I don’t know about you, but…
… neither of those give me much reason for optimism in the short run.
I don’t know about you, but…
… neither of those give me much reason for optimism in the short run.
I, for one, do not think it takes an offensive genius to assume what the game plan against Georgia’s defense will be this week.
Remember all those screens and hitches that Kent State was hitting Georgia with Saturday? Hard to forget, right?
Now imagine them being called for Luther Burden. He’s Missouri’s five-star freshman wide receiver who spurned defending national champion Georgia to play for his nearby university. But he’s not even the Tigers’ main threat. That would be Dominic Lovett, a 5-foot-10 flanker who has 21 catches, leads the SEC with 376 receiving yards and is averaging 18 yards every time he touches the ball.
No, Missouri is not the great offensive juggernaut it has been in the past. But thanks to Kent State, the rest of college football now knows where the soft underbelly of the mighty Bulldogs defense is located.
It’s in the screen game.
That happens to be where Missouri coach Eli Drinkwitz has earned his offensive reputation. Drinkwitz has conducted coaching clinics on a special breed of plays he calls “run constraints.” They’re actually not runs but quick-timed passes his offenses use to ensure that opponents can’t load up against their run game.
Now, “offensive reputation” may be doing a little heavy lifting there. Missouri is currently twelfth in the conference in passer rating, so a passing juggernaut the Tigers aren’t exactly. But it would be borderline coaching malpractice not to take note of plays like this…
… and not attempt to probe Georgia’s coverage in a similar way.
“We mis-fit one of them, the one really explosive one,” said Smart, referring to a 56-yard touchdown play by Devontez Walker on a simple wide receiver screen on the left sideline. “We just mis-fit it. Kid didn’t get outside leverage.”
That “kid” was sophomore cornerback Kamari Lassiter, a first-year starter. He and safety Christopher Smith were left alone outside the numbers against two Kent State receivers. A play-action fake to Cooper inside kept Georgia’s linebackers at home, Lassiter was defeated by a blocker, and the senior Smith was left to make a one-on-one, open-field tackle.
Smith never even got to try.
Designed for the cornerback to take “outside leverage,” meaning get to the boundary to turn the play inside, Lassiter never made it. And Smith took an early, overaggressive line to the inside. Catching the ball 2 yards behind the line of scrimmage, the fleet-footed Walker was left with nothing but green grass to negotiate. No Georgia defenders were in position to run him down.
“Football 101,” Smart sighed. “You turn the ball back into your defense, and if you don’t, you get outflanked. Didn’t do a good job of doing that. And the safety (Smith) was expecting him to come back inside, and he went outside, and it made for a big play. So, that was a good job by them, poor job by us.”
That wasn’t the only screen pass misplayed by Georgia defenders. I’ve got the feeling I know what they’ll be working hard on in practice this week.
The good news is that this won’t be the coaches’ first rodeo. ‘Bama killed the Dawgs defense with that trip formation/screen pass call in the SECCG. It wasn’t nearly as successful in the rematch a month later.
Well, if you’re looking for the silver lining around the dark cloud that is Georgia’s home schedule next season, Josh Brooks is here to provide that.
The good news is there won’t likely be a ticket-price increase at UGA for a while.
“You always factor those things in,” Brooks admitted.
And just when I was beginning to think college football administration lacked a sense of shame…
Seriously, what’s of more interest to me in that Chip Towers article is the indication that the future conference scheduling format is still unsettled. Otherwise, how do you get to this point?
… The Bulldogs have several home-and-home series scheduled beyond 2023 that were set up by former AD Greg McGarity. They were arranged at the behest of coach Kirby Smart, who wanted Georgia to play more high-profile nonconference opponents. So, home-and-homes were brokered with Florida State, UCLA, Louisville and Clemson, in addition to Texas and Oklahoma.
Brooks said that, with the exception of Georgia’s annual state-rivalry game against Georgia Tech, none of those future games are guaranteed anymore. They’re all pending the outcome of the expanded SEC’s future-scheduling model.
If there’s an emerging theme in college football today, it’s the inability of the decision makers to get their shit together on a timely basis.
