I shared the observation yesterday that the Vanderbilt game may secretly be Kirby Smart’s favorite as Georgia’s head coach because it was his team’s best expression yet of his “impose your will” approach to winning football. Matt Hinton adds to that by noting the growing consistency of this year’s team.
Back when he was a fixture on ESPN, Lou Holtz spent a significant chunk of his allotted air time lecturing viewers on his most fundamental rule: In college football, you get a different team every week. It was a trope that could apply in one sense or another to almost every team, every season, and even if you tended to think of “Dr. Lou” as more of a senile uncle than a fount of wisdom, in this case the old hand was onto something.
While we often think of teams as static entities, with predictable strengths and weaknesses, in fact they’re more likely to be wildly unpredictable…
The exceptions to rule — the Alabamas of the world, assembly-line productions built to deliver the same machine-like performance, week-in and week-out — are rare, almost unheard of, and seem even more impressive compared to the up-and-down reality of the rest of the sport. Which brings us, finally, to the team in 2017 most deliberately and (so far) successfully built in Alabama’s image: Georgia, an outfit that has not only achieved a fully realized identity in Kirby Smart’s second season as head coach, but continues to look more like its ideal self with each passing week.
“Machine-like performance” sounds kind of dull — or, at least it might be once we get past the novelty of winning every week — and, yeah, this offense isn’t built on a dazzle factor, but it is impressive to see a Georgia football team go out week after week in control of its emotions and fundamentals. That’s what’s lifted up a program that’s always had enough talent to succeed, but not really excel, over the long haul.
Not that I’m trying to get too far over my skis here. That I’m labeling 6-0 as a novelty should be an indication we’ve got a ways to go before we can say the assembly line is on anything close to automatic pilot, but in the meantime, this is fairly heady stuff.
In advanced-stat terms, it’s first in Defensive FPI and fourth in Defensive S&P+. Offensively, the combination of a road-grading line and a five-deep rotation in the backfield has consistently imposed its will, so much so that freshman quarterback Jake Fromm has barely had an opportunity to exert himself beyond the occasional play-action strike to mostly wide-open receivers on the other side of beleaguered, eight- and nine-man fronts.
Against Vandy, the offense scored on seven of its first eight drives, yielding 45 points in a little over three quarters before letting its foot off the gas — i.e., exactly what a legitimate national contender should do to Vandy, the third week in a row Georgia has dispatched an ostensibly respectable opponent in thorough, Playoff-worthy fashion. The same can be said for their only close call, as well, a 20-19 triumph at Notre Dame in Fromm’s first career start that looks even better now than it did at the time; at the moment, an upset in South Bend is on the short list of the best wins by any team this season, and it was only the first step for a group that’s found its stride over the subsequent month.
“… exactly what a legitimate national contender should do to Vandy, the third week in a row Georgia has dispatched an ostensibly respectable opponent in thorough, Playoff-worthy fashion.” When’s the last time you saw somebody write that about a Georgia team without thinking it was an overreaction?