Monday, November 29, 2010

About those timeouts....

I've been reading some garbage about people being upset with Richt's use of timeouts in the 2nd half against Tech.


How seriously are you hurting for something to complain about when you try to attach the use of 2 timeouts in the 3rd quarter to "bad clock management"? The big issue seems to stem from the fact that Georgia called two timeouts within two plays and one yard of one another.

Now, forgive me as I am not at home and can not look at the DVR of the game right now, but I don't recall the situation behind the FIRST of the two timeouts. I know Chapas had just made a run to the 2 on 1st down. So, we're at 2nd and goal from the 2. I don't know if Murray or Richt called the 1st timeout. If it was Murray, then it would have been because he didn't like the playcall given the defense. I just don't know.

Of course, it's doubtful that with 2 minutes remaining in the 3rd quarter, people would be all up in arms about using the first of 3 timeouts. No, people are upset because a little more than a game-minute later, with 55 seconds remaining in the 3rd, Richt called the second timeout. I remember this one well. I remember Richt running down the sideline and calling the timeout. And I know WHY he did it.

Ealey had just been stoned on two up-the-middle runs to the endzone. His knee touched before he got the ball across on the first play, and he failed to extend the ball on the second. The team lined up quickly on 4th and goal from the 1. My guess is that the call was to run the dive again. Richt saw that it was not going to work, so he called the 2nd timeout. What was the result? We got the right play called, Ealey went off to the right instead of up the middle, and Georgia took a 28-21 lead with 40 seconds remaining in the 3rd.

Oh, and what of that pesky third timeout? We never used it. Didn't need to.

People think that timeouts are there just to prolong the end of a tight game...that you MUST save them in order to give yourself a chance to win it at the end.

Because Richt called that 2nd timeout, we took a lead which we never surrendered and didn't NEED additional timeouts at the end of the game.

But no, I don't expect Joe Fan to understand that.

Go Dawgs.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Grantham's Defense Year One: Much Room to Improve

The above graph shows how Grantham's new 3-4 defense performed against the ten "competitive" teams we played this season. I couldn't bring myself to include ULL or Idaho State. In the graph, the statlines in white are our defense's production, and the statlines in yellow are the teams' avg per-game production for the entire season (our games included). Statistics in RED are areas where our numbers were worse than the average defense against our opponents' offenses. What you'll notice shouldn't suprise you if you've been watching the season.

Grantham has some serious work to do when it comes to defending a spread/option attack.

- 3/5 spread teams ran more plays against UGA than their average.

- 4/5 spread teams ran more running plays against UGA than their average.

- 4/5 spread teams had more rushing yards against UGA than their average.

- 4/5 spread teams scored more points against UGA than their average.

When Richt first announced the Grantham hire, and that he'd be bringing the 3-4 to UGA, there were two major things pointed out. First, that this would give Georgia a chance to put more athletes on the field to defend the potent high-talent spread type offenses. Second, with only 3-down linemen, the defense could become pourous against high-talent spread type offenses.

Georgia was definitely better against the PASS out of the spread than against the spread-run...but not by much.

The Georgia defense's biggest problem this season? Getting OFF THE FIELD on third down. What does that result in? You guessed it - the opposing offenses getting to run more plays. Against spread offenses, there wasn't a game where any combination of YPA or YPC would result in the opposition not being in position to pick up first downs. That's attrocious. We can chalk it up to personnel to some degree - we definitely haven't had a dominating front-3 which is a requirement of success in this scheme. Still, there were a number of instances (especially versus Georgia Tech) were our guys were in position to make stops either at or behind the line of scrimmage, and the opposition was able to keep moving forward.

Against Traditional offenses, the running defense was actually pretty good, but the passing D still needs work.

5/5 Traditional offenses had LOWER YPC against UGA than their average.

4/5 Traditional offenses had FEWER running plays against UGA than their average.

4/5 Traditional offenses had FEWER rushing yards against UGA than their average.

4/5 Traditional offenses had BETTER YPA against UGA than their average.

3/5 Traditional offenses had MORE passing yards against UGA than their average.

** It is important to know that much of TN's success came in garbage time.

The defense "got off the field" MUCH better against Traditional Offenses

Only two Traditional teams played more plays against UGA than their average, with each running 3 more total plays.

While only three Spread/Option offenses ran more plays against UGA than average, they ran 10, 7 and a whopping 25 more plays than average. When you're looking at a LOW of 4.6 yards per play, that's a whole lot of additional yardage/time to be giving up to these offenses. Also, 4/5 of these offenses ran more RUNNING plays, to the tune of 9,12,10,19 more plays. Again, at a low of 4.6 yards per rush, that's alot of time/yards.

We were told the 3-4 would create more turnovers, and it did.

Last year, the Georgia Defense took the ball away 12 times. This year, 24. The 14 interceptions are up from 11 last season, and we still have a game to go. And the 10 fumble recoveries compared to last year's 1? Well, I guess we got the lucky bounces we didn't last season. What I hate is that there were at least three more (two in the FL game alone) that we DID NOT capitalize on.

