Daily Archives: September 2, 2021

It’s Heupel Time!

It’s Thursday night in Knoxville and Tennessee football is ready to turn over a new leaf.  The line is UT -34.5 and if you’re hoping for a little Georgia State magic from Bowling Green, prepare to be disappointed.  BG is horrid.

On the Bowling Green side, things are a bit of a mess. The Falcons went 0-5 in last year’s shortened season, bringing head coach Scot Loeffler’s career record to 3-14. There are just 16 players on the Bowling Green roster this year who have started a game for the school before, so there will be a lot of attempting to figure things out on the fly. Quarterback Matt McDonald passed for just one touchdown last season and six interceptions.

The most you can hope for is that the Vols emerge from the game with a false sense of security.

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Filed under Because Nothing Sucks Like A Big Orange

Already in mid-season form

Nick Saban and the media, a classic love story…

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Filed under Nick Saban Rules

Random thoughts on the opener

In no particular order:

First, maybe it’s just me, but does anyone else find it a little strange that the general consensus is that the game should be a moderately scoring affair?  The over/under is 52 and most of the projections I’ve seen have both teams under thirty points.  Clemson averaged better than 40 points a game last season.  Georgia, in its last four games, averaged over 37.  It’s an era of explosive offenses and yet we’re expecting the defenses to hold their own?

Second, earlier in the offseason, I had this fantasy in my head that maybe, just maybe, the Clemson game that would wind up truly resonating in the aftermath of the opener wasn’t played by Georgia.  It was Alabama’s coming out party in 2008, when Nick Saban let everyone know he had that program back on track to become the monster that we all know now.  Yeah, the circumstances aren’t the same, but there’s a guy in Butts-Mehre who knows exactly how it felt at the time, which is why I find this Seth Emerson observation ($$) interesting:

But there’s something about Kirby Smart’s demeanor this preseason, more relaxed than usual, and the sense I’ve gotten within the program that the Bulldogs are antsy to make a national statement.

Well, Georgia may be antsy, but the Dawgs aren’t playing against air.  And that brings me to point number three, a Josh Kendall take from the same piece.

If the game is played between the tackles, Dawgs win. If it’s played on the edge, Tigers win. Tony Elliott is pretty good at making people play where he wants them to…

That is a simple, elegant way of combining the twin points about overall line play determining the outcome, together with this morning’s post about the size of Clemson’s receivers and Smart’s concern about perimeter blocking.  Is Georgia’s defense good enough to force Clemson’s offense where it doesn’t want to go on a consistent basis?

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Filed under Georgia Football

Those cupcake games ain’t gonna pay for themselves.

Talk about your high cost of living:

More than $171 million is scheduled to exchange hands this season for Football Bowl Subdivision non-conference games, according to a USA TODAY Sports analysis. Because these contests are not governed by conference scheduling, these so-called “guarantee” games are set up under contracts negotiated between individual schools. Deals for non-conference games almost always include an appearance payment to the visiting team.

USA TODAY Sports used public-records requests to obtain the contracts for 291 of 325 non-conference games scheduled by FBS teams this season. The school bringing in the most money is Kent State, with guarantees worth $5.2 million. In addition to Kent State, 45 schools are set to make over $1 million off guarantees in 2021.

Those dollar signs are going up almost as fast as coaches’ salaries.  Even so, the math last season was pretty brutal.

Louisiana-Monroe’s two largest game contracts for last season were with Georgia and Arkansas, which guaranteed $1.75 million and $1.5 million, respectively. A year later, ULM athletics director Scott McDonald said conversations with both schools regarding settlements are ongoing.

“In my discussions with both Georgia and Arkansas, and others going forward, I didn’t feel like anybody was trying to take advantage of anybody else,” McDonald said. “I think we all felt like we got thrown in this boat and what can we do to try to figure out something that was completely unfathomable.”

ULM lost more than 21% of its $15 million projected revenue for the 2020-21 fiscal year when those two games were cancelled.

“We did as much as we could to tighten our belt and try to survive,” McDonald said. “We had to take that into the next years and look at how we recover from those losses and how it impacts future years. It’s not like we can just forget about it and not go back and try to reclaim some of those losses.”

While smaller FBS schools rely on guaranteed money, Power Five programs still felt the impact of cancelled games. Even McDonald acknowledges that, while Louisiana-Monroe lost out on more than $3 million in guaranteed money, Power Five schools lost tens of millions of dollars because of attendance restrictions and lost gate revenue.

I still can’t help but wonder how long a conference like the SEC goes without expanding its conference schedule, especially if the risk is still there from COVID.  TV doesn’t doesn’t face an infection risk like fans do and more product for Mickey means more money from Mickey.

