Wednesday, September 24, 2008

UGA v AL (And a little UGA ASU for good measure)

Whatta ya know, 4-0!!! I was close on my guess for last week's score...I thought the Dawgs would win by 18, they won by 17. Not too bad, I suppose. I mean, if I were making gambling lines, a bunch of people woulda lost money...but them's the breaks! I was at the UGA-ASU game, and I liked the way we looked for the most part. The Dawgs were really hummin' on defense. The one score they had was on a busted coverage...I'm not sure WHO exactly, because without the benefit of replay, I didn't get to see where everybody went. I'm guessing a safety got sucked into the middle of the field, allowing the receiver to slip out into the endzone unnoticed. That's the kind of thing that will kill you in a tight game, but in a blowout, you just take a bit of coaching and move on. Other than that play, you could see the excitement radiating off the Dawgs' backs. They were flyin' around and really stickin' it to guys when they caught the ball...and the run, didn't exist!

4 yards rushing. That's what the Dawgs gave up. 4. DOMINATION.

On the offensive side of the ball, Stafford's accuracy numbers were par-for-the-course, hurt a little from an 0-3 start on the first drive. After the first play, he seriously left me saying "wow." I mean, it's one thing to watch him hurl a deep-ball on TV, but seeing that howitzer arm in person is something different altogether. He missed AJ Green by about 2 steps....something that I've gotten used to with Matt. It's a low-percentage throw, one that he's very willing to make, and in the long run, the offense will be served well by it. I just wish it were a teeny bit more accurate....because hitting that pass on the first play of the game would have really signaled something huge.

Knowshon looked great. No, he didn't bust a 56-yard spinning, flipping touchdown. He served as the workhorse, often gaining 2 or 4 yards...but then popping the big 15 yarder right when we needed it. And of course, there was the signature flying touchdown. That kid's amazing.

I said it would be a beatdown, and I was right. The Dawgs definitely came out to the desert to play some serious southern football. Now, one thing did trouble me...Our inability to score inside the five. We continued to call the "knock them off the ball" running plays...and our offensive line just couldn't do the job on those. I think we had 5 or6 opportunities from within the 3 and we came away with 3 points (we ran out of time in the 4th quarter). By my count, we left 15 points on the field. Twice we kicked chip-shot field goals when we should have scored touchdowns, and at the end of the game, our playcalling did us in from tacking on another. Now, many people would say that a late touchdown is bad form...but I say that's total crap. College football, because of the BCS, requires big, impressive victories. At the end of the year, if the only thing the voters have to go on is a 27-10 win by UGA over ASU versus a 31-7 win by USC over ASU, they're gonna like the USC win. It's rertarded, but they will.

"But Dukes, don't we have the schedule to put us out in front?"

Whew man, do we ever! Let's talk about that schedule...more importantly, let's get down to what's important RIGHT NOW....UGA v AL.

"Yay Dukes! Thought you'd never get around to it."

Shut up.

UGA v AL is no easy contest to pick. Last year, it was a VERY close one...need I remind anyone about the OT toss from Stafford to Henderson? Just fantastic! Now, both teams have improved from a year ago, and both are seated firmly in the top 10. The Tide are playing outside of their minds right now! But, allow me to shed just a little light on help you calm your fears.

Last week, AL destroyed ARK 49-14. Two of AL's scores were on INT returns for touchdowns. Take those away, and you have 35-14. Another score was set up directly by an INT (on the 30 or something). So, if you take away interceptions (Stafford has thrown ZERO), you're talking about a much different ballgame. You're looking at 28-14....possibly closer if ARK can score on any of those drives. Of course, that's pretty doubtful because ARK is awful. They barely escaped games against Louisiana-Monroe and Western Illinois. Coming into the game, Casey Dick had thrown 2 INT against those terrible defenses. It's no surprise that he threw three against AL.

"So they have a great pass defense? Is Stafford gonna throw a pick? That could kill us. HELP ME DUKES! HELP ME!"

Sorry, but you needed that. I didn't say Alabama has a great pass defense. I said Casey Dick is terrible. It's funny, but his numbers are similar to Stafford's...58%v60%, 5 td apiece, 831 yds v 919...and Stafford's played one more game. Of course, that one more game happened to be against the nation's 1 Pass Defense. That's right, South Carolina has the best pass defense in the nation. Alabama is 47th against the pass. 47. Just so you know, Arizona State is 52nd...and they weren't THAT bad until Stafford. What Alabama has going for them is a MONSTER at defensive tackle. Terrence Cody is a 365lb bohemeth who changes the shape of the pocket, and closes up running lanes. He's a big part of their defense being ranked 8th against the run. Simply put, one man can't block him. He's big, quick, strong, and fundamentally sound.


