Monthly Archives: September 2020

Some Week 1 numbers

To date, there are 72 FBS teams that have played football.  Here’s where the 14 SEC teams rank among them in defensive yards per play:

  • Texas A&M:  5 (3.81)
  • Georgia:  6 (4.18)
  • Arkansas:  9 (4.35)
  • Alabama:  12 (4.41)
  • Auburn:  20 (4.92)
  • Mississippi State:  22 (5.06)
  • Tennessee:  25 (5.12)
  • Kentucky:  41 (5.68)
  • South Carolina: 49 (6.06)
  • Missouri:  50 (6.09)
  • Vanderbilt:  60 (6.76)
  • Florida:  69 (7.86)
  • LSU:  71 (8.32)
  • Ole Miss:  72 (8.68)

And here are their rankings, offensive yards per play:

  • Florida:  1
  • Mississippi State:  3
  • Ole Miss:  5
  • Texas A&M:  13
  • Alabama:  26
  • Tennessee:  28
  • Auburn:  43
  • South Carolina:  51
  • LSU:  52
  • Kentucky:  56
  • Missouri:  66
  • Georgia:  67
  • Arkansas:  69
  • Vanderbilt:  71

Conference rankings, net yards per play:

  1. Mississippi State 3.26
  2. Texas A&M 2.95
  3. Alabama 1.68
  4. Tennessee 0.94
  5. Florida 0.82
  6. Auburn 0.76
  7. Georgia 0.17
  8. Arkansas -0.17
  9. Kentucky -0.76
  10. Ole Miss -0.82
  11. South Carolina -0.94
  12. Missouri -1.68
  13. Vanderbilt -2.95
  14. LSU -3.26

And, just for yuks, here’s where the SEC stands nationally in turnover margin per game:

  • Auburn 3 (+3)
  • LSU 5 (+2)
  • Tennessee 5 (+2)
  • Vanderbilt 15 (+1)
  • Georgia 15 (+1)
  • Alabama 15 (+1)
  • Florida 36 (0)
  • Ole Miss 36 (0)
  • Texas A&M 57 (-1)
  • Missouri 57 (-1)
  • Arkansas 57 (-1)
  • Mississippi State 63 (-2)
  • South Carolina 63 (-2)
  • Kentucky 70 (-3)

Small sample size, I know, but a few impressions:

  • MSU’s numbers are impressive, to say the least, but are they sustainable?
  • The turnovers certainly hurt Kentucky, but it’s not like the ‘Cats were dominating the game otherwise.
  • Georgia essentially broke even on ypp and still won by the widest margin in the SEC on Saturday.  I doubt that would have been the case if the game had been played in the second half of 2019.
  • Turnovers have always been an excellent barometer for how Boom’s teams play.  63rd in turnover margin is not a good omen.
  • Vandy kept the score tight against TAMU, but the ‘Dores were never really a threat.

Thoughts?

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Filed under SEC Football, Stats Geek!

Upon further review, Arky edition

“… I’m worried about getting our team better. It’s never as good as it seems and it’s never as bad as it seems. And that was 100 percent evident watching that tape. The defense wasn’t as good as it seemed and the offense was not as bad as it seemed. We have to do a good job at doing better. That’s the only thing that matters.Kirby Smart, at yesterday’s presser

So, Kirby channeled his inner Ray Goff yesterday — and, really, that’s an evergreen observation on his part — to let us know he knows that we don’t know, even when we think we know.  So take what I’m about to post with the appropriate grain of salt.

I did watch the game again yesterday.  While I don’t want to dive down too deeply, a few things did manifest themselves, even to a relative tyro like me.

First off, the offense was as bad as it seemed, certainly in the first half.  Maybe worse.  As big a problem as Mathis was, he wasn’t the biggest.  Early on, the offensive line was a completely discombobulated mess.  It wasn’t that they were being physically dominated.  It was that on virtually every snap, there was a lineman or two who looked completely lost on his assignment.

The example that stuck with me the most was watching Trey Hill after the snap take a couple of steps back… and stand there without blocking anyone.  His body language was pure “WTF am I supposed to be doing now?”.  Whatever Matt Luke was selling, his guys were having trouble buying.  The wholesale shifting and subbing of linemen until they found a working five was absolutely necessary.

The good news is that things did settle down noticeably in the second half.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s Observation post, if you get the chance to watch the blocking on the TD throw to FitzPatrick, watch the way Cleveland and Condon flawlessly pick up a defensive stunt.