Personnel makes a difference.

It certainly made a difference against GT. Without big Sanders Commings on the edge, Tech was able to rattle off outside runs by collapsing Brandon Smith. I think Smith is a Nickel corner in Grantham's defense, and probably will do better to get alot of work as a speed man on the offensive side of the ball. Grantham and Lakatos want BIG DBs for a reason. As they come in and develop, you'll see a difference on the edge. Also, with bigger, more dominating play on the defensive line, our linebackers will be more free to make plays. That is ESSENTIAL in this defense. We haven't had spectacular line play against the Spread, and indeed, it's difficult to have. When you only have 3 men on the line, you're at an immediate disadvantage to the blocking scheme. Also, the the Spread/Option is an OPTION for a reason. The play isn't designed to go only in one place, it's designed to take what the defense gives it. When you have only three on the line and they aren't dominant, the O-Line can more easily dictate where the ball is going. If you call a Pinch, the line can collapse it, the QB can pull the ball out, and take it around the end. If you rush hard contain, the dive will be there. Having a stal-wart D-Line is paramount. This will be Grantham's primary focus of the next four weeks.

This ain't the NFL

Grantham had been in the NFL for 10 years. In the NFL, he faced traditional pro-style offenses on a weekly basis. Now, he's in the SEC. He is going to have to work to alter his scheme to stop the spread/option style defenses he will see. Next season brings similar challenges. We still have FL, AU, MSST, and GT on the schedule. We lose spread-style Colorado and traditional-style Arkansas. We pick up Ole Miss, who could be either offense in 2011, depending on who Nutt has at QB. We'll also face Boise State who is a pro-spread team. So, we'll likely have a 50/50 traditional/spread split again or perhaps even 40/60 favoring the spread/option style.

The mark of improvement usually happens in season 2

There is a great deal of evidence showing improvements in second seasons for head-coaches in the SEC. Let's hope the same holds true for defensive coordinators. Richt, Meyer, Saban, Miles, Chizik...all had great success in year 2. Hopefully Grantham will get to work on recruiting, signing, scheming and teaching...because we have to be much better in 2011. We just HAVE to.


Why the final Ealey TD happened...

A few bloggers and friends of mine have asked why the running play to Ealey was ever even called. They are unhappy with the fact that Johnson's "strategy" was allowed to play out, because they believe Richt could have knelt his way to victory.

The Ealey score was on 2nd down. Murray had knelt the ball on 1st down, and Johnson called a timeout.

Now, I'm the first to say the game is never over until it's over. Still, conventional wisdom holds that with under two minutes to go, having only one timeout, and're done. But, Johnson, being the "winner" that he is, decides to give his team a chance. So, the timeout.

Now, it's 2nd down and there is 1:35 on the clock. That's 95 seconds. If we snap the ball and take a knee on 2nd and third down, we'll snap the ball on 4th with about fifteen seconds left. At the least, ten seconds. That means that even a field goal would not run out the clock. So, at some point, you're going to have to run an honest-to-God football play if you want to possess the ball until time runs out. So, Bobo called a simple ISO play. Bobo did not expect Johnson's defense to allow Ealey to run straight through. He expected the play to burn enough time off the clock to get the Bulldogs back ahead of the playclock-gameclock differential, and thus be able to kneel the ball once an then walk off the field.

As for "Why didn't Ealey just kneel the ball?"

Washaun Ealey is a 19 year-old kid who has been told, on every play of his life other than that one play, that his goal is to get into the end-zone and score the touchdown. He hasn't been in this position. Our offense hasn't been in this position. It's safe to say that the coaches haven't likely been in this position either. Once upon a time in a game of NCAA football on PS3, I took the "Johnson Gamble" and it paid off for me, and even I didn't see that one coming.

Basically, that's why the touchdown happened. Bobo had to waste a little time, so he called the ISO. Johnson told his defense not to play the down, on the off-chance that the offense had called an actual play. Ealey did what he's been taught to do for his entire life.

Oh yeah, and we won the frikkin game by 8 points. Go Dawgs.

Really? Still attacking Bobo?

Bobo's offense had 11 possessions, and scored touchdowns on five of them. One possession was the kneel-down possession to end the game. Drew Butler only punted twice. The other possessions ended on King's fumble at the GT 9 and Murray being spotted short of the line-to-gain twice (once after a fumbled snap).

In truth, only twice can you say that Bobo could even be remotely to blame for any offensive woes in this game, and that was on the two punt possessions. The drive where King fumbled featured two big runs, and then the fumble. The drives resulting in 4th down stops were a 65 yard drive with two very interesting ball spots (personally I thought Durham had made it on 3rd) and a thirty-eight yarder that ended because Murray didn't handle the snap well enough to even give the offense a chance on 4th.

