Tuesday, July 19, 2011
Why Georgia CAN make it through the slate undefeated.
So many people (mostly Georgia fans) are ready to Trash this year's version of the Dawgs. Naturally, the criticisms range from player ability to a coach asleep at the wheel, and people say the rest of the SEC has simply become too strong for the Dawgs.
Georgia lost 5 games in the SEC last season, and that's atrocious. However, these losses were not wholesale blowouts at the hands of teams which were vastly better than UGA. Let's consider the games a bit -
1) South Carolina - The loss in this game was a result of two things: 1)Our inability to stop the running of Marcus Lattimore, and 2) Our offense's inability to maintain possession of the football. With the score 14-6 in the 3rd quarter, Justin Houston forced a fumble on the SoCar 24, which we recovered. A few plays later, Washaun fumbled away the ball, and our chances to pull within striking distance. Georgia would force a punt, and then force two more before South Carolina finally kicked the field-goal that sealed the deal. Many felt during this game that the chains were held around Aaron Murray, and as a result, our offense was anemic. I am inclined to agree.
2011 Solution: We have to improve against the run. The BEEF we're adding this season along the line will go along way toward that. Now, South Carolina uses alot of 3 and 4 WR sets along with a single back in order to beat defenses by personnel. Simply put, they don't WANT us to be in a comfortable 3-4 where we can clog the line and let the linebackers roam free. They want to put us in Nickel Packages where we have more DBs on the field, and then take advantage with their big back. With the improvement along the line, this will not be as much of a factor. John Jenkins at nose is great....Jenkins and Geathers on the field covering up the Guards in Nickel is also pretty great.
2) Arkansas - you can blame the loss of this one on a couple things. First off, the wheel route. Seems like we didn't want to cover that all year. We were in a brand new defensive scheme with different assignments and somebody blew it. The missed block - the guy who committed that offense is no longer around, and I'm fairly certain that pass protection will be paramount for all backs, as it's generally been the route to quickest PT AND we'll be leaning on Murray's arm quite a bit. Poor effort - not many people mentioned this post-game...but we had a chance to tie the game at the end. Marlon Brown lagged toward the endzone and wasn't in position to make a play on the tipped-ball in the endzone. I was furious. The very next day, the Jacksonville Jaguars scored on a similar play when the receiver finished the play, and made the rebound catch.
2011 Solution - well, we don't play them again. We will, however, play Ole Miss who has a similar wide-open offense. I believe Ole Miss is lower on the talent totem pole, and I also believe the problems we faced against Arkansas have likely been repaired. A full year in the defense will mean coverages will be better. It wasn't ability, but rather understanding that hurt in that area last season. I've already said why I believe pass-pro will be better. And as for effort, well, the offseason record as well as last season's great decrease in penalties shows a more disciplined team.
3) Mississippi State - Our inability to stop the option was the main downfall here. You could also blame Georgia's inability to finish drives (Ealy fumbling in the redzone, Durham not hauling in a TD pass, etc). But, the primary culprit was the gaping holes on defense.
2011 Solution - again, the changes made on the defensive front will make a big difference. Linebackers were being blocked too easily last season as the OL could easily make it to the next level. This season, we'll have two guys who could legitimately draw double-teams. That causes trouble for blocking schemes, which causes real trouble for the option.
4) Florida - We lost this game due to Murray's worst game of the season. He threw three bad interceptions, the worst of which came in OT. On defense, we struggled against the multiple quarterback sets of Urban Meyer, and ultimately a couple of plays made by Brantley at clutch moments did us in.
2011 Solution - FL is in its own set of problems. I'm not saying this becomes an automatic win in ANY way, shape, or form. Muschamp made a smart hire in Charlie Weiss. The reason I say that is that Weiss is good at tailoring his offense for his talent. Sure, these guys were brought in as spread players, but Weiss will know who to play in what capacity in order to have some success. However, I do believe that a stronger, more experienced defense will be able to confuse Brantley, and I believe Murray will not repeat his foibles.
5) Auburn - We lost this game due to Cam Newton. That's the sum total of it. Cam's ability to get the tough yards, extend drives, etc - that's what beat Georgia. I also think the "myth" of Auburn played a hand in it as well. In the first quarter of that game, Georgia had their foot on the throat of the Auburn Tigers. 21-7 at the 1st quarter horn. Then, Cam began to turn it on, and the defense didn't answer. Was he in their collective head? It's possible. It's also possible that the Dawg's defense was just like every other collegiate defense faced by Auburn - simply outgunned by the NFL First-Rounder.
2011 Solution - Well, Cam is gone. More than that, Auburn's defense also takes a step backward this season with the loss of all-world Nick Fairley. I have no doubt that Auburn will still have a potent offense, but they will step down a bit from the juggernaut they were with Cam at the helm. Also, Auburn's defense wasn't a world-beater at all in 2010, and I don't know that they've made the necessary upgrades to be considerably better in 2011.
So, what about the other games? I don't think TN, KY, or Vandy have improved to the point where they will give the Dawgs a heap of trouble.
Coastal Carolina and New Mexico States are snoozers. Georgia Tech retreated back the L column where they've been for the past decade, and I don't think they're going to threaten again this season. Besides, despite the AJC's attempt to sweep the news of their troubles under the rug, it's clear that all is not well in Atlanta.
And then, there was BOISE. I'll get to them later.