Ian Boyd takes a look at how some of the teams in our neck of the woods are likely to fare making the CFP field this season. I like the way he frames his analysis.
Does this team have offensive tackles and an overall line that won’t limit them when they face teams with NFL players on the DL? If you can’t win battles in isolation in the trenches, either protecting your QB or blocking for your RB, then that’s going to be trouble.
How is the defense up the middle? Are there proven veterans at the nose, linebacker, and safety that will allow the team to have flexible gameplans and match up against great offenses without getting blown away?
Does this team have elite facets or game changing players that can allow them to overpower even the best opponents? For instance, the 2018 Alabama Crimson Tide were impossible to handle up the middle of their defense. The 2019 Clemson Tigers ended up being able to fling the ball around on anyone with Trevor Lawrence and had an all-NFL DL.
Even good or great teams can be derailed by an unfavorable scheduling draw. Schedule is a regular reason that top 25 caliber SEC teams go 8-5.
As you might imagine, Georgia manages to check all his boxes.
The loss of infrastructure on defense is why I had the Dawgs pegged for a step back in 2018. They lost CB/Ni/Di swiss army knife DB Dom Davis, Roquan Smith, their nose tackle, a starting safety and the other ILB, both OLBs, it was a lot. They also lost the Sonny Michel/Nick Chubb tandem although that never seemed as dire given the way they’ve recruited at RB.
For 2019 their OL is insanely massive and well blooded by actual games and not just the physical practice culture that Kirby Smart encourages. Fromm is also back and although all their WRs are green it’s a good bet that whoever has received the 1st team offseason reps will be ready to go with their junior QB.
The offense was good last year too though, defense is the question. The middle of the defense looks more solid for 2019 with some older vets now established at ILB after taking some lumps in 2018 and the DL now restocked with blue chips that have had some seasoning.
The Dawgs will run on teams this year and it’ll be hard for most squads to do much about it. Granted, Texas shut down their rushing attack in the Sugar Bowl, but Georgia will have taken some lessons from that experience and most teams got railroaded up front.
The real fear will be from a revitalized defense that has too much speed, physicality, and want to for teams to find openings. A secret about Georgia that has been revealed a few times is that their anti-spread strategies aren’t astounding. They have good sub-packages, they use the tite front and some other fronts that help them, but their schemes aren’t really the secret. What they do well is matchup to your personnel and then play hard and fast with great athletes that play hard. When they have it going at every level they can make things hard.
Florida has problems with Georgia because they’ve lacked the size and ability up front on defense to withstand the Dawgs’ downhill run game. The rest of the east still hasn’t caught up. They draw Notre Dame at home after playing Arkansas State and before a bye week and then from the SEC West they draw @Auburn and Texas A&M at home in back to back weeks. This is probably the easiest schedule in the SEC.
The Dawgs will out-talent and out-physical their competition, Notre Dame will make them look good with a solid season after taking it on the chin in Athens, and they’ll advance to the SEC title game. There, even if they lose, they may still have a resume that puts them in. Or they could beat a non-Alabama squad and create a path for a double SEC entrance mirroring the 2017 season. At any rate, I think they’ll get in.
I might quibble with his overly broad assessment of Georgia’s schedule, but the rest is solid.
His other Southern picks to make the playoffs are Alabama (duh) and Clemson (duh, duh). His picks to miss include Florida (not enough dominant players to overcome the schedule), Auburn (“boosters may send some flowers to Bob Stoops…”) and TAMU, all of whom appear on Georgia’s schedule. I can live with that.