If you want the unalloyed good news it’s this:  Todd Monken knows how to design a passing attack.  There were receivers open on pretty much every passing play.  Here are a few examples:

That was Georgia’s best pass on the day and good for Matt Landers to be on the receiving end of it.  But watch FitzPatrick leak out on a delayed basis and be an open option in case Landers wasn’t there for Bennett.

That was Monken’s best play call of the day and something I swear you’d have never seen from Coley.  It came, if you recall, after a sack with Georgia still trailing.  Last year the call would have been some bullshit draw play up the middle in hopes of settling for a field goal, but Monken was aggressive and it paid off.  Stetson was clearly looking for Pickens all the way (not that I blame him), but watch Washington come open across the middle.  I love the whole thing and you should, too.

This comes out of a power formation, but watch the way White to the right and a tight end on the left leak out, with both being open.  Bennett has two viable pitch and catch options.

Which brings me to the real issue with Mathis’ game Saturday.  Here’s what Smart said about that:

… D’Wan [Mathis] did not play as bad as it seemed to some. I thought he did some good things watching the tape, and he had some unfortunate bad breaks that happened while he was in a quarterback.

He did have some bad breaks, to be fair.  But the biggest flaw in his performance was that he did a poor job of reading his receivers.  The interception he threw was a perfect example of both.  The intended receiver broke the wrong way on his pattern, but if you watch the play, the o-line gave Mathis plenty of time to see the field and he missed a receiver coming open across the middle near the goal line.

It’s the exact sort of mistake you’d expect from a kid with limited experience playing in his first SEC game.  Every rep that Jamie Newman took away in fall practice hurt Mathis.  And that’s a real shame, because there’s no denying Mathis has real physical talent.

Which brings me to my final point about the offense:  right now, knowledge is king.  Like it or not, the coaches have to prioritize the ability to play in the new scheme over sheer ability.  Daniels may be cleared to play, but if Bennett is better at taking what Monken and opposing defenses are giving Georgia’s offense, you play Bennett and don’t look back for a second.  Same deal on the o-line; Luke has to play the guys who know what they’re doing and if that means sitting someone who may be physically better, so be it.  (Fortunately, if the second half against Arky is any indication, Luke is on the mother.)

As far as Smart’s comment about the defense goes, well, maybe a little.  Georgia was a little sloppy on the Hogs’ first scoring drive, but tightened up noticeably as the game progressed, as some split stats indicate.

Defensively, average rushing yardage by quarter:

  • 1st:  3.71
  • 2nd:  0.80
  • 3rd:  1.29
  • 4th:  4.22 (garbage time, largely)

Oh, and Georgia did not allow a rushing touchdown again.

And here’s defensive passer rating by quarter:

  • 1st:  99.57
  • 2nd:  60.0
  • 3rd:  63.6
  • 4th:  60.0

It wasn’t particularly good to start with and got progressively worse.

What I saw when I watched the game again correlated with those numbers.  In other words, I think I’ll let Smart worry about his defense.  (Although I should mention again his comment about spending more in-game time working on the problems with the offense as an indication about how worried he really is.)

Oh, as far as special teams go, here’s what Smart said about that:

I will be honest with you, I wasn’t exactly ecstatic about the special teams. I thought we missed some opportunities there. We left some things out there that were there. We didn’t handle a couple situations well. We had to burn a timeout. I was not pleased with that. Now statistically, you can look at it and say, ‘Well, you are crazy because you did this, this, this.’ We have an experienced punter who punted the ball well, and some really competitive gunners that we worked all offseason on being a better ‘pin the team inside the 10.’ Those reps showed. We were very fortunate to have those reps show. The return game, I thought we left some out there. If we block a little better or maybe we return a little better we [would] score a touchdown on that.

Maybe a little coachspeak going on there, but Smart did go on to say that part of the reason special teams play looked so good to us was because of the overall talent gap between Arkansas and Georgia, a gap that will be considerably smaller this week, with Auburn coming in.  Fair point.

Bottom line, there is plenty of room for improvement, which should come as no surprise to anyone who’s paid attention to this crazy year.  There is more to be fixed on the offensive side of the ball than anywhere else, but Monken makes me think that’s doable.  The questions are how long will the fix take and can the defense keep things under control until that happens.

It felt like Georgia blew a season’s worth of field position advantage in just a single first half and against a better team, it would have really cost them.  Gotta do better… er, buttah.

50 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

Bo knows.

Quite the resume here:

At least you have to admire his versatility.

I went back and watched some of the tape again from the LSU-MSU game.  Pelini played man coverage all game and Leach/Costello just ate that up.  Washington showed the way to defend Leach’s Air Raid — play zone and wait for the screw ups.  When you throw the ball 60+ times in a game, they’re bound to happen.

