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Too Much Information: The Running Game (Part I)

We here at Dawg Sports continue to break down the Hawaii Warriors in preparation for Georgia's date with the W.A.C. champions in New Orleans on New Year's Day. For the auditory learners among you, my appearance on CFB Weekly is available for listening (or downloading to your computer or MP3 player) here. (You can hear me at about the fourteen-minute mark.)

My thanks go out to the fine folks at the college football blog radio show for inviting me to take part. (My thanks also go out to Building the Dam's Jake for proving why, when I say you'd have better luck picking games based on a coin toss than you would picking games based on my predictions, I ain't kidding.)

If you've already read the breakdown of the passing game (accompanied by MaconDawg's invaluable insights upon the subject), you already know how we do things around here, but, just in case you haven't noticed, when it comes time to dig deep into the numbers, we don't just give you a little bit of detail, or even a heaping helping of data; rather, we give you . . . Too Much Information.

If you don't have time to read our analysis of Georgia's and Hawaii's respective passing games in its entirety, here's what you need to know: Matthew Stafford's drunken decisionmaking is bad, but Colt Brennan's is worse.

Our attention now turns to the running game. Over at Hey Jenny Slater, Doug Gillett is in the process of counting down masterfully the biggest plays of the Mark Richt era, and among the few lowlights is the run up the middle that lost the 2001 Auburn game and taught Coach Richt a valuable lesson about what it takes to win in the S.E.C.

Coach Richt learned his lesson well. Led by the 1,273 rushing yards and twelve rushing touchdowns tallied by all-Sunday Morning Quarterback running back Knowshon Moreno, the Bulldogs have boasted the Southeastern Conference's fourth-best rushing offense over the course of the campaign.

Since Labor Day weekend, Georgia has averaged 178.8 yards per game on the ground, but that figure does not adequately represent where the 'Dawgs are at this point. The Red and Black rushed for at least 180 yards in each of their last five games, in which they averaged 203.6 yards per contest on the ground.

I'm thinking this guy might have had a little something to do with that.

The Bulldogs will be going up against a Warrior defense that ranks second in the W.A.C. against the run. Hawaii surrenders just 131.7 yards per game on the ground, although, as I pointed out previously, the islanders' statistics may be inflated by the fact that their first eight games were against two Division I-AA opponents and six Division I-A teams ranked below the top 50 in rushing offense.

The Warriors, though, appeared quite mortal against three of the four best running teams they faced. Against the squads ranked 11th (Nevada), 16th (Fresno State), 17th (Washington), and 29th (Boise State) in the land in rushing offense, Hawaii did not appear ready to face a running attack as capable as Georgia's (which ranks 36th nationally over the course of the season and has performed much better than that over the course of the last two months).

Despite holding a 24-point second-quarter lead at home that put their opponent in a position to need to pass the ball, the Warriors surrendered 182 rushing yards to the West Coast Bulldogs. The Wolf Pack similarly tallied 216 yards on the ground against Hawaii and the Huskies went for 261 in Honolulu.

Although June Jones's squad has allowed 3.4 yards per carry over the course of the campaign, the Aloha State Adventurers gave up 4.1 yards per carry to Fresno State, 4.5 yards per carry to Nevada, and 5.2 yards per carry to Washington. In addition, when the Warriors made their last trip to the Pelican State to face a Louisiana Tech team whose head coach presently is giving pointers to Georgia's offensive coordinator, the Bulldogs from Ruston ran for 223 yards on Hawaii, averaging 4.6 yards per rush. The Red and Black, it should be noted, have averaged 4.6 yards per rush over the course of the 2007 season.

I'm thinking this guy might have had a little something to do with that.

The only outing in which the Warriors were at all effective against a statistically proficient running team came against the newly-minted Hawaii fans from Boise State. (Gee, I wonder whether B.S.U. has an ulterior motive for wanting to see the 'Dawgs go down to defeat?) The Broncos were limited to 101 rushing yards, averaging 2.9 yards per carry, and Ian Johnson was held to 86 yards, 50 of which came on a single scamper early in the proceedings. Even though Jeremy Avery managed to gain 5.0 yards per carry, this was below the Boise State backup tailback's usual production.

Of course, we are talking about a Boise State team that, despite a furious second-half rally last night, was still held to 98 rushing yards in a Hawaii Bowl loss to an East Carolina squad that went 7-5 in the regular season against a Conference USA schedule, so perhaps B.S.U. was just a bit overrated. Even if we give the islanders full credit for shutting down the Broncos, though, the fact is that Hawaii has yet to face an offensive backfield with anything like the combined talent of Thomas Brown, Kregg Lumpkin, and Knowshon Moreno. Since the Warriors cannot devote the whole of the energies of their defensive front to shutting down three tailbacks at one time, I'm all for lining up in the I-formation, executing a game plan that will bring a tear to Vince Dooley's eye, and setting up the play-action pass with the power running game.

In sum, Hawaii's dubious record of success this season against teams that run the ball well gives us cause for confidence that Georgia's peaking ground game will be effective against the Warriors. Next, we will look to see whether June Jones's charges will be able to run the ball against the Red and Black . . . assuming, hypothetically, that they even try.

Go 'Dawgs!