auburn, coached by Gene Chizik of all people, was about to win a national title starting a superman quarterback from outside Atlanta.

Hey, I plead guilty.  And the reality is that you can point to a moment more recent than two years ago if you want.  But, perhaps improbably, Richt’s picked himself up, dusted his team off and has the program on the brink of something every Dawg fan has hoped for – maybe even expected – since the 2002 season.  That is something to celebrate.

And it’s worth acknowledging how difficult a task it’s been.  I’ve written before that I’m a believer in the battleship theory of big college football programs like Georgia’s.  They’re hard to turn around quickly.  That’s especially true when you’re asking a coach who’s steered the battleship into troubled waters in the first place to be the one to make the course correction.  Inertia is a bitch.  Yet here we are.  Richt’s made an effort to reinvent his approach, often at the cost of affecting personal relationships that matter greatly to him, and it’s made a difference.  We can all argue about the timing, but the truth is that there are plenty of coaches who wouldn’t have the humility to admit that what once worked no longer did.

Yes, the header is facetious in a way.  The preseason expectations surrounding Georgia were high enough that this 11-win season isn’t as special as what’s gone on at places like Florida, Ole Miss and Texas A&M (although there is this).  But as a fan who’s watched this program’s one step forward, two steps back dance for more years than he’s liked, this has turned out to be an exceptional year, one to savor.  And that’s why from my selfish standpoint, Mark Richt is my COTY.


Filed under Georgia Football

Brave Sir Gary

I’ve long respected Gary Danielson’s acumen as an in-game analyst.  In fact, he’s been good enough in that department that I’ve been willing to overlook his embarrassing SEC homerism and blind stubbornness about the spread offense.  So needless to say, I’ve been looking forward to hearing what he has to say about Georgia this week.

The heavens quaked, the earth moved… and Danielson opined this:

Danielson said it’s tough to judge Georgia because they’ve played a relatively soft schedule since a turnover-filled 17-9 win over Florida on Oct. 27.

“We don’t know how real Georgia is,” he said. “They hit a terrible slump in the middle of the season when even their own players called their team out. That seemed to ignite them. They played a very good defensive football game against Florida where their quarterback had a really tough first half and he almost kind of tossed a game away that they should have won pretty easily.

“But since then, when the rest of the country was playing really tough football games, Georgia has played Ole Miss, Auburn, Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech. They haven’t been tested. So they’re basically coming from the Oct. 27 game into the championship game and we don’t know if they’ve gotten any better or where they stand.”

That’s it?  I mean, gee, Gary, that’s a little underwhelming.  You can’t tell us anything about Georgia from its play over the last month?  Nothing at all?

Here’s what good football teams do against mediocre opposition:  they dominate.  And very good teams do it consistently.  (The difference between Alabama and Georgia is that what Georgia’s done for a month or so, the Tide has done pretty much all season long.)  So can’t you draw some conclusions from Georgia’s defense holding its last five opponents to their season lowest scoring totals?  How many other schools have done so five times this season, let alone consecutively?  What does it say that Georgia over the last month leads the nation in defensive scoring?  Isn’t that what elite programs should do with football teams that don’t test them?

And as far as Aaron Murray goes, he’s been putting up obscene numbers since that “almost, kind of tossed away” time you’re focused on.  That doesn’t tell you anything?  Besides that, you’re the guy who, as you sat there analyzing the Georgia-Florida game in the fourth quarter, felt that Georgia was going to have to turn to Murray to put the game away with another score and then watched exactly that happen.  And took (justifiable) credit for calling it!

I’m a dumbass blogger who’s never been in the arena, but even I can tell from my limited vantage point that Georgia’s playing well over its last five games.  So I’m a little dumbfounded that Danielson, who’s exposed to a lot more football week in and week out than I am, can’t see that.  Or won’t.

