Friday, October 24, 2008

UGA v LSU ...tough test in the Bayou.

Well, as far as I can tell, most folks are picking LSU to win this one. I've looked at it up and down, and I just can't figure out why. I mean, yeah, they have a great runningback, Charles Scott...he's #22 in the nation in rushing. That's not too shabby. The only back that Georgia has faced with more yards? #18, Glenn Coffee for Alabama. Seems like he didn't have an especially AMAZING game against UGA. Don't get me wrong, he played well, he churned out 86 yards, the highest output by any single back against UGA. Let me repeat that. 86 yards is the most any single back has gotten against our defense. UGA hasn't given up a 100-yards to a single rusher since Tashard Choice, on Nov 24 of 2007. Of the teams LSU has played, the rushing defenses have not been stellar. Troy is ranked 66th, North Texas is 105th, Mississippi State is 76th, Auburn is 25th and Florida is tops of the bunch at 15th. Against Florida, the Tigers amassed a whopping 80 rushing yards in a 51-21 loss. They doubled that a week later against South Carolina, in a shaky 24-17 win.

By the way, at 61 yards per game, Georgia's defense is ranked #3 nationally and tops in the SEC (Florida is 4th, giving up 96 yards per game). I like our chances of shutting down their running attack. Yes, they have a good back...but if he can't get out in the open, he can't outrun anyone. Look for us to bring pressure packages to stuff their ability to run.

Now, LSU does have the #4 pass Offense in the SEC at 220 ypg, and Georgia has the #10 passing defense, surrendering 208 yards per game (those stats are a bit inflated, since we gave up 250 and 271 in back-back games early in the season). So, they may have a chance to get after us through the air. How do we avoid that? Blitz, baby, blitz! We're going to have to. Neither Andrew Hatch nor Jarret Lee is particular amazing under pressure. If we get people in that backfield to harass the qb, we'll have some good success. Our defense turned a corner on that front last week. Adams was hurried all game, sacked twice, threw two picks, and had about 5 others dropped. The D looked REALLY good against Vandy's passing attack...what there was of one. Now, I fully expect the LSU offensive line to be better than Vandy's....but I don't worry much about it. Why? Because that's not what you hear about. You don't hear about LSU's dominating offensive line.

You hear about LSU's dominating defensive line. And THIS is the reason most people are picking LSU to win this game. They have a firm belief that LSU will be able to rip through our patchwork offensive line, and get to Stafford. They believe they'll be able to control our inexperienced guys, and bottle up Moreno. The offensive line of UGA is just too big of a question mark for anybody to be able to pick UGA to win.


These guys didn't just get "called up" from highschool last week. They've been playing together all year. Yeah, they've shuffled around...they've played multiple positions. Yeah, we've had 4 left tackles...and that inexperience shows at times. Sometimes the guard doesn't quite seal the DE, and Moreno has to fight for three yards instead of breaking it for 10-12. Sometimes the tackle thinks he has help from the guard, so he lets a guy slip between them, and Stafford has to run from pressure. BUT....these mistakes are decreasing by the week. The line is shoring up...getting better. Every single week these guys are bucking up, and doing what is asked of them! A lot of that speaks to the abilities of Stacy Searels, who, for the second year in a row, has been asked to sew together an offensive line depleted by injury/graduations. This man is a miracle worker.

And LSU knows it. After all, we did take coach Searels from the Tigers. Now, THAT may present a problem. Les Miles is certainly familiar with the pass protections that his coach was teaching. The UGA D-line have already tipped their hand, saying that Searels told them about the weaknesses of the LSU O-linemen. I'm sure Miles will be using his knowledge of Searels' schemes against UGA as well. So, the DAWG O-Line will have a particularly stern test. Couple that with the fact that Miles will most likely use 4DEs at the same time, to add speed to the pass rush, and you get a recipe for disaster.

I know, I know, it sounds sinister. Well, let me tell you this....speed in the middle of the defensive line isn't as scary as it sounds. You don't really "outrun" a center or a guard in pass-protection. Speed on the ends is devestating because you can run around a tackle, or fake a move to the outside, then beat him inside before he can recover. But, in the interior line, it's not as dangerous. If the Center and Guards play good assignment football, they should be able to nullify the speed advantage. Plus, I watched Ben Jones handle the Mountain from Alabama all night...I have a feeling he'll do ok against LSU.

I think this game will serve as the UGA O-line putting all the experts on notice. Yes, they're banged up. Yes, they've been switched around all year. But damnit, they earned their scholarships just like everyone else in the SEC, and they're tired of people looking down on them.
They haven't given up a sack since Stafford went down twice against Alabama. Our quarterback and runningback have had season-high passing and rushing games in that span as well. It's time for this unit to show everyone that they can hang with the "big boys"...namely the Fearsome Foursome from LSU.

