Category Archives: BCS/Playoffs

Sour grapes on steroids

OMFG:  “Steve Says: Lack of transparency on targeting call brings credibility of national title into question“.

I really don’t want to excerpt from the piece, because the whole thing needs to be taken in its entirety to be fully appreciated.  Suffice to say it makes some of Finebaum’s tin hat callers seem rational.

A classic of the genre, in other words.  Make sure you read to the finish.  The last three paragraphs are perfection.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Big Ten Football, Georgia Football

A face in the crowd

Did you go to the national championship game?  Here’s your chance to prove it.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs

Have a good time today.

I know the initial response to that is either to chuckle at the absurdity or rail at the folks running the stadium, but isn’t the real issue here that the idiots running the CFP chose a site that doesn’t allow tailgating?  Whether that was out of ignorance or greed, I can’t say, but either way, it’s not a good look to crap on the fans who make the sport a success.

Eh, who am I kidding?  That sign is literally the poster child for college football management in this day and age.

***********************************************************************

UPDATE:  I stand corrected.  Evidently the CFP made the call.  That actually makes my underlying point even stronger.

By the way, somebody ought to tell Gov. Kemp about that.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs

Your national championship game day post

To paraphrase Charlie Weis somewhat, Georgia doesn’t come into tonight’s game with a decided schematic advantage over TCU; it comes in with a decided talent advantage.  Josh Pate does a good job summing up what that means.

Georgia doesn’t have to play a perfect game tonight to win.  (Before you go there, that’s not the same thing as saying the Dawgs don’t have to play a good game.)  TCU pretty much does have to bring their A game to win.  I’m not saying that’s an impossibility — any given Saturday… er, Monday and all that — but that’s a tough reach in the most pressure packed game the Horned Frogs have played this season against the nation’s best team.

It’s hard to see a lot of common ground between Ohio State and TCU this season, but there’s one thing that gives me some pause for thought.  Both teams came into their games against Georgia with questions, Ohio State’s fragility after a second loss to Michigan and TCU’s Cinderella status.  If you’re the better team, you don’t want to give the other guys confidence by letting them hang with you early.  That’s exactly what happened in the Peach Bowl, and it came very close to costing Georgia the game.  TCU isn’t as talented as the Buckeyes, for sure, but here’s what giving them belief has meant this year:

TCU has played 7 games against ranked teams. All 7 were 4th-quarter games.

Five of the 7 were last-possession games.

The Frogs won’t be intimidated by the stage or the enormity of the moment. They’ve won on last-second touchdowns and field goals, and defending last-second throws into the end zone.

Well, they won’t if Georgia doesn’t let them have a lot of first half success, anyway.  Job One means not letting them race out to an early lead.

Job Two means not making painful mistakes, like throwing two pick sixes.  Remember, like Georgia against OSU, Michigan was in scramble mode for much of the game, and the Wolverines still wound up outgaining TCU in the course of scoring 45 points.  The problem was their offense giving the Horned Frogs 14 points in a game they only won by six.  (Georgia’s turnover only cost the Dawgs seven points in a game they won by one point.)

Job Three, I admit is pretty duh:  let Todd Monken be Todd Monken.

The upshot for opposing defenses is that there is no focal point and no sound strategy to account for the multitude of options Monken throws at them. How do you defend a scheme that can shift seamlessly from grinding between the tackles to running the Air Raid with the same core personnel? If there’s an answer other than “have better players,” no one has found it against this lineup yet. The Bulldogs have averaged north of 6.0 yards per play in every game this season except their 16-6 slugfest at Kentucky in which they came in at a mere 5.6 ypp while attempting a season-low 19 passes.

Kentucky dared the Dawgs to pound out a living on the ground and they did, rushing for 247 yards in a game whose outcome was never in doubt. Ohio State took the opposite approach, holding Georgia to a pedestrian 147 rushing yards (excluding sacks) on a season-low 24 carries, and finally succeeded in the process in putting the outcome of a high-scoring game on the much-doubted right arm of Stetson Bennett IV; Bennett responded with one of the crowning nights of his career, bombing the Buckeyes for 398 yards and 3 touchdowns passing on 11.7 per attempt.

