Shades of 2015?

Would McElwain — be still, my heart — really think about pulling a Faton Bauta in reverse?

How would you handle the QB position?

McPherson: With Florida still needing three wins to secure a bowl game and still having an outside chance of making waves in the SEC East race, I would be doing whatever it takes to put the best team on the field. To me, that means giving Malik Zaire a chance to see what he can do while the Gators still have a chance in the East. Remove Feleipe Franks’ his two wow-factor plays — the game-winning touchdown pass to Tyrie Cleveland against Tennessee and the 79-yard run against Texas A&M — and his production has been minimal this season.

Young: I’m on record saying that Florida has to at least try Malik Zaire before it’s too late. This Georgia game is a chance to change the narrative of this season. Beyond that, this team could be battling just to get bowl eligible. Feleipe Franks has looked like the same limited QB every week without any signs of tangible progress. The Gators know what they’re getting with him and the last two games it wasn’t enough. If Zaire fails, fine, go back to Franks and go all in on trying to get him ready for 2018. But I don’t understand not even trying Zaire when Franks has shown through six games he can’t elevate this offense.

It certainly paid off last time.

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Today, in it just means more

When you’ve got time on your hands at a Gamecock tailgate

The double entendres ought to write themselves on this one.

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“Disruption is what we look for.”

Brian Fremeau’s FEI ratings, like most advanced stat analysis of team rankings, relies on preseason projection data during the first part of the year and slowly weans itself off that as the season progresses.  Week 7 marks the first week in which he doesn’t use any preseason data to rank teams, and this is part of what comes of that:

The nation’s No. 1 defense belongs to Georgia. The Bulldogs are giving up only 0.76 points per drive. When starting field position and opponent field goal success is removed, their defensive efficiency brings that number down to 0.91 points per drive. And when we consider the offenses Georgia has faced, with particularly strong efforts against Notre Dame’s No. 5-ranked offense and Mississippi State’s No. 24-ranked offense, their DFEI rating brings that adjusted per-possession scoring value down to 0.64 points per drive.

In English, Georgia’s defense is the best in the country at making opponents work to score in a given possession.

One way that Georgia makes that happen is through the secondary, which, as Ian Boyd points out, has done a phenomenal job limiting big plays.

Another factor though is the secondary, which has helped Georgia rank fourth in passing S&P+, eighth in defending passing downs, and first in IsoPPP, which measures a defense’s ability to avoid conceding big plays.

It’s all the more phenomenal when you consider the secondary is populated with three-star recruits and a walk-on.

2017-georgia-secondary-610x296

It works, because, in Boyd’s words,

You’ll notice that none of them was a bluechip recruit (per 247’s composite rankings) but they are all in their third year or more as college players. Experience and chemistry is everything in modern, pattern-matching coverage and the Bulldogs have that with this group.

And yet, Missouri happened.  Four passing touchdowns.  A less than stellar 189.61 defensive passer rating.

Which means it’s time for Kirby Smart to sound the alarm.

“We’re not disrupting the quarterback enough. I don’t look at just sacks. We look at batted balls. We look at pressures, hits, hurries. Moving him in the pocket and knocking balls down at DB. We had a couple of games where we made a lot of plays on the ball at DB but we didn’t affect the quarterback enough. We’re trying. We’re really working hard on that this week to generate some.”

The issue for Smart is that some of that results from the type of defense Georgia plays.

“We’re not an explosive pass rush team,” he said. “I don’t care what everyone wants us to be, that’s just not who we are. We’re strike blockers, play run and we try to convert the pass rush and we try to get the quarterback in passing situations and attack them. It’s hard sometimes in the style of defense that we play. Some games we are more apt to get pressure than others.”

It’s hard to argue with success.  Which is not to say opposing offenses haven’t adapted to Georgia’s scheme.

Defenses have increasingly gone away from man-on-man protections, Bellamy said.

“Like with Mizzou, it was a lot of max protections, keeping the tight end in, full sliding, bringing the back in,” he said. “Teams are definitely game-planning, which they should. We also have to find a better way to go after them.”

I’d say that reinforces what I posted previously about the great job Josh Heupel did last Saturday.  Bellamy, though, thinks the current issue is mindset.

Bellamy said playing fast and “not thinking so much,” should help the pass rush.

“’Zo and D’Andre are two of the fastest guys that you will see at the position,” he said. “All they have to do is get off the ball. They have all the tools. I kind of think for all of us just thinking is slowing us down more than before when we were just going.”

Maybe, but maybe that’s one reason why the defense has done so well with contain against the run all season.

I’m sure there’s stuff they’ll be working on during the bye week, but this may be a bigger factor for the rest of the regular season:

There aren’t too many strenuous tests remaining; of its final five opponents, only South Carolina is averaging more than 220 yards passing per game.

As Boyd concludes, we may not really know what they’ve got until ‘Bama or afterwards (assuming there is one, of course).

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Commit to the G

I can’t help but compare and contrast two minor recruiting tidbits, Kirby Smart taking a helicopter to drop in on Justin Fields’ game last night and this:

That’s not to make light of Smart’s efforts to upgrade the program this season, but let’s not try to pretend that, in terms of administrative support, Richt and Smart occupied a level playing field.

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Mid-2017 SEC: surprises, disappointments and the usual dominance

The AP polled its SEC writers to assess the season so far.  Georgia’s name comes up quite a bit and it’s all favorable.

Most Surprising Team: Georgia.

Even though the Bulldogs were the preseason favorite to win the East, few expected them to have four lopsided victories through four SEC games. Beating Mississippi State 31-3 raised eyebrows. Thumping Tennessee 41-0 on the road made it clear Georgia was no fluke. The last two wins — 41-14 at Vanderbilt and 53-28 against Missouri — simply reinforced outside beliefs that the Bulldogs can play with anyone — maybe even Alabama.

“When you see the scores and the point differential and what looks like really lights-out defensive play, that’s what champions are built of,” former Georgia coach and current Miami coach Mark Richt said.

On the flip side,

Most Disappointing Team: Tennessee.

No surprise here. The Volunteers have been the talk of college football much of the year, from the garbage can on the sideline to the team’s play on the field and to coach Butch Jones’ future. It could get worse, too. Tennessee travels to Alabama on Saturday.

Also receiving votes: Florida.

And that’s your first-half SEC East in a nutshell.

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Slow and steady wins the race.

One other way an offensive coordinator protects a young quarterback who’s shown his ability to manage the pre-snap read is you don’t rush him.  That’s one reason why Georgia is 122nd in offensive pace of play.

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Dawgs dig the long ball.

What do you get when you cross a precocious true freshman quarterback who’s accurate, an offensive line that’s third in the conference in sacks allowed and a running game so good it makes the play action an easy sell?  Well, this:

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