It’ll be interesting to see what Smart and Lanning have in store for Leach, that’s for sure.

14 Comments

Filed under Mike Leach. Yar!, SEC Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Just a freshman, part two

Jalen Carter’s tackle for loss is something.

As long as Kirby keeps bringing in the Jimmies and Joes, Georgia isn’t going to suffer much.

8 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

Just a freshman, part one

Jeebus.

19 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

BREAKING: Mr. CW calls it.

You heard it here first, people.

So much for that “running the Wilddawg with Zeus” rumor I was gonna start tomorrow.

21 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Mr. Conventional Wisdom

Tuberville’s greatest hits

Or, should I say, quits.

That’s how you ream out the man.

19 Comments

Filed under Tommy Tuberville - Mythical National Champ

Getting crowded

At quarterback, that is.

He may not start, but I’ll be surprised if Daniels doesn’t play.

64 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

A tradition unlike any other

Holy crap.

Man, all those Heisman Trophy quarterback candidates, wasted.  Gus Malzahn’s offensive genius never fails to impress.

11 Comments

Filed under Auburn's Cast of Thousands, Georgia Football

Observations from the armchair, Arky edition

It is only natural after watching an opener like the one Georgia played Saturday to want to focus on the shortcomings.  (In some specific cases, it’s not only natural, but deserved.)

After the initial reaction, deep breaths are in order, though.  There was enough good to go with the bad to merit some calm reflection.

On to the bullet points.

