Does either team in the Rose Bowl stand a chance against the other?

The more analysis I see, the more it sounds like most pundits expect the game to come down to Baker Mayfield versus the Georgia defense.  As this chart demonstrates, Mayfield’s had a spectacular season in just about any way you’d expect a quarterback to perform.

There aren’t too many holes to pick there.

Just as daunting is this Seth Emerson piece where he goes about getting some of Oklahoma’s opponents over the past couple of seasons to give their impressions of ways to stop him.

The key seems to be play excellent defense.  Seriously.  Check out this series of comments from a Texas defensive back.

Texas cornerback DeShon Elliott, a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, was asked how to deal with Mayfield.

Elliott: “Blitz. Get to him. Because if you can just get to him then you should be OK. Other than that you won’t be able to. If you let him sit back there and just pat that ball he’s going to make plays. … You’ve got to be able to keep Baker in the pocket and keep him from being able to extend the pocket. Because if he’s able to extend the pocket and extend plays he’s going to score touchdowns. You’ve got to make sure you do your job and don’t bust coverages.”

Elliott: “To win games you’ve got to stop the run. So first of all you’ve got to stop Rodney [Anderson] and you’ve got to stop the freshman, No. 4 [Trey Sermon]. Other than that you should be good.”

Isn’t that easier said than done?

Elliott: “Oh yeah it’s easier said than done. We had a couple times in our game we thought we had [Mayfield]. Then he got out there and made a play. He’s just a great player; he’s an athlete. He’s going to make some plays. So you’ve got to do your job and just don’t give up big plays.”

Easy peasy.  All you’ve got to do is pressure the quarterback, stop the run, keep Mayfield in the pocket and not give up big plays.  If only every team that faced Oklahoma this season had known that.  (By the way, Mayfield still managed to throw for 302 yards and 2 TDs against Elliott’s Texas team.)

Meanwhile, from SB Nation’s Oklahoma site comes the observation that “The Georgia defense is spectacular, but it’s not invincible“.  It’s interesting to get the opposing viewpoint and the post is complimentary, and not in a back-handed way.  It’s also not totally convincing.

It’s argument rests on two foundations:  Missouri’s 28-point effort in Athens and, of course, Auburn’s blowout performance in the teams’ first meeting.  The rebuttal to the second point is both obvious and largely ignored.  This is what the article notes about Auburn’s offense in the SECCG:

Auburn sort of went away from the screen game in the SEC Championship, but credit Georgia for creating enough disruption up front to keep Auburn from doing much in the deep passing game that afternoon.

If by “sort of went away”, he means the Tigers had to abandon the screen game because Georgia’s defensive game plan smothered it, I suppose he’s got a point.  Just like if “from doing much in the deep passing game” is his way of describing Stidham’s inability to complete a single deep throw all game, well, sure.

Turning to Missouri, there’s no question that Drew Lock burned Georgia on a couple of 63-yard touchdowns in the first half.  Again, though, that was just a half.  What happened in the second half was that the Missouri offense was shut down — 21 yards in the third quarter and 112 yards in the entire second half (the last score came in garbage time with Georgia up by 26).

Both examples are really examples of a bigger reality, namely, that Georgia is good with its adjustments on defense.  Really good.  Buuut…  when I went to Bill Connelly’s team advanced stat profiles to verify that the Dawgs’ defense owned the third quarter this year (the defense finished second in S&P+), I also noticed something freaky.  While Georgia’s offensive S&P+ ranking slowly declines quarter by quarter, you aren’t going to believe what happens to Oklahoma’s offensive ranking.  It literally stays the same all four quarters and that ranking is first.  The cliché about needing to play all four quarters will be job one for Tucker’s guys.

One other thing worth mentioning is that when it comes to giving up big plays, Georgia’s defense has been more stout than has Oklahoma’s.  Here’s how the two teams rank based on distance:

It’s a pretty consistent picture.  Now you can certainly argue that those rankings reflect the conferences the two teams play in (“Georgia’s defensive efficiency ranks 2nd, which is very good, but could be argued that it is skewed because the offenses they normally face haven’t been as capable as some of the offenses in the Big 12”), and I wouldn’t totally dismiss that.  But you could just as easily argue that Georgia’s defense is more soundly coached to avoid giving up the big play.

The question left unanswered is what to take from all this.  Beats me.  I’m not the only one.

My final takeaway from all of this is that studying the metrics and statistics all day long will never truly tell me how this matchup will shake out, but the great debate between Georgia’s defense and Oklahoma’s offense will sort itself out on New Year’s Day in Pasadena. However, there’s reason for hope in the meantime.

Hope for both sides.  I can’t wait to see how this game plays out.

42 Comments

Filed under Big 12 Football, Georgia Football, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics

42 responses to “Does either team in the Rose Bowl stand a chance against the other?

