Daily Archives: December 31, 2021

Your game day post, Miami vice edition

So, in the end, it all comes back to what sort of lesson do we take from the SECCG.  Did Alabama expose Georgia’s fatal flaws and show the Dawgs are really more like paper tigers?  Or, as Seth Emerson ($$) put it, was it more a case of Georgia running into “the one team in the country with the same talent level, and… an elite quarterback and speedy receivers who ate up a vulnerable secondary”?

If it’s the latter, it’s hard to be scared about today’s meeting, because Michigan’s offense is about as polar opposite Alabama’s as you can get.  While it presents challenges, they’re ones that Georgia’s defense is capable of controlling.  Moreover, even if Georgia succeeds in that, Michigan isn’t built to change the way it operates.  Here’s what Brian Cook says about that.

Wisconsin is a similarly elite rush defense and Michigan running backs scuffled to 93 yards on 34 carries, with a long of just eight. You could squint and say that those results without a single 10+ yard run is relatively encouraging, especially since Michigan has been extremely explosive on the ground this year. But preventing explosives is a skill and Georgia is even better at that than Wisconsin is. Wisconsin 20+-yard runs allowed: 5. Georgia: 3. Even mighty Alabama took one look at this front seven and noped out, rushing Brian Robinson Jr just 15 times to 44 Bryce Petty [sic] passing attempts.

Michigan probably cannot maintain reasonable levels of offensive efficiency while passing 75% of the time. That’s not their DNA. So they either win by burying Stetson Bennett in defensive ends or finding ways to cobble out enough efficiency here to make play action reasonably effective. Ways they get there include running back overperformance, JJ McCarthy evening up numbers, Michigan’s OL being on another level from previous Georgia opponents, and wacky stuff. All of these are at least plausible; none seem particularly likely.

And if they can’t?  Cook’s suggestion is that the best option is to keep pounding away in three-yard chunks.

The ability to get reasonable gains on a down to down basis and put Michigan in positions they can succeed on third down is going to be equally important. And things might be… pretty okay here? Georgia’s defense does not feature blitzball linebackers and their underlying DL stats paint a picture. Georgia’s 42nd in line yards, 44th in power success rate, and 39th in stuff rate. They’re just okay at preventing the first couple yards. They are *extremely* good at preventing everything but those first couple yards since they’re 10th in opportunity rate and—as mentioned above—have given up just three chunk runs this year.

It’s not too hard to envision Hassan Haskins getting those first two to three yards and then Haskinsing himself another couple, and that adds up tremendously over the course of a game.

That’s as opposed to Alabama barely even making the effort to run the ball.

Of course, that won’t be enough.  Michigan will have to break some big plays to have a real chance.  The problem there is, as Brian notes, Georgia is very good at not letting opponents do that.

Wisconsin is a similarly elite rush defense and Michigan running backs scuffled to 93 yards on 34 carries, with a long of just eight. You could squint and say that those results without a single 10+ yard run is relatively encouraging, especially since Michigan has been extremely explosive on the ground this year. But preventing explosives is a skill and Georgia is even better at that than Wisconsin is. Wisconsin 20+-yard runs allowed: 5. Georgia: 3.

But what about the passing game, you might ask.  No, Michigan doesn’t have a Young or Williams to attack with, but that doesn’t mean that things weren’t exposed in the SECCG that might give Michigan an opportunity to exploit.  I’m going to be nervous until I see that Georgia’s figured out a better way to defend the slot receiver than it did in Atlanta.  And I’m going to be concerned if Georgia’s pass rush can’t generate more consistent, effective pressure than it did against the Tide.  Call those my “paper tigers” concerns.  If Smart and Lanning haven’t figured out how to shore those up, Michigan may not put up 41 tonight, but it’ll certainly be able to move the ball effectively within its offensive scheme.

On the other side of the ball, I have to say that Michigan’s defense isn’t appreciably better than Alabama’s.  That being said, if the Wolverines find a path to build a significant lead along the way, I expect their defense will be formidable enough to make it difficult, if not impossible, for the Dawgs to mount a comeback.  Michigan isn’t the only team playing tonight built in a particular way.

I don’t really see that happening, though.

A few other considerations:

  • Nobody’s talked much about special teams.  Georgia’s aren’t a liability, but Michigan’s are exceptional.  If the game comes down to special teams, that’s probably not a good thing.
  • There’s a lot of whispering lately that Georgia is close to full strength, healthwise.  If that’s true, it’s a big deal, especially for the receiving corps.
  • Michigan in ninth in the country in red zone conversion percentage, but only 64th in red zone touchdown percentage.  I’d like to think that might be important, except Georgia is worse in both categories.  On the other hand, they’re considerably better in red zone defense than is Michigan.