Since I think we’re all in agreement that TCU doesn’t have better players, that leaves me wondering which poison they pick to defend Georgia’s offense.  As I mentioned last week, one of the key developments that came out of the Peach Bowl was the demise of the “Georgia can’t win a shootout with Stetson Bennett” narrative.  That doesn’t mean it’s a lock tonight, but much like establishing at least a semblance of a running game helps to keep a defense honest, the Horned Frogs can’t simply march in assuming Bennett can’t make them pay for putting the offense on his shoulders.  Especially now that we’ve seen what a healthy Mitchell and Smith can bring to the table.

Job Four is to defend Max Duggan differently than J.T. C.J. Stroud.  Stroud didn’t pose much of a running threat during the season, so Georgia’s approach against him was to get pressure forcing him out of the pocket.  That didn’t work so well much of the time because Stroud turned in a career game.  In any event, one thing you can’t say about Duggan is that he isn’t a running threat.  Duggan didn’t have a great passing game against Michigan, but made up for much of that on the ground.

Duggan’s mobility and all-purpose grit-itude carried over from the regular season in full. As a runner, he accounted for 63 yards, 2 touchdowns, 7 first downs and a 79% success rate, nearly offsetting his negative EPA through the air…

Georgia can’t have that, nor can it have Duggan burning them in scramble mode throwing the ball.  That ought to mean an opposite approach than the one taken in the Peach Bowl; the Dawgs’ front has to keep Duggan bottled up in the pocket.  Containment is a key and it’s something I’m a little nervous about, considering how far down into the roster barrel they had to scrape with defensive linemen and outside linebackers as the Peach Bowl wore on.

Job Five is pretty duh (mainly because it’s a standing priority under Kirby Smart), too, although there’s perhaps a wrinkle.  Georgia needs to be successful, as they have been all season, defending the ground game.  And, yes, TCU has one.

TCU isn’t a dominant rushing team, by any means, but at a shade over 200 yards per game it makes a perfectly decent living. The Frogs have been productive enough, consistently enough to remain viable on the ground every time out, and to keep Duggan out of desperate passing situations as a result. The more the playbook remains open, the more aggressive the offense can afford to be as the night wears on. Pulling off that dynamic against Michigan was a major achievement, especially after the resident workhorse, Miller, left the game with a knee injury in the first half. (Miller is questionable to play on Monday night, per his head coach — a potentially huge absence that seems only slightly less huge after Demercado went off for 150 yards on 8.8 per carry off the bench.) Sustaining it against Georgia, owner of the nation’s No. 1 run defense and No. 1 individual run stopper, herculean DT Jalen Carter, will be a final-boss-level test.

Double that if Miller can’t play or can’t play at the level he was at before last week.  The potential wrinkle I hint at is, does TCU take a page out of last week’s game plan from Ryan Day and just say, screw it, we’re throwing the ball until Georgia shows us they can stop us?  I don’t have the answer to that, but I don’t think it’s too unlikely a decision.

Job Six?  Tackle in the secondary to limit explosive plays.  Matt Hinton points out that Georgia’s defense actually did one thing pretty well in pass coverage against OSU.

The silver lining for the Dawgs was that, as scorched as they were at the end of the night, they didn’t give away anything for free: Ohio State never managed to get over the top of the coverage or slip a tackle en route to a breakaway gain in the open field. The Buckeyes’ longest play, a 37-yard touchdown strike from Stroud to reserve WR Xavier Johnson, exploited a mismatch in coverage (Johnson was matched against a linebacker, Jamon Dumas-Johnson, with predictable results) but still required a next-level throw from Stroud.

As a team, they averaged just 4.3 yards after catch, their lowest YAC effort of the season outside of a windy, waterlogged win at Northwestern.

Guess what TCU’s receivers do well?

TCU, as you might have guessed, thrives on YAC: Davis (9.4), Johnston (8.9) and Barber (7.7) all rank in the top 15 nationally in average yards after catch among Power 5 wideouts with at least 40 targets, per PFF. Give them a step and a sliver of daylight, and they might be gone.

Georgia can’t eliminate those windows of opportunity entirely, but it can make them tighter than any opposing defense the Frogs have faced to date, and slam them shut ASAP with sound open-field tackling. (And, ideally, by not asking an inside linebacker to run vertically with a slot receiver.) If putting points on the board comes down to Duggan’s ability to string together sustained scoring drives, that’s a bet the Bulldogs can live with.

