Here are the three things that I’m NOT worried about Saturday:
1. Red Zone Offense. We’re #96 nationally in the go zone. Yet somehow we’re all the way up to 9th in the SEC. Of the 30+ teams worse than UGA, only 7 have winning records. That should tell you something. But Utah and Florida are worse and they’re both in the top 25 of the playoff rankings. No matter, as I believe the correlation to be strong and that’s why I started to worry about it.
Then again, Louisiana is awful at defending it. Their defense is ranked #125 out of 128 in the country. I hope we get healthy this week in the red zone.
2. One Dimension. Like my (just turned) 16 year old daughter, I was distraught to hear that Niall, Harry, and the gang broke up. Oh… that’s One Direction? Huh.
UGA has demonstrated that we don’t have to rely on the passing game to win (see: 2016 South Carolina vs. UGA). But when we have balance, we’re tough to beat (see: UNC, UK, Auburn in 2016). And I think our O Coach (not Coach O) Jim Chaney is starting to get his play-calling legs under him, especially with what he can put in the huddle. Louisiana’s offense on the other hand is basically Elijah McGuire. Make no mistake that this guy is special, and all-everything in the Sun Belt, but he accounts for most of their offense. Control McGuire, and your chances are good at stifling the output of the Cajuns (#96 in total offense, #117 in scoring offense).
3. Black jerseys. We’ve hashed this out already, but it is a prominent event of this season and this game. I’ll say this out front – I don’t like them much. My reason has nothing to do with “fake juice”, prior games, bad luck, or anything like that. It is just my opinion that they don’t look as good as either our home red or road white. Full disclosure, we do need a tad more metallic in the silver britches.
But whether I, you, or any other Bulldog fan likes them or not, I think I know the reason we’re wearing them: recruits present and former. The kids like the sizzle. And other than The Unis That Shall Not Be Named, this is as close as we’re going to get to matching Oregon, Maryland, VaTech and the other migraine-inducing color combinations that the kids gravitate to. There are only a handful of schools that haven’t varied (Bama and Penn St. are the only that come to mind), or varied just a smidgen. We’re in that smidgen category. Not crazy about it, but I’m okay with it.
Here are the three things that I AM worried about Saturday:
1. Facing stout defensive lines. Here’s who UGA has faced to date in terms of current total defense national rankings: #74, #56 (FBS), #110, #100 #76, #52, #61, #3, #91, #25. Dang, I hate when statistics don’t bear out the narrative I’m creating. I really wanted to say we were going to get a breather from this gauntlet of tough run-stopping defenses. But heck, looking at rush defenses nationally, 4 of our 10 opponents are ranked #100 or worse. Yet UL Lafayette is ranked #42 in total and #20 against the rush (granted, against Group of 5 competition). This doesn’t appear to be a breather, folks.
2. Drive Killers. Once John Theus left, I really saw this as a bright spot for Georgia in 2016. I said to myself, “Self, we may have lost some talent and size from the O-line, but at least we won’t play from behind the sticks on so many crucial drives.” Turns out I told myself wrong. Will the actual stats bear this out? I don’t know. But watching Georgia football offensive series is maddening with the frequency of an illegal procedure in the red zone, a false start when you’re barely in field goal range, or a hold on the blind side of a 60 yard bomb.
These transgressions have most definitely led to points off the board, let games be closer than they should be, and have come close to costing UGA wins. Let’s clean it up for Saturday, and treat ULL to a little thing called “domination.”
3. Eatin’ cupcakes. It’s one thing to escape, or even lose to a really weak Power 5 team or Group of 5 team. It’s a whole ‘nother bowl of kibble to do the same with an FCS opponent. We know this as we stared unmitigated disaster right in the face during the 4th quarter of the Nicholls St. game.
We’re slogging through Sun Belt teams every year in recent memory, and now’s the time that Cajuns come ragin’ into Sanford. The scoreboard alone will give these guys confidence of securing a signature win (it’s what we do). Looking at tape from Vandy, Nicholls St. and others will give them a gameplan on how to achieve it. Coach Kirby Smart has brought his Bulldogs back from the abyss, and I think all agree we’ve seen improvement in all facets the last few weeks. This should be a win for the ‘Dawgs, but this is no cupcake. I hope the boys see this as a test… not just to secure win #7, and not to celebrate a blackout, but to commit to the teachings of Chaney, Pittman, Tucker, and Smart and really strive for execution perfection.
What are the things that worry you about the Ragin’ Cajuns from University of Louisiana-Lafayette? Put them in the comments below, and as always…