In the end, I think there are some obvious lessons Michigan will try to take and apply from the SECCG.  The big one is on defense, of course.  As Brian writes,

The formula is to avoid straight dropbacks when possible and to lean on the run game threat to keep it from landing on Bennett’s shoulders too heavily. If you can disrupt the formula you can get some nonlinear improvements.

… QB Stetson Bennett was clearly rattled in the second half of this game as he found himself in an unfamiliar situation and began to lose faith in his protection.

That worked because Georgia’s defense cracked and left Bennett and the offense in an untenable position.  It’s hard to see how Michigan can fully replicate that strategy without first putting the Dawgs in a hole on the scoreboard.  After all, if you’re asking Stetson Bennett not to lose the game for you, it helps tremendously if you’re not losing in the first place.

It would also help if the offense could avoid as many third-and-longs as possible.

I could go on and on, of course.  If you want more of a deep dive, check out Graham’s analysis for that.  (I’ll just say that his 31-10 prediction is way too optimistic for my taste.)

This game just feels like a grinder to me.  It’s what both coaches prefer and both teams are good enough to prevent the other from running away with things, barring a rash of turnovers.  Bottom line, I like both the under and Michigan covering.  Call it 24-20, Dawgs.

Have at it in the comments.

297 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

Your Cotton Bowl game day post

The opening act of the CFP semis takes place in Dallas, where Cincinnati and Alabama face off.  Cinci is a good team and they’ve got some excellent players.  Their problem is that ‘Bama has more excellent players than they do.

Also, this.

No, the Alabama run game isn’t as formidable as it’s been in years past — they barely made an effort to involve the backs against Georgia in the SECCG — so while that’s made Bryce Young’s job harder, as we unfortunately saw, he’s more than up to the task.

Let’s face it:  But if Young plays like he did against Georgia, it’s possible nothing else matters” is the story of this year’s CFP.  Will he today?  I don’t know.  Metchie is out.  Cincinnati’s corners are better than Georgia’s.  And I expect the Bearcats’ defense to go all out after Young, unlike Georgia’s strategy.  How much of that will make a difference anywhere beyond the margins is guesswork.  The primary reason I say that is because Cincinnati’s offensive line isn’t as good as Georgia’s is, particularly at the tackle spots, and last time I looked, Will Anderson is indeed suiting up for the Tide.

Needless to say, while I’d love to see it, I have a hard time believing ‘Bama goes down today.  I will be interested to see if Metchie’s absence has an impact and if Cinci proves Georgia made an egregious tactical error in not being more aggressive attacking Alabama’s passing game.

What say y’all on this one?

67 Comments

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

𝐑𝐞𝐬𝐢𝐥𝐢𝐞𝐧𝐭 | 𝟐𝟎𝟐𝟏 𝐎𝐫𝐚𝐧𝐠𝐞 𝐁𝐨𝐰𝐥 𝐓𝐫𝐚𝐢𝐥𝐞𝐫

Need to get pumped up for tonight?  Mr. Michel is here to help you with that.

15 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

Run the damned ball, somebody.

One thing’s for sure about having your team in the CFP — you won’t lack for analysis to read.  Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve seen just about every take imaginable in the service of predicting a winner tonight.  As interesting as much of that has been, I keep circling back to the hoariest of college football’s pearls of wisdom; namely, the team that runs the ball and stops the run best, wins.  That’s how both Georgia and Michigan are built and sometimes the obvious take is the right one.

Okay, if that’s the starting point, how do you answer the question of which team pulls that off?  Here’s what Bill Connelly ($$) sees through the prism of advanced stats.

When Michigan has the ball on standard downs*:
Michigan’s run rate: 70% (13th highest in FBS)
Michigan’s success rate: 53% (25th)
Georgia’s success rate allowed: 37% (second)

When Georgia has the ball on standard downs:
Georgia’s run rate: 64% (29th)
Georgia’s success rate: 54% (15th)
Michigan’s success rate allowed: 42% (17th)

If you want the tl;dr commentary, “Michigan’s defense is obviously rock solid on standard downs, but this appears to be a more even matchup than Georgia’s edge when the Wolverines have the ball.”

If that actually holds true tonight, we probably won’t be bitching much about Stetson Bennett’s performance.  We shall see.

