Georgia Bulldog fans have an almost visceral affinity for defensive football. Perhaps it's the legacy of Erk Russell and the indelible imprint he and his Junkyard Dawgs left on the program, holding "just one more time." Perhaps it's David Pollack stripping Corey Jenkins for the score.
On the other hand perhaps it's the memory of Eric Zeier and Cory Phillips throwing for jillions of yards under Ray Goff and Jim Donnan all while still losing to the likes of Georgia Tech and Kentucky. In short, Bulldog fans have very rarely ever watched winning football that wasn't also defensive football. Bulldog fans like scoring points, but not as much as they like it when the other team doesn't score points.
So far in 2013, stopping the other team from scoring points just hasn't been our bag. But on the bright side, scoring points hasn't been a problem at all. Sadly, that isn't likely to change this weekend against LSU. The Tigers have real punch in the running game thanks to Jeremy Hill, who's swung into action at tailback following a suspension to start the year, and is joined by fellow big back Alfred Blue. Perhaps just as worrisome for Bulldog fans are the Bayou Bengals' two leading receivers, juniors Odell Beckham and Jarvis Landry. While smaller, both guys get open and are hard to tackle int he open field.
In other words, if Georgia's going to win this one there's a good chance it will be by simply outscoring the boys from Baton Rouge. Honestly, there's a chance of that happening. This Bulldog offense features as many weapons as any in the country, and is not afraid to use them in a variety of ways. This morning we'll take a look at a couple of the ways that Georgia's offensive versatility makes the Dawgs a match up nightmare.
First let's look at the school record 98 yard touchdown pass Aaron Murray threw to Reggie Davis last weekend. Take a look, then read the below analysis, and consider exactly how beautiful this really was.
Let's start with the formation. It's pretty vanilla goal line stuff. Two tight ends, I-formation, only one wide receiver (Davis at the top of the screen). If you're the North Texas defense, you've probably noticed that Michael Bennett, Chris Conley, and Rantavious Wooten are not on the field. Davis is a true freshman, and if I'm a Mean Green defender I'm probably suspecting that he's out there to give the Bulldogs' main receivers a blow and block a little. With 10 guys inside the box and the Georgia offense's heels in the first row of seats, I am expecting three straight doses of Todd Gurley and Quayvon Hicks.
I am not expecting the Bulldogs to fake it to Gurley then throw the skinny post over the top to that freshman receiver. On the snap the strong safety who's up in the box (the guy to the right of the cornerback eventually beaten on the touchdown) recognizes the offensive line's pass set and reacts quickly to pick up the right side tight end outside releasing then working into the center of the field. The free safety helps out with the other tight end, leaving man coverage over the top. Really, it doesn't matter which of the tight ends he had picked to double, as long as he didn't drop back to help with Davis.At the point that he doesn't do that, the odds are squarely in the Dawgs' favor.
The corner covering Davis now has a very fast wide receiver one-on-one. Davis could run a fly route down the sideline or cut inside on the post. The corner's probably also thinking about all those times during film study he saw Murray throw the "back shoulder stop" route in isolation. He has literally no idea what Reggie Davis might do. At that point it's over with so long as Murray makes a good throw and Davis doesn't drop it. Murray does. Davis doesn't. Touchdown, Georgia.
Now let's take a look back at a play on the goal line going in from the South Carolina game (it's the first play on a longer set of highlights from the SEC Digital Network):
Again the Bulldogs are in a two tights set, with Artie Lynch on the left (at the bottom of your screen) and Hugh Williams to the right. But this time there's no wide receiver in sight. Quayvon Hicks and Merritt Hall join Murray and Gurley in the backfield to form a power-I. South Carolina is sold out to stop the run, with all 11 defenders up in the box, and the four guys playing just off the line clearly keying on Gurley (watch them before the play and at the snap, they clearly expect him to get the ball).
Undersized Gamecock linebacker Sharrod Golightly (#9) bites hard on the play action. Defensive end Gerald Dixon (#44) realizes fairly quickly what's going on, but is about as capable of getting out to defend Lynch as I am of playing Brahms Cello Sonata in F, which is to say, not at all. Again, assuming Aaron Murray and Arthur Lynch don't screw up large, this is a touchdown every time.
What is the takeaway from these two plays? One point is that the beauty of Mark Richt's (or more correctly Mike Bobo's) offense is that it isn't flashy or gimicky, but when executed properly it is nearly unstoppable. But it only really works when defenses are determined to stop Todd Gurley and the rest of the Bulldog running backs.
The emergence of Quayvon Hicks gives them another back to be concerned about, and that can't hurt.While we paid lip service to it during the offseason, these two plays demonstrate the very tangible difficulty of defending an offense that can hurt you in multiple ways.
Against LSU, Georgia will have to establish the run. The Bayou Bengals are stacked with great athletes on the defensive side of the ball. They always are. Georgia cannot out-athlete the Tigers, but they can out-execute them. And Georgia is fortunate to run an offensive system which works very well against world class athletes by keeping them off balance and guessing at what's coming next. If the Georgia offensive line comes out motivated and prepared, and can have early success running the ball, especially on first down, then this game becomes imminently winnable for the Red and Black.
Otherwise the offense becomes one dimensional, and LSU's excellent pass rush gets to do what it wants: just rush the passer. And there are few passers who get rushed quite like Aaron Murray. We'll be back with more chalkboard talk tomorrow. Until then . . . .