Monday, September 30, 2013

Two Keys: Week 6 Edition

This week the Dawgs will travel to Neyland Stadium to face the struggling Volunteers after an emotional win against a tough LSU team. One thing is for certain, I will be cheering for Bama because I don't want to see LSU again! So what must the Dawgs do this week to avoid a major letdown against the Vols? Well, if you read my last post discussing the occasional poor play by UGA against the Vols in Knoxville, I will try to uncover why. Here is the breakdown of UGA vs UT for the past 6 games separated by WINS and LOSSES.
RESULT UGA Pass Yds UGA Rush Yds UT Pass Yds UT Rush Yds Turnovers Takeaways Possession Time
Wins 270 176 260 47 1.25 1.75 34:25
Losses 163 79 265 176 2 0.5 25:00

You can see that the major difference is yet again RUSHING! In the past 4 wins, the Dawgs have averaged 176 yards rushing versus Tennessee's 47. All of these wins came with >100 yards in each game. When you look at the losses, this trend is reversed with Tennessee having gained an average of 176 yards versus the Dawgs' 79 yards. The only 3 times UT has broken 100 yards were the two losses and last year's close game. This is also reflected in the time of possession with UGA average almost 10 more minutes in the wins. The other stat that stands out is also not a shocker. The 4:1 Turnover to Takeaway margin in the losses! So my keys to the game are again pretty simple: 1. Run the damn ball! UGA really shouldn't have much trouble running the ball against Tennessee. I suspect the Vols will try to take the run away from us, but we can't abandon it. As long as they know we will try to run it, we can score almost at will through the air. Having said that, we also have to take away Raijon Neal. I think our defense has actually played pretty well against the run the past few games. I think we can sell out on the run and as long as we are getting pressure to the QB. I don't think he is good enough to place accurate passes with a blitz in his face. 2. Hold onto the damn ball! Again, I think a major force in UGA losing games the past few years has been mistakes. UT isn't good enough to beat UGA without help. That help will come in the form of easy points from turnovers and special teams mistakes. I think UGA should have no trouble pulling this one out. If they can hold onto the ball and impose their strength on UT, they should cruise. I can see them being a little hungover from their first few games, but I don't think Murray is going to let his team sleep on this one. Hopefully they end this one by halftime...I have had enough nail-biters for now!

Looking Forward: Tennessee

I hate Tennessee. I have never cheered against an SEC team in the BCS (including Auburn!) with the lone exception of the stupid Volunteers. I refused to watch the Book of Manning and I even passed on Peyton in my Fantasy Football league. Yes, my hatred runs so deep that I would risk losing just to stand my ground against Tennessee.

Now that we have established the ground rules, what can you say about an 11 point home underdog that has been abysmal all season? Well, most Dawg fans are no stranger to the Vols knocking us out of the National Championship. After all, you can't play for the National Championship if you don't play for the conference championship (ahem....Alabama).

So could that fate await us this year? Well, it is hard to get excited for this game after all the Dawgs have already been through. I found myself thinking "of course it is possible, but is it really?" Well, I thought maybe we should look back and see just how well UGA plays against the Vols. I can certainly remember my fair share of games we just shouldn't have lost, but what is the real data?

In the past 6 games, UGA has a combined 4-2 record against the Vols. If we break that down, we see that they have gone a perfect 3-0 at home having outscored the Vols by a combined 118-72. If you look at their performance in Neyland Stadium, it is a little more haunting. On the road, the Dawgs have gone a mere 1-2 and have been outscored by a combined 92-53! If you did the math, you realize that is a meager average of 17 points per game!

It is also important to note that during that 1-2 record on the road, Tennessee has been a home underdog in each game. In fact, in all of the last 6 games, UGA has only covered the spread twice.

So what is the point? Well, the point is that Tennessee seems to be one of those teams that UGA just doesn't play that well against at times despite the large gap in talent. Do I think they will beat UGA on Saturday? I would be shocked, but it might be a little closer than people would like. Given the emotional win they are coming off of, it may be one of those games that is a bit of a letdown. This would also be a signature win for Rocky Top, so you better believe they will be ready for the Dawgs. I think it will probably be close early on, but I don't think they can continue to slow down our offense.