And here ($$), in one paragraph, is the grand theory of the mindset of the folks running college football these days:
“I think it probably motivated everybody to say stuff is changing really quickly, and if we want to see some additional stability within a sort of realignment world, getting an expanded playoff was certainly a key to that,” Washington State’s Schulz said. “And so I think that helps many of the presidents say, ‘Hey, we need to get this done so we all know what that’s going to look like. Because if you’re in a 20-team conference, and there’s a four-team playoff, that may not look as attractive as being in a smaller conference with that ability to maybe get there. Now, if it’s an expanded playoff, and you know there’s more slots available, then some of the realignment may make more sense.”
Whatever gets y’all through the night, brother.
“We think we are successful in the run game. I’m not talking about perimeter passing. I’m talking about we evaluate each and every carry independent of itself. And we think we hit our run goals. So when you start looking at that the way we calculated it, we did that. Now, being explosive, we certainly could be much more explosive in the run game and improve in that area. But, you know, when you have the number of explosive plays we’ve had on the year, you have to weigh whether that’s a run, a pass, a screen, what — who are you and who is your identity. And I think that’s starting to play itself out for us a little bit. And I think we’ve got a really physical offensive line. And I think teams play us a certain way. And we’re going to do off how teams play us.”
Nary a word there about will imposition.
I’m old enough to remember a time when it was a legitimate concern about whether Smart would let Monken run his offense the way he wanted to, or whether it would have to be confined within the restraints Smart chose to cage it. Now I’d say it’s not even the case that Smart freely tolerates what Monken does. He embraces it.
Watching the fallout from conference realignment feels like watching a slow motion car wreck — it may take a little time, but you know how it’s gonna end, and it’ll be ugly.
On a September Saturday in 2022, the Southwest Conference had itself a weekend. In Dallas, SMU had a record crowd on hand to greet the traitor Sonny Dykes, who had jumped ship to rival TCU, only to watch the Horned Frogs come away with the Iron Skillet in their 101st meeting.
… Now, the SWC hasn’t existed since 1996, but the passion will never die, despite attempts to kill it. On one Saturday in Texas, there were three games with three packed stadiums amid an attendance crisis for administrators at many schools, a reminder that sometimes it’s more fun to play someone with a little extra hate on the line.
Since the SWC’s breakup, TCU has played in four conferences (WAC, Conference USA, Mountain West and now, the Big 12) while SMU was aligned in the WAC and CUSA before landing in the American. Still, despite their nomadic journeys in search of future relevance, they’ve managed to maintain a regional rivalry for more than a century.
“I think it makes sense for teams that are close to each other to play each other,” Dykes said two weeks ago when the drumbeat started for his return to Dallas. “You know, that’s why it makes so much sense for USC to be in the Big Ten … they’re right there next to each other.”
Dykes’ sarcasm comes at a time when realignment continues to pull at the strings of college football’s fabric, breaking up long-standing rivalries and making it harder for fans to get to, or even care about, games. The Iron Skillet — once so celebrated that legendary sportswriter Grantland Rice called the 1935 edition the “Game of the Century” — has no guarantee of continuing past 2024 when the current contract ends.
How can you not marvel, even a little, at the level of blindness it takes to blithely toss away that kind of interest and passion?
“I realize that with some of the megaconferences now, they’re gonna have fewer nonconference games,” Dunn said. “But there’s still room for these games. They may have other agendas, but this is what the fans want.”
Sorry, man, but you don’t get it. In college football’s brave new world, the fans will be told what they want, thank you very much.
In discussing Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, Matt Hinton makes a good point that maybe this is the year of the grizzled veteran quarterback. There sure do seem to be a fair number of examples of them.
For his efforts, Hooker went to bed on Saturday night as a bona fide Heisman candidate, a remarkable turn after he was effectively shown the door after 4 years and 15 starts at Virginia Tech, and began his tenure in Knoxville last year as a backup. Through 4 games this year, he’s looked like the ideal QB to bring Josh Heupel’s up-tempo, vertically-oriented vision to fruition, ranking in the top 5 nationally in total offense and Total QBR, and posting the top overall Pro Football Focus grade among FBS quarterbacks. He’s accurate, mobile, consistent, and hasn’t thrown a pick in 211 consecutive attempts dating to last year.