6 Comments

Filed under Big Ten Football, Georgia Football, Stats Geek!, Strategery And Mechanics

Tonight, through enemy eyes

From mgoblog comes some really excellent scout work on Georgia’s offense and defense.  Don’t worry; there’s nary of shred of Roll ‘Bama Roll-esque arrogance to be found.  Nor is the author guilty of donning Maize and Blue glasses in delivering his reports.

In fact, I’d say both are characterized by a healthy amount of respect, particularly when it comes to the Dawgs defense.  Here’s how he concludes that post:

Let’s now circle back and talk about Michigan’s matchup with Georgia specifically. The way these two teams play is a strength on strength matchup, with Michigan wanting to run the football and UGA wanting to stifle the run. Even with their explosive passing game, the Crimson Tide’s RBs rushed for just 3.5 YPC (this doesn’t count the Bryce Young runs) on the Bulldogs. Go week by week of Georgia’s results, you’re not going to find any teams who were able to consistently pave this defense on the ground. That’s not to say you can’t get wins; Michigan’s the best rushing offense the Dawgs will have seen and I have no doubt that Michigan will get its wins in from time to time. I would just be extremely surprised if they are able to hammer Georgia on the ground the way they did Ohio State.

Beating Georgia is going to take a balanced, well-designed gameplan with a high level of execution. When Georgia is stifling Michigan’s runs, they’re going to need to have plans ready to get chunk gains through the air and more importantly, are going to need Cade McNamara to step up and rise to the occasion. I’m not sure they need him to be Bryce Young-good to win, but it feels like McNamara having the best game of his career is a prerequisite to win this game. Similarly, Josh Gattis needs to be equally as good for the Wolverines to win. All the speed in space stuff we’ve seen this season feels notable here, targeting the boundary with Henning end arounds, screens to Donovan Edwards off orbit motion, QB design runs for McNamara with the receivers split out wide + the JJ package all needs to be meshed in along with the typical Harbaugh power running base offense. I’d like to see plenty of tricks too, including another flea flicker.

Quality pass protection is absolutely crucial too. I like Michigan’s chances of picking up a lot of the Georgia four-man rushes, given what we’ve seen from the Wolverines on tape this season. But they won’t pick up all of them and that’s where Cade’s ability to stand in the pocket and get the ball out the moment before he gets popped is big. We saw him do that pretty well against Michigan State back in October, and he’ll need to do it again. Getting the ball out in a hurry has been one of Cade’s signature traits and it’s absolutely essential that that continues tomorrow. He can’t get unnerved by the illusion of pressure, and he has to be willing to take a beating. Everyone has to. This is going to be a physical football game and every player on Michigan’s roster has to be ready for that.

I think the ideal Michigan game plan looks something like this: targeting the off coverage when it’s there to get easy yards underneath through the air, crafting a pretty balanced-run pass mix that includes jet sweeps and other run plays in space outside the tackles, to then create the ability to hammer it more on the ground up the middle. Once you get a couple wins on the ground, perhaps take a PA shot down the field, looking to generate a big play. The scripted drive needs to end in points, and as we pointed out on Tuesday, getting a lead early in this game is really crucial.

Minimize the big negative plays (I don’t want to see a lot of sweeps/tosses that require the OL to try to get into space and block UGA’s athletic LBs, frankly), protect the QB, and hope for a big game performance from McNamara. This is a great defense, even if Alabama made them look vulnerable. A lot of the ways that Alabama made them look vulnerable (Heisman QB and legit first round NFL WR) aren’t super applicable to Michigan. But there is enough on tape to believe that an incredibly savvy game plan from Josh Gattis and superb execution from the players can lead to this game ending the way we want it to. And hey, it would be nice if the defense/special teams could help the offense out through good field position or even banking a few points straight up.

That’s a lot of words to say Michigan is going to have to bring its A game to have a decent chance at winning, but it’s certainly far from inconceivable that it can happen.

If you’ve been reading here, his take on the offense won’t come as a surprise.

I’ve seen some people make comparisons between Georgia and Iowa and while I don’t think it’s a terribly good comparison, I don’t think it’s a bad one either. Adjustments for talent are necessary because Georgia is stacked with blue chips and Iowa builds its whole defense around the knowledge that they’ll never be able to recruit high level athletes to play in Iowa City. But the way Michigan approached the B1G Championship Game is the same way they ought to approach the Orange Bowl in your author’s opinion. The best way to beat Georgia’s offense is to get them out of their comfort zone, and that requires forcing them to play from behind

… Outside of Bowers, I feel good about Michigan’s ability to handle Georgia’s WR, with the slight exception being if Pickens is suddenly the 2020 version of himself again. Good tackling is crucial on the RBs, who can grind out those free yards, but Georgia as a team is much more Wisconsin than Ohio State. They’re not going to torch you unless it’s off play-action or an RB getting free. They’re much more likely to break your will and stomp you than run circles around you. If Michigan comes in with a good game plan and holds up against the run, I like their chances of holding Georgia to under 30, perhaps under 25. The question, of course, is whether you can even score 20 against that defense.

