Monday, September 1, 2014

Georgia 45 Clemson 21 Recap

I'm late to the party on this one, but mainly because the party kept going on from Saturday night in Athens on through the Labor Day weekend. I'm not going to harp on an overall recap because obviously we all understand the importance of what happened on Saturday night. These are just a few takeaways (without re-watching the game yet) from my spot in 316.

Todd Gurley. Pretty simply the most talented player we've seen in Athens in a long long time. The performance and numbers speak for themselves but two quick notes:

1) We debated whether he'd be in Heisman contention given the balanced nature of UGA's offense and the number of touches he'd get. Little did we know that he only needs around 10-15 carries to provide the statline that puts him in the mix.

2) People talk about his combination of power and speed. That was clearly evident on four runs: 1) the early run where he shook off three tackles and kept delivering punches all the way to the sideline 2) the kickoff return where even the man who made a last ditch effort couldn't bring him down (even though he had finished running) 3) The 2nd half run where we broke to the left and delivering a stiffarm while walking him man to the sideline still not going down and 4) the obvious last TD where he couldn't be brought down in traffic and had a quick burst to the endzone. These are the evidences of a truly complete back. Stay healthy my man.

How are we going to manage all the talent in the backfield and get the most out of these big recruits. Answer - play em all. I love it. Power and speed (Gurley / Chubb) with a spice of electricity properly utilized in Marshall and Michel. Keep rotating those boys through and keep fresh legs coming at our opponents.

Seeing Nick Chubb's face when his helmet got torn off made me want to run through a brick wall. Looking forward to many more carries from this guy. It's a welcomed sight to see such a highly touted recruit come in more than ready to play versus a big time opponent.

It's obvious the defense was a bright spot under Pruitt, that was obvious by the second half takeover, but a few things I noted:

-There was indeed a true second half adjustment. After some young guns got their feet settled they really came into the mix as a sound unit. Let's do keep in mind they were facing inexperienced quarterbacks in a big spot and that Clemson had to change their offensive mindset. After the lead was established and Clemson showed no ability for a downfield threat the defense really was able to pin their ears back and cause pressure.

-I mentioned many times that it look like we were lost in the secondary last year. Under Pruitt it would be better to be on the "same page" than have anyone on the "wrong page". It was evident they were on the same page as a unit. Just look at the development of a guy like Quincy Mauger. A guy who looked lost as could be in coverage last year was many times the first man to deliver the blow on Saturday. I think seeing this kind of development in a single player leads to believe the unit has to be much improved overall.

-We knew about our linebackers. I was big on all 4 (Jenkins / Floyd as edge rushers and containers and Herrera / Wilson plugging holes in the middle). Wouldn't you know these 4 guys were the top 4 tacklers in the stat line. Having that middle layer of experience allows the other two thirds to play better.

-2nd Half Leonard Floyd, you just keep being you my brother.

Special Teams. I don't know who told the secret that it helps to have better players on special teams, but somehow the message was conveyed to the UGA coaching staff. Seeing names like Swann, Michel (who made a great play), Jenkins, JJ Green, etc. on coverage was a welcomed sight.

We also had perfect execution in the kicking game with Morgan and Barber showing continued consistency.

Big returns: obviously Gurley, but how fun could it be to see more of that little glimpse we saw from McKenzie as the year progresses.

If you really look at it it's a hard game to judge Hutson Mason on. There were times I said man I don't know how good of a QB he really is, but at the end of the day I think he did all we joked / hoped he would. Just manage the game and get the ball to talent. He really didn't have many opportunities to press the ball downfield so we'll have to see how that progresses. There were a couple dumps that were sort of worrisome, but at the end of the day I don't think there was one throw where I held my breath that it might be picked. He did what was asked. Mark it down, we'll have to throw to win a game this year, and hopefully offensive balance will lead to furthering his development before we get there.

Start bringing a roster sheet to games I guess. There are a ton of young guys getting looks that we'll have to become familiar with. However they delivered in a big way on Saturday night. Example: Aaron Davis.