This brings me to my next topic and certainly something I would like to hear from you guys about. Does UGA need style points from this point forward? I don't think I know the answer to this. They do have a resume that is second to none and I doubt any other team could have done better against their schedule. College football does seem to be a "what have you done for me lately" scene, though. Did UGA peak to early? It would be a good start to jump Louisville in the coaches poll because I seriously doubt they will lose. If UGA jumps them, Louisville has no big game that would let them jump UGA, particularly if UGA goes into Atlanta and beats #1 Bama at the end of the season. Of the remaining overrated ESPN love-children, I think one will probably get through unbeaten leaving probably Oregon or Ohio St and Lousiville as unbeatens and a few 1 loss teams. I think UGA is certainly at the top of the order for 1 loss teams, but could they skip an undefeated Lousiville? I would love to hear what you guys think.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Bonus Post: What is REALLY wrong with SEC defenses

So the media is enamored with how "terrible" SEC defenses are this year. I continually read and hear about how the SEC has abandoned defenses and fielded comments such as "If defense wins championships, sorry SEC!" So what is really wrong with the SEC Defenses? Well, again, the truth is always in the numbers, you just have to look past what the ESPN homers feed you.

The first fact is simple. Over the past few seasons, the SEC offenses have continued to manufacture the quality of athletes on offense as they always have on defense. The SEC has always been underrated on offense by the overpowering defenses and we have always been criticized as not having good defenses, but only having bad offenses. I would counter this by saying that the SEC has produced 7 of the last 15 NFL MVPs. They have also had 5 quarterbacks start in the last 7 Super Bowls. Just this season, 3 of the Top 7 passers in the NFL are from the SEC, more than any other conference.

If you take this season, the SEC features a host of experienced QBs including
- The reigning Heisman trophy winner, Manziel
- The 4 year starter set to shatter every major SEC Passing record, Murray
- The guy who almost stole his starting job and is now a top NFL prospect, Mettenberger
- Yes, none of these guys are the one competing for his 3rd National Championship, McCarron

Add to that the nation's top RB Todd Gurley, as well as Keith Marshall, TJ Yeldon, Justin Hill, Mike Davis, Matt Jones, and Alex Collins amongst others. Not to mention receivers like Amari Cooper, Mike Evans, Jarvis Landry, Odell Beckham Jr., Justin Scott-Wesley, Donte Moncreif, Jordan Matthews, Arthur Lynch, Dorial Green Beckham, etc.

Let's face it, from top-to-bottom, the best offensive players are in the SEC this year. But what is at the heart of the poor defensive play? Well, that is easy.

Last year, the SEC saw an unprecedented 35 defensive players taken in the draft with 8 going in the 1st round and 5 in the 2nd round. Even more staggering is that 25 of these came from 4 teams including 7 1st rounders! Which teams? Well of course the teams people nationwide know and watch from the SEC (Bama, LSU, UF, UGA). Just so you can comprehend the significance of these numbers, look how they stack up against the rest of the nation:

SEC: 35 Total; 8 in Round 1; 5 in Round 2
ACC: 13 Total; 3 in Round ; 2 in Round 2
Big 10: 12 Total; 0 in Round 1; 2 in Round 2
Pac 12: 11 Total; 3 in Round 1; 1 in Round 2
Big 12: 7 Total; 1 in Round 1; 1 in Round 2

So, the conference most people consider to be the worst (ACC) actually did better than the other big boys. If you combine the mighty Big 10, Pac 12, and Big 12, you can see the SEC sent 35 players versus their combined 30; 8 First Rounders vs their Combined 4; and 5 Second Rounders vs their Combined 4.

So what is the problem? EASY! We restocked the entire NFL with defensive players last year and have all new players out there. Add to that the fact that they didn't get to play Div III teams for the first 5 weeks (Yes, we have seen an SEC participate in a Top 10 matchup 7 times this year vs 1 for the rest of the nation combined...which was against an SEC team) then you can understand why the defenses have struggled. If you look around at the young talent at LSU, Bama, UGA, Ole Miss, UF, and South Carolina it is impressive! Remember, the SEC hasn't been unbeatable in the BCS NC game because of how they START, but how they FINISH. The fact that they play week-in and week-out against the most balanced and talented offenses in the nation, whoever challenges them will be a piece of cake come January. They all think the way to get to the BCS NC is playing a cupcake schedule (ahem...tOSU, Oregon, well...everybody else). Maybe it is, but it isn't how you win it. The national championship game is always the 4th or 5th best team the SEC Champion will face all year. You wonder why you can't win?