On the Dawg's first possession of the game, Bobo called one run, and then two passes where Murray couldn't find a receiver and was tackled for no gain twice. Apparently he diagnosed the coverage that Al Grogh was giving him, because the next drive featured 4 passes, 3 complete, and covered 95 yards and scored a touchdown.

Bobo's offense did not punt again until the fourth quarter when Grogh called his first (only?) blitz of the game, and was able to sack Aaron Murray on third down.

So....tell me, Bobo-haters...where's the indictment of his inability to coach?

Go Dawgs.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thoughts on Boise State and the Dawgs

Let me begin by saying this won't be a "hating on the Blue" post. Those who live in the past and believe that the "Major Conference" schools are by nature better football teams than those in smaller conferences are simply ignorant. Today's college football world is filled with incredible athletes at all levels. Yes, the major programs attract more of these elite athletes than the smaller schools do, but it doesn't take a roster full of five-star players to create a good team. Boise State has developed talent and has a few key players who are absolutely fantastic. That being the case, they have built themselves into one of the premiere programs in the country. Say what you will about their ability to hang with the big boys (and you won't have much of a leg to stand on given their BCS bowl history and a win over VT to open this season), but high-school kids all over the country know who Boise State is.

Now, not many people were happier to see them lose than I was last night. The loss affirmed what I've been saying all year long, that it isn't Boise State's talent as a football team that I question - but their ability to survive a season against similar competition. Boise State has climbed to the level they have mostly by dominating lesser competition. This year, against the only other quality team in the WAC, they couldn't play a full four quarters and win. In the second half, Boise State had two big plays - a 79-yard screen pass TD and a deep bomb with 9 seconds to go, which resulted in a missed field goal attempt. Other than that, the offense did nothing in the final 30 minutes. In overtime, they again did nothing. As the game wore on, you could see it on the faces of the Broncos defense - they simply weren't ready for this kind of a battle. Nevada, on the other hand, was dictating the game and doing exactly what they wanted to do.

Boise State is not likely to end up in a BCS bowl. In my opinion, they HAVE to be ranked below Nevada in the new rankings. Perhaps Nevada jumps to 12 and Boise falls to 13, I don't know. I just don't see how you can rank Boise ahead of Nevada when Nevada is the WAC champion, and just beat Boise. But, the media loves the orange and blue, and there's no telling what they'll do. Still, I beieve this is the beginning of quite a reality-check for Boise State. Next season, Boise opens with Georgia. They will play TCU in-conference. They will play Air Force and Fresno State and Nevada as well. This is not the same cupcake schedule they've been dealing with for the past few years.

Now, for our Dawgs, we can't take them lightly. What I noticed about defending against the Boise State offense was simple. PRESSURE. When you pressure Kellen Moore, he becomes very average. The other thing you have to do? Run with their receivers. The Boise State offense is basically built on Moore dropping back, having time, and heaving deep passes. When you take that away from them, they lose a good bit of potency. What does this mean for the Dawgs? We already have to improve in both of these areas. Our deep coverage has not been great, and our pass rush has been less than stellar.

The Chick Fil A kickoff will be a barometer for how Grantham improves his squad over the next nine months. We must bring in some size on the defensive line. Our line this year has been serviceable, but we're losing Demarcus Dobbs, Kiante Tripp and Brandon Wood. All of these guys have been contributors, and filling the spots vacated will not be simple. Grantham is reportedly looking to do some JC moves, which is a smart - and would have been a great move last winter. Now, it's basically a necessity. He needs kids who are familiar with a 3-4 defense, have collegiate level experience, and are ready to make an immediate impact. Then, the defensive backfield. I don't know much about the young talent on this team, but I think Lakatos is pretty comfortable with Boykin. Ogletree is coming along, but he and Rambo need to be a much more solid duo. Also, finding a solid corner on the other side of the field is going to be paramount. Commings looked pretty good in his work this year, and Brandon Smith is a good Nickel Corner. The LB corps will be strong, even stronger if Grantham convinces Houston to give it one more go.

Overall, I think the defense will improve with a year under their belt and another full offseason under Grantham. Lakatos is getting some more BIG Dbs this year, which is something we need badly to be able to compete with the giant wideouts who are beginning to litter this league.

I'm looking forward to the Chick Fil A game like no season opener I can remember since actually suiting up for the Dawgs. Can't believe this season is over - and can't wait for the next one to get here. The offseason - hell for fans, but quite possibly just what the doctor ordered for this team.

Go Dawgs.


I live in California. I've been here for 9 years now, and I still haven't fallen into the "I love the Pac-10" crap. The SEC is where the best football is played, hands-down. So, imagine how excited I was to find that the SEC Network exists here in Los Angeles. I paid the $120 for ESPN gameplan this fall, and rarely had to watch a Bulldawg game on the upper channels because it was often the early game on KDOC.


