Daily Archives: September 21, 2016

Kirby frets about the spread.

Pick your poison.

But head coach Kirby Smart, who has faced the Rebels’ spread offense as Alabama’s defensive coordinator, has sounded weary of the challenge. Like when discussing how to design the pass defense: Play corners and safeties back in order to avoid the deep ball, or play close to the line to take away the short passes?

“So you can either die a real slow death with little paper cuts, or go after them and be aggressive,” Smart said. “And that’s the dilemma that we face with coaches: Which one do we do. It’s hard.”

You can dismiss that as this week’s coachspeak, but don’t forget which defensive coordinator’s been on the losing side in the previous two Alabama-Ole Miss games before last week.

Does the experience of playing another spread attack last week help Georgia’s defense prepare for Ole Miss?

So where does the experience against Missouri pay off? Potentially it’s in reading and reacting to quick releases, a feature of the spread. Georgia’s pass rushers, who didn’t sack Lock, are working on ways to at least effect Kelly.

“We’ve been practicing our hands-up ability, so if we don’t get there in four seconds, get your hands up and disrupt the pass,” Amaechi said.

Missouri also played up-tempo – at least in the first half – so that won’t be new to Georgia’s players when Ole Miss hurries up on Saturday.

“They go real fast,” Georgia junior inside linebacker Reggie Carter said. “Both teams go fast.”

Eh, maybe.  But my biggest fear is that Kelly is a better runner than Lock.  My second biggest fear is Evan Engram, who’s currently third in the conference in receiving yards per game and is a nightmare match up.  We’re about to find out whether Georgia’s inside linebackers are more of an asset than a liability in pass coverage, I think.

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A final couple of notes on the Missouri game

Bill Connelly’s advanced box score summary of the game has a few interesting statistical tidbits.

Georgia ran 96 plays on offense.  If you think that’s a lot, you’re right.  A quick scan of cfbstats.com reveals that’s the most plays Georgia’s run in a game at least since 2008.  The question from here on is whether that’s an outlier, or if the Dawgs really are morphing from a pound and ground approach.  It’s worth noting that Georgia still racked up an impressive 37:18/22:42 advantage in time of possession, despite throwing the ball so much, even as Missouri tried to let the air out of the ball in the second half with its lead.

Georgia was great on third downs early on.  Especially Eason:  “It allowed Jacob Eason to begin the game 6-for-6 on third downs for 72 yards. Only one of the completions stretched more than four yards beyond the first down marker — 10 yards on third-and-10, 11 on third-and-7, five on third-and-4, eight on third-and-6 — but it kept the chains moving, and it allowed UGA to build an early 14-10 lead.”

But not so great as the game progressed.  “After starting 6-for-6, on his last 13 third-down attempts, Eason was just 3-for-12 for 28 yards and a sack.”  You can probably attribute much of that to a breakdown in pass protection.  As Bill notes, in the middle part of the game, Mizzou’s d-line really came to life and pressured the hell out of Eason.  I don’t know how much of that was due to adjustments by the Tigers’ defense and how much was due to Georgia’s o-line wearing down.  It’s not like Georgia’s offense sprung to life after mid-game, either — the Dawgs went more than two full quarters between McKenzie’s two touchdown receptions, although to its credit, the line did a good job on that last scoring drive.  Perhaps it’s fair to say that asking six guys to handle 96 plays might be a bit much.

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A couple of random early thoughts on Ole Miss

Because the Ole Miss defense came out against Alabama with their safeties playing deep, early on, Lane Kiffin elected to keep things underneath and test the edges.  A lot, in fact.

There was a heavy dose of screen passes and jet sweeps in the 48-43 Crimson Tide win. They drew more than a few groans as the short game yielded minimal returns.

So what were the results?

A total of 13 plays were either screen passes or jet sweeps to receivers. Those plays netted 30 yards. Two produced first downs.

Another, Calvin Ridley’s direct snap late in the first half, went for a touchdown. A screen to running back Damien Harris late in the first half was the longest of the group by covering eight yards. All 12 of the other plays involved either Ridley or ArDarius Stewart.

Five of the 13 were thrown for a loss or no gain. Nine of the 13 were run on the opening two possessions as Alabama ate up clock to attempt two field goals, making the first.

It doesn’t sound particularly productive, yet the Tide kept at it.  Nick Saban explained why.

But Saban said the strategy used to attack the edges opened up the running lanes in the second half when Alabama gained 218 of its 334 rushing yards.

“I think that a lot of the stuff we did in the first half set up some of the things that we did later on,” Saban said. “But I also think that we were really trying to … We thought that we could execute these things. And if you look at them on the film, if we would have blocked them correctly – again, attention to detail and execution – they would have been better plays.

“I think that we were trying to run the ball on the perimeter to see if we could get them tired, which we did. Then we had a lot more direct runs later and played a lot more physical interior line play for us and had success running the ball inside. Sometimes one of these things build on the other. I think that was the plan in the game.”

Alabama played a freshman quarterback against an aggressive Rebel defense.  So will Georgia.  But that’s about where the similarity ends.  Saban’s freshman QB is far more mobile than Jacob Eason.  It may seem counter-intuitive why Alabama didn’t run the ball more in the first half, but, again, Saban claimed that was the deliberate plan.

“They’ve got pretty good speed on defense and they trapped us down pretty good on the edges,” Saban said. “We came back and ran the ball inside off of some of the same motions and the same formations. That’s what you folks don’t sometimes get the grasp of on the jet sweep. Now you’re handing the ball and running a counter the other way and they’re all running out there because you ran the play in the first half, [and]now you bust them on this play. But you all don’t see that. You just see, ‘We ran that play good so why don’t we run it more?’