Agreed.  I have a hard time imagining Duggan can throw the ball at as high a level as Stroud did last week, so if Georgia’s defense can make TCU work its way down the field instead of burning them with a bunch of explosive plays (and by now I’m sure you’ve heard that TCU has 3 receivers averaging at least 13.5 yards per catch, and the Horned Frogs lead the nation in plays of 50 yards or more and are 2nd in plays of 40 yards or more), that’s an unequivocally positive thing.

Whew.

Listen, TCU is a good team.  You don’t play in a national championship game without having a certain quality.  And while they’re not the more talented team tonight, the question is whether they’re the better one.  If Georgia does good work, they won’t be.  I think the Dawgs do good work and cover.

A few more random thoughts:

  • It sure would be nice if Darnell Washington played.
  • Maybe we should keep an eye on TCU’s Darius Davis:  “Davis is one of the nation’s most dangerous return men, with 5 career touchdowns on punt returns… The flip side of Davis’ explosiveness in the return game is his marginal ball security: PFF has him down for 5 career muffs.”
  • Comfort factor #1:  Michigan chased TCU and came up short; Georgia chased OSU and won.
  • Comfort factor #2:  Based on #1, this team has heard no end of taking TCU lightly from its head coach.
  • Is it harder to repeat as national champs, or to come out of nowhere to win a national title for the first time?

Have at it in the comments.

199 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Big 12 Football, Georgia Football

“It’s time to start taking us very serious. We’re not a joke.”

Tell us you haven’t followed college football media without saying you haven’t followed college football media:

“The media wants the bluebloods to win,” Hodges said following the Michigan game. “They want the bluebloods to play each other. The schools are bigger — bigger fan bases. That’s what they want. For us, [it’s] to put ourselves on the map, earn some money and put some respect on your family name.”

Dude, the media has been pushing for the expansion of the college football playoff from the moment of its creation, expressly in the hope that it would give the world more games like the one you’re about to play in!  Now, if you want to refine your argument to say that Mickey and Fox would prefer a bluebloods title game because it’s good for ratings, well, numbers don’t lie.  But you’ve got plenty of folks in the media that are flat out thrilled you’re there.

By the way, if you’re calling Georgia a blueblood, I can think of a few snotty fanbases that would love to argue that point with you.  But thanks.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Big 12 Football

Mindset

How much should we read into this?

I’m thinking not much.  With regard to TCU, one man’s “just happy to be here” is another’s “playing with house money”.

30 Comments

Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Big 12 Football, Georgia Football

Offense sells tickets.

If a four-team CFP has Kirby Smart feeling like this

“I don’t know how to pinpoint it,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said this week. “Traditionally, the teams that are in these games are pretty good offensively, but you would like to say they are also pretty good defensively. The studies and numbers indicate as the season goes on, and especially in these semifinal and final games, the scoring has to be going up.

“What that is I can’t pinpoint. I don’t know that you can say it’s just being tired, because you could say that would be relative to the offenses as well. I certainly think that it’s harder to play quality defense anymore, because I know we try really hard here, and I know they do at TCU as well.”

“It does seem that tackling gets worse as the season goes on and that there is more scoring, but I don’t know why that is,” Smart said. “I’ve been a part of some unique national championships, like the rematch with Alabama and LSU that was lower-scoring, but I’ve also been a part of a lot of shootouts.”

… just imagine how he’ll feel come 12-team CFP time.

Sadly, my guess is that most folks will see that as a feature, not a bug, of playoff expansion.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Strategery And Mechanics

Some random, early thoughts on the national championship game

Just an assortment of things that popped into my head…

  • Is TCU’s A game as good as Ohio State’s?  The Buckeyes, to their credit, left nothing on the table (except maybe for Day’s playcalling on the last series of the game) and came up short, even though I would argue the Dawgs didn’t bring their A game.
  • Plenty of talk about how Michigan wasn’t prepared to see what TCU brought on offense and defense.  That won’t be the case for Georgia, as Mississippi State runs the Air Raid and the 3-3-5.
  • Max Duggan scares the crap out of me, not because Georgia’s defense had a hard time with Stroud running the ball (nor is he in Stroud’s class as a passer, for that matter), but because he’s proven more than once this season that he’s got the ability to pull his team’s nuts out of the fire.
  • That being said, as Ari Wasserman ($$) puts it, “I would be remiss, though, if I didn’t mention TCU’s journey to the national title game was aided by not having to play a single game this year against a roster like Georgia’s.”
  • I’m sure we’re going to hear a lot about physicality this week.  TCU definitely brought it, somewhat to Michigan’s surprise.  I expect that’s something Smart will be preaching constantly to his troops over the next few days.
  • No, Quentin Johnson doesn’t have Marvin Harrison Jr.’s stats, but he’s definitely no slouch.  Monday would be a good time for Georgia’s secondary to quit leaking like a sieve.
  • Kirby’s definitely right about one thing — both Georgia and TCU have made a living out of being resilient this season.  Game recognizes game.  Putting TCU out before the fourth quarter would be a good thing.
  • I still have to believe that talent combined with experience counts, and counts more than every Cinderella take we’re about to hear over the next week.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Big 12 Football, Georgia Football