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Filed under It's Not Easy Being A Mid-Major

Big on big

It was easy to see in Clemson’s spring game, but Dabo Swinney definitely favors a certain body type in his wide receivers.

Before missing last season with an injury, Clemson’s Ross combined to total 1,865 receiving yards and 17 touchdown receptions as a freshman and sophomore. Other Tiger wideouts who will likely see their share of snaps this Saturday against Georgia include juniors Frank Ladson (18 receptions for 281 yards in 2020) and Joseph Ngata (7-83) and sophomores E.J. Williams (24-306) and Brannon Spector (16-136). Of the five Clemson receivers mentioned, all but Spector stand at least 6-foot-3 in height and all but Spector and Williams weight at least 205 pounds.

That’s a lot of size, even if this group outside of Ross hasn’t proven itself to be particularly productive in receptions yet.  How does Georgia counter?

According to Georgia’s Ameer Speed, a fifth-year defensive back, the Tigers’ receiving unit is indeed big and physical. Still, the Bulldogs have a couple of larger-sized cornerbacks who will be covering the sizable wideouts.

“They have a very big set of physical wideouts, but we’re looking forward to that,” Speed said of Clemson. “We’re planning on all of us using our size and ability to match and play their receivers the best we can.”

Speed, a possible starter who only saw 39 snaps on defense last season, is Georgia’s largest cornerback at 6-foot-3 and 211 pounds. He is followed by redshirt freshman Kelee Ringo, who is 6-foot-2 and 205. Other cornerbacks Derion Kendrick, Jalen Kimber, Kamari Lassiter, and Nyland Green are all listed at 6-foot-0 or 6-foot-1.

According to Speed, the Georgia cornerbacks adjust their “approach and mindset” for each opposing receiver, whether physically big or small.

“When it comes to big receivers, you have to be more heavy, you have to be more physical,” Speed said. “[Clemson’s receivers] are big, but we’re big. So, there could be a lot of contact. Knowing the type of ball they want to throw to bigger receivers should help us and allow us to play better.”

Kirby Smart, being Kirby Smart, is particularly worried about blocking.

“The thing that concerns you is 50-50 balls and blocking on the perimeter. That’s critical to be able to block on the perimeter,” Smart said. “Getting on and off blocks, it’s critical to every football game, but it’s really critical to this game…You’ve got to be able to tackle and get off blocks. Those big [Clemson receivers] make that hard to do.”

I, being a Georgia football fan, am more concerned about what the officials allow with regard to physical coverage.  Or, to phrase it more finely, how consistent said officials are in terms of what they allow with regard to physical coverage.  I hope we’re not pulling our hair out as the evening progresses, but it wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if we were.

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Filed under Clemson: Auburn With A Lake, Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

“Basically,” he said, “let’s play ball.”

The New York Times touched on something in this piece I’m also curious about.  2020, being the massive outlier that it was, how much has it affected teams’ fundamentals as they prepare for this season?

The football coaches talked for days about the basics: how to carry the ball, how to handle a block, how to tackle. As they dissected their position groups, the men professed what they had come to most deeply believe about their game.

So went the off-season at Ohio State — yes, the Ohio State that reached last season’s title game, the one with the football complex lobby with 83 trophies and a hallway, speckled with even more prizes and shrines, that feels as long as a field. But because the Buckeyes had played just eight games last season, the coaches had come to fear that their mighty program, perpetually stocked with elite athletes, was vulnerable to infiltration by rust and inexperience.

“The truth is, the more talent you have, the harder it is to acquire discipline and skill,” Ryan Day, Ohio State’s coach, said in his windowless office on Friday. “The perception that, ‘Well, you recruit some of the top kids in the country and they just come in and they’re ready to roll,’ it’s actually the inverse. They have a lot of work to do with their discipline and skill.”

…Interviews with players and coaches at Ohio State and elsewhere, though, suggest that 2020 is still inflicting a gridiron hangover, or at least worries about one, in many corners of college football.

Teams across the country are expected to prove sharper than they were in the opening weeks of the 2020 season, when sloppy, inconsistent play followed the cancellation of spring practices and scrimmages and redesigns of preseason camps.

Bottom line, nobody knows for sure until they hit the playing field, but I have a working theory that shaking off the rust favors teams with returning staffs that already have existing procedures in place for fundamental work.  New coaching staffs that have to install different systems from their predecessors have one more layer of training that goes into their preseasons.  There’s only so much you can get done before the season starts.

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Filed under Strategery And Mechanics