Two other numbers we'll enjoy watching it appears: 47 & 48. Mixed looks at FB or whatever type of position we're utilizing this year, but Taylor Maxey and Quayvon did a great job breaking holes (that may be overshadowed by the glory of the TD runs).

Who told the Stadium people to blare rap at certain spots? Whoever did give them a raise. That was the most electric and involved I've seen Sanford in a long time. Also - it wasn't the answer to a call that Sanford is not a tough place to play, some sort of large coordinated effort, or whatever. The crowd just came out and delivered. The players loved it. It wasn't cheesy, didn't crap on tradition, etc. Keep pumping the tunes boys, we want more.

How strange has this feeling been this weekend. It's the first time in a long time we came out in our first big test in a while and delivered (and people are now talking about it). Think about it. 2013 - yeah we beat SC, but we dropped Clemson. 2012 - yeah we beat 5 teams who we were better than but fell on our face at SC. 2011 - Boise in the Dome debacle. 2010 - lost in first big test at SC. 2009 - dropped the ball in Stillwater vs. OK State. 2008 was the season we gutchecked a couple wins but then had the obvious meltdown vs. Bama. Bottom line, enjoy the bye week and getting the job done at SC could be a very very unique feeling. It won't be as easy as you think.

Minus what was essentially a steam room, Saturday was a beautiful masterpiece in Athens. Let's not watch ESPN for a while or else we'll start getting really unjustified big heads. Let's enjoy what happened and get ready for what will be a testing slate over the next month before we start getting crafty.










Friday, August 29, 2014

Week One ATS Picks

For the degenerates...

Navy / Ohio State Under 54.5

Arkansas / Auburn Over 57.5

Missouri -14.5 over South Dakota State

See you in Athens

Night One Winners and Losers

Obviously the big loser is South Carolina. Embarrassed on a national stage at home. It started early and the onslaught was steady through the game. Texas A&M could've put up 60 if they wanted. I mentioned in my pre-season review that I thought SC would be suspect on defense (though I have to eat serious crow on my heads-up pick). I thought they were due for an 8-4 after a few years of sustained success. It wasn't just he departures on D-Line, but more so in my opinion guys that had to be replaced at key positions in the secondary. Texas A&M exposed this young unit and had a QB who'd never taken meaningful snaps slice them up for record setting yards. Don't get too over zealous about our chances in Columbia as they will circle the wagons, however it's pretty crazy that the pre-season pundit pick could be all but eliminated in week 3 if they lose.

Vandy was a surprise slaughter when I woke up this morning. Temple was not as bad as people think I guess. Vegas even got this one way wrong giving a 14 point edge to the Dores. Mason's open in Nashville couldn't have had a worse result. Looks like the departure of Franklin really will lead to a return to the cellar of the SEC for the Commodores.

Texas A&M is an obvious winner with a huge statement win showing they won't recess too much, and the young talent they've been plucking may indeed be ready to step up to the plate. This will create a target on them and increased hype which will make opponents not look them over too easily.

Boise State had a tough night. It's now the third consecutive loss in big non-conference games for them. It further serves the notion that this is indeed not your Boise of old (well 10 years ago). It took Ole Miss a while to get going. The scoreboard finished a lot prettier than the game was which is good optically for the Rebs.

The SEC East had a rough night. 0-2, and two bad losses. It looks like we may indeed see another year of SEC West banner waving, and this year (unless UF and Tennessee show some sort of life vs. the West) there may be more disparity than ever before.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

SEC Weekend Preview Week One

Time to get it going folks.

