Daily Archives: October 16, 2020

The Nix Rule

Consider this an apology, Sam Pittman.

“Day late, dollar short” ought to be the official slogan of SEC officiating.


Filed under SEC Football

Banged up

Oh, shit.

Georgia senior linebacker Monty Rice is expected to be a game-time decision after missing practicing repetitions with a lower leg injury.

Rice, a team captain from Huntsville, Ala., who leads the team with 18 tackles, has been in a protective walking boot this week after suffering the injury in practice, per a source with direct knowledge.

Not what you want to hear right before the biggest game of the season.  Yeah, Georgia is blessed with good depth at the position, but Rice not able to play would hurt.


Filed under Georgia Football, The Body Is A Temple

Bombs away

Here’s a paragraph I wasn’t expecting to read in Seth Emerson’s Mailbag ($$), about Stetson Bennett’s arm strength:

For what it’s worth, one person I trust downplayed any concerns: Bennett has huge hands (as others have pointed out), he’s been clocked high on the radar gun, and his performance on third downs and downfield throws across the middle speaks for itself. The underthrown balls may have just been a case of throwing off the wrong foot while rushed. Bennett has a better arm than Jake Fromm, this person told me, and this was the same Fromm who uncorked that 80-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman in the national championship, which traveled about 60 yards in the air.  [Emphasis added.]

Let’s hope Alabama’s defense isn’t expecting that, either.


Filed under Georgia Football

“The ultimate Alabama vs. Georgia preview”

I give Bill Connelly credit — he’s not overselling his preview of Saturday night’s game with that header.

If you’re grasping for straws on how Georgia’s defense can slow down Alabama’s offense…

Basically, you need Georgia’s help to score, either via good field position or penalty. And if or when the Dawgs are benevolent enough to allow you to convert a third down, you absolutely, positively must turn that into points. They aren’t going to be that generous very often…

The Tide have gone three-and-out on 19% of their drives so far — not bad by any means, but 14th in FBS (as opposed to all those categories for which they’re in the top five), and 45% of their third downs have involved seven or more yards to go (23rd). This is what constitutes a weakness for such a great offense, but it’s one that Georgia could theoretically take advantage of.

That’s not much to hang your red and black hat on, I’m afraid.

Strangely enough, the largest ground for optimism on this front comes from Bill’s take on last year’s SECCG.  He states that Georgia’s defense played better than most of us thought it did.

Against Georgia’s top-ranked defense last year, LSU scored 37 points and averaged 6.5 yards per play. Those are excellent totals, but LSU averaged 48.4 points per game and 7.9 yards per play for the season — the Dawgs held the Tigers far below their otherworldly season averages, and they might have fared even better had the game state not gotten away from them.

Georgia had forced three-and-outs on two of LSU’s first four possessions, but the Bulldogs’ offense drove more than 21 yards only once in its first five drives, and the score was 14-0 LSU after the first quarter. Things snowballed in the second half as the Georgia defense was forced to take more risks, but it still performed better than almost anyone else against that devastating Tigers attack.

I don’t think this year’s Alabama offense is better than last year’s LSU offense and I do think Georgia’s 2020 defense has surpassed the 2019 version, so there’s that.

On the other side, like so many, Bill wonders what Ole Miss’ performance last week says about the Tide defense.

Having to survive at least one crazy track meet is becoming part of a national champion’s journey at this point, but while Alabama’s defense was first in defensive SP+ six times in nine years between 2009 and ’17, it’s an awfully mortal 22nd right now. The Tide were occasionally vulnerable against both Texas A&M and Missouri, but the defense was so definitively beaten last week that it’s worth exploring what Ole Miss did that was so devastating … and how much of it Georgia can imitate.

And the answer is… not that much.  Maybe.

The Dawgs do not tend to spread defenses out formationally like Kiffin and Lebby do, UGA quarterback Stetson Bennett doesn’t have Corral’s rocket-powered arm and Smart definitely doesn’t endorse Lebby-level tempo. You still see plenty of Smart’s defense-first tendencies when it comes to run rates (Georgia runs about 3 percentage points more than the national average on standard downs, five on passing downs) and the occasional third-and-long draw play. One figures the main thing Smart likes about Bennett — a former walk-on who has taken control of the job over former blue-chippers JT Daniels and D’Wan Mathis — is not his play-making ability so much as his ability to avoid screwups. Smart is infinitely more risk-averse than Kiffin, and when you’ve got the defense he has, that makes sense. Bama should be able to crowd the box more than it could against Ole Miss.

If that space over the middle of the field becomes available, however, Georgia will try to take advantage.

“Smart is infinitely more risk-averse than Kiffin” is the understatement of the year.  That only pays off if Georgia doesn’t screw up Saturday.

Bill’s model projects a 28-24 Alabama victory and I can’t say that’s unreasonable.  But as he goes on to note, there are a lot of possible scenarios for this game.

There’s a lot more there, so take some time to read it.


Filed under Alabama, Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

Outsiders, looking in

If you’re looking for some non-interested parties’ takes on the Georgia-Alabama game, I can steer you to a couple of places.