The feed is standard definition - square and grainy. It's simply not very inspiring on our 50" Plasma HDTV. The players are fuzzy, and the camera crews are sub-par. For a while, I chalked this up to simply the fact that the less-stellar game crews were covering our early games. Then I watched SportsCenter. There they were, HIGH DEFINITION REPLAYS of the game I had watched on SD only hours earlier.

Something tells me these weren't George Lucas-style digitally remastered replays. No, in fact, there were HD crews AT THE GAME. WHAT THE HELL???? How is it that we can't get the HD feed?

I thought maybe it was because I watched the SEC Network feed on KDOC and not the Gameplan I flipped over, and it was the same grainy picture.

Come on ESPN. I, as well as millions of other fans, paid you $120, and that's going to auto-renew next fall. You have nine months. Find a way to bring us ALL the games in HD. These days, standard definition is about as enticing as watching the gametracker dots on

At least I get to watch UGA wreck Tech in full HD tonight!

Go Dawgs!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Not just another running QB

I've been reading posts again. You know what that means...I'm about to do some complaining and airing of the differences!


Tech doesn't have a running quarterback. Paul Johnson's offense doesn't feature a running quarterback. It features a runner who takes the snap and occasionally throws the ball.


People are pointing at the amount of damage running quarterbacks did against UGA this year. Those stats look like this:

Chris Relf 21 rushes, 97 yards, 4.6 ypc.
Tyler Hansen 10 rushes, 51 yards, 5.1 ypc.
Trey Burton 17 rushes, 110 yards, 6.5 ypc.
Cam Newton 30 rushes 151 yards, 5.0 ypc.

However, look at the season PASSING totals for these teams

Mississippi State - 1855, 12 TDs
Colorado - 2500+ , 19 TDs
Florida - 2200 yards, 11TDS
Auburn - 2100 yards, 22 TDs

Georgia Tech - 949 yards, 9 Tds.

Has Georgia had trouble with running quarterbacks? You could say we have. However, you should also note that the four teams who featured a running quarterback have fairly balanced offenses. They throw a good bit as well. With Florida, the majority of the throwing was done by Brantley while the running was handled by Burton, BUT, both guys were often on the field at the same time, causing mismatches by formation. This will not be the case with Georgia Tech. Newton was a danger because he took his snaps from shotgun, and was a threat to run, toss, or throw on any down. He could eat up a secondary that didn't respect his pass, and could dominate a line bent on simply speed-rushing him. This will not be the case with Georgia Tech.

Look folks, Tevin Washington has a 36% completion rate. Meanwhile, the Tech ground game (not including Nesbitt) has racked up 2776 yards on the ground and 15 touchdowns.

Simply put, they won't be throwing the ball. They are going to grind. They are going to work towards chewing ground and chewing clock. Paul Johnson is not going to suddenly create a spread passing attack. He's going to run, run, run.

So, what does Grantham do? Grantham spends his off week teaching these kids even more about ASSIGNMENT FOOTBALL. Against a good option attack, every defender has a very specific job, and he has to DO THAT JOB. This can be dangerous in a rivalry game when kids by nature want desperately to make a big play. That is what can kill you against the option. You keep seeing the same dive over and over and over, so you jump on it, trying to make that big hit that causes a fumble or something....then the quarterback keeps the ball and runs past you for a 35 yard touchdown. DISCIPLINE is what must be preached this week.

Will we see more 4-man fronts against this offense? It's possible. Personally, I'd love to see Grantham use some 4-4. It's highly unlikely that Johnson is going to call many plays that would require a 2-deep zone scheme. Having four Big Men in the middle as well as four athletic linebackers would change things dramatically from what Johnson has been preparing his boys for all week. Of course, Ogletree is about as big as some linebackers anyway, so perhaps we'll simply see him walking up into the box. That can cause even greater confusion...and confusion in blocking schemes is exactly what you want against the option.

The option offense is built on reads. If the quarterback is expecting a particular look to perform in a particular way, and suddenly a safety blitz or a dropping DE changes that look, his read will change. When the read changes, the play changes, and the QB is forced to make a decision he may not be ready to make. We could run a blitzing safety off the tail of a slanting DE. The QB would read the DE, and think he should keep the ball, but the safety would hem him up in a hurry. That's just one possibility. It's not nearly that simple to defend the option all day, but crafting these plays is what coordinating is all about. Option offenses require "taking what the defense gives you." The trick is to show them one thing, and then give them something completely different. It's kinda like a Miracle-Bra approach to defense.

Go Dawgs.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I wonder if they'll shut up if....

Anger with Coach Richt is all the rage these days. People consider him a bad coach, a horrible manager of talent, etc.

So here we are....scheduled to open our 2011 season against the perennial media darling and top-5 team, Boise State. At some blogs, people are saying Richt will be coaching for his job in that game. They are saying that with a loss, the fanbase will immediately write him off, and the trustees will begin seeking a new HFC immediately. This is, of course, said in the wake of what has been a nightmare of a season by the Dawgs' own making. There is no big excuse. There's been no rash of injuries. There's been no consistent rate of turnovers. There has been nothing more than a team not playing up to its potential, and that is enough to bring out the hounds.