Texas A&M at S. Carolina

Do I hope Carolina loses, of course. It only helps us in the East. I'm also at the point though where I'm over rooting for other teams to lose and we can just go out and try to control our own destiny. I think the Cocks win. Further, I think the Cocks win pretty easily. Does South Carolina regress a little bit, yes, especially on defense with departures (including those outside of Clowney). However, A&M has to start a QB lacking a boatload of experience and he gets to test his merits in WBS, on a Thursday night, with Sandstorm pumping, and 90,000+ in his face. No matter how awful that stadium may be to logistically attend, you'd be ignorant to ignore the fact it's become one of the top 5 toughest places to win in the conference especially in a game with this kind of hype. A&M had a porous defense last year and I don't see a ton of improvement this year, especially absent Johnny. South Carolina

Boise State vs. Ole Miss (Georgia Dome)

Boise isn't as bad as people want to fear they've fallen off. Yes they have a new coach but they return a QB with somewhat tested game experience. I don't think they get the win, but I do think it will be closer than the Rebels would like to see. Ole Miss

Temple at Vandy

I'm going with Vegas' knowledge of an untested new regime in Nashville seeing a -14 spread. Vandy

UT-Martin at Kentucky

Sure why not Cats. Kentucky

Arkansas at Auburn

People expect Auburn to run away in this one, but my Auburn buddy tells me be prepared for it to be closer than expected. The 20 point line he feels should be covered by the Hogs. Auburn is going to score points all year, and they'll start in this game. However with a new defense having a few holes and the thought that Arkansas can potentially have a balanced offense, you can believe Arky is going to score too. Auburn wins a shootout pretty handily, but it's tighter than Vegas thinks. Auburn

Idaho at Florida 

Florida

Wisconsin vs. LSU (Houston)

I would give Wisconsin more of leg up in this game if they weren't starting so fresh at positions like QB and I expect LSU to pack the building. The Badgers strength is running the ball and LSU has proven they have the ability to stack the line over the past couple years. LSU has a crop of backs to can carry the load while the QB fiesta tries to gain it's footing. LSU

Southern Miss at Miss State

Because I threw myself out there and hyped up the Bulldogs as the surprise Mississippi school this year, I'll go ahead and back them winning big in this one. Miss State

Utah State at Tennessee

Nice job UT in scheduling this game while you have to somehow find a way to function with new D and O Lines and who knows what the heck is going to happen on offense. Vegas thinks it's somewhat close and I do to, but the Vols get the win. Tennessee

West Virginia vs. Alabama (Atlanta)

Let QB controversy ensue down in T-Town. Even though there's turmoil at that position, there's plenty of weapons around and talent that will prove itself on D to get the job done. Don't think it will be the cakewalk that Bama has seen in this game in years past, but I see no issue in the Tide getting a W. Alabama

Clemson at Georgia

I've obviously hit on this game a few times already, and I'll try and keep it succinct. New defense finding it's way in Athens, Clemson is good on defense, Clemson has holes due to suspension and RB injuries. All that is known. The thing I keep harping on is that a QB who has never taken meaningful snaps (and feels the pressure of a young QB possibly getting looks behind him) has to go on the road in a hostile environment of 95,000+ to try and find his way. Neutral field maybe I worry a little more, but for some reason I think the untested Dawgs are able to get the job done. Maybe by more than anticipated. Georgia




Friday, August 22, 2014

2014 SEC Predictions & Awards

Of course none of these will come to fruition, but I don't feel bad for having fun forecasting them. Just remember, Phil Steele had Auburn and Mizzou picked to finish last in each of their respective divisions last year.

SEC East Champion: Georgia

I am trying to view as not a homer pick. Let's be honest.
-Mizzou: while returning a good QB with experience, they lost a ton of guts (D-Line, RB, etc).
-Vandy: rebuild mode
-Kentucky: Kentucky mode

That leaves UGA, SC, and Florida. I do think Florida is talented and scarier than we might like to think with Driskell at the helm. Somehow they've still been recruiting and return a ferocious defense. New offensive coordinator hopefully gets some sort of life into what has been absolutely anemic the last couple years. However when looking at who reaches the the Dome schedule can sometimes be the most important factor when looking at evenly matched teams. UF draws LSU (perennially) and Bama from the West. Seeing at best a split with these two and at best a split with UGA and SC I figure two losses are easy, and obviously quite possibly more. Better team for them, but I don't see the Dome in sight.