And let's give up the schedule talk. Nevermind the conference schedule, in the first 4 weeks the SEC has faced #2 Oregon, #3 Clemson, #7 Louisville, #13 Ok State, #15 Miami, #20 TCU, Texas, Va Tech, UNC, and Wash St with games pending versus #8 FSU, #3 Clemson, and Ga Tech. That doesn't include numerous ranked matchups with other SEC teams. Ohio St, Stanford, Oregon, and Louisville all play 0 ranked non-conference teams. Louisville doesn't even play a single ranked team! Kentucky is the only BCS team they play all year!

What does it all mean? Well, it means that the SEC Champion (unless they find a way to exclude us this year!) will blow the scoreboard up against  ____________ (fill in the victim name) and  shut them down with their "terrible defense" as always. I recall the Auburn year that Cam Newton carried them through the SEC and we mocked their terrible defense. The same defense that shut down the high-flying and unstoppable Oregon offense.

Sorry For the Absence!

Hey Dawg Fans! I would like to start by apologizing for my absence. I had a family emergency and have been out of action for a few weeks. A lot has happened with our beloved Dawgs the past few weeks. There are times in life when we are happy to be wrong, and this has certainly been one of those cases! The Dawgs have really been impressive up to this point. Sans the Clemson game, which I think may have been a different story with a healthy Gurley, the Dawgs have shown up to play. South Carolina may not be quite as good as thought, but LSU is no joke.

I would like to give shout outs to a few players in particular:

1) Aaron Murray: Awesome! As many know I have pointed out before, the big game losses haven't all been Murray's fault. I would say he certainly didn't get much help in the So Car and LSU games again, but still managed to overcome tough defenses and light the scoreboard up. He really deserves credit for standing tall in two monster games and pulling his team through.

2) The offense line: Geez! These guys have played incredible against 2 awesome defenses! They have managed big holes for the run game and have consistently given Murray time, especially in the big moments of the game. They have impressed me more than just about anyone else and they really deserve some credit. If their play continues at that level, nobody should beat UGA including the SEC Championship and BCS. Way to go, guys!

3) The Defense: Yes, I said it. As a defensive player at heart, I respect how hard it is for these young guys to come in and face 3 of the better and balanced offenses in college football right out of the gate. I wish they had consistently played better and there certainly is A LOT of room for improvement. What I will give them credit for is something you can't teach and has been missing from UGA defenses for years: Making plays when you need them! After getting beaten up for 4 quarters, they made the goal line stand they needed against South Carolina. And then getting smoked all day by LSU, they stepped up and made 4 solid plays to win the game. I have to be honest, after years of watching our defense, I was certain we were going to lose after we left over a minute on the clock. It is hard as hell to stand strong and win the game when you have been hammered on all day. I think that reflects well on what this defense is capable of when they gain experience. Keep your head up, defense! You survived what nobody thought you could survive and you pulled through for the Dawgs when they needed you the most. You are far ahead of our past defenses! Also, kudos for being able to shut down LSU's run game. We lose that game if we let LSU run at will and keep the offense on the sidelines.

Again, sorry for the absence, but I will continue trying to put together some interesting and fun outlook on games. I will also try to keep up my skepticism as it appears to be the missing ingredient in UGA success! Next up, I will address a topic I keep hearing from fans and media alike that I think is ridiculous...

Monday, September 2, 2013

Two Keys: Week 2 Edition

This weeks "2 Keys to the Game" focuses on the upcoming matchup with South Carolina. I have heard the backlash from the Clemson game and am as equally disappointed. However, this game truly is more important. UGA held their own with Clemson so it won't be such an eyesore at the end of the season. Most seasons, our schedule is such a joke that losing to 1 ranked team means losing all games against ranked teams! I think they can regain a lot of respect with beating USC, LSU, and UF. The problem? They have to do it first. 

I know most of the talk is that we are out of it because so many other teams will go undefeated. Maybe they will, maybe they won't. The fact remains it is now only Week 2 and we have heard this talk EVERY year including last season when it went down to the wire before almost all unbeatens lost on the same night! A loss to USC will almost certainly, however, put the Dawgs out of contention. So what are my 2 keys to winning this game? Well, if you have checked out this weeks Looking Forward, you can guess what my keys are going to be!

