Daily Archives: November 2, 2018

“I would rather be respected than liked.”

Tim Tebow on the Maryland fiasco is… oh, boy.

First off, what’s with all the emotion?  Second, does he really believe that the regents’ decision was respected by anyone outside of Durkin and Evans?

I wonder if this has anything to do with Durkin being one of the GPOOE™’s coaches at Florida.  Weird, anyway.

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55 Comments

Filed under Big Ten Football, Tim Tebow: Rock Star

As if Jim Chaney needs another reason to run the damned ball…

Two of Kentucky’s starting linebackers have a broken hand and will be playing with a club.

Elijah Holyfield is hard enough to bring down when you’ve got two working hands.

13 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football, The Body Is A Temple

Thoughts on Georgia-Kentucky

Earlier this week, the debate in my head had been between the charmed season the ‘Cats have led — again, that’s not meant as a knock; good teams take advantage of breaks — and the reality that against their four common opponents this year, Georgia has outperformed Kentucky in every one.  That had me thinking the 9.5-point spread was just a little high; the Dawgs by eight or nine seemed about right.

I’m starting to question that assessment now.  Ironically, what’s got me started rethinking that is this write-up by a Kentucky beat writer, comparing the two teams’ position groups.  He concludes that Kentucky wins by the narrowest of margins, 17-16.

That score, though, gave me one of those “hey, wait a minute” moments, in this case because Kentucky just went the entire month of October without scoring more than fourteen points in a game (and one of those went to overtime).  UK is going to have more offensive success against Georgia than it did against Vandy or Missouri?  Okay, if you insist, but tell me why.

Now, the 16 points he attributes to Georgia is an interesting number, because, of course, it’s the exact number Georgia scored in its loss to LSU.  You can certainly make the argument that Kentucky’s defense is enjoying a similar year to LSU’s, but there was another factor in play in Baton Rouge that I question will be there in Lexington tomorrow.

Against Georgia, LSU ran a stunning 81 plays on offense.  That’s a huge number for a team that wasn’t playing catch up in the second half.  Kentucky, by comparison, has generated more than 70 plays only once in conference play, last week against Missouri, when it was in scramble mode in the entire second half.  For the most part, that’s not the way UK’s offense is built.

That LSU game is the only game this season in which Georgia’s offense has failed to tally at least 30 points.  Again, if you want to insist that Kentucky is going to hold Georgia’s offense 20 points under its season average in conference play, fine, but tell me how.

No snark or smugness intended here.  I have too much respect for what Kentucky’s done this season for that, but I have similar respect for the statistical story that’s been told.  Barring a barrage of turnovers, I have a hard time getting to a 17-16 result.

Ian Boyd’s game summary at Football Outsiders tells much the same tale.  Advanced stats don’t indicate a close, low-scoring game.  In particular, while we’ve questioned Georgia’s defensive play at times this year, there’s a huge gap between Georgia’s defensive performance and Kentucky’s offensive performance.  Kentucky simply isn’t that good; more significantly, it’s decidedly one-dimensional.  If there’s one thing you can say about Mel Tucker’s defense, it’s that when they can force an opponent to be one-dimensional, they know what to do.

As Ian puts it,

… They don’t want to rely on heroics in the passing game to beat Georgia, as the Bulldogs have been playing excellent football in their secondary this season. Where Georgia has been vulnerable is in their run defense, where they are replacing star Roquan Smith with some younger talent that hasn’t always found the ball consistently. They’ve also had to replace 2017 nose tackle John Atkins, so the middle of their defense has been vulnerable against the run game. The only problem for Kentucky is that the Bulldogs will likely get their safeties heavily involved and make Terry Wilson prove he can beat man coverage.

It may be even more lopsided, in that Kentucky’s receiving corps has been close to being a one-man band this season.  Lynn Bowden, Jr. has more than a third of their total catches and yardage.  I know Georgia prefers to deploy its corners to sides of the field rather than specific receivers, but it’s sure got to be tempting to put Baker on Bowden in order to take away some of that production and really make problems for Wilson.

As far as the other match up goes, that, of course, is a closer call.  But — and you knew there’d be a but, right? — there is a catch.

Georgia has had injury issues along their offensive line, but they are still mauling opponents up front in their inside zone run game, with running backs Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift combining for 1,025 yards and nine touchdowns thus far on the year. A typical Georgia inside zone play sees massive movement across the front, particularly where center Lamont Gaillard is helping to double-team some poor soul into the turf. Beyond that, the Georgia passing game has also been effective with quarterback Jake Fromm continuing to excel throwing back-shoulder fades to big targets outside while also improving over 2017 in throwing in the seams. This will be a stiff challenge for Kentucky as Georgia is built to simply overpower teams — it’s not enough to always be in the right spot.

