Category Archives: Strategery And Mechanics


If you have the stomach to watch it, this is an excellent breakdown of the winning score last night.

Strangely enough, it was the second straight game where the winning play came right at where I was sitting.  It wasn’t Parrish getting beat that gave me a sinking feeling as I watched the play develop; it was the realization that Sanders was out of position and wasn’t going to get there in time.  Evidently the true freshman quarterback saw that, too.

That was the one responsible for Alabama’s left sideline, where Smith scored: No. 24, Dominick Sanders. Tagovailoa explained what he saw.

“They had split safeties,” he told ESPN’s Maria Taylor on the field afterward. “The safety on DeVonta’s side, on the single-receiver side, he tried to disguise his coverage. I tried to look him off. He stayed in the middle. Then I went back outside. It was cover-2 on [the trips’] side, but he stayed inside. I took a shot downfield, and he caught it.”

The disguise Tagovailoa referenced was probably the couple of immediate steps Sanders took toward the front pylon of the end zone, where Smith was ultimately heading. Sanders’ final decision was to cover the middle of the field, where Alabama had a couple of receivers running more horizontal routes.

Smith ran in a straight line. Sanders, the safety, didn’t immediately go to him. Whether that’s because Tagovailoa looked him off, or for some other reason, isn’t clear.




Filed under Alabama, Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

A little something unexpected

Matt Hinton, in his national title game preview, alerted me to something I somehow missed.  He linked to this piece that laid out Pro Football Focus’ grades of Georgia’s Rose Bowl player performances.  The stunning part?  This:

1. RG Ben Cleveland: 83.9 (64 snaps, No. 1 among OG in CFB Playoff)

2. LT Isaiah Wynn: 83.5 (64 snaps, No. 1 among OT in CFB Playoff)

6. C Lamont Gaillard: 79.7 (64 snaps, No. 1 among C in CFB Playoff)

7. RT Andrew Thomas: 78.4 (64 snaps, No. 2 among OT in CFB Playoff)

[Emphasis added.]

Basically, Pittman’s group turned in the best offensive line performance of the semi-finals.  That’s remarkable.

Let’s just hope they’ve got a lather, rinse, repeat in them for tonight.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

“So how do they pull this off?”

That’s Ian Boyd’s question for Georgia’s defense tonight.  His answer is to man up.

Georgia’s solution for Oklahoma’s tricky and balanced offense was eventually to play man coverage, so that its linebackers could stay in the box and match up on the Sooner RBs or TE with help inside and over the top.

The benefit of man coverage is even greater when one of your linebackers is Roquan Smith, who’s freed to key the backs and run to the ball.

The Dawgs can play it in their base 3-4 defense if they like and have Lorenzo Carter (S linebacker) as an extra man in zone, spying Hurts, picking up the RB in coverage, or blitzing the edge (carefully). Or they can play nickel and use their safeties to aggressively rob or spy in the middle of the field. Either way, All-American Smith will be running sideline to sideline with minimal distractions.

The added benefit of playing man coverage is that it simplifies coverage against the perimeter screens and tosses that comprise a large chunk of Alabama’s passing game…

Man coverage makes everything into a contest of matchups and execution in the passing game while giving the defense a plus-one advantage against the run. If Alabama can’t punish Georgia’s veteran secondary with man-beating coverage combos, this would put the Tide in a major hole trying to work the ball down the field.

Clemson tended to play more zone, which worked fine, but Georgia might be able to challenge the Tide to win by dropping Hurts back or banging their heads against a wall up front. Georgia has a veteran secondary and a strong pass rush and one of the stouter fronts in the country, which has already proved itself against some of the best rushing attacks in the nation.

If Georgia is going to beat the Tide, it’s going to do so by challenging them straight up and “out-Alabama’ing” them. That’s been an ill-advised method for the entirety of Nick Saban’s tenure in Tuscaloosa, but this might finally be the year.

Or, to put it in a more familiar vernacular, get after their asses.  If they can figure out a way to make Hurts beat them throwing the ball, this game gets very interesting.


Filed under Georgia Football, Nick Saban Rules, Strategery And Mechanics

Sco’ and sco’ some mo’

If, like me, you’re not quite ready to let go of that Rose Bowl buzz, enjoy Matt Wyatt’s breakdown of every touchdown scored in that game.  For obvious reasons, it’s about nine minutes long.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

From Baker Mayfield…

… to Jalen Hurts.

