This is the Friday Tailgate, the virtual campfire around which we chew the fat while waiting for the final whistle to blow on the work week. As always your random topics of discussion go in the comments, below. Enjoy.
Friend of the blog Darius Dawgberry and I were tossing around a notion the other day which I figured the Dawg Sports community could appreciate. Obviously Justin Houston had a fair amount of pass rushing success last season in his first year in the 3-4 defense. We wondered however what it would have looked like had David Pollack inhabited one of the outside linebacker spots in the 3-4 during his heyday in Athens. Given his generally OCD approach to conditioning and nutrition issues, one imagines Pollack could have probably played the position at around 260 pounds and with his motor off the edge could have literally driven fat, slow offensive tackles across the SEC into full blown insomnia.
One also wonders what it would have been like for Odell Thurman to undertake the same sort of role, or for Sean Jones (one of the best coverage safeties we've seen in Athens) to have played corner in the 3-4 with its emphasis on big, physical guys on the outside. Again, just some food for thought.
Back here in the present, it's strange times in Bulldog Nation. No one seems quite sure what to think of Mark Richt's squad. I've come to the conclusion that we have a team with loads of physical talent that just has not put it all together in a complete effort yet. The tape of the Ole Miss game doesn't lie. Todd Grantham's defense was clearly faster and stronger than the Rebel Bear offense. Allowing fewer than 200 yards to any SEC offense is a feather in the collective cap, no doubt. But the number of missed opportunities and big play breakdowns was simply too high. Just like in the South Carolina game, when big plays and special teams snafus doomed an otherwise solid effort.
The news is not all bad though. Well, it's not that our news is that great, just that MSU's isn't a whole lot better. I find myself a little less impressed with the Mississippi State Bulldogs very time I've seen them play in 2011. And I have now managed to watch every game that they've played this season. Last week's overtime nailbiter against Louisiana Tech was just the latest in a series of very meh-some performances. Don't get me wrong, I don't think we have that great a football team in Athens at this point. We have a team that continues to play pretty well snap-to-snap but shoots itself in the foot like its draft number just came up. Good teams don't do that, at least not with the alarming regularity that the Georgia Bulldogs have this season.
But Chris Relf is just not a very good passer. The MSU offensive line struggles to protect him. Vick Ballard shows flashes at the tailback spot, but isn't as consistent a runner as you'd like him to be if you're Dan Mullen. The defense plays a lot of zone coverage to help out a secondary that's had some misses when they've been forced to go man-on-man. That Bulldog unit is plenty experienced, but when Jarrett Lee picks you apart to the tune of 21 of 27 passing and no picks, you forfeit your right to be considered a truly good secondary. Lee was able to do that to some extent because LSU established the run, something that I'm a little worried about us being able to do with a thin offensive line.But if we can establish the run, I really like our chances to run away with this thing.
In the end analysis even if we sputter running the ball I like our chances if we can avoid turning the ball over, not drop easy catches (which will be there against that zone coverage), and get off the field on third down. The problem is that I'm not absolutely confident yet that we can do all those things. We should be able to, but I'm not sold.
That's why I am predicting a final score of Georgia 34, Mississippi State 27. This team has to win a close game eventually. Mississippi State ran out of gas a little against Auburn, and I could see the same thing happening again in Athens this weekend. Also, look for Malcolm Mitchell and Orson Charles to each have a long touchdown against the MSU secondary.
But then I could be totally wrong. Please let me know if that's the case. Until tomorrow . . .