However, nine months is a long time, and many of the emotion-filled rants will die down. Sure, I'll likely recieve an "anonymous" post to my blog showing the negatives of Richt's career - a desperate attempt by someone to sway me over to the anti-Richt group which simply is NOT going to happen. Still, most fans will accept the fact that CMR is still the one in charge, and they'll begin to look for signs that this team could actually improve in the offseason leading up to the Chick Fil A kickoff.

People say Richt has mismanaged his talent, and that he and his staff just aren't good at getting STARS to suit up for UGA. They all say we aren't going to get Crowell, Drew, Dickson, etc. They all say UGA is a has-been program, and that kids just don't want to come play there. But perhaps there's still a surprise or two left in the salesman's bag for Richt.

I wonder if all of these people would shut up...if Richt convinced Green and Houston to stay for 2011. Would that bring the anger down? Would that impress people at all? Let's face it - these kids are destined for MILLIONS in the NFL. Green is a first rounder, and Houston may be as well - definitely a first-day kind of guy. What would it say about the TEAM's perception of Richt and what they can be in 2011 if those two are willing to turn down the cash and return to the Red and Black?

Would THAT shut people up? It'd be interesting to see.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Chick Fil A kickoff...What I know is this:

If that thing happens, I want tickets. I haven't been to a game in the dome since my sophomore year when we rallied to beat Virginia in the Chick-Fil-A Peach bowl. The atmosphere that night was electric. People were hurling stuffed chick-fil-a cows from the highest seats in the stadium. It was AWESOME!

The last time Georgia played Boise State, we rocked them in the face and jump-started an SEC Championship season. Now - this Boise State is not THAT Boise State, to be sure. Still, this is the perfect way to start a season. I've long been a proponent of "To be the best, you have to beat the best." And, I don't think there's any denying that Boise State is a top-25 program. I think there is a good bit of debate on whether they are an "elite top-5" program, and rightfully so given their annual resume'. But, they can certainly line up and play with anyone, and beat the majority of teams as well.

Facing off against Boise State is an IMMEDIATE litmus test of our team's improvement and a "This is where we stand" game from Day 1. Don't get me wrong, I understand the angle of beating up on someone at the start of the season in order to have a "warm up". But if you ask me, this whole frikkin' season has been a "warm-up." The defense was getting warmed-up to its new scheme. Murray was getting warmed-up to true-speed defenses. And the coaches' chairs, well...they certainly got warmed up this season. So, here it comes...a make-or-break type season for UGA and Coach Richt. Opening with Louisville would have been a good game - Charlie Strong is a fantastic coach and I'm sure his defense will be solidified in his second season. That being said, do we REALLY want to face his defense? Our track record against it is pretty awful.

Also, Louisville is a 5-5 team this season. They will not finish in the top-25, and won't start out there next season. UGA will finish outside the top 25 as well. However, squaring off against a team which will definitely be a top-10 if not top-5 team in September will be the best way to catch the voters' attention immediately. If UGA were to come out and win that game, the Dawgs would immediately be launched into the top 25. If we were to somehow ROUT the Broncos, as in 2005, our stock would soar.

Also important to note - this is not the move of an AD who is considering firing his head-coach. You don't schedule a sure top-10 team as the opening game for a first-year head coach. I suppose the guys at Sports and Grits will be exceedingly pissed about that bit of clarity.

The "news" of this is definitely exciting. Since it hasn't been officially announced, I don't know that I'm buying 100% into it happening. But, what I DO know is this:

I want tickets. Who's buyin?

Go Dawgs

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"What Georgia SHOULD be..."

I'm getting increasingly tired of reading about what people believe Georgia Football SHOULD look like. This is a fanbase that is unduly arrogant, and who would cut loose a very good coach simply for the promise of "Change." What these fans are neglecting to realize is that often times, coaching changes prove to be unmitigated disasters. When you go from a crap coach to a decent coach, you are quick to heft praise onto the decent coach. When you go from a decent coach to a great coach, you elevate that coach to a level of expectation which NO COACH can maintain year in and year out for any period of longevity. This is what has happened at UGA. There is not a coach in the history of college football who maintained dominance for decades, not even the greats like Paterno, Bowden and Bryant did that. They had runs. They had ups. They had downs. That is the cycle that is football. What they also had were administrations who were willing to keep them around through the tough times, because they understood that titles are rewards, not measuring sticks. You don't fire a proven winner simply because of a down period.

When Richt arrived in 2001, I knew nothing about him. I had just finished my fourth year at UGA, and had enjoyed my final game as a bulldog out in Hawaii. I met in January. After one conversation with him, I thought hard about staying in school for one more year, earning a second Bachelor's degree, and playing football for him. I knew he was a quality coach. In his second season, he went 13-1 and won the SEC. In 2003, Saban's Tigers beat UGA in the SECCG, and went on to win the national title. I thought we'd see UGA and LSU at the top of their respective divisions for years to come. We did not.

