… is not behind a paywall (yay!) and is a look at what the major national title contenders have to do to, you know, contend.
If … James Coley can make a difference in the red zone. Everything above about Bama’s goal-line issues? Multiply it by a couple of orders of magnitude, and it applies to Kirby Smart’s Dawgs. Georgia was fifth in overall offensive success rate … and 109th inside the 10. Remember that series against Florida, in which UGA had five consecutive snaps from the Gators’ 1 (seven including penalties), gained zero yards, and kicked an 18-yard field goal? The entire season wasn’t that bad, but that certainly distilled the issue. Coley moved from co-coordinator to sole coordinator when Jim Chaney left for Tennessee. He can top his predecessor by showing just a bit more creativity when a touchdown is on the line.
If … Dan Lanning can dial up pressure. In theory, anyone hoping to win the national title will face the prospect of beating both Alabama and Clemson. Georgia theoretically might have to do the former twice. That’s an almost impossible task, but any chance you’ve got of pulling it off requires a pass rush. Georgia ranked just 76th in sack rate last season, and the only Dawg who recorded more than two sacks (Jack linebacker D’Andre Walker) is gone. Recent recruiting has produced plenty of pass-rushing options — among others, sophomore and 2018 reserve Channing Tindall had two sacks among his 9.5 tackles — but someone’s got to step up, and Lanning’s scheme needs to be of assistance.
If … the defensive front is a little less flexible. Thanks to Deandre Baker & Co., Georgia was still awesome against the pass even with the iffy pass rush. The run defense was strangely mediocre, though. Georgia ranked just 67th in rushing marginal efficiency allowed and got beat up by opposing run games in both regular-season losses: LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for 145 yards on 19 carries (quarterback Joe Burrow added 89 yards in 10 non-sack rushes), and Alabama’s Damien Harris and Josh Jacobs combined for 135 yards on 17. There’s too much raw talent up front for Georgia to lose the battle in the trenches.
“Georgia was fifth in overall offensive success rate … and 109th inside the 10.” Yeah, that one left a mark, Jim Chaney. The good news is that, as Bill notes, Coley has a low bar to surmount from there.
I don’t know if I’d call this quibbling, but with regard to his very last point, I think one reason Alabama’s running game was successful in the SECCG was that Smart and Tucker decided they had to sell out stopping Tua and the ‘Bama passing game. That worked well until Tua wasn’t there to stop any more.