Spend a few minutes reading both.

8 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Outlier, or nah?

Over at mgoblog, Ian Boyd’s guest post analysis of tonight’s Orange Bowl starts with this:

Nowadays you typically have to throw the ball at a high level to win the National Championship.

Once you reach the playoffs, most teams are extremely hard to run the ball against. Everyone is loaded up with blue chip defensive linemen and savvy linebackers, it’s why they won their conference (or came close) and made it this far in the first place.

Beating these teams, who have elite personnel and weeks to study your run game, requires a high level, pro-style passing attack (dropback, progression passing ideally from 11 personnel). There’s only so much a defense can do against a great drop back passing game from the spread, the perfect throw beats good coverage.

Judging from the comments I’ve read here in the wake of the SECCG loss, no doubt that is an observation that resonates with many of you.

There’s only one thing about it that nags at me a little bit.  If throwing at a high level is what it takes to win a natty, how come Ohio State isn’t in this year’s CFP?  Where’s Oklahoma?  Or Pittsburgh, for that matter?

As Ian himself notes,

There were two teams in college football this season with a Championship caliber, pro-style passing attack.

One of them went down in Michigan under snowfall, pass-rush, and quarters coverage. The other is on the other side of the playoff bracket from the Wolverines. The Cincinnati Bearcats are actually close but are likely missing the rarest and most difficult ingredient to a top shelf pro-style passing attack…a high caliber offensive tackle play.

Alabama is the one remaining pro-style passing team with the sort of trump card firepower to feel great about navigating the playoff bracket.

Georgia? They do two things very well which tends to excite college football punditry but doesn’t win Championships. They run the ball pretty well and are extremely difficult to run against.

Alabama probably takes this thing for the same reason they overcame Georgia in the SEC Championship. The Bulldogs’ abundance of massive, athletic defensive tackles and blazing fast linebackers couldn’t stop Bryce Young from throwing the ball down the field to Jameson Williams.

This year’s CFP field is littered with teams that don’t meet Ian’s standard, starting with both participants in tonight’s game, as well as Alabama’s opponent this afternoon.  Yet here they all are.

Now, I’m not crazy enough to say the 2021 season is proof that an elite passing attack isn’t all people are making of it.  But I’m more than willing to consider that 2021 may be something of an outlier in that regard.  Maybe it’s as much the Year of Not-So-Elite Passing Attacks as it is the Year of Alabama Excellence.  Sadly, there never seems to be much of an outlier to that.

27 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Strategery And Mechanics

I got ‘yer guest picker right here.

ESPN steps up their GameDay game with this.

14 Comments

Filed under ESPN Is The Devil, Georgia Football

What if it’s not a quarterback dilemma?

Okay, I admit Matt Hinton’s key observation about tonight’s game is prefaced by “… if Georgia is eliminated with a next-level talent on clipboard duty, it’s going to follow Smart for a long time”, but I think this is something we may not be factoring into our take on the Dawgs’ offense as much as we should:

The wideouts, on the other hand, might be an even bigger question mark than Michigan’s. The only player with a catch in every game, redshirt freshman Ladd McConkey, is a former 3-star signee who’s often mistaken for a walk-on; he raised some eyebrows in a midseason win at Auburn, hauling in five for 135 yards, but in the meantime he has just 150 yards over the last seven and is reportedly dealing with an undisclosed injury. No one else on the depth chart has come close to an above-the-fold performance. 2020 holdovers Jermaine Burton and Kearis Jackson have been limited by nagging injuries. Dominick Blaylock got just a handful of snaps at the end of the regular season after being sidelined by multiple knee injuries for nearly two full years. True freshman Adonai Mitchell has played significantly but struggled with drops.