Both teams have been up and down over the years since then - such is the nature of football.

Some fans believe UGA should be in the talks for National Titles every year, and should be competing in Atlanta every year, if not, every other year. They also believe that UGA should NEVER get beat by South Carolina, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt, Kentucky, Ole Miss, etc. These people are idiots. There is no other way to say it. And, I'm no apologetic if you count yourself among them. You are an idiot. If your belief is that the only teams UGA has any "right" to lose to include and ARE limited to FL, TN, AL, AU and LSU, then you do Georgia, and the SEC for that matter, a serious disservice. This conference is what it is because it is highly competitive from top to bottom. No team is going to own the conference year-in and year-out.

Before the 2010 season began, people asked "Can anyone unseat AL?" and "Is there anyone who can rise to the level of AL and FL?" It was commonly assumed that no teams in the SEC had the rosters, coaches, or wherewithall to defeat these two "perennial powers." Well, here we are at the end of the season and neither of those teams will play for the SEC title.

The old days are gone, kids. Don't expect ANY team in this conference to ride five and six year spans of outright dominance. There are simply too many good athletes being spread among the schools. FL's roster is dominated by 5-star players. UGA's is not. Yet, Georgia was an interception away from possible victory in that game. Should Georgia compete for the east most years? Yes. And we do. In 2009, no, we weren't close. In 2008, we were a victory against FL from being there (of course, that game was never close). In 2007, if any one of five different games (UGAvUSC, UGAvTN, TNvKY, TNvVandy, TNvUSC) turned out differently, UGA would have played in the SECCG and likely the BCS title game.

The fact is UGA HAS been in competition for the East (East Co-Champs 2007), we just haven't won it since 2005. Even in a crap season like this, we were a win away from sliding in under the radar. The team wasn't good enough to do that this season, and it's been a true rebuilding year.

What probably gets me the most is the over-arching idea that Georgia has some kind of "birthright" to be a top-rated team. How did we become so ignorant of the college football landscape? Is this noise coming from people who are still living in the early 1980's? For three years, we were a dominant program. After Herschel, we weren't. Then we were a losing program. Then we were a middle-of-the-road program. Then came Richt, who elevated the program back to Championship level. Now he's hit a rough patch, as happens in all good coaching careers (Dooley and Butts, the two standards of Georgia coaching prior to CMR, both went through them); but, Richt's team this season is stronger than the year prior. Unfortunately for him, so is his competition.

And that's the other part of the equation that everyone seems so quick to forget. Last year, Georgia lost badly to less-than stellar football teams. With the exception of Colorado, we have dominated every "lesser" team we've faced. We also have run up against five top-25 programs who have been able to pull out victories against us in the final quarter. That hurts, but it shows that in a year with a new defense, a young quarterback, and a struggling running game, we're still hanging in with some of the top teams in the country.

THAT is what Georgia SHOULD be. Georgia should be a team that is going to be able to compete with anyone, anywhere. Until now, we haven't seen a UGA team like that since 2007, and even then we were beat solidly by Alabama. Georgia SHOULD be a team that is entertaining to watch. We should be having slugfests with our rivals, and we should be blowing out lesser competition. This is what 2010 gave you. We lost more games than we should be happy with, but it was quite a ride. It will be better in 2011.

Go Dawgs

Monday, November 15, 2010

The Defense is the defense.

In the days since our loss to Auburn, I have seen the ire of Georgia Fans once again climbing up. It's nowhere near the level following the loss to Colorado. Perhaps that's because a season including 6 losses has dulled the pain, I don't really know. One of my friends posed the question to me: "what is the argument for retaining Richt?"

My response:

I don't need to make an argument. He's not getting fired. You guys can whine and bellyache about it, but he ain't getting fired. If he has a crap season in 2011, possibly. I doubt it will happen given what I saw on the field (and no, the w-l record doesn't sway that opinion).

AL 2007: 7-6 (6-6 reg season)
AL 2008: 12-2 (12-0 reg season)

The 2007 AL squad did NOT get better as the season went along. In fact, they lost the final four games of their regular season, including a home loss to Louisiana Monroe. But they did suffer some close losses (including the OT home loss to UGA) which helped them mature and pull together. 2007 laid the foundation for what we saw out of Bama in 2008 and 2009.

You guys like to harp on Richt being at UGA for ten years. The kids who are on the team haven't been there for ten years, and each year the team is different. That's why a 6-6 team can become a 12-0 team. Sometimes it really is a play here or there which can define a season. The question is whether the work this team has put in, in enduring this painful season, will yield rewards in 2011. I believe it will. I know you don't, and that's fine - but I need not make an argument, for it is all moot.