  1. Norm to downplay the significance of the D needing to have a heckuva game, but I honestly see our running game as being just as much of a key to the game. If our running game is working and we control the clock, thereby keeping Mayfield on the sidelines, I don’t see how OU can beat us. We absolutely cannot have multiple 3 and outs where we keep giving Mayfield a chance to get into a rhythm. But if we pound the rock successfully, I think we win easier than most people would expect.

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    • What’s interesting to me at this point is the relative absence of discussion on Georgia’s offense versus Oklahoma’s defense. Other than referring to the tactic of using the offense to keep Mayfield off the field, there’s been very little substantive analysis of that matchup.

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      • Skeeter

        You’re right, there’s sadly very little real analysis of this game and instead just “Tastes Great!” vs “Less Filling!” shouts between rabid fan bases. They’re an amazing offense but to hear OU fans talk, one would think they had won the last 5 national championships. I was expecting thoughtful, knowledgable fans but instead they’re as crazy as us.

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    • Hogbody Spradlin

      True, but I have a feeling Oklahoma can score 50 points in something like 15 minutes time of possession.

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      • gastr1

        That’s true, but I think it would have to be versus a really bad defense.

        To me, it shakes out like this: Is our defense more likely to slow Baker Mayfield just a little, or is their defense more likely to slow our running game? Seems to me it’s the former for the win, because I don’t see them slowing down our offense. There’s a lot of “but Auburn didn’t have Kerryon”–well, true that, but Auburn had one of the best defenses in the country at full strength and gave up 200+ rushing yards.

        I agree that if OU takes a three-score lead things will be dark for us, but even there, if that happens early enough I don’t see it being over because they won’t shut us down.

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        • DawgFlan

          This is going to sound Barnhart, but it doesn’t matter how much clock we chew up with our running game if just about every drive doesn’t end in a TD.

          Field position, clock management, and the kicking game will not be as important, relatively speaking, in this game as it would in a game with more evenly matched O and D units. And Oklahoma doesn’t have to adjust its typical game plan nearly as much as Georgia. They just have to execute what they already do, while the pressure is on UGA to 1) make every offensive possession count, and 2) slow down the #1 O in the country.

          I think it 100% comes down to our D-Line being able to stop the run with 4-5 guys. If we do that, than that frees up an LB to consistently spy/blitz Mayfield while keeping our safeties deep in coverage. OU has a good O-Line, but if some combo of big Trent, Atkins, Ledbetter, Clark and Rochester can toss them around similar to the hyped ND OL, then UGA wins.

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      • Stoopnagle

        I watched a good bit of their game at tOSU. Their first four possessions were 2 TO, a TO on downs, and a missed FG. It was tied at half time. OU didn’t lead in the game until 2 minutes left in the 3rd and then they steamrolled them. Granted, I’m not sure how tOSU was in the conversation with that offense. Woof. They looked like ass.

        That said, they can score fast. Mayfield can move and the Stidham/Locke comparisons are apt, I think. He’s going to hit long passes on us because we’re vulnerable there. I think the Texas DB is right. We need to contain/pressure him and clamp down on their run (things we’ve done!)

        We’ll do what we do: run it, throw it when we have to, suffocate on defense.

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      • Dawg in Lutz

        That is definitely something to consider; but i see the UGA D playing with safeties deeper than normal to keep everything in front of them. They would rather give up a few 20 yard completions than the 60 yarder.

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  2. MattR

    It seems to devolve to ‘Oklahoma is going to get theirs, will we get ours?’ kinda thing. We don’t have to completely destroy their offense (can that be done?), all we have to do is slow them down.

    I think we can do that. I wonder if they think Fromm cannot throw? I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that they think he can, but he doesn’t because he doesn’t have to.

    I think their game plan is to make him uncomfortable.

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    • Biggus Rickus

      Any offense can be shut down, but Georgia’s defensive front would have to destroy Oklahoma’s pass and run blocking schemes all day to make it happen. That’s possible, but not likely. However, I do think Georgia can limit big plays without completely owning the line of scrimmage all game, at which point they will get enough stops to win. Because while the defense’s success in this game is an open question, I don’t think there’s any doubt Georgia will move the ball consistently and score.

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  3. I can’t help but think Fromm would be Mayfield if he played in the Big XII-II (of course, without the douche antics). He has good passing skills and can extend plays with his feet when he needs to. He just plays in a run first offense.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Bob

    I think we have a good shot to win this game. But for those who keep saying that the Sooners haven’t faced an SEC defense, don’t forget they scored 45, 34,31 and 35 in their last 4 games against SEC teams. Two of those were the Vols, who weren’t great but weren’t horrible. The 45 was against Alabama in the Sugar and the 35 was against Auburn in NOLA last year. I think we can bring those numbers down, but we need to make every possession count against this bunch.

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    • Biggus Rickus

      I don’t think prior games matter, but the 31 against Tennessee was scored in double overtime. They actually had to rally from 17-0 down to get to overtime at all. They’ve also been shut down by Clemson a couple of times over the same span, who is basically an SEC team.

      Liked by 1 person

    • PTC DAWG

      AU in no way deserved The Sugar Bowl last year…they were there by default….

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Russ

    But for a busted coverage, Texas had OU beat. If we can control Mayfield, we will win.

    Also, if we stay out of the rain, we will stay dry.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Tim B

    Their offense ranks slightly better than UGA’s defense. UGA’s offense ranks significantly higher than their defense. I haven’t seen the numbers but I doubt they are close on special teams. I wonder about their points per drive vs. uga. Particularly for the first three quarters. They will score. UGA needs to turn this into a nine or ten posession game and score td’s on five and fg’s on two to win. I think they get 35. That said, the last several teams to win the championship over the past 10-15 years not named bama were teams with mobile quarterbacks with very good arms. I think they qualify.

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    • Charles

      Their offense ranks much more than slightly higher than our defense. They are situated only a handful of spots ahead of us, but they are a mile in front of #2.

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  7. Mayfield is laser accurate and goes through his progressions quickly. If we blitz, we have about 3 seconds max to get him before he rifles it somewhere. Tall order to shut that guy down.

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    • Derek

      We won’t blitz him a lot. Like every other game, we’ll mainly rush 4 and cover. The strength vs. strength match up may be the more interesting one, but the deciding factor will be our rushing offense vs. their defense. If we can move them around and keep pounding the rock, we’ll be just fine by the time the fourth quarter rolls around.

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    • gastr1

      I agree, he seems to read blitzes well and adjusts accordingly.

      I say the key is limiting big plays and making them nickel-and-dime it down the field, expecting they’ll miss something eventually, and shutting down their running game so the playbook shrinks a bit.

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      • Derek

        I’d do the same it’s not how we roll.

        We’ll take the easy stuff away and make him make tough throws downfield.

        We’re like the late 1980’s pistons. No lay ups.

        Did you see Kirby back off man coverage when Johnny Manzeil and Mike Evans were averaging 40 yards a play? Nope. And I doubt you’ll see it here.

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    • Dawg in Lutz

      He’s laser accurate when he has no one around him and can just sit and wait for a receiver to get open. Our entire D is faster and better than anything they’ve played this year. Please don’t tell me they torched OSU this year as that team isn’t very good at all.
      So, it will be their biggest test. it will also be the Dawgs’ biggest test.

      if we play smart and don’t turn the ball over, we win by at least 10.

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      • He’s laser accurate when he has no one around him and can just sit and wait for a receiver to get open.

        That would explain why Mayfield is completing over 60% of his passes under pressure, with an 8:1 TD/INT ratio.

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      • The point is that this dude does not sit and wait. From what I have seen, he gets rid of the ball pretty quickly and usually on target.

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        • Derek

          Yep. That’s why blitzing won’t help. You have to challenge those short passes by being up in the receiver’s chest. It leaves you exposed to the deep ball but those are harder to connect on.

          Get your hands on the wr and throw off the timing. Frustrate the WR. Mix up coverages with certain offensive looks so that a DE or LB is in a passing window that he’s not expecting vs. a man look. Show what looks to be man coverage but switch to zone post snap. My personal favorite is delay bringing 3 vs. empty looks. Confusion and disruption. Get the ball on the ground by any means necessary. Force 3rd and distance and then get off the field.

          Easier said than done, but these are the keys.

          Our interior DL has to own them early. No running north & south. No easy yards up the gut. Put it all on Baker and then take him apart mentally and physically. Then we go home.

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          • 92 grad

            I agree with your analysis. I do worry, kind of a lot, about penalties and how tight the refs call PI and of course the no calls on offensive holding.

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  8. Stoopnagle

    Who was the best rushing team OU played?

    What did ISU do differently?

    Texas was within a score. How’d they do that?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Derek

      The crazy thing is that the beat the teams that ran well against them and ISU didn’t run well at all. Their qb had a big day though.

      Texas didn’t run the ball well at all. Either did Baylor yet they scored 41 points.

      Looks to me like the teams that wanted to run were able to and the teams that wanted to pass were able to.

      3 of the teams that either beat them or came close didn’t run the ball worth a damn: ISU, Baylor and Texas.

      2 of the teams that came close ran it at will: OSU and KSU.

