As indicated earlier, Dan Lanning’s job looks fairly simple to me: take away the deep threat in the passing game and limit Jefferson’s ability to do damage with his feet. There may be some tweaking to the scheme (particularly, as I mentioned, in playing more zone), but to me it seems like defensive success for Georgia will be more about execution than anything. Yes, I’m probably guilty of oversimplifying here, but if the Dawgs maintain contain and force Jefferson to beat them with an intermediate passing game, I’m not seeing a lot of Hog points showing up on the scoreboard.
The question I’ve got is what happens on the other side of the line of scrimmage. Does Odom dance with what brung him so far — and, let’s be fair, that’s been very good, as Arky is second in the conference in defensive ypp against P5 opponents — or does he throw a change up at Todd Monken?
The reason I ask is because of the Clemson game. Yeah, I know the tendency to explain Georgia’s anemic offense in the opener is to chalk it up to injuries and the need to throw inexperienced players into the mix, but I don’t forget that Venables completely changed his MO for that game and had Monken… well, I hesitate to say confused, rather more like non-aggressive. In any event, the 4.20 ypp Georgia averaged against Clemson is the lowest in Monken’s time in Athens.
Second lowest (4.36) came against Arkansas in last season’s opener. In fourteen games, those are the only two in which Georgia’s offense was held below five yards per play. I’ve got to think that Venables saw something in last year’s Arkansas game that helped convince him to take a similar approach.
My gut, then, tells me there’s definite value to dropping lots of defenders back in coverage in order to force Georgia to work its way down the field. My head, though, says there is one difference for Saturday, and that is Monken has better weapons to deploy than he did in the two other games. Most notably, the quarterback situation is vastly different from what it was when Mathis started against Arky, but the overall health of the offense is improved from the Clemson game, particularly when it comes to the receiving corps.
If Odom wants to stick with what’s worked so far, he’s facing a quarterback in Daniels who won’t be confused by zone looks and is also savvy enough to take advantage of a busted coverage or two (if you go back and look at the Texas A&M game, those were there, but Calzada couldn’t close the deal when it was offered). He’s also going to have his hands full with Georgia’s tight ends, assuming Washington is back and able to contribute.
So, does he stick with his 3-2-6 scheme, swap it out wholeheartedly for something else, or mix and match? He’s certainly been around the block enough to have more than one card up his sleeve, but going away from your strength is often a dicey proposition. Then again, if Monken’s prepared a game plan for that and you show up looking different, maybe that throws a wrench into Georgia’s offense.
That being said, if you’re Arkansas going into this game, you have to be thinking Georgia’s not going to let you score more than in the upper teens at best. They only managed 20 against TAMU, the best defense they’ve seen so far, at a neutral site. If that’s where the Hogs’ offense is going to land, they’ve got to do what they can to limit Georgia’s explosive plays.
Maybe this comes down to whether either team can get off to a quick start and put the other in a hole. Both are capable of that. We saw Georgia obliterate Vanderbilt in less than a quarter last week, while Arkansas took a 17-0 lead over the Aggies that it never relinquished and that allowed Odom to run his defense the way he wanted.
In other words, I don’t know how this will play out. But I’ll be watching to see who gets the better of this chess game.
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