Well, get ahold of yourself. I said one man can't block him. I didn't say he can't be blocked. Also, it's very tough for him to hurt us on the perimeter. I think we'll see more outside tosses and misdirection against this defense than up-the-gut running. Simply put, you don't drive a guy like Terrence Cody off the ball. Aside from his ability to change the running game, Terrence will come hard up the middle at Stafford. Our line has to be ready. Stafford has to be ready. Bobo is a screen-happy OC already, and I expect that trend to continue this weekend. I think he'll have Stafford take a few shots downfield, but mostly, he's going to want "3-steps and FIRE" type plays. That gives Cody less time to disrupt anything. Also, we may see a good bit more shotgun, just to give Stafford more breathing room.

I think the passing game is really coming along. Stafford has set a career-high twice this season, with 275 then 285 yards. His 300-yarder is coming...can you feel it? I don't know if it will be THIS game...but it's as good a time as any. Did you know that Matt Stafford leads the conference in Passing Efficiency? Did you know that AJ Green leads the conference in Receiving yards? Did you know that Knowshon Moreno leads the conference in Scoring? So...three of the offensive statistical leaders in the conference are on our offense. That's pretty good.

"Dukes...tell me about when Bama has the ball!"

Well, when Bama has the ball, I think they have some problems. John Parker Wilson is nothing special. Against Arkansas, he was 6/14 for 74 yards and a touchdown. Now, that's probably because Alabama ran right over Arkansas. Their RB Coffee had 162 on the ground with two touchdowns. Of course, 87 yards came on a TD run in the 1st quarter. So, if we eliminate THAT big play, I think we've got a pretty good chance of stopping him. Oh yeah, did I mention that UGA is 1 in the SEC against the Run? We're gonna need to be! AL had 328 yards rushing against ARK. Now, admittedly, ARK is weak...but that's a boatload of yards! We can't allow that. Alabama knows JPW can't beat us through the air, so they're gonna try to pound it out on the ground.

That's what USC tried to do, and we saw where it got them. I fully expect Alabama to bring a better ballgame on the ground, though. I mean, they DO have the 1 Rushing offense in the conference. (The stats may be a bit inflated after last week, but numbers are numbers) IF we can stop the run, though, JPW is gonna have to go to the air, and he's gonna find Julio Jones. This kid is great. He's big, strong, and a playmaker...much like AJ Green. They were both getting tons of hype in the preseason, and now people are discovering why. Jones has yet to emerge as the big-time threat that AJ is proving to be...but that could be a function of his not getting opportunities more than not living up.

Still, I don't see JPW performing too well against our defense. He's not Dan Lefevour, and he's not Rudy Carpenter.

Also, I expect Martinez to really step up the blitzing this week. I think we'll see a good bit less nickel against a team ranked 105th in the nation in passing offense. Get ready to see UGA back in the good ol' 4-3. Now, that's gonna put more pressure on our coverage guys...they're gonna be fighting for balls when they come...and from time to time, they're gonna lose. Just be ready for that. But the game won't be settled in our defensive backfield. If it is, that means we're doing pretty damned well.

This game will be like most other SEC battles - won in the trenches. Will our line be able to handle manimal Terrence Cody? Will we protect Stafford and open holes for Moreno? Will our boys squash the power running attack of Alabama? Will Rennie Curran rip off JPW's baby bonnet? These are important questions. If UGA can win the battle in the trenches, then the Dawgs can't be stopped! If Stafford has time, he will slice AL's defense apart. If Moreno has room, he will dart in and out of that defense (ranked 8th nationally against the run...they're good!).

Do I think BLACKOUT 2 will have the power of the original? Well, sequels are rarely up to the challenge. I don't think this Blackout will be a blowout. I've been fairly impressed with what I've seen out of Bama. Their competition hasn't been stellar...but neither has ours. I think both teams are facing a fierce test this weekend, and I think it's gonna be another close one.

Or, the Dawgs are gonna blow the barn doors off.

UGA wins, 31-14. Go DAWGS!


Anonymous said...

Dear Dukes,

While your predictions may not always be on point, your insight into the lineup and opposition have helped my sportsbook account tremendously! Keep up the good work and thanks for the x-tra $$$$!

Ben Dukes said...

Glad I can be of service.

ThePetis said...

May I suggest a white background? It will help make it look less like I'm not working at work.