A hobgoblin I can live with

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?

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45 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

45 responses to “A hobgoblin I can live with

  1. The efficiency with which the Dawgs disposed of Vanderbilt was beautiful to watch. The fact it was done in an early start on the road was exceptional. Even with all of this, the coaches (with possibly the exception of McGee) have plenty to stay on their guys about their performance during practice this week. Even Pittman can point to the couple of sacks and tell his group they weren’t perfect.

    It’s time to focus on beating Mizzou. In our 2 games in Athens, we’ve lost to them and beaten them without a touchdown. It’s time to rain down fire & brimstone. Bulldog Nation, it’s time to show the Dawgs we are going to provide a home field advantage. The edge guys need it to get to the QB.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Mayor

    If this year’s Georgia team really marks a permanent change in the quality of the program–and I actually feel it does–then the defining event in my mind was the win over ND in South Bend. That victory was when this team announced to the world: “We are a different Georgia!! We will not self destruct! We will out physical you! If you beat us you will have to earn it.” If you believe, as I do, that most football games are lost and not won that was a sea change moment for the Dawgs.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Scorpio Jones, III

      Pardon me Mr. Mayor sir, but I disagree, the defining event, in my mind, is the next one, and the one after that, and the one after that and so on.

      I am fucking sick and tired of clinging to some nebulous nice thing back in the season…I want them all to be defining moments.

      But I want them one defining moment at a time.

      Like

      • Mayor

        Well Scorp, you may prove to be right. The defining moment of this season may still be ahead of us. The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades. 😎

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        • dawgtired

          Scorp will be a basket case the week days before the Auburn game. And Spike will need to be put on suicide watch if we struggle against UF. Those guys are fun to read.
          I’m loving every step we take this season. I haven’t even had to bring out my inner Munson yet, and I’m pessimistic by trade. I haven’t enjoyed a season like this in so many years. Even when we were winning lots of games, I was always nervous about the next one. It felt like having a tiger by the tail. I’m one cool and confident fan these days.

          Like

          • Cojones

            And you are fun to read this morning.

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          • Otto

            The defining moments good or bad are yet to come.

            However, the team is looking the best it has in possibly over a decade. We as fans can enjoy the moment, the team however should be focusing on the next Saturday.

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  3. sniffer

    I don’t even know who we are anymore. I look at that number 4 ranking and it’s an out of body experience. Watching the Vandy game was surreal, as was the TN game, as was the MSU game. I’m watching someone else’s team, not my beloved Bulldogs. The only game I can relate to was the App St game, when my emotions were still trained to respond to every play, good or bad. Now, I watch almost absent any passion. I am learning a new way of watching us play and the emotions that go with that. This old Dawg is learning new tricks!

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  4. 3rdandGrantham

    We definitely are becoming machine like – several die-hard friends of mine said after the Vandy game that our D didn’t play terribly well, and they are worried about our O against upcoming opponents. This, after a 31 point win in which the D essentially gave up 7 points, all while winning by a margin that was almost double the point spread.

    In years past, we’d be dancing in the streets after an ugly, 10 point win over teams like Vandy in what was supposed to be a letdown game. I hate to say it, but some of us are quickly starting to act like Bama fans, who complain loudly even after big wins…”yea we just won another SEC title and all, but man we played horribly against UF and only won by 20.”

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    • RandallPinkFloyd

      We better beat Florida by way more than 20.

      That was meant to be read with sarcasm. While I personally think this year’s WLOCP is teed up for us to put a hurting on the Gators, I won’t care about the end result as long as it’s a win.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Mayor

        ^^This. I’ll take a one point win in JAX and run.

        Like

        • Mayor

          But in the meantime let’s concentrate on beating Mizzou.

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          • Hillbilly Dawg

            Hear hear!! I will concern myself with the lizards and the barners when the time approaches. beat Mizzou first. And do so without injury.

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          • Cojones

            I’m with you, Mayor. Everyone needs to take a sobering look at Mizzou and realize that they have stepped up play. They are not the same team we saw 2-3 weeks ago by a long shot. If their people get it together with good coaching they will be exactly like the teams that have beaten us in the past.

            Like

            • This is the game log for Missouri’s defense. Can you point out exactly when they stepped it up?

              Liked by 1 person

              • Otto

                Not getting destroyed by a Kentucky team, that is in the race for the east, is an improvement. If Mizzou could manage a clock, they may have knocked UK out of the race for the East.

                UGA should win by 2 TDs minimum but should counts for….

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                • Biggus Rickus

                  Kentucky hasn’t won a game by more than 11 points despite playing two directional schools. They might end up 9-3 just because Ole Miss is a hot mess, and Tennessee and Vandy aren’t any good, but they’re hardly a real contender for the East. The Missouri game also marks the only time they’ve scored more than 27 points all year.

                  Like

          • PTC DAWG

            Overlooking Mizzou…we needed the two bye weeks before FU.

            Like

    • UGA'13

      Every game from now until Auburn is a tune-up, and Auburn is preparation for Bama. The griping after these big wins stems from the knowledge that anything less than perfect will give us 2012 all over again. I’d be proud to have another SEC East championship, and everything beyond is icing on the cake. But when I watch the Dawgs play this season I can’t help but think they’re capable of going the distance, and that it’s the busted-assignment 50-yd bomb with 33 seconds left, or the Dropmaster Hardman missed TD, or any of the other “small mistakes” that will get us beat by our equals.

