Some kind of omen here?
Some kind of omen here?
If you aren’t that on top of Notre Dame’s roster, at least outside of Ian Book, here are a few things I’ve dug up for your attention.
First, from PFF:
Georgia LT Andrew Thomas vs. Notre Dame’s Khalid Kareem and Julian Okwara
When Notre Dame heads down to Georgia, it will be the largest collection of draftable talent facing off in any game we’ve seen yet this season. The marquee matchup will be right along the line of scrimmage. Both Andrew Thomas and Julian Okwara look very likely to be first-round selections come next April, checking in at 10th and 17th on the PFF draft board, respectively. Kareem is more of a Day 2 guy, but that’s still a great litmus test for both him and Thomas. Okwara is one of the best players in the nation at converting speed-to-power with a prodigious combo of length and burst. Kareem is more of pure power player and even played defensive tackle early in his Notre Dame career. Thomas is currently the highest-graded tackle in the country and won’t face a better edge duo all season, and the Notre Dame duo won’t face a better tackle. This is tape scouts will be coming back to frequently next spring.
Notre Dame’s defensive front may be a little soft in the middle, but it’s got real talent on the outside. I’m not so much concerned about how Thomas handles whoever is lined up on his side as I am at the other tackle and, perhaps more significantly, how the interior of Georgia’s line — I’m looking at you, Trey Hill — handles the inevitable stunts and twists I expect the Irish to utilize to try to get at Fromm.
Here’s another key matchup.
Notre Dame WR Chase Claypool vs. Georgia Secondary
The Georgia secondary is loaded with draftable talent. The safeties J.R. Reed and Richard LeCounte are the headliners after grading out exceptionally in 2018, but redshirt sophomore cornerback Eric Stokes could make his way up boards here soon as well. They’ll face a man who looks like an NFL wideout at 6-4, 230 pounds with good speed but has yet to produce like one until this season. Claypool was a basketball standout in high school yet that hasn’t translated as well in contested situations as we may have liked going 6-for-14 on those last season. The key here will be the play of both Claypool and Stokes at the line of scrimmage. Bigger receivers often lack the flexibility and quick to deal with good press corners, and Stokes has played the eighth-most snaps in press of any corner in the nation (64).
Well, remember that Georgia tends not to flip its cornerbacks to follow particular receivers, so it’s unlikely that Claypool finds himself matched up against Stokes all day. In fact, I would expect Notre Dame to do what it can to exploit Claypool’s talent and size against the corner on the other side, who will either be a Tyson Campbell who is nursing an ankle injury, or Daniel and/or Stevenson. In any event, you have to think Smart and Lanning are going to have to provide some safety help if Claypool proves to be too much for one DB to handle.
Jake Rowe has some more player details here. I will say that I have a lot of respect for Ian Book’s game; he’s one of those scrappy running quarterbacks who seem to give Georgia defenses plenty of problems over the years. Containment is going to be a huge deal for the defense tomorrow night. I hope I’m not pulling out my hair watching that breakdown constantly.
Book’s completion percentage hasn’t been as great as I expect Brian Kelly would like it to be, but he hasn’t thrown an interception in Notre Dame’s two games and he absolutely ripped New Mexico’s pass defense apart. He’s also averaging better than 5.5 yards per rush and has two running TDs to his credit. A real threat, in other words.
If you want more, Rowe also has a unit group comparison posted here.
One of the unalloyed joys of this week is reliving the pleasure of my trip to South Bend in 2017. I’ve come across several articles that have made it clear what an impact our fan base had on the players in that game.
The 2017 game in South Bend, Indiana, was a launching point of sorts for both schools. Smart was in his second season. Georgia squeezed out a 20-19 win that was significant because SEC schools seldom challenge themselves with such true road nonconference games outside the Deep South.
“I most definitely remember the fans,” Georgia defensive back J.R. Reed said. “Being in that stadium and seeing that sea of red made me think it was a home game. I knew the Georgia fan base was for real.”
There were an estimated 30,000 Dawgs at Notre Dame Stadium that night.
Georgia players didn’t know what to expect before they arrived. What would the environment be like? The fans? Bellamy remembers a “fear of the unknown” because they’d never played Notre Dame and only heard about the school in a mystical sense and from watching old games on ESPN Classic.
