Monday, January 27, 2014

The 16-team Playoff…it’s almost TOO simple.

Ok, so…I don’t dive into the recruiting mumbo jumbo…and the coaching hires well, I said my bit on Pruitt, and that’s all I really know about.  So, what’s a guy to write about other than the flying horseshit that will be 2014 college football playoff?

First, there’s the fact that there’s a “Selection Committee”.  That is, in and of itself, patently retarded.  If we’re going to “Play off” and “Win it on the field”, then our combatants shouldn’t be decided in a locked room with a big cedar table (inversely proportionate to the collective penile size of the committee members, females included).

Then, there’s the fact that we’ve decided to go with Four Teams.  Four.  That means that there are about 116 teams that don’t deserve any whiff of a possible title.  Well, screw that.  It’s moronic.

Here’s the thing…this whole nastiness could be avoided by simply following the plan I blogged about a few years ago (of course, changes in current Conference structure actually make it EASIER to implement).

So, here’s what we do:

There are 5 major football conferences which are split into divisions.

There are 6 major football conferences (well, 5 and the Indies) which are NOT split into divisions.

If you take the DIVISION champs of each split conference, and the CONFERENCE champs of each non-split conference, and add the TOP INDIE…..

YOU GET 16 TEAMS.  Holy crap.

So, you play the conference championship games, you seed the other 6 teams, and there goes your first round.

If it were me, I’d probably set it up like this:

But hey, who wants something that actually makes sense?

Go Dawgs

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

The Promise of Pruitt

Well, when Grantham and Company died, so did my last blog series.  No need to recap the Season of Suck if those guys won’t be around to fix it.  So instead, I look to the future, dawgfans.  I look to the future with excitement, anticipation, whiskey and a full-half-chub because of the Jeremy Pruitt hire.

That’s not to say I was ever sold against Grantham.  I’m always more of a “let’s see what happens” guy when it comes to coaches.  I know a good bit about football, but I don’t know as much as Mark Richt and Todd Grantham and Mike Bobo (and apparently all of the commenters at Get The Picture who know more about football than those guys) - so, if the Head Man believes in a coach, I trust him.  Doing so has enabled me to enjoy many years of Georgia Football without stressing about each detail.

That being said, it makes me happy that we’ll have a new attitude on Georgia’s defense.  I don’t buy into the “they don’t want it” or “they’re not hungry” - but I do buy into “They’re confused as hell.”  So, if Pruitt can make the concepts simpler, they’ll be more effective, and we’ll see better performance.

Here’s what I’ve learned in a quick study on Pruitt -

He ran Alabama’s defensive backs in 2010-2013.  What I noticed about this time period:

In 2010, 18 out of AL’s 22 INTs were by DBs.
In 2011, 9 out of AL’s 13 INTs were by DBs.
In 2012, 15 out of AL’s 18 INTs were by DBs.

So, in two of those three seasons, the DBs had double-digit turnovers.  2011 seemed to be a lower-than-norm performance.  The driving factor behind that was that Robert Lester had an outrageous campaign in 2010 with 8 picks, and then regressed to the mean in 2011 with 2.

In Pruitt’s 3 years at Bama, a Sophomore DB lead the team in Picks every season.  That’s an interesting note.

Also in those 3 years, team Sacks (while not a DB issues) increased every season…from 27 to 30 to 35.  That kind of pressure often results in shaky QB play and turnovers - if the DB Coach can teach the kids how to capitalize on bad passes.  Our DBs didn’t seem able to do that this season (Despite 33 sacks).   In those seasons, DBs had a small # of sacks (5.5, 2.5, 5) and moderate TFL #s in 2010/11 (16 each) which increased to 23 in 2012.

Overall, the 2011 defense at Alabama seemed to take a minor step back … and won a National Title.  All the while, they built up a ton of experience and then were VERY solid in 2012.

Then, Pruitt left and went down to FSU…

Here’s what I learned about Pruitt’s one year as DC at FSU:

The FSU Defensive squads of 2012 and 2013 don’t appear to be massively different.

2012 Points Against - 14.7/game
2013 Points Against - 12.1/game

2012 Rushing TDs Against - 10
2013 Rushing TDs Against -  7

2012 Passing TDs Against - 13
2013 Passing TDs Against - 14

But, the Defensive Backs did show some marked improvements.

The 2012 squad had 36 team sacks, but 24 of them came from two players - upperclass DL.
The 2013 FSU team had 35 team sacks, and they were spread among a number of players.  The team’s sack leader was Lamarcus Joyner, a DB, with 5.5.

In fact, when it comes to being active behind the line of scrimmage, Pruitt seems to have really brought that with him to FSU.  In 2012, the DBs had 7 total TFL.  In 2013, DBs had 24.5 TFL, and the leading DB had 8 on his own.

The whole team was better behind the line of scrimmage, actually.  Every player who recorded a sack either maintained or increased their production from 2012.  The top three QB Hunters made fairly nice increases with Joyner going from 0 in 2012 to 5 in 2013, Timmy Jernigan stepping up from 1.5 to 4.5 and Mario Edwards, Jr going from 1.5 to 3.5.

With Pruitt, it appears to be about Aggression, Aggression, Aggression.  This resulted in higher sack numbers, and higher turnover numbers.

2012 - 11 DB Interceptions (11 team)
2013 - 17 DB Interceptions (26 team)

2012 - 4 Fumbles caused by DBs (9 Team)
2013 - 9 Fumbles caused by DBs (12 Team)

All in all, the turnovers increased from 22 to 35.

The one area where Dawgfans won’t be excited is that the 2013 FSU defense regressed from 2012’s in the area of 3rd Down Conversions.

2012 - 27.15%
2013 - 31.92%

But…the Georgia Bulldogs have beaten that 31.92% 3rd down percentage in only one of the past seven seasons.  No surprise…it was in 2011, when UGA had a staunch 28.93% 3rd down conversation rate.  In 2012, we fell to 36.54% and in 2013 all the way to 39.49%.

Finally, if we look at the way UGA13 compares to FSU 12, we get this…

UGA13 Team Sacks - 33
FSU12  Team Sacks - 36

UGA13 Team INT (DB) - 7 (6)
FSU12 Team INT (DB) - 11 (11)

UGA13 Team TFL (DB) - 81 (16.5)
FSU12 Team TFL (DB) - 86 (7)

UGA13 Team Turnovers - 15
FSU12 Team Turnovers - 22

On the surface, the Georgia Defense that Pruitt Inherits isn’t incredibly dissimilar from the FSU one he walked into a year ago.  If he can make similar improvements to our Defense as he did to FSU’s, then we may see some drastically different results in 2014.  I don’t know that I expect higher sack numbers, but I definitely expect DBs who play with more certainty and more confidence.  That will make all the difference in the world.

One of the main tenets of Grantham’s style was that his attacking pass rush would rush the QB, and his complicated DB schemes would confuse him - resulting in more turnovers.  In 2013, however, the pass rush wasn’t as dominant as we’d want it to be (though the numbers were high, we often weren’t effective in key moments) and the people most confused by our coverages, were our DBs.  That’s a doomed-to-fail scenario if ever there was one.

I think Pruitt’s plan will be to simplify the scheme, and amplify the attack.  And I think that’s a great plan.

Go Dawgs.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

2013 Looking Back … Passing Offense

There is no lack of documentation showing the love-hate-love affair I’ve had with Aaron Murray.  I was a skeptic, and a detractor, and a begrudging accepter…and then, as his Junior and Senior years progressed, a full-blooded appreciator of the man and the player who was Aaron Murray.  After he lost against UF in 2010, I told my friends…he won’t lose to them again.  Then, in the latter part of 2012, I felt he had finally shaken the “big game” bullshit off his back.  The bowl game would go on to prove it, as he turned around a lousy first half and lay a gutsy performance out on the ground, bringing us the win.

So, I came into 2013 very optimistic.

Then, the first play at Clemson.    Ugh.

Then, Tennesee.  Double Ugh.

So many guys went down, our sideline became a trauma center the likes of which haven’t been seen since the Superdome after Katrina.

But, we had some guys stand up and play some pretty good football.  We also got some guys back who were our leaders coming into the season.  Arthur Lynch returned from being banged up and finished the season strong, earning All-SEC honors.  That’s the guy we thought he’d be when we signed him.

Still, if you’d told me we’d lose Mitchell and Scott-Wesley for the season, as well as Conley, Bennet, Lynch and Rome for multiple games each - and yet we’d still finish as the Nation’s 16th ranked passing offense (and tied for 10th in yards per attempt), I’d have called you nuts.  In fact, I definitely wouldn’t have thought our passing game would drop by only 226 yards over the course of the year - and given our schedule strength, that’s pretty amazing.

So how’d we do it?

