Three Weeks In, Is Georgia Still Worthy of Number One?
We’ve had the chance to look at what the Bulldogs have to offer this season. We’ve seen some flashes of Heisman-level greatness. We’ve seen a freshman phenom receiver come out of nowhere and quickly become a fan favorite with his iconic hustle and skill.
We’ve also seen some areas where the team needs to make great strides. We’ve seen the Dawgs give up many times more yardage in penalties than the opposing team had in rushing offense. We’ve seen questionable play calling. We’ve seen an uninspired and easily winded pass rush. We’ve seen the CMU exploit, umm...exploited.
So did we deserve the number one ranking? Yes and no.
Currently USC is playing better than the Dawgs. They’re firing on all cylinders without doubt. One need only look at their merciless beating of Ohio State for proof.
Beanie’s foot was hurt. So what? USC brought the thunder and was out to make a point. The OSU line could’ve consisted of five clones of Orlando Pace and they could’ve had the Juggernaut at fullback, and they still would’ve lost. That’s the level USC is playing at.
Either that or...gasp...OSU was overrated.
Which one seems more realistic?
So why do the Bulldogs deserve it?
They haven’t lost yet. The Bulldogs been playing sloppy, ugly, and undisciplined football—yet they have not only been unbeaten thus far, but also have blown out their non-conference opponents.
While they have room to improve, it should be remembered that these are mental issues: issues that can be fixed in practice much more readily than fundamental strength, speed, and outright talent issues.
Look at penalties. People are upset that UGA only beat South Carolina by seven points. People wanted a statement against an evil genius, an absolutely nasty defense (led by none other than the man who made MSU’s defense so good last year, Coach Ellis Johnson), and a competent QB who played the game of his life.
This is to say nothing of it being a conference game—the SEC isn’t exactly the pushover our friends on the West Coast like to think it is. Take away our penalties and there’s another touchdown in them there yards. The score is now 21-7.
Look at play calling. Instead of the Stafford keeper around the end, set up a screen pass with an option for Stafford to run. Or that shovel pass play that I’m anticipating seeing against LSU. Even if you don’t score, you’ve hopefully gained a yard or two.
Have Chapas pound it in. Have Moreno work his magic. Send anything but Stafford around the end. The score is now 28-7.
Simple mistakes rectified, and all of a sudden the South Carolina game doesn’t seem so disappointing. Simple mistakes rectified, and you have play becoming of a team that should be ranked number one.
The coaches have taken notice of the defensive line and their uninspired pass rush. They will be put through some vigorous practices with added attention on fine-tuning their conditioning. I will be surprised to see them looking as they did in the fourth quarter vs. South Carolina at any other time this season.
The coaches noticed this issue when the Dawgs beat Georgia Southern and (if they have any brains at all) have been taking steps to correct the issue.
This leads us to passing defense. Is it an issue of coverage? Is it an issue of players? Should the Bulldog nation simply pray that Rennie Curran keeps trying to cover the entire field like a lunatic and keeps our blunders from turning into tragedies?
It’s a little late to completely re-scheme our defense, and you’ll see attempts at these quick eight- and 10-yard passes for the rest of the season in all probability.
Two solutions are to be considered. One is the pass rush. We need more pressure. You can never have too much pressure on a quarterback. Part of this is coming with the added conditioning that they are no doubt receiving. I have visions in my head of them doing stadium sets with refrigerators on their back.
Make the quarterback panic, hurry, scramble, consider other options, lose site of his goal, and throw it out of bounds—or make him cry like a little girl.
I salivate just thinking about it. I pine for those days when you could outright murder that pretty boy across the line who was getting the girls you weren’t. It is the line’s duty, since they are not amongst the beautiful people of the world, to make sure that the quarterback isn’t pretty anymore.
The second solution is a better read. Look for indicators. It’s kind of obvious that the Bulldogs haven’t been keying in on this type of play at all. It seemed like half the time South Carolina executed it the receiver wasn’t even covered.
If our coverage can key in on these plays and can break them up with the same vigor they do on the rest, then this issue will be nullified.
Until then, the CMU exploit rears its head. ASU will come out with this from play one if they want any kind of chance at victory. The Dawgs need to be ready. Florida, Bama, Auburn, and LSU have most certainly taken note and are going to be far more of a challenge than ASU and Carolina.
The Dawgs are fortunate that they have time to work out the kinks. If there’s one thing Richt and his crew are going to show you, it’s that they’re competent.
The first step to competence? Identifying what needs work and working on it.
So now that we’ve identified the areas needing work, what do we need to see more of?
Stafford is looking great. He has much better efficiency than last year. If he glances at both sides of the field before picking a receiver, I think he’ll be even better.
Since 2006, I’ve had this gripe with Stafford. It’s like he knows who he’s throwing to before the ball is snapped and almost refuses to throw to other people. How else could one explain so many throws to Millner in 2k6 and Chandler in 2k7? Look at MoMass, look at A.J. Pick one, launch that air strike, and watch the points pile up.
I want to see more different looks with Knowshon. More sweep type plays. Maybe even an option or two. Let the fullback pound it up the middle a few times a game. We need to keep them guessing as to which hole he comes out of.
Once he has his hole and room to run, Knowshon will bring his own brand of juking and jiving to keep them guessing even more. Bring disorder to the defense, break down the system, and it’s all downhill from there.
Another thing that I’d like to see more of, even if most fans don’t like it, are the long-range field goals of Blair T. Walsh. The kid has a monster leg and great accuracy.
I want to see more Logan Gray returning punts and kickoffs. He reminds me of those converted soccer player backs I’ve come across in football and rugby mixed with Tim Dwight-type speed and fearlessness. He may be listed as a quarterback, but I think he found his new calling in returning kicks.
I pray we see more of him because, even though I’ve only seen a little bit of him, I love the hustle and attitude he brings.
So how far will Georgia go? Right now I think the SEC East is ours for the taking. Take away the two most glaring issues—which both, thankfully, look easily correctable—and you have an SEC championship team.
Will they win the BCS championship outright? No.
Look at USC and tell me if you think anyone out there has a chance against them at the level of play they brought vs. OSU. As I said earlier, it’s entirely possible OSU was overrated.
A better look at the rest of the field is needed to accurately determine the Dawgs’ national championship probabilities. Once we get deeper into the conference schedules of the Pac-10, Big 12, and Mountain West, the read on the competition will be better. Until then, there are quite a few teams with some severe talent out there.
Every single member of the top 10 (minus Wisconsin and plus BYU) is making a case that they should be considered for the top spot in the nation.
This is the joy of college football. We may see BYU fall to Wyoming, or USC fall to Oregon State, Florida may lose to Kentucky, or Oklahoma might fall to Kansas.
Is the BCS fair? Not always, but it’s making for an exciting season.
The BCS championship is in the Bulldog Nation’s grasp—but it’s also the Dawgs’ to lose.
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