But by this point in their careers, Bellamy and his fellow seniors had played in some intimidating places. Tennessee twice, Florida twice. Then they ran out of the Notre Dame Stadium tunnel and saw…Bulldogs fans. It put the team at ease.
“It was like a home game,” Bellamy says.
“We were pissed off,” McGlinchey says.
We really were awesome, weren’t we?
There will be far less than 30,000 visitors in the stands tomorrow night, but I do hope we show some legit Southern hospitality to those Irish fans who do brave the trip. I know I’m repeating myself here, but I was so impressed with how gracious everyone was in South Bend, before and after the game, despite their obvious disappointment that so many of their ticket holders sold their seats to invaders wearing red and black.
These aren’t Tech fans, so reciprocate if you get the chance, Georgia folks. It’s how your mommas raised you. (Or should have, anyway.)
You know what’s coming next, right?
Notre Dame is fourth nationally in red zone touchdown percentage, converting seven of eight opportunities.
Holy crap. This isn’t just bad; it’s spectacularly bad.
That’s so horrendous it may have bludgeoned regression to the mean to death.
UPDATE: On the other hand…
Jack Bauerle is the longest-tenured coach at the University of Georgia, his memory of great football moments in Athens stretching to 1970 when he enrolled as a varsity swimmer. He’s as good a person as any to ask how big of a deal it is that Notre Dame is coming to Georgia for the first time.
“Very seldom have I seen a buzz like this for any game,” said Bauerle, who has coached Georgia to seven team NCAA championships in women’s swimming. “Maybe 1976 was something like this when Alabama came in and they were undefeated and the town didn’t sleep on Friday or Saturday night. That sort of reminds me of what’s going on here.”
Or you can ask Loran Smith, the semi-official historian of Georgia athletics who was the longtime sideline reporter for football broadcasts and still serves in a variety of roles around the athletic department. He’ll take you back further, to 1929 when powerhouse Yale made a rare trip out of the Northeast to play the first game in newly-built Sanford Stadium. Or maybe to 1942 against No. 2-ranked Georgia Tech in the game that launched Georgia to its first Rose Bowl.
“It’s just something people feel like is uniquely special – Notre Dame coming to ‘The Hedges,’ ” Smith said. “Athens is always wrapped up in college football, but you’ve got Thursday’s edge on Monday this week.”
What makes a particular game between the hedges a big game? I can’t say it’s necessarily the stakes. This Saturday, if Georgia loses — perish the thought, I know — it hardly strikes a death knell on Georgia’s season, ultimately, as the Dawgs could go on to run the rest of the regular season table and find themselves back in the CFP as the SEC champ. Notre Dame’s path after a loss may be a little rockier, but don’t forget the Irish did a good job of clawing back into the national title picture in 2017 after losing to Georgia at home.
Nah, what makes a big game a big game is us. Our excitement. Our expectations.
Something we discussed briefly in that Chapel Bell Curve podcast I mentioned was where this week’s game fits in the pantheon of big games we’ve seen at Sanford Stadium. A few I could think of when the anticipation seemed enormous:
(Georgia’s record in those games: 5-4. But I digress.)
Just curious what you think of that list and where you think this week’s game measures up.
One editorial comment I’ll make is that I know Notre Dame plays in a lot of hyped-up regular season games, but if Saturday night’s crowd brings the same level of energy that fourth quarter crowd in the LSU game brought, the Irish won’t know what hit ’em.
The guys at Chapel Bell Curve were gracious enough to invite me on to a podcast last night. One of the things we discussed was the context of where the Notre Dame game fits in the history of big games between the hedges, at least the ones we’ve had the pleasure of experiencing directly.
For me, one of the striking things about Saturday night’s match is that when I think of big games in Athens, I usually view them in advance as being perched on a knife’s edge — sometimes the Dawgs are favored, sometimes they come in as a bit of an underdog, but either way, I’m always nervous about the outcome — and for some reason, I don’t find myself feeling that way this week. I’m pretty calm about Georgia’s ability to prevail against Notre Dame.
Okay, for one specific reason, which I hit on yesterday: Georgia’s run game versus Notre Dame’s run defense. I don’t see Notre Dame’s path to victory if the Irish can’t restrict the Dawgs’ ground game and there’s nothing either team has done so far in 2019 to suggest they can.