First, here’s 247Sports’ Barton & Bud.  I do think Bud Elliott is right about this:

I do think it is important that Georgia starts fast. I know Georgia has had comebacks, but I don’t like UGA playing from behind. And Alabama safety Jordan Battle is out for the first half for the carryover for the targeting ejection in the second half of the Ole Miss game. Georgia needs to take some shots down the field and connect with them. It is hard to see Georgia winning this game without George Pickens and Kearis Jackson winning down the field.

Especially his starting fast point.  The Dawgs won’t survive another slow first half start by the offense against a team as good and explosive on offense as Alabama is.

Meanwhile, Yahoo Sports’ Pete Thamel spoke with some NFL scouts and assistant coaches to get their takes on the two teams’ personnel.  A few observations to whet your appetite:

  • On Alabama’s defense:  “They’ve downgraded at defensive back and their pass rush has taken a hit,” said an NFL scout. “They aren’t generating as much pressure as they usually are.”
  • More, on same:  “He runs a 4-2-5 and normally plays two [safeties] on the roof,” said a coach. “That’s because his defensive line is so good, they can play a six-man box. That isn’t the case anymore. He has to cheat some sort of coverage, which exposes the nickel.”
  • On Georgia’s defense:  “It’s as good of as defense as you’ll see in the country,” said an opposing assistant coach. “In the neighborhood of a defense like Clemson back in 2018.”
  • More on Georgia’s defense:  “They are strong, they play fast,” an NFL scout said. “Lanning has killed it. They have a good rotation, they are deep, they don’t have any holes.”
  • Jordan Davis:  “He’s a beast,” the coach said. “He looks like [former Bama star] Quinnen Williams playing nose guard.”
  • On Alabama’s offense:  “Steve Sarkisian is really just toying with you, obviously,” said an opposing assistant. “If he wants to line up and hand [the ball off] 40 times, they are going to win. Throw it 45 times, they’re going to win the game. It’s a matter of what he chooses to do.”
  • On Stetson Bennett:  “He can’t see it between the tackles,” said an opposing coach. “He does a good enough job not to get them beat. Is he going to take a game over? No.”

Perhaps the most surprising take, and one that honestly doesn’t reflect what’s happened so far this season, is this:  “In the SEC, the best defense usually wins. And it’s clear who has the best defense.”

Thamel is predicting a 21-17 Georgia win.  All I can say is that if Georgia holds that ‘Bama defense offense under twenty points, Kirby Smart is truly a wizard.


Filed under Alabama, Georgia Football

A cool cucumber

SEC StatCat did a major data dump yesterday.  Some of what he posted paints a revealing portrait of Stetson Bennett’s performance under pressure.

First of all, he handles it as well as any quarterback in the conference.

This may be one reason why.

There may also be an element of turnover luck involved.

Costello has thrown nine interceptions so far this season.  Bennett hasn’t thrown his first.  (He’s the only SEC starter yet to throw an INT.)  Now, it’s fair to point out that Costello has attempted more than twice as many passes as Bennett has to date, but, still, it’s apparent Stetson’s dodged a few bullets.

Still, he’s done more than just hang in there under pressure.  He’s thrived.


Filed under Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

Sankey cracks the whip.

The commish ain’t happy.

Multiple SEC schools will have revenue from the conference deducted as a result of not following proper COVID-19 protocols, sources told ESPN.

According to a memo sent by SEC commissioner Greg Sankey last week, schools will have their conference revenue distribution cut by $100,000 for each week that they do not follow protocols.

The memo, which was obtained by ESPN, also said that suspensions will be considered for failure to comply.

Suspensions, eh?  I wonder whom Sankey has in his sights for that.


Filed under SEC Football, The Body Is A Temple

Keeping the lid on

I don’t think you’ll be particularly surprised by these stats David Hale compiled and shared yesterday.

Georgia hasn’t been particularly explosive on offense, but on defense has excelled sufficiently stifling explosive plays to neutralize the potential damage.

What Georgia has been good at, to go along with the above, is being consistent in moving the chains.

The only downside to that data is that ‘Bama has been better at it than Georgia.


Filed under Alabama, Georgia Football, Stats Geek!

Grain of salt time

It’s a largely complimentary post about Georgia’s defense, so I don’t really want to dump all over it, but it’s worth noting a flaw in bloggers of one school offering their in-depth analysis of the opponent of the week.  Here’s what this Roll ‘Bama Roll breakdown had to say about one unit group’s performance in the Tennessee game:

Against Tennessee, the ILBs were primarily Quay Walker and Nakobe Dean, both high profile recruiting battles won by Georgia over Alabama. Others will rotate as well, but this is a deep and athletic group.

“Primarily”?  How do you neglect to mention Monty Rice there?  He had a monster game, capped by a strip sack and score.

Again, the point here isn’t to get all snarky about this.  Just bear in mind that most folks writing about their school’s opponent of the week often don’t know as much as they project.  And, yes, I include myself in that observation.  (Which is why I tend to limit myself to the obvious when I do step out like that.)


Filed under Georgia Football, The Blogosphere

Sco’, and sco’ some mo’.

It appears the SEC is in the midst of an unprecedented year, offensively speaking.

Scoring — it just means more.

It also means what Georgia is doing on defense is even more impressive than we think.


Filed under Georgia Football, SEC Football, Stats Geek!