SC and UGA for all intents and purposes I see as even on the playing field. Both have huge holes and experience to fill on D for varying reasons. New quarterbacks, but SC has the experience edge in that category. In all likelihood as we all know the game on Sept. 13th could decide the race. Both teams basically have the same schedule difficulty as SC draws Auburn. However, SC has their two toughest games outside UGA (UF and AU) on the road (while UGA gets Auburn at home) which leads me to believe we have the schedule nod. I'm taking the Dawgs in the Dome.

SEC West Champion: Alabama

-Texas A&M: rebuilding and due for an 8-4 plus the division is deeper
-Ole Miss: better, but not as good as the big 3
-Mississippi State: better, but not as good as the big 3

That leaves the big 3: Auburn, Bama, and LSU

People underestimate Auburn in my opinion. Yes they got lucky last year, but anyone who overlooks Gus' ability to score points and win would be abseent-minded. These guys are going to score no matter who you put in the scheme. Luckily for them the most key cog is back in Nick Marshall. Unfortunately, the schedule is a beast. Their two toughest games (UGA and; Bama) come on the road. Throw in another game vs. SC from the East and away games at Ole Miss and Miss St (which I think the drop one) and you have a good team with a schedule that keeps them out of Atlanta.

LSU is going to be good on defense, but loses huge weapons on offense in Mett, Beckham, and Landry. Their lines will be good, but in the end I think the inexperienced offense won't be enough of a compliment to help out the defense.

So by default we arrive on Bama, yes the obvious and way overhyped pick. Do I think Bama is as good as ESPN wants them to be? No. However, I think they're good enough. No matter who plays QB (again) it seems they only need to game manage with plenty of weapons. Yeldon, Henry, Cooper, Bell, Norwood etc. all return. The defense will be schematically good again. The best Bama team in years, no, but getting Auburn, Florida, and MSU at home should lead to yet another Dome trip. If they can survive the trip to Baton Rouge it's all but done.

Offensive POY: Nick Marshall (Auburn)

Is he the most talented? No. I'd rank him top 5 with the likes of Gurley, Yeldon, Cooper, etc. and not at the top of the talent list. However, he plays in a scheme that is conducive to racking up tons of yardage and stats. His all purpose yards will blow the others out of the water, and for that I think as the cog in the highest powered offense in the conference he gets the award.

Defensive POY: A.J. Johnson (Tennessee)

Why didn't you go to UGA my man? While the unit may not be the strongest, this man may very well lead the conference in tackles.

RB of the Year: Todd Gurley (Georgia)

He may not lead the stat race, but if he stays healthy it should become clearly evident this year that Todd Gurley is the best back in the league. He is not without stiff competition with the likes of Mike Davis, Yeldon, Henry, etc.

WR of the Year: Amari Cooper

He'll face a ton of attention out on his island, but he's the most complete player at this position in the conference. While he'll get all the attention don't sleep on the other Bama weapons at wideout like Norwood and Bell.

Surprise Team: Mississippi State

Everyone is saying the two Mississippi schools may field their best teams they've had in a long time. They both may be even talent wise, but I think MSU is going to shock some people this year. Their OOC schedule is an automatic four wins and I think they sneak up on one of the big three from the West. Prescott is one of the most complete players you'll see and he takes the reins as he continues to learn Dan Mullen's scheme. While they won't reach the Dome, don't be shocked if you see a surprise 9-3 squad in Starkville this year.

Biggest Disappointment: Texas A&M

These guys are more than due for a fall back to reality. Yes Johnny is gone but they also lose key guys on the lines and Mike Evans. The West is tougher than ever, and I think A&M feels the brunt of it this year. I'm thinking 8-4 at best.

Surprise POY: Malachi Dupre: LSU

Look for this newcomer at wideout to fill gaps left by Beckham and Landry in a big way.

Best Game of the Year: Auburn at Alabama

Expect Bama to exact some revenge in this game from the kick six. Two different styles with probably the western crown on the line.

No Coaches Get Fired After the Season

Both Ole Miss and Mississippi State get a win over Auburn, Alabama, or LSU

Vandy and Kentucky don't win a conference game other than when hey play each other.