  • RUN DEFENSE! Our defense really needs to come together in this game. The starts with containing the run. This has been a huge part of our 3 straight losses to USC. We are giving up over twice the run yards per game compared with other ranked SEC teams, but more embarrassingly, we are surrendering over 100 yards more per game than their ACC opponents! We will have a hard enough time with their defense, as is. We cannot let their defense catch their breath and be energized in the second half due to their ability to consistently run the ball. Is our defense experienced and talented enough at this point to stop the run and not give up big pass plays? I am not so sure. One thing is for sure, if they don't focus on stopping the run and making USC throw it, we will certainly lose this game. The defense needs to revisit how we tackle in this league and quit worrying about stripping the ball. Nine times out of ten, they are going to just push forward for another 2 or 3 yards rather than coughing up the ball. We can't afford to play in short yardage situations. Plus, imagine yourself as an SEC running back…which situation would you rather be in: "They are going to stand me up and try to strip the ball" or "They are about to Clowney my *** if I touch this ball!"? The defense will take more of a toll on the offense if they beat and punish them for every play!

  • TURNOVERS/PENALTIES: There is no excuse. This has to change. We cannot play against Clowney's defense from 1st and 25. We cannot negate every big play with a stupid penalty. We survive this kind of garbage play against most teams because of the immense talent difference. Our record against ranked opponents should be a reflection of a team's chance of winning big games with sloppy play. It has to stop. To win this game, we cannot lose the turnover margin. USC is winning the turnover battle by nearly 2:1 over the last 3 losses. We have to more careful with the ball and force enough pressure on the QBs to force bad throws and bad decisions.

There you have it. My two biggest keys to this week's colossal conference opener versus South Carolina. My fear is that we will fail in both and is one of the main reasons for my prediction of a 4th straight loss against the Cocks. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Looking Forward: South Carolina

After a disappointing loss at  Clemson, the Dawgs will be coming back home for a matchup with division rival South Carolina. Many believe this game will go a long way in determining the SEC East Champion, and I would tend to agree with that. Looking down the line, South Carolina has as easy a schedule as you could ask for in the SEC. Georgia has struggled in this game as of late having lost the last 3. Spurrier's long hatred for UGA has seemed to give him the leg up in this game and this year looks to be the same.

My Key Fact for this week is more than just 1 simple fact. USC has posted a 3-6 record versus other ranked SEC teams while they have gone 3-0 against UGA. I found myself wondering "what is it that they do to consistently beat UGA that they can't do against other teams?" I have given some key numbers for South Carolina's performance in the past 3 years against UGA vs Ranked SEC Opponents vs All Ranked Opponents.

Team USC Passing Yds USC Rush Yds USC Total Off USC Total Def Takeaways Turnovers Points Scored Points Against
Georgia 156 224 381 304 1.7 1.0 32 18
Ranked SEC 188 105 293 391 1.3 2.5 24 35
All Ranked 221 118 339 348 1.4 2.1 26 29

As you can see, our "record setting" offense has averaged nearly 100 yards less per game than all other SEC offenses. They have also given up nearly twice the run yardage per game. The sloppiness with which UGA plays in big games is also apparent here. They have given up the ball more and forced less than half the turnovers as other opponents.

So getting back to my preseason prediction for this game, you can imagine why I think this game will be no different. UGA has shown no improvement in run defense after giving up huge rushing yardage to Clemson and showing off poor tackling skills. Boyd is a great QB, but Shaw and Thompson aren't really that far behind. We also continue to show sloppy play with tons of penalties, turnover, and lack of takeaways vs Clemson. I expect South Carolina will run the ball with ease, hit a few pass plays, and torment our offense all day. Bobo will certainly have no answer for Clowney and will run screen after unsuccessful screen or long developing pass plays allowing sack after sack. Sorry Georgia fans, but this one will be another heartbreaker.

Not Ready to Jump Off a Bridge

Well, it always pains me to say "I told you so." It seems I just barely underestimated the Dawgs in my 37-34 prediction, but who is counting? I don't think I could have imagined it any more accurately than it transpired.