Oh yeah, and remember how I was talking about the nation's #22 rusher, Charles Scott and the #18 rusher, Glenn Coffee? Well, let's not forget the nation's #17 and the SEC's #2 rusher, Knowshon Moreno. He just hit his season high (170+) against Vandy...but I really don't see him having THAT kind of day against LSU. It's not that I don't think HE's's that i think LSU's defense is going to be a little better suited personnel wise to stop him. Right now, LSU's Defense is 5th in the SEC against the run. Of course, Tennesse is 3rd, and Knowshon DID hit THEM for, who knows? UGA's O-Line is two-weeks more experienced now...and should be coached up pretty well. This could be a defining game for Knowshon Moreno. How will he come out and do against one of the better run-stopping teams in the conference? Will he be able to get his Heisman campaign back on track (I mean, the thing's probably going to Colt McCoy...but if he finishes strong, he could make a good argument). This is the point in the season last year that Moreno really exploded onto the scene. The line had gelled, and with a dive into Florida's endzone, he became a household name. Will we something similar this week? I certainly hope so.

Finally, the Stafford question. Will he perform? I think the answer here lies entirely in the offensive line. LSU ranks 9th in the conference in passing defense, just one spot ahead of UGA. Stephen Garcia hit 'em for 215 yards....and Tebow hit 'em for 210 and two TDs. Well, now they'll be facing the top QB in the SEC. Sure, Tebow leads Stafford in efficiency rating....but Stafford has him beat in total yards, yards per game, yards per attempt, yards per completion, and they're tied with 10 TDs. The picks hurt Stafford's rating...but you can't blame them all on him. This week, he faces a team with only 4 interceptions on the year. That's less than Georgia...and we ALL know how WOEFULLY ANNOYING it's been watching our boys NOT pick off passes. LSU ranks 9th in the conference in total defense. Matt Stafford ranks first in the conference in total offense. This ought to be a fun one. If Stafford stays vertical, LSU is going to have a long night. But, like I said earlier, the LSU front-four will be built for sacks. So, Stafford will have to make quick decisions, and great throws.

Of course, when you talk about quick decisions, you gotta like Stafford. He makes decisions before the ball is snapped. He's very good at checking out of bad plays, and into good ones. Miles will have to disguise his defenses a bit if he doesn't want to get lit up through the air.

Oh, and don't discount the return of Brannan Southerland as an important factor in this game. That kid can flat out FLATTEN OUT folks in both the passing and the running game. If LSU is bringing pressure, look for Bobo to go to Two-back sets, with Chapas or Southerland blocking sometimes, and releasing others. The only worry here is that Stafford won't see a DL or LB who has sniffed out the screen. Matt was picked by TN and nearly picked by Vandy on similar plays.

Look, what it all shapes up to is a close game. I don't care how LSU performed against Mississippi State or Auburn or South Carolina or Florida. This is LSU-GEORGIA. Yeah, UGA has won 5 out of the last 7 against LSU...but let's not forget what happened when we faced them in 2003...they worked us TWICE that year. Plus, they'll have some emotion on their side. For some of those guys, they've only played UGA once....when we beat them in the SEC title game, on our way to a Sugar Bowl loss to WVU. That one's sticking around in their mouths for sure. They know that a loss to UGA will hurt them severely in the West Race. Basically, it's an elimination game from EVERYTHING for them. If UGA loses, we can still win the east....but if LSU loses, they're out of everything. Their stock drops, and they're going from a possible shot at a national title, to the Outback bowl or worse. Make no mistake, this game is GIGANTIC.

And it's in Baton Rouge.

But, it's daytime. LSU at night in Baton Rouge is basically unbeatable. But, in the daytime, it's a different story. Georgia has a good chance to legitimize their claim of being a top-ten team by knocking off the defending national champions. Has the game lost some glitter since Florida's drubbing of the tigers and Bama's handling of the Bulldogs? Sure it has. But it has lost none of its importance. LSU and UGA are two very similar teams - they're very good...but have been put in their place. Now it's time for one of them to step up and REDEFINE that place. The winner of this game steps forward in the national title hunt. The loser, well, let's not even go there.

I like Green, Massaqoui, Moreno and Stafford in this one. I know LSU's D is good.....but in nearly every category, Georgia's is better. Hatch and Lee have pulled off some miracles this year...but UGA isn't Auburn, and UGA isn't South Carolina.

Dawgs 31 - LSU 17.

Go Dawgs!

1 comment:

CP said...

We ended up with a much higher score overall than I expected. That's the best our offense has clicked all season. We just need consistent defense for 4 quarters...EVERY drive to put the Gators in the tank.