I am no strategic genius, but I’m not missing what Job One for Mel Tucker is Monday night, am I?  It’s got to be to make Hurts beat you throwing the ball… or, more accurately, make Hurts beat you throwing the ball while bracketing Calvin Ridley in coverage.  Right?  Right?


Filed under Alabama, Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

Chicks dig the long ball, Jake.

One thing I noticed reviewing Fromm’s passing stats from the Rose Bowl is that despite going 20-29 with no interceptions, he wound up posting a passer rating below his season’s average.  The primary reason for that is a low (for him) 7.2 yards per attempt number.  As the three games he had with lower ratings all involved much lower completion percentages than the 69% he hit in the Rose Bowl, all I can conclude was that he really stuck to a short and mid-range passing game.

This CFB Film Room tweet bears that out.

That is an excellent question… although I might expand it to ask whether they’ll trust the offensive line to give him the time to air it out against ‘Bama.


Filed under Georgia Football, Strategery And Mechanics

“There are a lot of guys who love stats. And I loved stats! But I liked winning more.”

So I’m reading this New York Times article about what Saban wants out of his quarterbacks…

The Saban philosophy of quarterbacking can be summarized as: Don’t screw up. For Saban, who was an N.F.L. defensive coordinator under Patriots Coach Bill Belichick and coached the Miami Dolphins for two seasons, the quarterback’s main goals are to get the ball to talented backs and receivers, avoid big errors and let his typically top-ranked defenses do the rest.

“Jalen has always been a guy that, because of his athleticism and his ability to run the ball, has made a lot of plays with his feet,” Saban said. “But I also think that we’ve been able to help him develop as a quarterback in terms of his decision-making in the pocket.”

That emphasis is not new for Saban. The starting quarterback on the first of his five national championship teams (including one with Louisiana State) has, in his football afterlife, taken on the profession that perhaps best suits the prototypical Saban quarterback: dentist.

As the head signal-caller on the 2003 L.S.U. team, Matt Mauck averaged just 16 completions and barely 200 yards per game. He was called on not to be a superhero, but to be efficient.

“If it’s 3rd-and-5,” said Mauck who now works as a dentist near Denver, “just focus on getting 6 yards.”

In a Saban offense, the quarterback is never the team’s most talented player. (This year, that distinction likely belongs either to running back Bo Scarbrough or wide receiver Calvin Ridley.) For the quarterbacks who played alongside the Heisman Trophy winners Mark Ingram and Derrick Henry, the best play was frequently a dump-off.

“So many guys want to drive it down the field, make a tight window,” McElroy said, “but if you have the running back 3 yards away from you, that’s the best ball-carrier on the field.”

Saban could not — as has been remarked of offensive gurus like the former San Francisco 49ers coach Bill Walsh — take any guy off the street, anoint him quarterback and win the national title.

“It doesn’t bother me — well, it does a little bit — when people say anyone can play quarterback at Alabama,” McElroy said. “But it’s not true.”

That is because Saban asks his quarterbacks to do different things than most college coaches request, but not necessarily fewer things. The derogatory “game manager” appellation is unfair to them. Mauck was one of the game’s most efficient quarterbacks; McCarron and Coker had among the highest completion percentages.

“The first thing we talk about in any game we play is, ‘The ball, the ball, the ball,’” Saban said earlier this season.

… and I’m thinking “hmm, this sure sounds familiar to a Georgia fan”, when I get down to this:

If there is any team whose quarterback represents the old Saban paradigm, it is probably Georgia. Coached by the former Alabama defensive coordinator Kirby Smart, Georgia relies on a stifling defense and a run-first offense whose quarterback, the freshman Jake Fromm, stands out for his extreme calm, his 63.7 percent completion rate and his 23-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

In fact, Alabama had eagerly recruited Fromm.

“We thought he was a fantastic player,” Saban said recently, adding the highest praise one can imagine Saban giving a quarterback. “Always puts his team in the best play that they can be in.”

Is it Monday night yet?


Filed under Georgia Football, Nick Saban Rules, Strategery And Mechanics