For starters, we added more throws to the running backs.  Last season, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall combined for a 27-208-1 line.  This season, Gurley himself improved on that greatly with 30 catches, 344 yards, and 5 TDs (with one game still to go, and no SECCG stats).  Also, by spreading the ball around (lack of experienced deep threat), we had more receivers in the 200-399 yard range than previously.  

Jonathan Rumph was much slower to come along than many had anticipated.  In fact, Reggie Davis far outproduced him in catches, yards, YPC, as well as games played.  Reggie may have shown himself to be one of our quality Deep Threats of the future. 

And of course, receivers need QBs to toss them the ball.  UGA had two very good signal callers this season.  

The sample size and competition was vastly different, but you have to love that from a Completion Percentage perspective, there was absolutely zero drop-from Murray to Mason.  Not a tenth of a percent.  Nada.  Not bad when you’re replacing the SEC’s all-time leading passer.  

Sadly, Murray never hit a 65% season…but 64.8 was an improvement on his 64.5 from 2012.

Overall, with a patchwork receiving corps and two very strong passers, Georgia had a very serviceable passing attack which bodes well for 2014 and beyond.  As we look to the future, in fact, we see that our top two producing receivers (Conley, Bennett) are back, as will be Davis and Malcolm Mitchell, providing deep threat opportunities for the vertically-minded Hutson Mason.  Receptions out of the backfield should continue to be a big part of our passing game, and the ol’ bread-and-butter play action looks to be there as well since our RB stable only gets stronger with the return of Keith Marshall and the addition of Chub and Michel.  

Even with the loss of Murray next season, I have a sneaking suspicion that the Richt/Bobo offense will continue to build on what it has done recently, and bring even more wins in 2014.  If only that defense will catch up……..

Go Dawgs.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

2013 Looking Back… Rushing Offense ...

At the outset of the season, the Dawgs were set to have the most potent rushing attack in the nation.  The only question mark was the big boys up front.  With Gurley and Marshall (this season forgoing the silly “Gurshall” nickname that just smacks of fans living in the past) primed and ready to go, a hopeful Dawgnation screamed from every peak that we would “Run This Conference.”

Didn’t quite work out that way.

Now, the YPG average of 176.08 is only 6.49 YPG than UGA’s 2012 total that was good enough for 4th in the conference.  But, in a year when rushing was UP across the conference, you certainly didn’t expect the Gurley-Marshall tandem to underproduce in the way that it did.

Of course, I suppose that’s what happens when your Starter goes down with an ankle injury, and Captain Change-of-Pace tears his ACL.

Some out there in the net-o-sphere believe UGA didn’t run as much this year as last (due to injury), but that’s not really the case.  In 2012, UGA averaged 37.5 Att/Game, and in 2013, the # dropped minimally to 36.9 Att/Game.  Or, in essence, we had less than ONE fewer attempt per game in 2013.  Still, the drop off from Todd Gurley to just about anyone else is pretty substantial.

Here’s a snapshot of how the BallCarriers for UGA fared this season:

Gurley going off at 100 ypg is pretty nice.  We’d love to see it over that, of course…but if your star running back is averaging 100 ypg, and he’s not 100%, well - that’s pretty damned good.  After Marshall went down, you had Green and Douglas splitting the load, and they were fairly neck-and-neck with productivity.  Both scored 3 TDs, both have their strengths and weaknesses.  Green is more of the big-play guy, but Douglas hammers out the tough yards a little better.  For two freshmen to come in and be able to do what they do, well, that was a bright spot for the offense (The fumbles notwithstanding).  

With another year of seasoning on these guys next year, Georgia will set itself up to have a very potent rushing attack.  Perhaps Nick Chubb and/or Sony Michel will get the opportunity to LEARN for a season before being thrown into the fire.  I’m a big fan of the 4-tailback system..but 6-tailbacks?  Jeebus.

Overall, I’d have to say that our running game this season has been serviceable.  It was supposed to be one of the brightest spots on the team, but injuries prevented it from being that.  As good as Brendan and JJ may turn out to be, they aren’t Gurley and Marshall.  Also, there’s no statistic for battles lost at the point of attack.  At times, our offensive line seemed to lack the PUNCH it needed to truly take advantage of opposing teams' lines, and thus open the roadways for our backs.  Then, at other times, there were holes big enough for Gary Danielson’s ego to run through.  Look, the fact is, you’re not going to blow everyone off the ball all the time.  Somebody’s gonna nut-up against you, and you have to fight through that.  Sometimes your kids are going to get hurt, and you have to fight through that.  Georgia having to rely on 3rd and 4th string running backs leaves us in the bottom third of rushing in the conference.  It’s not a huge surprise.

You ask yourself…how can the running game improve next season?  There are two very obvious answers - 

Don’t get hurt.
Get more consistent line play.  

Do those two things, and I think you see UGA vault back up to the top 4.

Go Dawgs.

Now that the season is done...

I’m always an opponent of judging the performance of a team before all the games have been played.  Often, we jump on the team early in the season and compare the Dawgs to some midwest team that seems to just be smoking everybody…when in actuality, the competition is nowhere near similar.  We all fully expect the team to get better as the season goes along, but then again…so do our opponents.  And then, there’s injuries…

But, all of that is what makes up a college football season.  2013 has certainly been a memorable one.  For my dollar, I don’t recall a season which has entertained me nearly as much as this one has…even though the Dawgs finished 8-4.  I didn’t see the Kentucky or App State games, but literally every other game was a thrilling one.  How often does that happen?

Don’t get me wrong - I want to see our team win titles, I do… but at the end of the day, that does nothing for me.  My life doesn’t change.  I don’t really care too much about what the other SEC fans at my job say about championships and all of that.  I work with Bama, FL, and LSU grads (and we live in Los Angeles…go figure).  They can talk all day about “their” championships, but really…they did nothing to earn them, and it doesn’t do any damage to my manhood to hear them talk about it.

Except the Auburn folks.  Screw them.

Seriously, though - I wish fans at large would really take hold of the notion that the ENTERTAINMENT is what is important.  For me, it’s getting together with other Dawg fans and enjoying an afternoon of beer, bad food, and camaraderie while a bunch of 18-22 year olds play a game.  It’s seeing guys I went to high-school with 8-10 times a year.  It’s taking a couple prilosec in the morning so I can gorge myself on Hot Wings with impunity.  It’s the passion, and the spirit…it’s climbing up on a barstool and cheering “What’s that coming down the track?!?!”  It’s jumping for joy like a kid on Christmas when Murray dives head-long into the end zone…and it’s sitting in stunned disbelief when a deflected pass gets carried into the end zone for a touchdown.   But, when it’s over, no matter the outcome, I go back to my life…and all I have is the experience, win or lose.  See, if the Dawgs win the title, they don’t send me a ring.  They gave me a ring for what I did when I was there…and that’s it.  I won’t receive any more.

That’s the fandom I have, and I would love for the rest of the fan base to come along with me on that.  Understand that the team is there to play its games, and pursue its goals…and you’re along for the ride.  Understand that the team plays its collective guts out, and wants EVERY victory very badly.  Sometimes the chips don’t fall like they need to, and they lose the game.  I know, It weighs heavily on the souls of the fans…but the players don’t get that “luxury” - they have to shake the loss off and get better.  They have to shake the wins off, and get better.  Every game has a lifespan of about 48 hours, and then it’s gone.  It has to be.  That’s football.

But now, at the end of the season, we can look back and really examine what this UGA team did…and who they were.  That’s what my next series of blogs will be.  I hope you’ll read.  I mean, it’s not like there’s any more football to watch.

Go Dawgs.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Dawgs find new life while riding the couch this week

50% of Dawgfans out there have written off the season. The other 50% are looking for a miracle.  In a season like this, that's kinda what you have to do.  The injury bug has been a mothra-sized pain in the, well… pain in the everything really.  The training room looks like the casualty tent in Apocalypse Now.

Yet, we stand 6 days from a game in Jacksonville with greater light at the end of the Atlanta tunnel than many believed possible going into this morning.  We all knew Connor Shaw was injured.  Things were setting up oh-so-well for Mizzou, as they were facing their third straight team with MAJOR injury issues.  Sure, for Cackalacky it was only one guy - but it was THE guy.  Don't believe me?  Compare the 0 points South Carolina had prior to Shaw to the 27 points they scored with Shaw in the game.  For those who didn't watch, and haven't read anything, USC won 27-24 in 2nd OT.  The first half of the second OT was the first time in which South Carolina led the game.  See, Spurrier called on Shaw in the 3rd quarter, and he led the Cocks back from a 17 point deficit to a 17-17 tie and then an OT win.

The win kept South Carolina's hopes for a possible trip to Atlanta alive.

Of course, it also kept UGA's same hopes alive.

So now, UGA will head to Florida with something to play for.  UGA will head to Florida with Todd Gurley back in the lineup.  And, UGA will head to Florida with a defense that has definitely seen its share of improvement over recent weeks.

For those who, like me, think we can still make it to Atlanta, we need Mizzou to stumble twice more. With Tennessee, Ole Miss and TAMU on the schedule, 2 losses are possible.  Mizzou loses two more, and UGA loses no more…and we're in Atlanta.

But it all starts on Saturday for UGA.  We have to put Florida away for the 3rd time in as many seasons.  With Gurley back in the lineup, I think we have a damn good shot at that.  Despite what a number of mailbag trollers and gut-feeling bloggers will tell you, this defense is getting better.  It's taking time, and it certainly isn't pretty…but the defense is getting better.  They're making stops.  They're causing turnovers.      They're doing what they have to do.

Will it be enough?  Only time will tell.  The next two offenses Georgia faces aren't the best.  If they can continue to improve, and gain more confidence, the Dawgs will have a nice opportunity to beat their 3rd top 10 team this season (Auburn) and they'll need to if they want to go to Atlanta.

And Mizzou will have to lose 2 more games.

Who's ready for a fun end to the season?


Saturday, October 12, 2013

You Want to See A Championship Team

2013.  The University of Georgia.  National Champions.

That's what you want to see.  That's why you watch the games on Saturdays.  That's why you scour the blogosphere for the rest of the week.  That's why you dig through the numbers in my blog.  That's why you dare to click on a Bleacher Report article.  That's why you follow every link The Senator puts on his board.  You are a Dawgfan, and you want to see our team as National Champions.

We lost the first game.  Your pride was hurt.  But still, you want to see us as National Champions.  You listened to the experts when they told you that it's ok for Georgia to lose that game.  If there was gonna be one, it had to be that one.  It had to be the Non-Con game that was against a great football team.  You want to see our team as National Champions, so you keep tuning in.

Though the game was tight, we BEASTED South Carolina.  Normally you get excited when The OBC throws his visor.  This time, he threw in the towel.  He went to the locker room with timeouts in his pocket, an 8.5 minute drive having pounded all the fight out of him.  Our defense was less than stellar, yet still you believed.  Because you want to see our team as National Champions.

We struggled against LSU.  We were able to pull out a gutsy, emotional win...but we looked bad on defense doing it.  The kid who was too salty to be a Dawg almost cooked our goose.  But we have faith in a player who has done nothing but do everything right since day 1.  He played out of his mind, and we beat the second #6 team we'd faced.  In the waning moments, when our defense faced Mettenberger, you thought we might lose.  You've "seen too much Georgia football" - maybe you've just been a fan of sports in the state of Georgia for too long.  The Braves.  The Falcons.  The Dawgs.  They'll give you heart attacks.  So, when Metts got into the shotgun, you put your hands over your eyes....but you split two fingers, because you just had to watch.  Because you want to see our team as National Champions.

Then we went into a "trap" game.  A team with nothing too lose, playing against a team with everything to lose - except its starting Tailback, who'd already been lost - in one of the largest, loudest stadiums in all of college football.  We'd come off an emotional win.  We were wounded and tired.  Player after Player went down to injury.  You couldn't believe it.  You thought "this is where it all ends.  This is where "living dangerously" finally catches up to us.  We gave up a fourteen point lead in the second half.  You wanted to hurl your remote at the tv, and shut it off.  But you didn't.  You watched, because you want to see a Championship Georgia Team.


You know what a Championship Team is?  They're a team that's been through the ringer.  They've faced it all.  They've seen adversity, and had to fight through it.  They've stared down the barrel of  a painful loss, and laughed at the next bullet in the chamber.  The "easy road" does not make a champion.  A Championship is unlike anything else in competition.  You look back, and you have to think "Just how in the hell did we get here?"  A Championship Team is special.  They are unified.  They have one goal, and they will push themselves - and each other - to the brink in order to succeed in that goal. They do not make excuses, but learn from their mistakes.  They take ownership and responsibility, and when the chips are down, they buck up.

Just watch this afternoon.  Watch these Georgia Bulldogs.  See if they have what it takes.  They face a confident 5-0 Missouri team.  They're missing a TON of starters.  They're missing leadership.  They're missing talent.  They're missing production.  The defense is learning on the job.  The offense is patchwork at best.  They are looking up at Everest, and realizing they left their boots on the plane.  They have no time, no room, no need for excuses.  They have to adjust.  They have to survive. They have to fight through the adversity and the pain and every surprise that comes at them, and they have to win.  They have to do that, because You want to see the 2013 Georgia Bulldogs as National Champions.

Go Dawgs.