The SEC only gets one team in the 4-Team Playoff

No one from the SEC wins the Heisman


Monday, August 11, 2014

What I'm Really Worried About: Special Teams Improvement

Look believe me I'm worried about the defense too, but at least I know what we've got back there in the secondary which is a lot of inexperience. There's only one way to go for that unit. If it doesn't we know we're in for a world of hurt.

We know most of the tools we have on special teams, but what I'm wondering is how will the overall scheme improve. Field position and and turnovers are obviously the two x-factors that can turn the tide in any game. Poor execution on special teams leads to poor field position, which in turn leads to giving good teams the upper hand or letting weaker teams stay in the fight.

Marshall Morgan should be the constant. His freshman woes seems like a thing of past and long forgotten. The guy was pretty much automatic last year and to boot was consistent from long range. Key field goals in games like LSU and Tennessee showed he'd made vast improvement. I don't doubt he'll be a factor again this year.

Punting should be solid as well. Colin Barber handles the majority of the punting duties. Last year he didn't really make a name for himself, but also didn't really make a name for himself in a bad way which is a good thing for a punter. The guy I really like to pay attention to is Adam Erickson. He's the short field / directional punter who actually did a pretty good job of nailing down opponents in their own territory last year. Hopefully we'll see consistency and more of the same.

We're we've struggled, and where we has to improve is in all facets of the return game (both giving up yards and gaining them).

Thanks to our good friends at cfbstats.com, we don't just have to play coach from section 316 anymore we have actual tangible data to back it up.

Punt Return Yards For: Georgia ranked 14th last year (as in last) in the SEC averaging 2.92 yards per return, around 5 (yes 5) yards per game, and 0 TDs.

Kickoff Return Yards For: Georgia again ranked 14th (last) in the SEC averaging 18.6 yards per return and around 36 yards per game again with 0 TDs.

Opponent Punt Return and Kickoff Return Yards weren't as bad, coming in 7th in KO return yards and 3rd in punt return yards. The problem was we lead the league in TDs allowed combining the two with 3.

Obviously anyone who has watched UGA football over the past few years has seen not only the absence of a dynamic punt returner, but an overall vanilla scheme where we don't even try to return the ball. I'm all for ball security, but at some point you have to put someone back there who has the ability to change the game. It's one thing if the opponent is deep in their own territory and you need sure hands to keep good field position, but it's a whole different story when you've got a wide open field to work with. It has been noted that the CFB landscape has changed to see more "directional" punting that allows for smaller returns, but teams like Alabama consistently lead the league in return yards. That aspect has to change if we want to provide a dynamic edge to help set us apart.

Isaiah McKenzie seems to be all the rage as of late as the dynamic return man. While it will be a big spot in big games early in the season, I'm happy to see the guy get the chance. You've got to let him prove himself and maybe provide that threat we've seemed to lack for a few years now.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Ranking the Difficulty of UGA's 2014 Games

Way too early. Way too many unknowns. So What. We're closing in and I'm ready to start talking about it. Please note these aren't an assessment of an opposing team's overall strength, but more so a combination of where they fall in the schedule, location, atmosphere, etc.

1) at South Carolina

Look, I don't think the Cocks are going to be as good as last year. They are more than due for an 8-4 come back down to Earth type of season. Just look at the inexperience in the secondary, key departures on the D-Line (not just Clowney), new quarterback (though not a huge drop off), and loss or key offensive weapons. While Mike Davis may be the factor we're scared of, the factor I'm most scared of is playing week 2 on the road in WBS. Let's be honest, our last couple trips up there have been less than stellar. As much as you want to hate on the sandstorm pumping cheesiness of what happens there, you should realize that it's slowly evolving into one of the more formidable places to play in the SEC. It's week 2 and it's a huge test for an early season foe who may be your most important. A win in Columbia sets the tone for the Eastern race, but based on how UGA / SC games go and even more so on the road for us, this one ranks at the top of my list.