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  9. Macallanlover

    Of course both teams are capable of winning this game, and by 2-3 TDs. As with UGA/AU, it depends on the health and execution of the players, and the scheme/preparation by the coaches. So the stats are all great for discussion, but, as always, we just won’t know until late afternoon on January 1. What makes this game more extreme in how wildly the predictions may be is the capability of both, not the shortcomings of either.

    The screaming back and forth is silly, these are two very good teams and both have reasonable cases to make. For me, I want to see some defensive blend of the ND and 2nd AU games, with a touch of second half Mizzou. We have seen elements of OU’s offense this season, but not with the depth of talent. They will have success, just have to limit it.

    On offense, the SECCG showed what we can do with a combo of power running, perimeter attacks with both running and passes, and letting Jake Fromm throw both short and deep. That will be a lot for the OU defense to handle, and if Auburn couldn’t, it will work on January 1 if we aren’t too tight. We have the time to get this done. What we haven’t been good at yet, is limiting the number of huge penalties we have been making. This silly hands to the face and ST penalties needs to be addressed before we fly to LA, we don’t need to hand their offense another 100 yards in field position.

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  10. Dylan Dreyer's Booty

    “Hope for both sides. I can’t wait to see how this game plays out”
    Amen to that. This may be the best match up of the ones available. Strength vs. Strength.

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  11. Biggen

    OU will get theirs of that I have no doubt. But they won’t score every possession either. Our D is too good for that to happen.

    I also don’t think they can stop UGA’s run game in the 2nd half. Georgia will just grind them down into submission in the 3rd/4th quarter and that combined with a great D should win the game for us. Fingers crossed…

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  12. Jim

    Keep running the toss sweep to alternating sides, rotating all three backs until they stop it. Well maybe before they stop it, fake the toss and hit Nautic down the seam

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  13. Michael L. Murphy

    I surely hope our coaches know much more about their defensive capabilities than has been suggested and reflected above….:)..

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  14. Otto

    Ohio St held them to 31, and Texas held them to 29. I feel our defense is as good theirs. UGA can hold them to 30. Granted Mizzou put 28 on UGA and is not as good as OU. It will be interesting to see how this game pans out.

    I think the biggest match up is can OU’s D keep UGA out of the end zone? If UGA does limit possessions while putting points on the board UGA’s D stays fresh, UGA’s RBs punish wearing down the Sooner defense. Swift and Holyfield get TDs in the 3rd and 4th Qtr. If UGA gets down early the game can slowly slip away as the D gets tires as we witnessed in the 1st Auburn game.

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  15. W Cobb Dawg

    The Dawgs have done very well against running & scrambling QBs all season. The guys who were closest to prototypical dropback passers, Locke and Shurmur, seemed to give us the most trouble. I guess it depends on how long Mayfield can stay in the pocket, and how long he can keep his composure before happy feet take over. Its not going out on a limb to say our D is better than Texas.

    Oh, and our offense doesn’t depend on the QB improvising his way thru broken plays to be successful. Okie is gonna see smashmouth, not wide open schoolyard, football.

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    • Otto

      Agreed but there is no way to deny that Auburn beat UGA once, and Mizzou put up a fight for a half before UGA adjusted and OU is better than certainly Mizzou and has better receivers than Auburn.

      It is a game of match ups and while UGA has done well against scrambling QBs they haven’t played a team with as many good receivers as OU. OU hasn’t played a smash mouth game like UGA. We can only guess at how this plays out.

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      • Macallanlover

        Auburn on the plains had better balance with dangerous runners and receivers. Mizzou wasn’t that much of a battle, the 21 in the 1st half was two 63 yard strikes, one with blown coverage, the 2nd half they didn’t score until we pulled the starters. I will readily admit they will burn us twice on long scores, I think we can overcome that, just like we did in the Mizzou game. It is getting too far back that worries me because it takes us out of our offensive plan, which I think will work against their good, but not great, defense.

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  16. Get through the 1st quarter without letting Mayfield burn the house down, and maybe even bust him up a few times, and we will win the game.

    As long as we don’t get West Virginia’d, I think we win the game.

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  17. Just my humble opinion…and this may be a virtual copy of previous posts to this article (I didn’t read all the posts), but OU’s offensive efficiency stats are most definitely skewed due to the generally terrible defenses they face in their league. While the offensive prowess of many SEC teams was certainly down this year, pound for pound, SEC defenses are usually fairly formidable as compared to most other leagues, especially the BIGXII.
    Any league where the two opponents in a game literally have to try and outscore each other in shoot-outs in order to win, doesn’t play good defense.
    Truth be told, BIGXII defenses more often than not just basically try to impede offensive game plans, not actually stop their progress down the field or prevent them from scoring. They probably truly believe that it’s better to let the other team score quickly, so they can get the ball back and try to score again themselves and hope they wind up with the ball as the last couple minutes are ticking off.
    Pathetic.

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