Of course, there came a response, saying that the reference to AL "misses" because Saban's team improved and improved, and in the past two years, we have regressed even further. I was called "delusional" for supporting Richt. I disagree:

The argument doesn't miss. 2007, AL goes to a 3-4 defense. They don't have the personnel for it, and they're all learning. They go 6-6. The next year, with seasoned veterans running that defense, it was nearly impossible to score on them, and they went 12-0.

I'm not delusional, I'm rational.

The team this year has played better than the team last year. He's some real-time knowledge for you:

Last year's team was not good. We beat Carolina (last-second defensive play) and Arkansas in shootouts. We were run out of the stadium against Florida. We beat an average Auburn team on a last-second defensive play. We fell apart against Kentucky and let them beat us. We were HOUSED by Tennessee. Over the spring and summer, we did a complete overhaul of our defense. This season "could" have been a good one, if the guys on defense had been able to defy all logic and beat the 3-4 learning curve. They didn't. So, we had a bunch of close losses.

Still, the offense has performed better than the offense a year ago.

Aaron Murray has 11 games compared to Cox's 13. He has more completions, less attempts, trails in yards by a whopping FOUR, is 3 TDs shy of Cox (and 4 shy of sharing the all-time UGA record for a QB), and has nine fewer interceptions. Our rushing through 11 games trails last year's 13 game total by 475 yards (which means we actually have more than we had through 11 games last season, as our offense picked up over 550 yards on the ground in the final two games of 2009). Through 11 games, our offense has scored the same number of TDs through as we scored through 13 a year ago. 2010 is the first season in UGA history where we've logged six-straight 30+ point outputs.

Last year's PPG - 28.9 This year's - 33.5

Last year's DPPG - 25.9 This year's - 22.1

Through 13 games last year, we forced 11 turnovers.

Through 11 games this year, we've forced 13 turnovers.

Our team is a better team this year. Unfortunately for us, South Carolina, Arkansas, Mississippi State, and Auburn are also better teams this year and we couldn't pull it out against them.

As for Alabama in 07 and 08...In 2006, AL went 6-6 and lost their bowl game. Enter Saban and the 3-4. Alabama goes 6-6 and wins their bowl game in 2007. The players learn the defense. Their DPPG that season? 22.0 The next season, the Defense improves by over a touchdown per game, surrendering only 14.3 ppg. The team goes 12-0. People love to remember the 2008 season for AL, and forget 2007.

A new scheme takes time to learn. This past Saturday, there were three plays that I can name where a Freshman Safety, who will be a STAR at UGA, made mistakes that ended up costing us the ballgame. In the second half, Ogletree had his eyes on Newton and moved with him as he rolled slightly to Newton's right. He didn't need to do that because Rambo was covering that side of the field and was in position to make a play on a ball thrown that direction. Still, Ogletree did it. That caused a seam to open between himself and MLB Dowtin. Newton hummed a TD over the reaching arm of Dowtin, and inside of Ogletree who would have been in position, if not for that mistake. In the fourth quarter, with the score only 4 points apart, AU had a third down. Ogletree was set as the spy against Newton. He aggressively stepped up into a hole, thinking he'd make a stop, but got caught in the wash of the O-Line and Newton went around the block for the first down. Soon after, Ogletree again got caught staring in the backfield. He bit on a play-fake, and the Tightend ran past him. Newton fired another TD to him.

Alec Ogletree is a good safety. But, on Saturday, he made some critical mistakes - and that has been the story of the season for our defense. These athletes are quality athletes. Boykin holds the all-time UGA record for kick returns, and he's returned what, 4, 5 for tds? 3 for 100 yards+. That's an athlete. Houston leads the SEC in sacks. Akeem Dent is second in the SEC in tackles, and 24th in the country. These guys can play football. They're still learning a complex defense, and at times that's gonna bite you.

You don't believe, and I do, and that's fine. But saying I can't make a case for Richt is ridiculous - can I make a case you will agree with? No. No one can. I could tell you that I talked to God on a mountain, he gave me a window into the future, let me watch the BCS title game of January 2012 and that I watched Richt be doused with Powerade before hoisting the Crystal Football alongside Aaron Murray, and that still wouldn't satisfy you. You do not like Richt as a coach, have villified him, and want him gone. There is absolutely no rationale which will change your mind.

Nor is there any which will change mine. He's my coach, and I'll stick by him until the UGA Brass decide he's not my coach any more. McGarity gets paid enough money to make those decisions. What I do is provide a perspective that is NOT based purely on emotion, but rather on observations from both sides of the hedges. Many fans see wins and losses, and that's all they see. They don't see the story behind those wins and losses, or what's going on with a team. They just see wins and losses. That's incredibly myopic.

Wins and Losses matter, don't get me wrong. I don't want to see UGA fight valiantly and go 6-6 for ten years. And I agree with you that the on-the-field performance did trend downward for a few seasons. Then Richt made changes, and the on-the-field performances have improved. What must happen next, is those improved performances have to translate to victories. If they don't, Richt won't live out his contract.