2) Auburn

"Auburn overachieved last year and was two miracle plays away from losing two big games". This may be true, but if Gus is at the helm these boys are going to move the football. Hell, he did it with Chris Todd and he's got weapons now, continuing to build momentum with huge talent acquisitions on defense. It's at home which is nice, but I think we've learned to throw out preconceived notions when it comes to this rivalry. Their D will be solid, and the offense will surely move the ball. It will be one of those games where early mistakes could dictate the fate of a team very quickly allowing them to dictate the tempo of how the game will be played. Even if they are at the same talent level as last year without luck, they're still putting a pretty damn good team / scheme on the field. It comes late in the season when a good deal could be on the line, and Auburn's young D and offense has a chance to come into it's rhythm.

3) Clemson

While they could potentially fall in a different spot regarding potentially being better or possibly even worse than another opponent, this is where I feel this game falls. On the difficulty side, it's Hutson's first big start knowing it's truly his team (not Aaron's remnants in a no pressure situation). On the positive side, most notably it's at home and Clemson's fresh QB gets his debut in Athens. Sure we can take note of notable departures on either side most notably for Clemson via departure to the NFL or suspension, but to me it comes down to the comfort of the QB's psyche. If we had to go back to back with Clemson, starting one game with veteran QBs and one with fresh ones, I'd much rather have the one with fresh ones between the hedges.

4) Florida

"Florida is coming back from a lot of injuries and gets Driskell back". You'll hear that all pre-season. Some of it rings very true. I don't think they'll be as bad as last year. There's till a ton of talent in Gainesville. This is more so a situational game. Even though we've won 3 in a row and feel we are a better team coming in, we've been UGA fans too long to start feeling overconfident heading into Jax. Just look at last year. It wasn't pretty and both teams were battered, but UGA clearly had an advantage. Plus it falls later in the season where Florida can start hitting their stride.

5) at Arkansas

That awkward middle of the year trip, to an awkward little city like Little Rock, against a team you really don't know much about yet. Furthermore it comes on the heels of a sneaky four game stretch the week after another road test. It seems like it sets up perfectly for one of those survive and advance games before a bye week. Who knows how battered we'll be or what holes we'll have. This is a clear case of a team that may rank further down the list from an overall talent standpoint, but it's place in the schedule makes it the number 5 toughest game.

6) Tennessee

Some people would maybe have this one higher up the list. UT has gained a ton of talent in the recruiting arena under Butch Jones. They like Florida are looking to restore their place in the SEC East. However I don't quite yet believe this is the year for the Vols. Further more we get them at home, which hasn't exactly been their best friend lately. I think we're due for a little exploitation after that gutcheck season draining somehow we won the game last year in Knoxville kind of day.

7) at Missouri

Mizzou is a big mystery this year. They may be the team that for their own purposes lost the most as far as departures for one reason or another in the offseason. New offensive weapons having to come into place and needing to replace key defensive holes they could be in for a rough year. However I think we're going to learn that this Columbia is going to be one of those places that isn't so fun to travel to thinking you'll get an easy win.

8) Georgia Tech

CPJ for all intents and purposes is on his way out, and only hasn't left because Tech has too much money to lose. Trust me, Tech people have grown very tired of that high school scheme. It's still a unique scheme and they'll be up for this game like they are every year (even though we don't tell them they probably rank #5 on our importance list). Very glad we get them at home which should handle the business needed by itself. At least a young defense gets a whole year to get it's act together, and the linebacking corps is our strongest unit (and the most important when facing Tech).


9) at Kentucky

The poor Cats just have too many other teams vying for their players to gain momentum in the SEC. New players, coaches, and schemes may have these guys a few years from making a small splash again. Never an easy trip to Lexington, and if Jefferson Pilot was still around you could assume we'd be in some ugly noon game where we underperform. Hopefully talent takes care of this one.


10) Vanderbilt

It's more than time for a little regression in Nashville. With Franklin's departure they will probably see the downturn we all expect. This game may rank a little higher if it was on the road, but it seems we usually are able to hold serve versus Vandy at home.


11) Troy

Not the weakest of smaller tier opponents for sure. You may remember having to pick for or against these guys in your bowl pool the last few years.

12) Charleston Southern

Not as good as Troy.