Hope this isn’t the start of bigger and better things.
If they ever hook him up with Thom Brennaman, my head will explode.
At least it used to be with the NCAA. Or so we thought:
When the Manziel story first broke, I couldn’t help but think of former Georgia receiver A.J. Green, who was suspended for four games — that’s eight halves — for selling a signed, game-worn jersey (worn against Texas A&M in the 2009 Independence Bowl, if you can believe it) to a quasi-agent for $1,000. The NCAA looked at his bank records as part of a different investigation (involving Miami, if you can believe it; it’s the sports version of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon), saw a $1,000 deposit and asked him about it.
“I told them,” Green said. “I’m not going to lie to them and jeopardize my whole season.”
What a chump. Green should have hired a lawyer, refused to talk to the media and threatened to transfer. Maybe then he’d have gotten a slap on the wrist as well. Manziel rewrote the record books during his freshman season; now he’s revising the playbook for rule breakers. Maybe he can wrap it up during the first half of Saturday’s game. He’ll have all that extra time on his hands.
If something like that ever happens again with a Georgia player, I’ll bet you money it doesn’t get handled the same way it did before.
So, how much weight should we put on Clemson’s showing in the Chick-fil-A Bowl? I’m skeptical of assigning too much to a good bowl showing – Louisville, I’m looking at you – but there’s no denying that the Tigers have taken a great deal of momentum from their win over LSU into tomorrow’s game.
I watched the game and I took two substantive things from it. First, Chad Morris knows what he’s doing. Clemson only averaged 4.45 yards per play against LSU, its worst mark of the season, but Morris called 100 plays and that paid off, both in accumulating total yardage and, perhaps more importantly, in wearing down the LSU defense. You’d have to think that fatigue played a part in Clemson’s epic fourth quarter comeback. It’s something Grantham has to stay aware of, no doubt. (Although Georgia’s defense held up much better against the other team I saw wear down LSU’s defense last season, Florida.)
Second, I don’t know how you come away from that game without being impressed with Tajh Boyd’s toughness. Sacked five times and running the ball another 24 (Clemson had a total of 50 runs), he got pounded all night by a ferocious LSU defense and lived to tell the tale. He’s not going to wither against the Georgia D, no matter how well that front six or seven play.
That’s on one side. For Georgia, the biggest thing I keep coming back to is the huge advantage the Dawgs enjoy in the running game. The question is how Bobo deploys it. I’ve seen a lot of JUST RUN THE DAMNED BALL talk this week and understand where that’s coming from, but I don’t think it’s wise to ignore where Clemson’s defense is most weak. And that’s the secondary. This is a game made for Bobo’s favorite thing in the universe, balance. Use the running game to keep the defensive backs and linebackers honest so that Murray can pick them apart with ease. Georgia’s offensive balance and efficiency should be Clemson’s biggest nightmare.
I like the way Seth Emerson put it earlier this week. Georgia looks to convert 75% of its drives into scores; for Clemson, it’s more like 60%. The Tigers will look to make up the shortfall by running more plays. It’ll be up to Grantham to spoil their math, likely with the turnover game.
Clemson reminds me of a more talented Ole Miss team. If you remember last year’s meeting, the Rebel Black Bears made a game of it in the first half by being very aggressive with their defensive line play and linebackers. I expect to see a similar effort in the Clemson defensive game plan, hoping to plug the run game and disrupt Murray’s timing with frequent blitzing. How well that works is hard to say. I expect Georgia’s offensive line play has improved from the Ole Miss game. But Clemson has a lot more firepower on offense, more overall depth and more experience in the secondary than Mississippi did.
And don’t get me started on how nervous I am about special teams play.
Bottom line, I expect what most do, a relatively high scoring affair that should be pretty close. I’ll save my game prediction for tomorrow, but in the meantime, let me know what you think.
And so, the mind games begin.
At least ESPN will have something besides Johnny Football’s half of football against Rice to bloviate about next week.
UPDATE: And here’s who will talk about it.
I know she likely wasn’t being serious with her Boyd-Murray comparison yesterday, so I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds here, but it’s worth noting that Clemson and Georgia faced three common opponents last year – Auburn, Georgia Tech and South Carolina. Both quarterbacks finished 2-1 and both had their worst games of the year against the Gamecocks, although Boyd didn’t implode nearly as spectacularly as Murray did.
But if you look at their passing stats against the other two teams, there’s no comparison. Murray’s passer rating against Auburn was more than sixty points higher than Boyd’s; his passer rating against Tech was more than seventy points higher. (I’m happy to stipulate that Boyd’s a bigger threat with his feet than Murray is, because Boyd doesn’t have the luxury of contracting that part of the offense out to Gurley and Marshall.)
What am I getting at here? Neither defense we’ll see Saturday night is likely to be confused with last year’s South Carolina pass defense. For that matter, Clemson finished lower in pass defense in 2012 than Auburn and Georgia Tech did. (Tech and Clemson were pretty similar defensively in F+, by the way. Auburn’s another story.) So if we’re going to compare two stellar quarterbacks going up against pass defenses that aren’t so stellar, what do you think may be a better indication of how they do tomorrow night, last year’s work under similar circumstances, or Boyd’s ACC preseason player of the year award?
Take what you like.
It sure felt good to get back in the saddle, didn’t it? And if you stuck it out until the end, you saw a very entertaining game in Nashville. Here’s what I took away from the night: