Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cocktail Party Turned Heavyweight Fight

This is what the UGA-FL game is supposed to be....a bitter rivalry with National Title implications. Each team has a loss. Ours, to a great team and title contender. Theirs, to a decent team that is performing better than expected. Each team suffered that loss before their offense really got going. Each team has playmakers on both sides of the ball. Each team is in the BCS top 10.

But only one team can win.

There have been many storylines leading up to this game.

Last year's celebration.

The emergence of the FL speedsters.

The surprising strength of UGA's young O-Line.

Meyer's gag order.

Tebow's tearful call to action after the Ole Miss loss.

A series record of 15-3 for FL over the last 18 games. - Ok, let me talk about this one for a second, because it really pisses me off. I'm so sick and tired of hearing about how FL has won 15 out of the last 18 games. Why do we go back 18 games? Why don't we say they've won 15 out of the last 21 games? Because that's also true....but, it would give UGA 3 more wins. Why don't we go back 30 years? That puts it at 17-13 in favor of FL. I guess that doesn't look as amazing. Oh, and if we look at the entire history, UGA has 47 wins...FL has 37. So, in the 93 year history of this rivalry, FL has recorded almost half of its victories in the past 20 years. With 11 of them coming under Steve Spurrier. But none of that is important. What is important, is the current team. Tebow is 0-1 against UGA. Stafford is 1-0 against FL. (Each was a backup in the 2006 contest, which FL narrowly won 21-14 on their way to a national title)

Now, let's examine the game that is forthcoming. These are the two top offenses in the SEC. FL scores 42 ppg, and UGA scores 34. The main difference here, is level of competition.

To date, UGA has played defenses ranked 1st, 2nd, 4th, 9th and 10th in the SEC. FL has played against the 4th, 8th, 9th, 11th and 12th. So, we've done what we've done playing better defenses. Well, in this game, UGA will face the #3 defense in the SEC, and FL will face the #6. Things don't look to be any better for UGA this week than they have been in recent weeks.

Also, FL is coming off a serious DRUBBING of Kentucky, where they blocked 3 kicks, all leading to touchdowns. FL also had an INT returned for a TD. That's all the defense helping out the offense - an offense that needs ZERO help. Basically, FL scored 28 of its 63 points against UK off turnovers. That's staggering. Of course, 17 of UGA's 52 points against LSU were also due to turnovers. So, both of these teams know how to get it done on defense.

Or at least, you'd think so.

FL's defense HAS NOT BEEN TESTED much this season. Ole Miss gave them absolute fits, and won in the Swamp. Hawaii is no real test, as UGA fans will remember from the Sugar Bowl. Tennessee's offense has been woeful this season. LSU shot themselves in the foot all night. In fact, UGA will be the first offense ranked above #30 in the country that FL has played all season.

The sad fact is, though, that FL will be the 2nd best offense (LSU - #30) that UGA has faced, and they sit at #31. AND....they sit at #31 after having taken nearly the whole first half of the season to find themselves offensively. Both of these offenses are definitely on an upswing. UGA is getting better production out of Moreno every week, and Stafford is really finding his receivers. And the receivers are CATCHING THE BALL. If you couldn't tell by the all-caps, that's important for receivers to do. Florida is getting GREAT production out of its runningbacks (200+ yards in each of the last 3 games) and Tebow is always a powerful weapon. This Florida offense is certainly one to be reckoned with.

Many people are calling for this game to be an absolute shoot-out, and I can't disagree. I don't think that the defenses have the ability to stop each other through the air. Florida does rank 5th in the conference against the pass....but they haven't played any real passing threats. And, Tennessee ranks behind them at 6th in the conference, giving up only 3 more ypg through the air. We remember how well Stafford did against THAT secondary (300+yards). I like BOTH QBs chances to get big numbers in this one. The telling statistic, though, might be yards after the catch. I see FL having an advantage there. If any one of those little speedy receivers catches the ball in open space, UGA's defense is in trouble. Those guys can flat-out FLY and I don't know that we have anyone who can catch them. Big plays in the passing game have been a weakness for our team...mostly because we play a very aggressive scheme. That enables teams to hit us deep. Of course, we also occasionally pull the ol' "Tampa Two" which led to Gamble's second pick-six last week. That defense is disguised well, and can cause serious headaches for an offensive coordinator and opposing quarterback. It seems to me that Meyer's offense does a great job of getting the receivers balls in space. Bobo's doesn't seem to do the same thing quite as well. I've been awfully frustrated MANY times at how our guys seem to catch the ball with a great deal of traffic around them. That has changed a bit THIS season, which is good...because THIS game is being played THIS season (interestingly enough). I see the potential for many, many points to be scored.

I don't think either defense will move up in the national ranks this week.

My biggest question comes in the running game. Will that be where the difference is made? Florida has the #3 rushing defense in the conference, giving up 102 ypg. But again, they haven't played many potent offenses. The only rusher they've faced who resembles Moreno is Arkansas' Michael Smith who carried for 133 yards (just above his season avg of 131). LSU couldn't get their rush going....which tells me that FL may be very stout up the middle. LB Brandon Spikes certainly plays into that. I don't really know what to expect from our running game this week. In recent games, we've been going very heavily to the toss-sweep, departing from the old delay-counter calls that seemed so huge last season. I'm wondering if there's a reason for that...if the line just isn't as good at the counter play...or if Bobo's been saving it. I dunno. I know that FL is very, very fast...and that causes trouble for perimeter-style running. But, if Charles Scott had trouble getting started downhill, then I think that may be a cause for concern as well. We'll just have to hope our O-Line is ready to open some creases for Moreno to squeeze through.

When FL has the ball, the running game is POTENT. Demps is averaging 10 yards per carry. Do you get that? On average, when that kid gets the ball in his hands, it's AT LEAST a first down. That's nuts. Our defense will REALLY have to contain him. That's troublesome...because if you key on him, that enables reverses to hurt you, it enables Tebow to hurt you on the option, and it creates mismatches in the passing game. Meyer's offense is a scary one, especially now that he has the proper personell to run it. Rainey, Demps, Harvin...these are all speedsters who can kill a defense. And, the most dangerous thing is....with Rainey and Demps coming on, Harvin is free to stay on the perimeter.

A lot of Georgia fans are still riding the emotion of last year's victory in Jacksonville. Neither of these teams is last year's team. FL is MUCH IMPROVED over a year ago. Tebow isn't hurt. UGA's defense isn't getting the pressure on QBs that it did last year (don't let the stat I pull out later fool you...we've already played 8 games this year, compared to 7 going into UGA-FL in 2007). Georgia's offense IS more powerful, but can it keep up with Florida?

The Gators are VERY GOOD at taking the ball away from opponents. They have an over 2:1 ratio in that department. Like I said before, this is an offense that does not need help. If we stop ourselves with turnovers and penalties, we're in trouble.

The positive thing for Georgia fans is, it appears that the penalty problem we had earlier in the season is dying off. We haven't been flagged for a late hit on the QB in quite some time. I'm pumped about that. Also, UGA got back into the habit of scoring TDs in the Redzone last week. I'm lovin' that! It could be that the Dawgs have had just about enough of that shooting themselves in the foot crap. And I'm certainly in favor of moving beyond it.

I don't know that FL can stop UGA. I don't know that UGA can stop FL. Everyone is billing this as an away game for UGA....which is just fine with me. I mean, do you know the last game UGA lost that wasn't at Sanford Stadium? November 4, 2006. It's been nearly 2 full years since the Bulldogs have lost a game away from home. While I hate the fact that we haven't been good custodians of our home field, I like our chances when we have to travel. While it's true that Richt's teams have been best when on an opponent's home field...having lost only 4 games in 8 years, compared to 8 at neutral sites (including championship games and bowls), Richt is definitely doing something right in his game preparation away from Sanford.

Our boys are good. Are they championship material? Well, they have a chance to prove it.

Look, if Florida is thinking about last year's game, they've already lost. These aren't the same teams, and the same stakes aren't in play. UGA didn't think they had a chance to get to a National Title last year, they were just trying to stay alive in the east. FL wants retriubtion for last season? Great. UGA wants retribution for the 1st half against Alabama. Everyone is talking about how Florida will react to being disrespected last year. Does noone think that UGA might have a little chip on its shoulder as well? After losing to Ole Miss, Florida fell hard out of the top ten. Then, after beating LSU, they VAULTED back up, ahead of UGA. Georgia lost to AL, a top ten team, then creamed LSU as well, and moved up one whole slot. That's disrespect. Georgia started out the season at #1, won its first three games, and slid down the polls every week. That's disrespect.

This UGA team has had nothing but disrespect all season. People have said the defense isn't good enough...they don't get enough pressure.....well, going in to the FL game last year, our D had 12 sacks....this year we have 13. We got 6 against FL last year. I hope we can repeat that...though I doubt it. People have said our O-Line is too young, and too patchwork to succeed. Well, the current o-line is 3-0, and coming off some the offense's best performances of the season (season high passing v Tennesse, season high rushing v Vanderbilt, season high scoring (against a worthy opponent) against LSU. The picks for this game have been in Florida's favor...most by a touchdown or two. ESPN's senior writer Bruce Feldman (and I think by now you all know how much I despise him) picked FL to win 38-30, among other reasons because he just doesn't "think UGA could beat Tebow twice in a row." Do you get that? Not that UGA couldn't beat FL...but that UGA couldn't beat TEBOW. He's saying that ONE MAN is stronger than our whole team. Oh, Feldman...kiss my bulldawg ass! Feldman has been a UGA hater since before the season. He's one of the main proponents of the "weak O-line" argument...and every time he's picked against us, I've loved seeing him eat his words.

Look for this week to be more of the same.

I can't call a score on this one. I have absolutely no idea what these teams are going to do. It could be 61- 59, or it could be a true shocker.....14-10. I have no idea. The only thing that I'm willing to say, is that I believe the Dawgs are going to win it. I think they're going to win it, and the sports analysts and experts are going to have to finally admit that Georgia might actually be as good as advertised.

With a win on Saturday, UGA takes its spot at the table. I think UGA vaults into the top5 BCS rankings after beating Florida in Jacksonville.....

aw, to hell with it....

49-28....GO DAWGS!

1 comment:

Pete said...

Vegas says 31-24 Florida...

Pete says 31-24 Georgia.

Go Dawgs!