2011 could be Richt's final season at UGA if the W-L columns don't swing drastically back to the left. Here is why: a minimal increase isn't enough. Richt made an educated gamble in 2010 by switching to an entirely new defense. That gamble has to pay off in its second year, or it will be seen as an absolute failure. It doesn't take 2 years to install a system. In year 2, your veterans will know it, and your youth will have time to learn it. Only true freshmen will be at the bottom of the learning curve, and not many of them will be expected to contribute immediately. Defensive Seniors - Vance Cuff (role player, not a true starter), LB Akeem Hebron (never really came on), LB Daryl Gamble (starter), LB Akeem Dent (starter), DE Demarcus Dobb (Starter), DE Kiante Tripp (backup), DE Brandon Wood (backup). We lose 3 true starters on our defense, might lose 4 if Justin Houston leaves. At MLBs, we have Christian Robinson and Marcus Dowtin who are both very good, and get a ton of PT now. The majority of our contributing defensive linemen are Juniors and Sophomores. All of this bodes well for next year. Our defense has improved over last year in the FIRST year of this system. I'm excited about what they can do in the 2nd year!

An 8-4 or 9-3 season without a championship does not buy Richt another season. A 9-3 or 10-2 season in 2011 AND playing in Atlanta does. That kind of improvement will quiet the fanbase, and it will show that Richt hasn't lost anything, and that the moves made in 2010 have proven fruitful. I'm not saying Richt SHOULD lose his job if the Dawgs don't reach Atlanta in 2011, but I could see it. Either way, bickering about it is pointless.

Following that, I was given a list of coaches who are all "better" than Richt, because they wear BCS Championship Rings, earned since Richt's last SEC title. These coaches were Meyer (2), Miles (1), Saban (1..2 overall). Brown was also included, though his ring came during a Richt-coached SEC title year. I decided to toss in Pete Carroll because he is apparently still a standard for some people.

Urban - Charlie Strong
Brown - Will Muschamp
Saban - Kirby Smart (Saban)
Carroll - ???? (Carroll)
Miles - Bo Pelini

These guys did it on defense, something that is near and dear to my heart. When I was in highschool, I played on offense - because we put our best athletes on defense. In our 10-0 senior season, our defense surrendered 64 points. Our offense scored 346. That's a pretty big disparity, but it was because of stellar defensive play that we got to where we were. Saban's teams will always have great defense. Now that Miles has hired Chavis, you can bet his teams will have great defense.

At Florida, Charlie Strong is gone. Florida's defense has not been very good this season. USC has not had great defensive play in a few years. LSU picked up Chavis in the stead of Pelini, and is strong again. Muschamp is as good as they come.

When Richt was winning titles, he had a solid defense. When Martinez entered the fray, the defense suffered. Richt has corrected the mistake that was Martinez. The defense has improved. Look for further improvement in year 2. Urban had the benefit of Tebow. Brown had Young. Carroll had Bush. Dooley had Walker. Saban and Miles had no real superstars on their title teams, just great defense, and a "good enough" offense. That also was Tressel's method. Richt's offense is a good one. He has lacked a strong defense. We saw the growing pains of a defense this year. They will pay off in 2011.

So many people don't understand what happened in this season. People were expecting miracles, and I hoped for them. They didn't come. But, there was a great deal of great work done at UGA this fall. If you were watching more than the box score, you should have seen that.

Go Dawgs.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Silence speaks volumes

I love that my friend Pete asks whether 5 losses prevents me from blogging. No. In the past, as years have turned sour, I have lost my excitement about the coming games. This season is completely different. There is only one loss where I felt we were out-and-out beat by a team, and that was against South Carolina. The funny thing is, we still had a shot to win that game in the 4th. No, it isn't the 5 losses that has kept me silent. It's because there really isn't much to say.

Most bloggers are debating whether or not Cam Newton will or should play against UGA tomorrow. For those who think Auburn will hold him out, I have to say that's next to criminally stupid. If Cam Newton's recruitment is exposed as one of violations, and he is ruled ineligible, the whole season is down the tubes. It's all over. They'll vacate every win he was a part of. That's ten of 'em, folks. So why in the world would Chizik pull Newton at this stage of the game? At this point, you dance with the one that brought you. If Chizik pulls Newton against UGA, AU loses. If Newton doesn't play against Bama, AU loses. So, if the subsequent NCAA findings are that Cam is guilty, AU is 0-2 for the Season. On the other hand, if Newton is innocent, AU is 10-2, and misses out on SEC and BCS title opportunities.

Beating UGA and AL isn't assured even WITH Cam Newton. But without him, they would be waving a white flag.

So, you can understand why I've been quiet this week. The blogosphere is talking about Cam Newton. I think there's nothing to talk about. He's playing. Deal with it.

Go Dawgs.