With all the talk about how familiar Georgia’s and Oregon’s staffs ought to be with each other, does anyone remember that Bo Nix’ position coach last season is now an analyst in Athens? Gee, I wonder if he has any special insight…
Daily Archives: August 30, 2022
This is pretty good.
I don’t want to do too much hand wringing over the state of Georgia’s defense. After all,
It’s hard to overstate just how dominant Georgia’s defense was in 2021. The Bulldogs gave up just 10 points per game as eight opponents were either shut out or held to single digits. Only Alabama scored more than 20 points against Georgia and the Bulldogs responded by beating the Crimson Tide by 15 points in the national title game.
While the top five tacklers from last year’s team are part of those eight starters gone to the NFL, the great news for Georgia is that a ton of players saw playing time in 2021. DL Jalen Carter looks poised to be the next dominant Georgia defensive lineman after recording 37 tackles and three sacks. Robert Beal led the team with 6.5 sacks despite recording just 23 tackles. And linebacker Nolan Smith was a force as well. He could easily emerge as the team’s leading tackler in 2022 after getting 56 stops last season.
Kelee Ringo and Christopher Smith are back in the secondary after combining for five interceptions. You likely remember Ringo’s game-sealing pick-six against the Tide in January. Five-star 2022 signees Julian Humphrey and Jaheim Singletary could also see early playing time while Georgia also signed three other five-star recruits along the defensive line in this year’s class. Casual fans may see a lot of players they don’t immediately recognize in Georgia’s Week 1 game against Oregon. But they aren’t going to notice much of a talent drop-off.
If I’m nervous about the secondary — and I am, at least a little — who’s on Georgia’s early schedule capable of taking advantage of it? Oregon, which will start a new quarterback and was 62nd in passer rating last season? Ditto for 73rd-ranked South Carolina?
As I mentioned in my SEC projection post yesterday, Florida has some talent. Not enough to match with Georgia, but enough to be more than competitive with the rest of the division, assuming the Gators don’t suffer much in the injury department.
At SEC Media Days, the media picked Florida to finish fourth in the SEC East. Is that a reasonable take?
This Florida blogger thinks that advanced stats suggest that’s taking the Gators too lightly in 2022. One of the points he makes is regression to the mean.
This is where the SEC media love for Kentucky over Florida and the SEC West over Auburn starts to elude me. Based on EPA differential, the Gators, Tigers, Vols, Rebels and Wildcats were all essentially at the same level last year.
So why the difference in records? Well, Kentucky and Ole Miss went 7-1 in one-score games (5-1 for Kentucky alone). The Gators, Tigers and Vols went a combined 3-11.
If you’ve read my stuff (or anyone else’s analytics articles on football) for any length of time, you know these typically end up as 50/50 propositions. That doesn’t mean that teams that went 3-11 last year will go 11-3. What it suggests is that they will likely go 7-7, and when they do, that will bring their records much more in-line with the teams that had more successful 2021 seasons.
After last season’s loss to Georgia, Florida played like crap. Dan Mullen had lost his team, and it showed. I’m not saying Billy Napier fixes everything in one offseason, but you’d have to think the Gators will play harder for him than they did in the last third of 2021.
There will be an early test of that: the meteor game is September 24, in Knoxville. Florida hasn’t lost that game since 2016, so it will be interesting to see if Napier can hold serve.
It’s hard to preview Georgia’s first opponent, for obvious reasons — new coaching staff, new schemes, new quarterback, etc. Still, there is tape that shows which of their players are worth keeping an eye on, and there is familiarity with the head coach’s work, as well as the likely starting quarterback’s.
So, here’s a look at what the Dawgs may be facing come Saturday, or at least maybe some of what they may be facing:
Georgia may be deep and talented on defense, but you don’t lose
15 eight players on that side of the ball to the NFL without creating some uncertainty in the wake of their departure, and Jordan Hill’s piece illustrates that.
That’s particularly true at safety, where injuries could wreak havoc. There simply isn’t much depth there to speak of. The front seven lacks experience, but there are a lot of options for playing time and I expect things will shake out there nicely as the season progresses.
All of which makes me wonder if we’re on the cusp of seeing a change in tactics from opposing defensive coordinators. The old approach was to load up the box to stop the run and make Bennett beat you throwing the ball. Will the new one be to pressure Bennett relentlessly and take your chances with Georgia’s run game?
It sounds like Seth Emerson ($$) may be singing from the same hymnbook.
… Especially if Oregon head coach Dan Lanning, who went against Bennett in practice the past three years, dials up the right approach to containing and rattling him Saturday. It could happen. So many defenses the past few years were stacking the line and geared toward stopping Georgia’s run, and Bennett was able to burn that. Lanning may not make that mistake.
Nor may other opposing coaches. Football coaches, as part of their job, know football, and the good ones take preconceived notions out of their thought process. They’ll look at last year’s film and see that Bennett has the skill set to beat them. They’ll respect Bennett and game plan accordingly.
We shall see. But Monken’s pretty good with that game plan accordingly stuff, too.
Kentucky will be without All-SEC senior running back Chris Rodriguez for its season opener vs. Miami (Ohio) on Saturday.
Rodriguez was not on Kentucky’s Week 1 depth chart released Monday…
During his weekly press conference Monday, head coach Mark Stoops says Rodriguez is one of multiple players he suspects will serve a multiple-game suspension. Stoops confirmed senior outside linebacker Jordan Wright is also among the suspended players.
“A few of them will have multiple-game suspensions but I don’t know how long. I suspect one will be back next week,” Stoops said before announcing he will provide more information next week.
If only for the name alone, I love Kavosiey Smoke, but nobody’s going to confuse him with Rodriguez. If he’s not available when the ‘Cats travel to Florida, you can’t help but begin to wonder if Gus Malzahn’s rabbit’s foot has made its way to Gainesville.
Since 2017, UGA is 27-2 against the rest of the SEC East, by scores that reflect an even wider gap than the record implies. Only one of those wins was decided by single digits, and in 2021 Georgia’s average margin of victory in division play was an embarrassing 32.3 points per game.
And this is what gap closing doesn’t look like:
At some point, that state of affairs says as much about the rest of the division as it does about the team at the top. While the Dawgs have thrived, their old rivals for East dominance, Florida and Tennessee, have languished in various stages of rebuilding. With the abrupt end of the Dan Mullen era in Gainesville, the Gators and Vols are both on their fourth head coach in 10 years, a cycle of hope and collapse that has yielded some fleeting success (see Florida’s last division title in 2020) but overall amounts to a lost decade. The division upstart, Kentucky, has stabilized into a reliable winner under Mark Stoops, but has yet to come close to the top of the standings, finishing at least 2 games behind Georgia each of the past 5 years; ditto South Carolina and Missouri, both well removed from their last winning conference records. Meanwhile, Smart keeps stacking blue-chip recruiting classes in Athens, and the talent deficit just keeps getting bigger.
I can live with that.