Two things about this Chris Brown preview of the Cap One Bowl leave me queasy. One is a reflex response any time I see use of the term “the wheel”. The other is this:
So, despite all the wrinkles, multiple schemes, read options and run-pass plays, the success of Martinez and the rest of the Husker offense against the Bulldogs will likely come down to one matchup: Can they control Georgia’s interior defensive linemen? For a game pitting ten-win teams from the Big 10 and SEC, that sounds about right to me.
The absence of Jenkins already makes me nervous, but I was hoping that would be balanced out to some extent by the return of Abry Jones. Unfortunately, it sounds like that return won’t amount to much.
Argh. That means Grantham’s got to cobble together a stout run defense relying to some extent on defensive linemen that… well, that he hasn’t relied on for the most part this season. Unless he thinks Geathers has the stamina to play nose for an entire game as part of a three-man front. Honestly, I’m not seeing that. And that’s got to be a cause for concern, because the Nebraska rushing attack is quite good.
So where’s Georgia’s best hope to counter? I look at a couple of areas. One is something I’ve posted about before – the big advantage Georgia has on the turnover front. Nebraska turns the ball over at a prodigious rate of two and a half times a game (good for 118th nationally), while Georgia’s defense forces two turnovers a game on average. If the Dawgs go +2 or better in turnover margin, that’s likely to blunt a couple of Nebraska scoring opportunities.
My other hope? That the best defense is a good offense. As Chris notes,
Much of that inconsistency centers around quarterback Taylor Martinez, a talented, speedy quarterback with a shotput throwing motion. In Nebraska’s ten wins, Martinez had 20 touchdowns to only four interceptions, and a nice 157.37 passer rating. In their three losses, however, he had only one touchdown pass to six interceptions and a sub-100 passer rating. During the year, most of Martinez’s best passing plays were scheme plays, ones that were successful because of some wrinkle Beck had introduced, such as the post/wheel combination out of the Diamond formation…
Off of these run actions, Martinez can be deadly simply because of the threat that he can run. But when pressured, and asked to make more traditional dropback throws, Martinez’s efficiency drops significantly. If Georgia can get an early lead, it could get ugly for Nebraska.
Georgia is ranked 26th in total offense, which is certainly good, but not phenomenal. However, it’s worth noting a couple of things. First, the only major conference offense Nebraska faced with a better yards per game number than Georgia’s was UCLA’s, and Nebraska gave up over 650 yards that day. Second, while the yards per game number may not be outstanding, Georgia’s offensive yards per play average sure is.
The bottom line is that if Georgia’s defense can’t make Nebraska’s offense more one-dimensional, maybe Georgia’s offense can. And that may be next year’s mantra, too.