So, how does that play out this week for Georgia?  It’s hard to say.  You’d think absent a mobile quarterback, Ole Miss would elect to play their safeties back, but there’s the conventional wisdom out there about crowding the line of scrimmage to shut down Nick Chubb that would suggest otherwise.  (Not to mention the friendly invitation a three-tight end/fullback set is to do so.)

Either way, it sounds to me like Isaiah McKenzie and (maybe) Terry Godwin ought to see some involvement in Jim Chaney’s running game plan.  If the Dawgs can open up the Mississippi defense to some inside running in the second half, you’d have to like what that would lead to.  So would Nick Chubb.

On the other side of things, Bill Connelly has some good stuff about Chad Kelly’s Jekyll and Hyde effort against the Tide.

Fun with stats, part 1: Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly had a phenomenal game against Alabama in Oxford on Saturday; not including a period when the game briefly fell into garbage time, the senior completed 15 of 18 passes on standard downs for 297 yards, a lofty average of 15.7 yards per attempt.

Fun with stats, part 2: Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly suffered from severe glitches in Ole Miss’ tight loss to Alabama in Oxford on Saturday. The senior completed only four of 12 passes on passing downs for 58 yards and an interception. His average of 4.8 yards per pass attempt on passing downs meant the Rebels were doomed the moment they fell behind schedule.

This was a game that proved the value of splitting things into standard and passing downs. Against one of the best defenses in the country, Ole Miss was as good as anyone at staying on schedule, managing a 39 percent success rate on standard downs.

But the moment they fell behind, doom followed. They managed only a 15 percent passing-downs success rate, bad even considering the competition. And with the run game nonexistent (Akeem Judd and Eugene Brazley: 18 carries, 55 yards; percentage of carries that gained at least five yards: 11.1), Kelly bore too much pressure to succeed. Ole Miss scored 43 points on the Tide, but offensive struggles were a major reason why a huge lead turned into a huge deficit.

Obvious passing downs are obvious, in other words.  Can Georgia’s defense win its share of first and second downs?  That looks like a pretty big question from here.

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Wednesday morning buffet

Eat, eat…

  • “The top ten most talented teams in the country last year were Alabama, Ohio State, USC, Notre Dame, Florida State, LSU, Auburn, Georgia, Texas, and Michigan.”
  • You know the old joke about someone being so incompetent he could screw up a one-car funeral?  That would be Rutgers’ AD.
  • According to his dad, Pennsylvania’s D’Andre Swift was really impressed by the G-Day crowd:  “To be able to walk into the stadium and be a part of it and walk down and watch the guys coming through the ‘DawgWalk’ and see all the tradition that Georgia has was just remarkable. I’ve never seen how a town shuts down for a game. That city is a college football town, and everybody embraces that tradition and the football program fully. That, to me, was just remarkable about Georgia in every way.”  If you were there, take a bow.
  • The ACC is already trying to figure out what to do if Clemson, FSU and Louisville all wind up 11-1.
  • Good point in this post — if Missouri is an improved team in the SEC East, don’t forget that Florida and Tennessee both have yet to play the Tigers.
  • Hugh Freeze notes one difference between Kirby Smart’s defenses at Alabama and Georgia:  “He’s playing a lot more odd front. I’m sure he’s adjusting to what he thinks is best for his team. It’s been different from what we expect from them, but the results are well for him.”
  • Cool game management, Clay Helton.  You’re lucky Stanford didn’t have a two-point trick play up its sleeve.

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Filed under ACC Football, General Idiocy, Georgia Football, Recruiting, SEC Football, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics

One last stat-driven thought about the Nicholls game

As someone pointed out yesterday, Georgia’s in a bit of a free fall when it comes to advanced stats, having fallen, for example, from 12th in Bill Connelly’s preseason S&P+ projections to 27th in those through Week 3.

Dig a little deeper, though, and you’ll see why.  The percentile performances in Georgia’s first three games are as follows:

  • North Carolina:  88%
  • Nicholls:  1%
  • Missouri:  57%

No, 1% isn’t good there.  It’s also almost impossible to find any other teams posting that kind of result.  A look at the bottom ten teams here found a 0% in Buffalo’s loss to Albany, but otherwise, nothing even close.  Looking at some other embarrassing results, Mississippi State’s loss to South Alabama rated at 13% and Washington State’s loss to Eastern Washington still managed to garner a 7%.

So, me calling Georgia’s effort against Nicholls a D-minus was generous.  1% is amazingly bad.  But Georgia still managed to win, which may be even more amazing.

But that’s not really the point here.  Play that poorly in one-third of your schedule and that’s bound to bring your numbers down big time.  Play respectably going forward and you’ll see a recovery in the advanced stats numbers.

Along those lines, note that Bill still projects the Dawgs to have a 30% chance of winning nine games and a 24% chance of winning ten.  In other words, things haven’t really changed that much.

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The 2016 version of Beamer Ball is really special.

I forgot to mention it in my Observations post, but this really was the cherry on top of the special teams sundae against Missouri:

The punt coverage team for the Bulldogs has been both embarrassing and at times very painful.

In each of the three games this season, a Bulldog defender has received a 15-yard penalty for illegally hitting the opposing team’s punt return man.

“It’s kind of an outlier,” Georgia head coach Kirby Smart said. “I don’t know if I’ve ever had three of those in three games.”

No shit, Sherlock.

Hey, how come none of you guys who routinely advised Richt to spike the ball in the 2012 SECCG so he could remind the receivers not to catch any pass which wasn’t delivered into the end zone haven’t given Kirby a helpful suggestion about telling the gunners on his punt coverage team not to… well, you know?

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Got 1% milk?

Jim Harbaugh, you’re trying too hard, fella.

Corch will tell you it’s not that big a deal.

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Filed under Heard About Harbaugh?, Urban Meyer Points and Stares