He’s also just one example of a relatively grizzled QB taking full advantage of his bonus season. At Georgia, Stetson Bennett IV (age 24) has shed the last remaining vestiges of his underdog persona to throw his hat into the Heisman ring. Minnesota’s Tanner Morgan (23), coming off disappointing seasons in 2020 and ’21, just had his best month as a starter for the 4-0 Gophers after reuniting with his old coordinator, Kirk Ciarrocca, who oversaw Morgan’s original breakout campaign in 2019.
Nebraska refugee Adrian Martinez (22) delivered a triumphant performance on Saturday for his new school, Kansas State, accounting for all 5 of the Wildcats’ touchdowns in an upset win at Oklahoma. Purdue’s Aidan O’Connell (24), another former walk-on, ranks 15th nationally in QBR. Penn State’s Sean Clifford (24) and UCLA’s Dorian Thompson-Robinson (22), both long-running targets for their respective fan bases, are off to a combined 8-0 start; further down the food chain, Illinois’ Tommy DeVito (24) and Rutgers’ Noah Vedral (23) are a combined 6-2 at a couple of perennial Big Ten doormats.
Now, to be fair, as Matt himself notes, some of that may be puffed up by early cupcake scheduling, but it doesn’t take much of a leap of logic to see a couple of factors in play here. One, how the extra COVID year has given some of these QBs the opportunity to experience greater maturity and growth, and, two, how the open portal rules have allowed some to find places with better opportunities and fits for their skill sets. That being said, it will be interesting to follow this group to see how this unfolds as the scheduling gets tougher.
Through one month, offenses are averaging 243.6 passing yards per game and 7.7 yards per attempt while completing 62.5% of throws. Should those numbers hold, all three averages would represent new FBS single-season records. Even if inflated somewhat by non-conference play, these numbers are still ahead of the pace set during the same time frame last season, when new marks were set for completion percentage and yards per attempt.
Even usually conservative Georgia is getting into the action. The Bulldogs have opened things up with Stetson Bennett, making the senior the centerpiece of a more pass-driven offense. Overall, teams in this week’s Top 25 have tossed 248 touchdowns against just 39 interceptions.
Outside of Kansas’ Lance Leipold, I’m not sure there’s a coach who’s raised his national profile more this season than Todd Monken.
Bill Connelly ($$) still ranks Georgia first among college football’s 21 unbeaten teams.
You wanna argue with the man? I sure don’t.
There are times when I think college football is nothing but an elaborate experiment to see how effectively it can self-sabotage. I mean, check out how they’re considering scheduling the post-expansion CFP ($$):
First round: It will be the third weekend in December, ideally with three games on Saturday, but that will depend on whether the CFP is willing to go head-to-head with the NFL’s Saturday games. Mind you, those games have recently been on NFL Network, not CBS/FOX, so is it really that big a conflict? Still, I could see one on Thursday night (which itself is an NFL conflict), one on Friday night and two on Saturday.
Quarterfinals: The goal is a New Year’s Day triple-header and a primetime Jan. 2 game, but the Rose Bowl’s contract will complicate that in 2024 and 2025. Also, don’t laugh, but even the Citrus and Outback bowls’ contracts lock them into their early New Year’s windows, so the parties involved would have to reach some compromises. If not, you may have a dreaded Dec. 31 game.
Semifinals: There’s currently no good answer here. The two games will have to be squeezed around NFL wild-card weekend, which now runs from Saturday to Monday. You could either play prime-time games Thursday and Friday or one Friday night and the other Saturday at noon or 12:30 ET. (The first NFL game is at 4:30.) However, in the Week 0 scenario, these games could move up to Jan. 1 which seems infinitely more desirable.
Championship game: The third Monday in January, after the NFL divisional rounds. Good news for all the Monday night complainers: They’ve moved this year’s game up a half hour to 7:30 p.m. ET, and I assume that will continue.
Thursday night college football! It’s not just for MACtion anymore!
I’d like to say these fuckers deserve the consequences of their bad planning, but who am I kidding here? As long as Mickey keeps sending the checks, they’re not going to care how many fans they alienate.