I don’t know what this is about.  Maybe he thinks he’s being profound.  Maybe he’s unwilling to make a prediction.  Maybe he’s got too much respect for Saban to come out and say that Alabama will be seriously tested.  And I get that everybody’s fixated on Georgia’s schedule (which, by the way, comes in at a respectable if not stellar 42nd in Sagarin’s SOS rankings).  But, geez, how much would it hurt to take something resembling an analytical stand here?


Filed under Georgia Football, Media Punditry/Foibles

Today’s “I don’t get it” post

Can somebody explain to me why Collin Klein and Braxton Miller are supposed Heisman Trophy contenders and Aaron Murray isn’t?

Mind you, this is purely intellectual curiosity on my part, because (A) I haven’t cared about the Heisman since Charles Woodson won it and (B) Johnny Manziel is going to win it this year anyway.  But I am curious.  Especially when you look at this.  And this.


Filed under College Football

Some people are turned on by old man football.

Like Alabama defensive end Damion Square.

“Big, physical guys up front, the powerful ball they’re trying to run, it’s football the way it’s supposed to be played,” Square said Tuesday. “Tight end, pro-style formation, running iso, that’s the way the game’s supposed to be played.

“They run it, and they run it well.”

Funny, but that gets me more pumped up for the game than swag talk does.  GATA, fellas!


Filed under SEC Football

After all, ESPN has its journalistic integrity to maintain.

Regardless of your opinion of SportsByBrooks, this is some funny shit.


Filed under ESPN Is The Devil

Steele sez… on the SECCG and Florida’s turnovers

Keep in mind this isn’t Phil’s computer talking, it’s his gut, but here’s what he says about Saturday’s game:

In what is, in essence, a national title semifinal, the winner here will advance to play #1 Notre Dame in the national champ game in Miami on January 7th. These two have not played since ‘08 when #8 Bama beat #3 Georgia on the road 41-30, a game that many Bama fans point to as one of the key wins which got the Crimson Tide’s recent run of dominance started. The Tide/Bulldogs have played just 6 times in the last 20 years (3-3 split) and have not met here in the SEC Championship game. In fact, this is the Tide’s 8th appearance in the SEC Title game (3-4) but first against a team other than UF. UGA makes its second straight trip here and its fifth appearance in the Richt era (2-2). While not many can argue that these two don’t deserve to be here as Bama beat LSU on the road 21-17 and UGA handed UF its only loss 17-9 (thanks to 6 UF TO’s), it should be noted that both benefitted from rather fortunate SEC scheduling as UGA skipped out on the top 3 teams in the West (Bama, LSU and A&M) while Bama didn’t play the top 3 teams in the East (UGA, UF and SC). Both come in off blowout wins of their rivals as Bama crushed Auburn 49-0 (most lopsided Iron Bowl in 64 years) rolling up 25-7 FD and 483-163 yard edges and led 42-0 at the half. Meanwhile, UGA rolled to a 42-10 win over GT as they led 42-3 midway through the 3Q but were outgained 426-379 and outFD’d 26-18. They did average an astonishing 10.5 yards per play in the 1H. Both teams are led by veteran QB’s as Murray and McCarron are #1-2 in the NCAA in pass eff and have combined for a 55-9 ratio! They also have stout D’s as while Bama’s ranks #1 in most categories, one could argue that UGA’s is more talented and since S Williams called out the D prior to the UF game, they’ve allowed just 9 ppg in the last 5 games. The Bama D did give up 400+ yards in back-to-back games vs LSU/A&M earlier this year while UGA OC Bobo has called this UGA offense the best he’s ever seen as they are avg a school record 38 ppg. While each has Top 20 units on both offense and defense, Bama does have the significant ST’s edge (#22-71) and Saban is 7-2 in his last 9 games vs Top 20 teams while Richt is 1-6 in his last 7.

As a summary goes, that’s pretty fair.  And he’s picking Georgia to cover, so there’s that.  But I’ve got to get to something he says that echoes what a number of others have said or written:  “UGA handed UF its only loss 17-9 (thanks to 6 UF TO’s)”.  This drives me crazy.  I was at that game and I wonder if I missed something.  Did the Gators politely hand the ball to their opponent and bow?  You’d think from the sound of it, that the Dawgs were mere bystanders to a series of Florida gaffes that basically occurred in a vacuum.  (Come to think of it, that’s actually a pretty apt description of Murray’s third interception.  But I digress.)