      Like

  5. Uglydawg

    When Skeptic gets on board, we’ll know.

    Like

  6. Huntindawg

    I’m still not a believer. I consider Notre Dame a marginally good team, and the rest of our schedule to date has been filled with teams that we should beat easily. So we beat the teams we should beat and did it without a lot of drama and that’s nice.
    When we beat a team with a good defense, and our defense looks good against a competent offense, then I (maybe) can put aside that part of myself that keeps reminding me that I always get excited about the Dawgs only to be let down in the big games. Right now I still don’t think we beat Auburn, and I think we could easily drop one more to anyone on our schedule.

    Hope I’m wrong.

    Like

    • truck

      I hope you’re wrong too. But, you get an A+ for Dawggrading our schedule.

      Like

    • Biggus Rickus

      Auburn is the only team on the schedule who’s played better than Notre Dame thus far. They haven’t beaten any of their non-Georgia opponents by fewer than 20 points, and if Georgia hadn’t played its sloppiest game of the season, it could have been a two to three touchdown victory for Georgia.

      Auburn could beat Georgia, but unless I’m wrong about Smart keeping the team focused every week, nobody else is.

      Like

      • Cojones

        Take a look at last year and tell me their new QB will make that much difference to the new UGA team. Yep, he may get a few strikes, but this D can get after his ass and keep him in check enough to kick their ass yet another year. Except for the QB, we are playing close to the same team we loved to beat (in spite of their press) last year.

        Like

        • Biggus Rickus

          I think Georgia’s better and will win. Auburn’s just the only team on the schedule that MIGHT win even if Georgia plays well.

          Like

    • Rocketdawg

      Because you know we haven’t beaten Auburn 8 out of the last 10 or anything. They didn’t have to have a Heisman Trophy winner and the second luckiest play in CFB history to beat us.

      Some of you people are absolutely insufferable.

      Like

    • gastr1

      I find it amusing that you don’t think Notre Dame has a competent offense.

      Like

    • willypmd

      Notre Dame is sixth in the country in rushing offense (ahead of both Bama and UGA). That is after we held them to 55 yards on 26 carries and with Wimbush being hurt last week.

      They are a good to very good football team that we beat on the road with a self-limited offense

      Like

      • Russ

        +1
        And the fact that we gave them ~100 yards of defensive penalties just shows what could’ve been. If we played a clean game, we would’ve won by a TD or more.

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    • PTC DAWG

      No you don’t.

      Like

    • dawgtired

      “the rest of our schedule to date has been filled with teams that we should beat easily.”

      But the difference this year, IS that we are beating the teams we should beat easily. We have not been challenged really. ND was close but we left a lot of points on the field…and ND is continuing to beat other teams soundly. Breath easy my friend. Enjoy this year…it’s been a long time coming.

      Like

  7. truck

    I’m endlessly entertained whenever a team built on running the football, playing great defense and presenting solid special team play is “built in Alabama’s image.” When I was a youngster, we simply called that “good football.” Have we been so corrupted by the spread or am I just officially old? On second thought, don’t answer that. And get off my lawn.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Biggus Rickus

      Well, considering Smart is the most Saban-esque of the so-called Saban disciples, I don’t think it’s off base to compare what he’s doing to what Alabama’s done under Saban. I also don’t think it’s just about building around defense, special teams and the running game, but more the attitude surrounding “The Process”, where you focus on every detail and strive to play perfectly regardless of the situation.

      Like

    • gastr1

      Yeah, I think it’s a little more than just running the ball and defense in our case. Hiring away a top multi-year assistant with no other coaching identity will tend to get you that too.

      Like

    • paul

      You are correct. It’s simply good football. Good old fashioned smash mouth football. The kind every team aspired to when we were growing up. Us old folks that is. Ever hear of Vince Lombardi? Nick Saban has nothing on Vince. So, off my lawn kids!

      Like

  8. Honestly? Never.
    This is uncharted waters as far as I am concerned.

    Like

  9. Got Cowdog

    Is this how it feels to be “verklempt”. I’m giddy and breathless after reading that, the inner Munson has become quite small, and sounds like a growly little elf.

    Like

    • Bulldawg Bill

      That’s “farklempt”, Dude!

      Like

      • Mayor

        It’s actually both.

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        • dubyadee

          Yeah, pretty sure there is no “correct” spelling of Yiddish in Roman letters.

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          • Got Cowdog

            To clarify, the image was of one of Mike Myer’s SNL characters. I typed in my version of it, got the red squiggly. Clicked on said squiggly and got “Parkay”. Tried it again and got “No suggestions google search” so I did. “Verklempt” was the number one spelling so that is what I went with. My humble apologies to any Yiddish speakers/ Spelling Nazis out there whom I have offended.

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  10. TomReagan

    That really is a good note above. Thinking about the great programs of the past, they all really did have an identity that showed up every week. Whether it was Nebraska, Penn State, Michigan, FSU, Miami, Alabama, USC, or even Spurrier’s Florida teams, they all gave you the same thing every game year after year. It’s nice to think we’ll get there, And even nicer to think that the identity may be what we’ve had so far this season. But these things are built over years, and we have a long way to go. The bloom has gone off of too many roses after a few seasons to consider Smart our next Dooley, or maybe more.

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    • Trbodawg

      The same could be said for the 1980-83 Dawgs. . . Herschel right, Herschel left, Herschel up the middle, Rinse, lather, repeat. . .

      Like