How could I have known, you are thinking? Well, it is simple. It is called "pattern recognition." Face it, we have some problems in Athens. No, I didn't say "Fire Mark Richt" or start that crap, but we must come to reality that the Dawgs are abysmal in games that count. I think it is multifactorial, but something seriously needs to be done. I am not throwing in the proverbial towel after 1 loss, no, it is what I know to come that bothers me.

UGA is in a perpetual cycyle of losing the games they MUST win to the point at which they are basically out of contention for a meaningful season and THEN playing like champions. The success down the stretch only starts what has become the official motto of the Bulldog Nation: "Next year! Yep, that is the year!" So how do they break the cycle? I'm not sure, but I can offer my own 2 cents as some of the bigger problems, whether you agree or not.

1. Gameplan: While I don't doubt our staff's knowledge of the game (I actually think they are quite good), their plan for big games seems to always be lacking. It seems like they have never even seen their opponent play before! Heaven forbid they do something different, and then we are just totally baffled! I think the coaches need to do a better job at realizing the weakness of their opponents that exist on a constant level. What do I mean by that? Well, it is not just becoming familiar with the opponents playbook, but truly analyzing every players individual weakness and exploiting it.

2. Adjustments: This is an extension of #1. It sometimes seems like maybe Bobo missed the plane and just faxed his list of plays. There seems to be no positive adjustments made on gameday. If the opponent does something uncharacteristic, our staff seems lost as to how to adjust. For instance, Clemson is not known for the amount of pressure the brought against UGA so I can understand being caught by surprise. However, you can't keep running the same slow developing plays over and over that amount to no gain or another sack. With an over-aggressive defense, your RBs should be hitting the hole at full speed and into the second level. We resorted to these slowly developing delayed handoffs that were blown up over and over. Same on defense. Our defense looked utterly confused as to what they were doing. Why? Well, I will discuss this further down. When was the last time you saw Bama or LSU or even Florida be so shocked on defense and still not able to adjust in the second half? Well, that is why they share most all of the last 7 national titles.

3. Fundamentals: To me, this is a MAJOR area of concern. Again, I base the success of Bama and LSU defense mostly on fundamentals. Their players don't get out of position, they are patient, they swarm to the ball, and they tackle well. Things UGA has lacked since way before this season! This extends to poor decisions on special teams, as well as blocking on offense. The other lack of discipline is in penalties. Many of the penalties go right back to a lack of fundamentals. UGA is talented enough that they can win sloppy games against inferior opponents because they can overcome it. The problem is that you can't beat a good team when you play like that. You can't repeatedly go 1st and 20+ against a Top 10 team. You can't have so many turnovers and mental lapses.

4. Suspensions: Yes, yes...I know. We want to represent the university and won't stoop to other peoples' standards, blah blah blah. Face it, this has been a disaster for season after season, including this one with Norman in for JHC and missing Marshall Morgan. I have insider information on things that happen at another major SEC team, and I can assure you that they are truly out of control. I agree that athletes must be disciplined and such, but we can't continue to make them miss huge amounts of game time. I mean other schools have players get arrested TWICE and still play! I think to continue competing, Richt needs to enact harsher penalties outside of gameday and if they want to play badly enough, they will comply. I will give you sexual assaults, guns in school zones, etc. But having a beer on the lake with friends or a single drug policy violation, come on! They are just college kids being college kids! I agree it can't go overlooked, but bust their butts and make them earn their playing time back. We can't continue to suspend players half the season because they farted in the classroom and such.

5. Talk: Yep, if UGA played half as good as they talked, we would be the dynasty in this league! Every year we hear the same crap about how they are ready blah blah blah and this year is different blah blah blah. They need to shut their mouths and do their talking on the field. One thing I marvel at in Tuscaloosa is the business mindset the whole team has. They don't buy into talking crap to the media, they just focus on their opponents and let their play talk for them. You can't win championships in this league on emotion and you sure can't win just because you said you wanted to win. I personally get tired of hearing the same garbage every year and wish they would just play football already!

Well, there you go. My Top 5 things UGA needs to fix in a hurry. Just my opinion, so take it as you will. No, I didn't say we need new coaches. As a matter of fact, I would love to win championships behind Mark Richt! UGA just needs some big changes if they are going to legitimately compete. I hope for the best in Athens this Saturday, but don't hold your breath. Spurrier is a far better coach when it comes to gameplans than our staff and I expect more of the same. Head over to my Predictions page for further breakdown of the season.