  • Might as well get the worst part of the game out of the way first.  D’Wan Mathis had a bad day and there’s no way to sugarcoat that.  He never seemed comfortable.  He made poor decisions.  He lacked field awareness.  He frequently didn’t go through his progressions.  All told, he looked exactly like what he was:  a kid who went through fall practice with limited reps, forced by circumstances into taking his first collegiate snaps against an SEC defense.  It wasn’t pretty.
  • The shame of it was that Mathis showed some talent.  He’s got a live arm and certainly moves well when he runs with the ball.  But his lack of confidence and the team’s subsequent lack of confidence as the first half played out was apparent.  The staff had no choice but to replace him.  Where things go from here with is a mystery.
  • His offensive line — especially the right side — certainly didn’t do him any favors.  Condon was thoroughly outmatched for much of the first half.  Cleveland looked sluggish.  Hill’s blocking was fine, but his snapping wasn’t.  The coaches spent over half the game mixing and matching, something that would normally be done over the course of spring and fall practice, but 2020 doesn’t afford that luxury.  The good news is that things settled down noticeably in the second half.  (A good example of that:  Cleveland’s and Condon’s almost balletic handling of a line stunt on the touchdown pass to FitzPatrick.)  As for the makeup of Georgia’s starting five next Saturday, I have no clue and I’m not sure the coaches do at the moment, either.
  • Bennett was the story of the game, of course.  He stabilized the offense by making the passing game functional.  That, in turn, opened up the running game.  He did a good job with his decision making and got the ball out quickly.  He wasn’t afraid to throw the ball over the middle.  His size isn’t optimal and he didn’t show good accuracy on the deep ball (something you’ve got to throw well in Monken’s system), but if Daniels isn’t cleared for take off this week, he’s the obvious choice to start against Auburn.  And I’m okay with that.
  • If Bennett was the clear best story on offense, Zamir White was the clear second-best.  He showed signs in last season’s Sugar Bowl that his physical recovery was complete.  What he showed Saturday was that he’s gotten past the mental part of the injury.  He showed on his two biggest runs of the day that he can cut and change directions easily.  He wound up with thirteen carries.  His touches should increase this week.
  • I’m just not seeing James Cook as ready to step into the number two slot in the backfield.  He didn’t show me much running up the middle; granted, it’s not like the o-line gave him much of an opportunity there.  I’m not willing to throw him on the trash heap, though.  For one thing, he was by far the best pass protector I saw out of all the backs.  He didn’t miss a single oncoming rusher.  Monken is going to have to figure out a role for him that works.
  • Overall, though, it shouldn’t be minimized that the running game largely flopped.  That may be a bigger concern for the coaches this week than quarterback.
  • The tight ends caught three passes, one for a touchdown.  My fingers trembled a little as I typed that.
  • They blocked, too.  So did… Matt Landers?  No, really.  The rest of the receivers left a little to be desired in that department.  (Burton’s holding call was almost comical.)  As far as ball catching goes, that was better.  Pickens was money on the TD catch, but he drew a lot of attention from the Arky defense, something that’s going to continue until a second legit threat emerges to take some pressure off.  As a group, they really didn’t do much to take the top off, but some of that was determined by the way the Hogs deployed their secondary.  Landers’ 23-yard catch was nice and I hope signs of better things to come.
  • Georgia’s defense?  Yeah, it was okay.  Alright, more than that.  I swear, they look even faster than last year.  Part of that was how prepared they were; part of that was because… well, because they have speed at every level.  No wonder Kirby could spend more time than usual dealing with the offense.
  • The defensive line did what they’re expected to do, which is hold the line of scrimmage at worst and penetrate and disrupt at best.  Speaking of the latter, there was Jalen Carter with a tackle for loss.
  • The linebacking corps is as advertised.  Dean made tackles, was in on a sack and wasn’t fooled by Franks’ fake when he pretended to be watching the sideline and took the snap.  Monty Rice is still Monty Rice.  The guy in the group who’s made the biggest improvement from last season is Jermaine Johnson, who was all over the field making plays.
  • I don’t think a single trick play Arkansas ran worked.  In fact, a couple of them blew up rather spectacularly.
  • Franks may have changed teams and schemes, but his game remains impressively consistent — a couple of early good throws that give everyone a false sense of confidence and then disaster after he tries to do too much as a result.
  • Bennett coming in certainly gave the team a much needed spark, but I thought the game’s turning point was the defensive sack that forced Arkansas to settle for a field goal for its final points of the game.
  • As far as the secondary goes, Cine looks like Reed’s worthy successor, except maybe a little (you guessed it) faster.  LeCounte allowed Arky’s lone TD on a busted coverage and sprung a receiver for a bigger game when he cut off Stevenson on a tackle, but those are mistakes you put up with because the rest of his game and his sheer physical talent is so good.  The db who had a quietly successful day was Tyson Campbell, who had a nice pass breakup and a tackle for loss.  Webb made a couple of nice plays, particularly one that led to Georgia’s safety.  Georgia’s secondary is so damned deep!
  • I’m old enough to remember when Roll ‘Bama Roll was mocking Kirby Smart for bring Scott Cochran over to run special teams.  I’m guessing that’s the last we’ll hear from them about that.  Special teams were a couple of plays away — Landers’ hold on a spectacular punt return and a running into the punter call — from having a perfect day.  Camarda’s consistency may have been the most tension relieving element of the game; his studly first half was crucial, given the offense’s struggles.  Arkansas didn’t have a single yard in punt returns.  He ought to be the conference’s special teams player of the week.  Podlesny shook off his one glitch and finished with a perfect day as a place kicker.  He also did his job on kickoffs without a flaw.  It also looks like Georgia has found some returners in Jackson and McIntosh, who was a revelation returning kickoffs.
  • I would have to say Monken’s debut was very much a mixed bag.  The early playcalling was another thing that didn’t help Mathis much, as Georgia tried running the ball up the middle to start seemingly every first half drive until the quarterback switch came (I exaggerate, but only a little).  None of it did much, either, as Georgia was left in second and long holes repeatedly to dig itself out of.  It was almost as if Monken was doing a manball tribute to show his head coach it was time to move on,  (I keed, I keed… I think.)  One thing I do offer with more seriousness is that if there was an area where Georgia’s old line coach had a strong feeling about what his old team would be doing, it was there and Arkansas’ defense had a good plan for handling that.
  • Again, though, things opened up for Monken once the quarterbacks changed.  Route running looks different than it did with Coley and one thing that impressed me was how comfortable Bennett looked with that.  I am curious to see what this offense looks like after coach and players get another game or two under their collective belts.
  • Smart had a lot to overcome and for the most part, he did.  The team never lost its head, even as it continued to blow great field position throughout the first half.  The quarterback call was necessary, but it couldn’t have been easy (and Smart deserves credit for trying to buck up Mathis’ confidence by reinserting him into the game in the fourth quarter).  One minor point:  for a guy who gets plenty of criticism for poor clock management at times, he deserves credit for directing traffic on Georgia’s lone scoring drive of the first half, which covered more than half the field in a minute.

As I kidded Saturday night, it’s hard to call a win that covers the spread ugly, but if that makes you feel better, go dog go.  There is no question that Georgia has lots to clean up [insert complaint about over 100 yards in penalties, many of them of the stupid kind, here], but that’s the kind of thing coaches like Smart relish.

Bottom line, let’s hope the cliché about the biggest improvement a team shows is between week one and week two of the season arrives with a vengeance Saturday night.  I don’t care for Auburn.

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Filed under Georgia Football