Here’s the reality.  One reason Florida finished the regular season 11-1 – one of the main reasons it did so – is that it turned in a stellar turnover ratio of +17.  The Gators lost a total of twelve turnovers all season.  Look at the game log.  Only one of Florida’s other opponents, LSU, forced more than one turnover.  In other words, Florida was in the habit of holding on to the ball.

This year’s Georgia-Florida game, particularly the first quarter, was the most physical football game I’ve watched those two schools ever play.  No quarter was asked and none was given.  Was there a sloppy exchange or two?  Sure, but there was also a lot of hard contact and smart play (Rambo’s pick, for example).  By and large, those turnovers were earned.

This has all the sound of the excuse of Tebow’s shoulder in the 2007 game.  Florida didn’t lose because it was outplayed; it lost because of forces beyond its control.

To be fair, I’ve not heard Muschamp making excuses.  But there are plenty of others out there who keep trotting out this six turnover stuff to diminish the Georgia win.  Funny how none of those folks have much to say about the turnover margins in Florida’s games against South Carolina and FSU.


Filed under Georgia Football, Phil Steele Makes My Eyes Water

First SECCG thoughts

Hate to start off like a Negative Nelly, but I’ve got two big concerns about Saturday’s game.  The first is “duh” obvious:  how Georgia’s offensive line holds up against Alabama’s defensive front seven.  The good news, if you want to call it that, is that the ‘Bama defensive line isn’t as overwhelmingly daunting as either LSU’s was last year, or as this year’s South Carolina line played.  The bad news is that it’s still pretty damned imposing.

And that makes for a tall task for Will Friend’s troops.  And for Mike Bobo’s playcalling.  I thought Bobo did a masterful job in the first half of last year’s SECCG keeping Chavis off-balance with a kitchen sink approach to his playbook.  Had the player execution kept up, there’s no telling how that game might have played out.  He’s going to have to scheme like crazy against a well-coached and talented Alabama defense to keep Murray upright and functional.  One thing he’s got in his favor this year is a realistic running threat with the two fabulous freshmen.  That should help keep Saban/Smart honest about how they defend the Georgia attack.

All that ties into my second worry.  This one may not be so obvious:  Georgia’s ability to hit big plays.  Yeah, the Dawgs are seventh in the country in offensive plays of 20 or more yards.  But when you break it down a little, there’s a good reason for concern.  Through the first five games of the year, Georgia ranked first in those plays.  Then came October.  Georgia’s ranking that month?  107th.  Now some of that can be attributed to the Dawgs having only played three games that month.  But most of it has to be chalked up to the opposition – that’s the month Georgia took on South Carolina and Florida.  November saw a decent bounce back, as Georgia finished 23rd nationally, but it’s not as if the Dawgs took on a defense as good as the ones they saw the month before.

I’m sure you know what’s coming next.  Alabama ranks sixth nationally in opponents’ offensive plays of 20+ yards, which is better than Florida (11th) and South Carolina (30th).  (If you’re looking for a silver lining in that cloud, the Tide dropped to 41st in the month that Texas A&M showed up to play.)  The challenge is clear.

Big plays are a big deal for this Georgia team.  Aside from the obvious – you’re picking up significant yardage, of course – it’s a good sign when Georgia’s busting out that play action is working, which means that the running game is clicking.  Besides that, it’s part of Georgia’s identity on offense.  It doesn’t mean that they can’t scrap and plug away to win (remember Florida), but it makes it tougher and puts a lot more pressure on the other parts of the team to hold things together.  If you’ll recall, that’s the exact way the wheels came off the wagon in last year’s SECCG.

Anyway, that’s what’s making me fret mid-week.  What are you guys worrying about?


Filed under Georgia Football