That, again, was what was so big about LSU controlling the ball as well as it did.  Not only did the Tigers wear down Georgia’s defense, but as the lead expanded, it left the Dawgs in a position where they couldn’t stay in their comfort zone on offense and do the same thing.  Kentucky isn’t particularly explosive on offense and it isn’t built to run 80+ plays in a game, so how does it avoid its defense (and, remember, the ‘Cats lack the depth that Georgia enjoys) being ground down over four quarters?

I’m at a point now where I’m starting to have trouble seeing this game settled in Georgia’s favor for less than two touchdowns.  At least that’s where my head is.  My heart may still be a little uneasy with that.  Either way, though, barring the usual caveats about turnovers, I am puzzled to figure out Kentucky’s path to victory.  Is being destiny’s team enough?

56 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

When you’re a mid-major, marketing is half the battle.

Screenshot_2018-11-02 UCF's imperfect Temple win further polarizes CFP discussion

“2017 National Champions”?  Sure, bless their hearts and all, but I think Andy Staples is right about this:

That’s what makes UCF athletic director Danny White’s decision to go all-in on the national title claim such an ingenious move. You may hate it, and you may hate UCF for it. But love it or hate it, you have a strong opinion about UCF. How many strong opinions do you have about Fresno State? About Houston? About Toledo? You care about UCF, even if you feel negatively about the Knights. You know who they are, and that matters a lot to them. Brand awareness is half the battle, and White has done more in months to conquer that half than most ADs at that level do in their entire careers.

Is Central Florida going to be a factor in a four-team playoff setting?  Nah.  Is it going to be part of the playoff expansion discussion?  Most likely.

And that’s half the battle right there.

38 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major

Go south, young man.

Maybe you haven’t noticed, but it’s been a snark free week here at the blog discussing Georgia’s next opponent.  (Don’t worry, we’ve got Auburn and Tech ahead of us to get back to what we do best here.)

Mockery seems particularly inappropriate for the job Mike Stoops has done at what’s historically been a program defined by not getting over the hump.  Surprisingly in this day and age of instant gratification, he’s been given time to build the program up and it’s paid off so far in 2018, with a 7-1 record and gaudy national ranking.

One of the most impressive things Stoops has done is to take a kind of Moneyball approach to Kentucky’s recruiting.  Instead of beating his head against the wall in places like Florida, he’s found a gap and exploited it very successfully, as Eleven Warriors explains here.

Unlike Ohio State, and most of the other teams in the top 10 of the rankings, Kentucky’s roster isn’t loaded with blue-chip recruits. Over the past four recruiting cycles, the Wildcats have landed no five-star recruits and just 13 four-star recruits, including two who have transferred from the program and two who have been sidelined all season due to health reasons.

One thing that has stood out about Kentucky’s recent recruiting efforts, though, is that the Wildcats have loaded up on players from their neighbors to the north – specifically, players who haven’t received offers from their home state’s flagship school – and those players have been a huge factor in the Wildcats’ success.

Kentucky’s current roster includes 28 players from the state of Ohio, and many of the Wildcats’ best and most important players this season have been among them…

… While Tressel’s recruiting classes routinely included double-digit in-state prospects, Meyer has become increasingly selective – particularly in the last two classes, taking just six in-state recruits in 2017 and five in 2018 – as the Buckeyes have lured some of the top talent from all over the nation.

That’s left the door open for other schools to come into the Buckeye State and come away with quality talent, and seemingly no school has taken advantage of that opportunity better than Kentucky, which has signed at least five players from Ohio in each of their last five recruiting classes.

Not too shabby.  Perhaps the best thing is that with success comes increased credibility on the recruiting trail, which leads to, at least in the short-term, an enjoyable moment of irony.

Now that the Wildcats have emerged as a contender in the SEC, they are in better position to win more recruiting battles with Ohio State and other blue-blood programs, which they proved on Thursday by landing a commitment for the class of 2019 from four-star running back Wandale Robinson, who is a Frankfort, Kentucky native but was also recruited heavily by Ohio State and several other teams that have historically been national contenders, including Nebraska, Alabama and Michigan.

Sure, it’s way too early to say this is sustainable — the UK roster still lacks the depth of the SEC’s stud programs — but I doubt there’s a single Kentucky fan who won’t take what Stoops is offering so far.  He’s done a good job there.

20 Comments

Filed under Recruiting, SEC Football

“… it’s really hard to just walk in the door and just take your stars and run out there…”

Read this piece on Kirby’s “realist” recruiting approach and ponder what kind of effect that’s had on Justin Fields.

19 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting

Paul Zimmerman, RIP

I was sorry to hear about the passing of the iconic pro football writer Paul ZimmermanThe New Thinking Man’s Guide to Pro Football was the first book I read that dug into the nuts and bolts of the game.  It was a great read that stuck with me, many years later.

If you had an interest in pro football, which I once had, his work in Sports Illustrated was pretty much a must read.  He was also a first-rate character, which never hurts.

His passing is just another reminder that media coverage of sports isn’t what it used to be in many ways.  Kinda sad.

11 Comments

Filed under Media Punditry/Foibles