TFW manball is working…
… and TFW it is not.
That’s almost eerie, except it really isn’t, because there’s a common flaw running through both upsets. Here’s how Richard Johnson describes it in today’s Read Option by Banner Society email:
Two teams whose Playoff hopes took hits the last two weeks are content to play a style of football that seems from a bygone era (around 1999 or so). Both Wisconsin and Georgia have seen their bullyball outfits neutered by mistakes, all-around poor play, and an opponent that was just good enough.
This email isn’t to say that style can’t work. When executed well by the right teams in the right ways, it is breathtaking to watch. But parsing Wisconsin’s loss at Illinois and Georgia’s a week earlier to South Carolina shows the ways MANBALL can go wrong.
Wisconsin fumbled twice inside the Illinois 40. They threw a pick that set up the winning drive. They missed a third-quarter field goal.
This is what happens when the MANBALL isn’t firing on all cylinders and also isn’t getting help from the other phases of the game — or from coaching decisions, like not simply rushing the ball down the throat of an opponent to salt the game away. When the game develops in such a way that you can’t just sit on it, you get into challenging scenarios.
That “isn’t getting help from the other phases of the game” is what makes me nervous, based on the lack of consistency from Georgia’s special teams play. The Dawgs didn’t pay for that Saturday night, but you wonder if that would have been the case against a team with a better offense than Kentucky’s.
Speaking of Georgia, Johnson nails it.
This is bigger than just Fromm. He gets labelled as a Checkdown Charlie, but I think that’s a bit unfair. Fromm is operating in an offense that’s been structurally inept. It’s also not helping that Georgia’s receivers are not consistently winning in man coverage, due to either a lack of athleticism, poor offensive play design, or both. This has left Georgia fans pissed. Many of them booed during this week’s 21-0 win over Kentucky, a game that was 0-0 at halftime.
Weirdly, that Kentucky game was Georgia’s brand of bullyball working. The game lurched for 60 minutes with only 106 combined plays. Kentucky had a converted wide receiver at QB who started 0-for-9 through the air and didn’t complete a pass until the fourth quarter. Georgia’s offense was not asked to use its passing game Saturday, so it barely did.
Fromm went nine-for-12 with one (1) second-half passing attempt and 35 yards through the air. His adjusted net yards per attempt (a weighted measure accounting for sacks, touchdowns, and interceptions) was two. The national average is roughly 6.5.
Georgia’s running game is quite efficient. The Dawgs do well when they’re on schedule, like most offenses. But they’re just not that explosive. They’re 75th nationally in plays gaining 20 or more yards, down from 10th last season. Against Kentucky, Fromm attempted two passes that traveled more than eight yards from the line of scrimmage in the air. [Emphasis added.]
Needless to say, that ain’t gonna cut it.
Kentucky wasn’t good enough for Georgia’s offensive turtling to matter, but South Carolina showed if you splash some Fromm turnovers into the mix, you don’t have to be elite to beat the Dawgs when they’re playing like this.
I’m being hard on these teams because of their ceilings.
Both teams still have Playoff paths, though they’re a lot more brutal now given everything you’ve just read. But both have big structural problems and little margin for error. If either loses again to a team it beats on paper, you’ll probably know why.
But I don’t want to know why!
I’ll say it again, for those in the back: there’s nothing per se wrong with Kirby’s manball approach. It’s a philosophy, not an offensive scheme. There is a problem when circumstances undercut the philosophy, as we saw in the South Carolina game. Georgia’s passing scheme has issues and the run play calling has been stubborn about running into stacked defenses. I happen to think both are fixable, with a little flexibility from the staff.
But the bigger issue is realizing that one size doesn’t fit all circumstances. Kentucky, for general purposes, may be South Carolina (if Georgia doesn’t turn the ball over against the ‘Cocks, it’s still an undefeated team this morning). But Florida ain’t. And Alabama and LSU definitely ain’t. Can Kirby adapt when the moment requires it? I’m betting we’re about to find out.