Alas, it’s the end of an era.
Paul Johnson, who kept the triple option relevant in Power Five football, is set to retire after 11 seasons at Georgia Tech, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports.
The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the school hasn’t announced it yet.
Johnson, 61, has been contemplating retirement for several weeks.
Georgia’s really had a great run, if you think about it. It’s not just Johnson’s eleven years; we’ve also been privileged with four years of Reggie Ball before the genius.
Whoever follows has some enormous clown shoes to fill. The search should be interesting.
This is an excellent summary of a point I’ve been trying to make this week.
College football’s postseason is a Rube Goldbergian contraption that’s been assembled from dissimilar parts over the years because the sport has never been controlled by a central entity. Bowls came into play to serve the conferences and independents. The sport’s appeal was strongly regional.
Evolution has taken place as national forces (hi, Mickey!) have placed pressure on the system to accommodate them, which is how we’ve slowly gotten a playoff arrangement to supersede the polls that awarded championships after the bowl games. However, the conferences are still powerful enough to insist on conference championship games and control the structure of the CFP.
The common thread throughout this isn’t a search for greatness, but a quest for dollars. That’s why the conferences tolerate the rickety structure. Expansion will come if some or all of the P5 members feel the cash flow is being threatened because of the contradictions in the system, not because of any uneven quality to the teams that make the semi-finals.
It’s not a perfect system because that’s inherent in the design when you have five peer conferences, plus Notre Dame, ruling the roost. Expansion to eight in and of itself won’t change the underlying flaws; in fact, there’s a strong likelihood those will only be exacerbated with a larger field.
The CFP is an unstable entity. That’s why I’d rather stay at four, because, warts and all, at least there’s a stronger likelihood that we’re seeing something close to the best teams in the country playing for the national title.
It’s that time again, campers. Unleash yourselves in the comments.
If you’re looking for signs of optimism for Georgia’s chances in the SECCG, this piece, by a sports handicapper who writes for al.com, has some good analysis. A few examples:
- Alabama’s defense has a propensity to allow explosive plays against the run this season. Sometimes linebacker Mack Wilson will get out of position, or the safeties will take bad angles.
And forget the narrative that the problem is fixed. The Citadel’s Dante Smith authored touchdown runs of 45 and 44 yards two weeks ago, and Auburn’s Shaun Shivers broke a 75-yard touchdown run negated by a holding call that nonetheless featured some of those bad tackling angles.
- Mississippi State, for example, disrupted Alabama’s offense in the second half by constantly hitting Tua Tagovailoa.
At first glance, Georgia does not seem built to take advantage of that potential disruption. The Bulldogs rank 99th in the country in sacks, and D’Andre Walker is the only player with more than 1.5.
But Kirby Smart and his defense have started to get increasing pressure on opposing quarterbacks in the last month. The staff also is smart enough to weigh risk/reward and send timely blitzes.
- According to S&P+, Georgia’s defense is No. 2 in the country in marginal passing explosiveness. The Bulldogs arguably are the best in the country at preventing explosive passing plays.
Tagovailoa has been otherworldly at almost everything this season. But he’s merely one of the best in the country on intermediate throws. It hardly qualifies as a weakness, but he’s a less lethal version of himself on those.
Deandre Baker is perhaps the best cover corner in the country this year for Georgia. Alabama’s receivers are terrifying, but according to advanced stats, this secondary is significantly better than LSU’s this season.
Like I’ve said, Georgia isn’t chopped liver. Alabama is certainly formidable, but there are areas the Dawgs can exploit. The question is whether they can do so enough. After all, this guy concludes with, “As I said to start this post, Alabama is a better team. The Tide are likely to win, and may even win big.”
Good article here on Pro Football Focus’ season grades for the Alabama-Georgia matchups. While I think you’d have to say that overall ‘Bama has an advantage, for the most part, things aren’t that lopsided. There are certainly areas that Georgia has the opportunity to exploit.
But there is one matchup that freaks the hell out of me.
Quinnen Williams is ridiculously dominant.
Now, Quinnen Williams is as unblockable of a defensive tackle as you may ever see in an Alabama uniform. He has 23 run stuffs this season, and is just 4.5 tackles behind Dylan Moses for the team lead, an incredible accomplishment for a player at his position.
Georgia is going to have to be creative with its run blocking if it hopes to have any success running the ball between the tackles (although I have to admit there’s a part of me that says, why bother).
And that’s just running plays. Here’s the rest of Williams’ resume.
The match-up to watch here is Georgia senior offensive center Lamont Gaillard against Alabama nose tackle Quinnen Williams. Gaillard has allowed five quarterback pressures and one sack in 282 pass blocking chances. Williams, on the other hand, has 38 quarterback pressures and eight sacks. For the Bulldogs to have success here, Gaillard is going to have to play the game of his life.
For a nose tackle to have those kind of numbers is insane. As disruptive as DaRon Payne was in the national title game, you can make a good argument without too much effort that Williams is going to be an even bigger challenge Saturday. Gulp.
I don’t pay attention to the selection committee rankings until the regular season is over. We’re there now, and here’s what they came up with.
There is some truly bizarre stuff there, as David Hale explains.
Those of you who watched the Cocktail Party, did it ever enter your mind that Georgia played the ninth-best team in the country that day?
There are eight SEC teams on that list. As things stand, there are going to be teams from the SEC all over the New Year’s Day bowl schedule. The committee thinks the conference is the shiznit.
Georgia is 3-1 against teams in that top 25, so apparently the flaws we’ve grumbled about throughout the season weren’t as bad as we thought.
There’s no way of knowing for sure, of course. Some of this stuff is so random, it gives subjectivity a bad name. Check out this rationale for ranking Oklahoma ahead of Ohio State.
Some difference there, hunh. Now I know one team has to rank ahead of another, but, damn, man, that’s the best you can come up with as to why?
If things play out this weekend the way most expect, I can’t wait to hear Mullens’ explanation for putting Oklahoma in over Georgia. Talk about making it up as you go along…
No question that, in my very humble opinion, Tua Tagvailoa has been the best quarterback in college football this year. That’s not meant as a knock on Kyler Murray, who’s been phenomenal as well, but the way Tua has elevated Alabama’s offense is what separates him from the pack in my mind.
So while I’m not putting Jake Fromm in the same class, it’s also not as if Georgia’s giving up that much ground with Fromm, as this comparison shows.
Which supporting cast gives their quarterback the most help and which defensive front has the greater impact are going to be the issues that separate the two Saturday.