No brag, just fact.
I can live with that.
No brag, just fact.
I can live with that.
What a great year for Army.
I’ve checked a few things off my bucket list this season, but attending an Army-Navy game is one thing still left to do.
Ian Boyd thinks Georgia’s best hope for slowing down Oklahoma’s juggernaut of an offense is to deploy its 2-4-5 nickel package more than usual.
This set allows them to keep Carter and Davin Bellamy on the field, bumps strong side end Jonathan Ledbetter inside, and relegates a nose tackle to the bench. They could stick with their normal three-down front and replace both OLBs with DBs, but that would not get the best 11 on the field. Carter and Bellamy can drop into coverage, so this allows Georgia to bring three/four-man pressures that include Smith (5.5 sacks on the year), hopefully flushing Mayfield toward OLBs.
The advantage that SEC teams typically have over Big 12 squads is on the lines, where future pro pass rushers can bust protections without blitzing and thwart a spread offense’s desire to flood the field with receivers. That’s more difficult against OU, which has a strong OL and a QB who’s extended plays against good lines like Ohio State’s, TCU’s, and Auburn’s. Georgia has to get as many of its best athletes on the field as it can to send pressure at Mayfield.
We’ve seen a few national champs with balanced offensive attacks that feature smart, veteran passers throwing to receiving corps keyed by problematic TEs. If Georgia is going to put a stop to that, it’ll need to attack Mayfield and cut off the head of the snake. And to do that, it’ll need to exemplify the SEC’s reputation for having the biggest and most freakish athletes in the trenches.
I don’t think there’s any question that Bellamy and Carter have to step up and provide the kind of games they did against Notre Dame and in the SECCG for Georgia’s defense to be effective against Mayfield and Company. (I’m taking it as a given that Roquan will be Roquan.) But I’m wondering if D’Andre Walker and Walter Grant won’t need to have a couple of moments of their own, too.
It’s gonna be a helluva chess match, that’s for sure.
Some of you will doubtlessly find other sections of this Andy Staples piece on the Sabanization of the Georgia program more interesting, but for me, this is the part that really sticks out:
After the 2015 season, Georgia officials took a big risk: They fired Mark Richt to create an opening for Smart. Richt had gone 145–51 in 15 seasons in Athens, winning two SEC titles. Richt had already lost much of his political capital after a strange choice to start third-string quarterback Faton Bauta against Florida even though neither of his first two quarterbacks were injured. The 27–3 loss to the Gators was bad enough, but Georgia officials decided the Richt era needed to end late in the 2015 season after watching the Bulldogs celebrate an overtime win against Georgia Southern as if they had won the Super Bowl. A few days earlier Saban had delivered a now-infamous rant in which he described an opposing offense as going “through us like s— through a tin horn.” (The team Saban was referring to was, ironically, Georgia Southern). The Georgia brass wanted its program to have a similar attitude. With South Carolina sniffing around Smart while seeking a replacement for Steve Spurrier, Georgia fired Richt after a 13–7 win over Georgia Tech on Nov. 28. Athletic director Greg McGarity signed Smart to a six-year contract a week later.
When Smart accepted the job, McGarity didn’t issue marching orders. He asked questions. What did Smart now need from the administration to build a championship program? “He needed to educate us,” McGarity says, “about what it meant to go big-time.”
“Georgia officials” — plural — drove the change. Greg McGarity needed to be educated. Kirby schooled his bosses.
The rest of us got lucky.
Ivan Maisel does a great job of capturing the moment of what Georgia’s 2017 season means to us and how the expectations for Smart and the program will soon change.
If Georgia wins the Rose Bowl, Georgia has won nothing. The Bulldogs have just stayed alive to win the national title.
Now, if Georgia beats Clemson or Alabama and wins the College Football Playoff National Championship, their fans will be ecstatic. I get that. The Bulldogs haven’t won a national championship since 1980.
Moreover, the title game is back in Atlanta, and if you don’t think that’s an advantage for the Dawgs, ask LSU what it meant to play for its 2003 and 2007 BCS titles in New Orleans.