“How does it get better than this?”

A steady grumbling about blowout semi-final games has been one of the more prominent rationales for playoff expansion.  So, now that we get an epic pair, anyone feeling remorse?

Surely you jest.

The four-team playoff will give way to a four-round, 12-team format in 2024. I’ve applauded the change, and as good as Saturday’s semifinals were, I still welcome the evolution.

I relish the 12-team format’s annual opportunity for a Group of Five qualifier to upset a big fish in a playoff game.

And sign me up for first-round playoff games on campus sites. Remember when Tennessee fans tore down the goal posts and baptized them in the Tennessee River after an October upset of Alabama? Now imagine if the Vols won a playoff game at Neyland Stadium. Big Orange fans might march the goal posts all the way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Bryce Young treated us to one final magic act in Alabama’s Sugar Bowl triumph, but can’t you envision Young jousting with Caleb Williams in a playoff matchup featuring the past two Heisman Trophy winners? Alabama and Southern Cal would have been a first-round playoff matchup in a 12-team playoff.

So, yes, bring on the expanded playoff, and don’t let Saturday cloud its benefits.

These semifinal games were like a day of amicable laughter between partners near the end of a relationship that has run its course. And you wonder, maybe this could work? But no, as good as this day was, something better awaits.

Yeah, like this year’s Clemson team clinching a top-four spot and a first-week bye for winning the ACC.  Now that’s progress!

Oh, he tries to pretend…

And yet, if we had more semifinal doubleheaders like Saturday, I wonder if we ever would have thought we needed this evolution. The playoff always was bound for expansion, because more playoff games means more revenue, and college sports are a business. But we probably would not have gotten here so quickly in a sport in which change often comes at glacial speed.

If we had more of Stroud and Bennett trading blows like the Heisman Trophy finalists they were, would we have felt a need to add seats at the playoff table for Tulane, Kansas State and Utah?

Sure you would, bucko.  It’s better, remember?

The great thing about being a proponent of CFP expansion is that if the first round of additions doesn’t get you the answer you seek, there’s always another chance to add on.

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“Profile of a winning playoff team”

This is a really good overview from Ian Boyd.

College football conferences are pretty regional and the winners of different conferences tend to win by marshaling resources to build teams who stand out over their regional peers with their athletes at the space force positions (left tackle, deep threat receiver, island cornerback, Edge rusher) and perhaps more consistently their superior size and cohesion in the trenches.

In the trenches in particular, the blue blood programs of college football tend to be able to stand out. It takes some serious scratch to field a team with NFL-caliber athletes across the offensive and defensive lines. Big kids who are athletic AND 250+ pounds are rare and thus a precious commodity. To assemble the numbers of them needed to truly dominate the trenches is very difficult and smaller programs rarely even try.

Blue blood strategy tends to revolve around maximizing that advantage. IE, power run game or D-line driven defensive strategy. Georgia is a great example of this, they play a style of defense designed to defer stress to their front while keeping their secondary back and their offense is built around double-tight end sets and inside zone runs…

And herein lies the rub:

So what happens when the heavyweights meet in the playoffs? After a month of preparation and scouting for each other? It’s harder to win with what brought you there.

This is exactly what I wonder about with Ohio State.

Ian sees two paths to a natty.

A great, pro-style passing game can win the championship. Otherwise, you have to be better at a more traditional formula than everyone else, which generally means mastering the traditional triumvirate of…

Defense

Power run game

Deep threat passing

Sure would be nice to have a functional AD Mitchell in a couple of Saturdays.

Anyway, read the whole thing.

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Filed under BCS/Playoffs, Strategery And Mechanics