DawgStats breaks some of that down here.
Notre Dame has played two games. New Mexico and Louisville. Opposing offenses have rushed the ball 93 times with a YPA of 4.9 and surrendered 4 rushing TDs. (Dawgs have yet to allow a rushing touchdown)
The Fighting Irish have, get this, allowed 331 yards AFTER CONTACT. This is a YAC/Att of 3.5. I mean, have you seen our RBs truck folks? Teams got 28 1stDowns on those 93 attempts.
If I filter for 11 personnel (1 RB, 1 TE, and 3 WR), UGA’s base, ND Defense YPA goes to 5.7 and all 5 broken tackles surrendered.
If I filter with score differential of +/-7, ND is allowing 5.9 YPA, YAC/Att 4.3, and giving up 1stdowns on 33% of rushes.
Even if, for the sake of argument, you start with the position that in every other phase of the game the teams are relatively even, the disparity in the run game of each seems too big a hurdle for Notre Dame to overcome, barring my usual caveat regarding turnovers.
Throw on top of that my perception that Gary Danielson is correct in assessing that Georgia’s overall talent is deeper than Notre Dame’s and that’s how I find myself imbued with a weird lack of anxiety this week. Hell, I almost feel sheepish about it. What about you?
Judging by this, I don’t think you need to worry about Gary Danielson dogging Georgia on Saturday night’s broadcast.
CBS Sports lead college football analyst Gary Danielson, who will be on the telecast of the Notre Dame-Georgia game, previews Saturday’s matchup, shares his perspective of Georgia and Notre Dame on the national landscape, dissects Georgia’s strengths and weaknesses, breaks down what makes Jake Fromm great and more (1:33).
Honestly, do any of y’all feel this?
No. 3 Georgia and No. 7 Notre Dame are both steeped in rich tradition, but they don’t have much real history together, not as far as actual on-field meetings go. Yet their matchup Saturday feels like one filled with the bad blood, pettiness and season-changing implications that go hand-in-hand with rivalry games.
The “bad blood” evidently is supposed to extend from last year’s CFP, which the Irish made and Dawgs didn’t. Not sure who’s feeling that now, especially after Georgia laid an egg in the Sugar Bowl.
This just seems like the kind of trumped up stuff Mickey loves to invent, because it’s not enough to have a first-time meeting in Athens between two great programs that both come in ranked in the top ten. I’ve got the feeling I’ll be really glad I can’t watch College GameDay Saturday.
If you look at SP+, you’ll see that there’s one area of clear separation between Georgia and Notre Dame. (I know sample size is relatively small, but it’s all we’ve got to work with.)
The Irish have been solid on offense and special teams, but there’s a noticeable gap on defense. And that, in turn, brings us to a place where the early numbers suggest Georgia has a sizeable advantage Saturday night: Georgia’s run game versus Notre Dame’s run defense.
The story of the latter isn’t pretty. This week, at 4.96, ND sits an almost unbelievable 107th in defensive yards per rush. (For comparison’s sake, Georgia’s 2.14 ranks tenth.) That’s barely better than Arkansas State, for point of reference. That defense is tasked with stopping a rushing attack that currently ranks fifth nationally, at 7.61 yards per carry. (Again, comparing the teams, Notre Dame averages 4.84 ypc, good for 49th.)
On paper, that’s a tall order. To start with, those stats were compiled against Louisville and New Mexico, neither of which are going to be confused with offensive powerhouses. Beyond that, the situational stats aren’t good. It’s not the result of ND having relaxed in the second half after building big leads, either. In fact, that defense yielded at a rate of 6.91 ypc in the first half and 3.57 in the second half. It’s also gotten creamed on third down (9.24 ypc!), regardless of distance.
I don’t want to sound too confident here, but if that defense can’t stop Georgia’s rushing attack or at least slow it down considerably, barring some craziness on the turnover front, I don’t see a path to victory for Notre Dame. It’s the number one point on any defensive coordinator’s list for beating Georgia. Allowing that running game to function successfully essentially drives everything a Smart-coached team wants to do in terms of clock management, not taking big risks in the passing game and keeping Georgia’s defense fresh.