But with that national championship, with that moment when Smart again holds a trophy aloft in Mercedes-Benz Stadium, comes a whole new set of emotions. With success comes the weight of expectations. Boosters don’t celebrate as wildly. Success becomes the floor instead of the ceiling.
“I’ve never really thought of it that way,” Smart said, laughing. “It’s kind of depressing the way you describe it. There’s nowhere to go but down.”
The funny thing is that Kirby Smart’s been there, done that.
We spoke in the minutes before the ESPN College Football Awards Show recently. Smart and the other head coaches in the College Football Playoff — Lincoln Riley of Oklahoma, Nick Saban of Alabama and Dabo Swinney of Clemson — walked into a conference room, where a buffet of spring rolls, chicken tenders, shrimp satay and hamburger sliders awaited them.
“We’re not at the monster stage yet,” Smart said of Georgia. “We’re still at the early stage, but you’re right.”
He looked across the room and waved toward Saban, for whom he worked at LSU, the Miami Dolphins and Alabama.
“I’ve been through it before, in Tuscaloosa,” Smart said. “It’s like, I feel sorry for him. What he’s done can never be repeated.”
Maybe that’s one more thing Saban deserves credit for. Yes, he’s well paid for the effort, but it’s got to be tough mentally when you get to the top of the mountain… and stay there.
I’m sure we won’t mind if Kirby has to put up with that one day soon, though.
I’ve long maintained that one of the best things about the Internet is more times than not you can count on somebody else doing the heavy lifting for you. I had an idea about a post digging into how much Oklahoma’s offense was able to take the pressure off its defense with explosive starts, when, lo and behold, I find that Saturday Down South’s Connor O’Gara up and took care of that hard work for me.
Look at how quickly Oklahoma jumped out to 3-possession leads after that Iowa State loss:
- Oct. 14 vs. Texas — 20-0, 4:32 in 2Q
- Oct. 28 vs. Texas Tech — 49-27, 1:41 in 3Q
- Nov. 12 vs. TCU — 24-7, 11:45 in 2Q
- Nov. 19 vs. Kansas — 21-3, 0:10 in 2Q
- Nov. 25 vs. West Virginia — 21-3, 13:08 in 2Q
- Dec. 2 vs. TCU — 17-0, 2:29 in 1Q
So in six of their final eight game of the season, they benefited from jumping out to those leads. Let me rephrase that. Oklahoma’s run defense* benefited.
The two games in that stretch that Oklahoma didn’t balloon it out to a 3-possession lead were Kansas State (41st rushing offense) and Oklahoma State (47th rushing offense). In those matchups — when it actually had to defend against 2-dimensional offenses — Oklahoma allowed over 6 yards per carry and 200 rushing yards in each contest.
You know Jim Chaney is going to stick with the run, even in the face of another defense loading the box and daring Fromm to throw. It’s been his MO all season, even when the going is slow early on, with one exception. Do Georgia’s special teams and defense keep his usual game plan on track?
I’m starting to think the key stat to track
Saturday Monday is pass attempts. Against D-1 competition, Mayfield averages a little over 28 attempts per game; Fromm averages a little over 18 apg. If both hit their averages, which team is more likely to win?
If you’re wondering how the prospects of Georgia’s February signing day are shaping up, yesterday’s de-commitment by Aaron Brule seems like a significant tell.
While Brule will re-open his recruitment, the Bulldogs — still boasting the No. 1 class in the country — will do the same and pursue a number of priority targets to fill out their class.
The 6-foot-1, 205-pound Brule, who hails from Archbishop Rummel in Metairie, La., had been the fifth-lowest-rated signee or commit in Georgia’s class at the end of the early signing period.
It appears that Kirby is hunting bigger game.
Ranked the nation’s No. 409 overall prospect and No. 13 overall recruit in Louisiana by the 247Sports Composite Rankings, it is not known whether Brule projects as a safety or linebacker at the next level. The split could be an amicable one as Georgia is in the mix for several defenders such as five-star cornerbacks Tyson Campbell and Isaac Taylor-Stuart and could be looking to flip four-star linebackers Quay Walker or Otis Reese. With as few as four total spots remaining in the class, the Bulldogs’ coaching staff will have to be very selective in who they pursue.
The inn is getting pretty full.