If we’re being fair about it, that’s a pretty mundane bunch, although I believe injuries have played a significant part in their modest production.  More than anything, what’s saved Georgia’s passing game was finding lightning in a bottle with Brock Bowers, who’s had a ridiculous season so far.  As Matt notes,

… A 5-star talent with bona fide wide receiver skills, Bowers had a breakout day in the SEC Championship loss to Alabama, finishing with season highs for receptions (10) and yards (139) in his introduction to a national audience; that was consistent with his role throughout the season, which he ended as the only UGA player among the top 30 in the SEC in receptions (47) or yards (791).

At the end of Year 1, he already looks like the complete package for a “move” tight end, equally comfortable in a traditional inline blocking role or as a receiver from the slot, and as he’s healthy you can go ahead and pencil him in as an All-American in the next two.

Given what there’s been to work with, maybe Daniels wouldn’t have had much more to show for things had he been the one taking most of the starting snaps this year instead of Bennett.

The good news — at least I hope it will be — is that Georgia has a potential game changer for tonight, if health permits.

The X-factor is George Pickens. For most of the year, it was doubtful Pickens would play at all in 2021 following a torn ACL in the spring, or would ever put on a Georgia uniform again with a certain NFL career waiting. But after a tentative return in the regular-season finale against Georgia Tech, he showed glimpses his old, acrobatic self against Alabama, playing 20 snaps and accounting for UG’’s longest gain of the day on a 37-yard catch in the first quarter. Like JT Daniels, he made the trip to Miami and expects to be available after his status was threatened by COVID protocols. If he’s anywhere in the remote vicinity of 100%, he immediately adds a downfield dimension that Georgia has struggled to sustain all year.

No kidding.  If Pickens can be a regular contributor tonight, he may turn out to be Stetson Bennett’s best friend.  Or JT Daniels’, for that matter.

20 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

I know that guy.

Spider-Man Pointing at Spider-Man | Know Your Meme

I’m happy to see that Michael Elkon has returned to the blogosphere to share his thoughts as a Michigan fan about tonight’s game.  It’s an excellent read with some good insights (I would expect nothing less), but what’s most striking about his post is how familiar his psyche is to someone who follows Georgia football as closely as he follows the Wolverines.

Overall, decades of being a Michigan fan have pushed me into this game as something of a pessimist. Harbaugh’s role model is his college coach. Bo Schembechler was known for winning Big Ten titles and then losing in Pasadena, where he went 2-8. Plenty of Michigan teams went West on the high of beating Ohio State and then found themselves losing a defensive struggle to USC. The scores of those eight Rose Bowl losses? 10-3, 13-12, 14-6, 27-20, 17-10, 24-14, 22-15, and 17-10. For good measure, Bo also threw a 14-6 Orange Bowl loss to Oklahoma into that mix, the game that Ace Rothstein nails in Casino. Even though I became a college football fan in the Eighties and only started rooting for Michigan around 1988 (and for the best of reasons: I hated Notre Dame), decades of bathing in the collective anxiety of fellow Michigan fans have conditioned me to expect an exhilarating win over Ohio State in November with a frustrating, low-scoring loss in the bowl game. So take that description of historically-based pessimism, match it up against whatever angst you feel as a Dawg fan (this is truly a perfect matchup of “close, but no cigar” programs), and do as you will.

As a Dawg fan, this game represents the polar opposite of any Georgia-Alabama meeting.  There’s no arrogance in play here.  Rather, we’ve got two fan bases wallowing in the same “I want ’em to win, but I expect ’em to lose” big game mind set.  Instead of calling the game the Orange Bowl, we ought to refer to it as the Neurotic Bowl.  Don’t take my word for that, either ($$).

“Georgia fans, just like Atlanta sports fans, are quick to say, ‘Don’t look, look the other way,’” said former Bulldogs All-American David Pollack, an analyst for ESPN. “When you go undefeated through the season, you build a ton of mojo, and then when you get smacked in the mouth in the SEC Championship Game, it obviously takes a lot of the luster off. There was a lot of hope and a lot of people looking forward to the national championship and an undefeated season, and then when that happens it’s, ‘Oh, crap. This isn’t going to be as easy as a lot of people thought.’”

Sigh.  May the best team not lose.

7 Comments

Filed under Big Ten Football, Georgia Football

TFW you shouldn’t have pushed the send button

Apparently Dennis Dodd woke up yesterday and decided he wasn’t going to let Danny Kanell have all the show your ass hot takes on Twitter.

Shane Beamer wasn’t having any of that shit.

Woof.  All that’s missing is a “bless your heart”.

Dodd deleted his tweet in response, which proves one thing.  He’s got more of a sense of shame than Kanell does.  (Low bar, I know.)

20 Comments

Filed under 'Cock Envy, Media Punditry/Foibles