What with following Urban Meyer's personal rendition of the Clash's "Should I Stay or Should I Go?", there's been precious little time to put together my customary preview of the Georgia Bulldogs upcoming bowl matchup with the Texas A&M Aggies. Heck, I didn't even put together a pregame cocktail because I figured you all either had too much eggnog over Christmas or will have too much bubbly on New Year's Eve. But I really have been giving this game some thought, and those thoughts have slowly distilled down to the following:
Texas A&M's Von Miller won't be a factor in the passing game. Miller is the nation's leader in sacks, but it's hard to get a sack when the offense refuses to pass the ball. I imagine that Mike Bobo will try to run the ball right at the Aggies both a) because that's one way to keep our uncoordinated defense and A&M's fast-paced offense off the field, and b) Texas A&M is dead last in the Big 12 on a per rush basis, giving up 4.5 yards per attempt. Though, to be fair, they also give up the most passing yards per game in the Big 12, too. That said, look for a steady diet of King and Ealey behind a rested offensive line, with the occasional play action strike downfield. Because like Delta, A.J. Green is ready whenever you are.
Also, don't expect to see anything crazy on defense. As Coach Richt put it recently regarding his role in defensive preparations:
My main role with the defense was to try to set some parameters with the defensive staff and say let's not try to reinvent the wheel. Let's not try to do some things our guys aren't comfortable with. Let's do the things that we do and the things our guys are comfortable with. Let's get a plan that's sound, very sound, and hopefully as simple as possible so we can put our players in position to make plays. That's the thing. I want them to be very confident to know exactly what to do on every single play, so you can play fast and play physical
One of the positives about jettisoning most of your defensive staff is that your tendencies as a team are no longer a given. Even if we're running the same basic schemes (and, as the quote above makes clear, the emphasis is likely to be on the "basic") one would imagine that they'll be run just a little bit differently. I also approve of simplifying things and concentrating on the execution of the scheme. Because no one ever accused Willie Martinez and his staff of not being able to scheme. Heck, sometimes (versus Hawaii in the 2007 Sugar Bowl, versus Auburn in 2009, etc.) Willie seemed to have a masterful plan. The issue was always the blown coverages, missed tackles, dropped interceptions and other symptoms that the defense was just not prepared to execute the scheme.
The Aggies will present multiple formations, some motion, and will move at a pace which, while not Malzahnian is still likely to result in some confusion and blown assignments. That's essentially unavoidable under the circumstances. If we can keep it to a minimum and recover quickly, I think we have a chance.
But I think the absolute key to this one is the turnover battle. When neither team is really likely to stop the other, the team that wins will be the one that doesn't stop itself. If Texas A&M's high powered offense sputters in its first live fire action since putting up 39 against Texas on Thanksgiving night, again, I like our chances.
Also, I think we'll have a good idea how this one will go by the end of the first quarter. I fear very strongly that this Georgia team just wants to put this season behind itself, feels a tad sorry for itself for spending the holidays in Shreveport, and could come out a bit flat. If that happens, we're in for a long evening. If however they exhibit the type of pride we saw during the Georgia Tech game, I like our chances. My prediction: TAMU 27, UGA 31. Until the offseason . . .