Here is what I’m NOT worried about come Saturday’s noon kickoff:
1) Stayin’ Alive. Mostly as it applies to offense. Somehow, someway, Georgia is 5th in the nation in 3rd down conversion percentage as an offense. If you use this as a measuring stick for how effective an offense is, you have to like how it’s clicking. We’re better now (58%) than we were in September (46%).
And it just so happens this is a weak point for the defense we will face this week. Georgia Tech currently sits 127th in the nation in 3rd down defense, ahead of only Louisville and UConn. Opponents are moving the sticks at a 50% clip, and their ACC and out of conference schedule hasn’t exactly been a murder’s row of offensive juggernauts.
Bulldog punter Jake Camarda has got to be feeling a bit left out. He didn’t get any action this past Saturday against UMass, only punted once at Kentucky, and only twice versus Mizzou and Auburn. No offense kid, and I can’t wait to see you bloom as a punter, but I’m perfectly fine with you not seeing the field.
2) Pocket Protectors. Sure, the kind every new GT freshman rat on campus has to wear until their viral graduation speech. But also the offensive line giving the quarterback enough protection to make decisions and distribute the ball. Georgia Tech has plenty of the former, and we should have plenty of the latter.
The Jackets of Yellow are pretty poor this season in getting pressure on the quarterback, and almost as bad at making tackles behind the line of scrimmage. They haven’t had more than 1 QB hurry in the last 2 games (Miami, UVa), and only tallied 16 total sacks on the season. (Full disclosure, we’ve only recorded 17 sacks but have 50% more hurries). And the front 3 is supposedly the stronger unit of their defense.
3) Chalk and Tryptophan. You’re a Georgia Bulldog fan. Well, most of you. If you’re a fan from 2017 or 2018, welcome aboard the bandwagon. If your fandom originates from before the last two years, you might be familiar with losing a game you’re not supposed to lose. Call it crapping the bed, not getting off the bus, trap games, whatever you want, but it was something that afflicted this storied program for years. Too many seasons have gone by the wayside thanks to an inexplicable performance that no one saw coming.
Under Coach Kirby Smart, especially the last 2 seasons, that simply doesn’t happen. There are poor performances, but the Head ‘Dawg will get a win against teams he’s supposed to beat. Have we experienced a beatdown in what should have been a competitive game? Yes, thanks to Auburn ‘17 and LSU ‘18. But both were on the road, both were hyped games, and it was more of an uncertain thing. With this regime, the Bulldogs don’t experience turkey hangovers, always show up with at least their B minus game (as a team), and beat the opponents they should.
Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch on AM radio, so here’s what I am worried about this Saturday for the last game Between The Hedges:
1) Less is More. With all the focus on avoiding knee injuries, wrapping up at the line of scrimmage, keeping your eye on the ball, the misdirection and window dressing CPJ will throw at you, and defensive backs crowding the box and the line to support the run, the occasional pass can be a scary thing.
Believe it or not, GiT has been throwing it fewer times the last half of the season, but they have become much more efficient. They were chucking it over 13 times a game at the beginning but now are averaging less than 6 attempts. They’ve got just as many passing TDs, but yards per attempt has almost doubled.
They throw it on first down more (Strategy!!!), but aren’t as good at it on 3rd down. Matter of fact, get them in 3rd and medium-long, and you’re chances are better than good. We all knew senior play-caller TaQuon Marshall would run first and pass poorly. But freshman Tobias Oliver has been spelling Marshall and seems to be a bit more accurate, though the sample size is small. And of course the Wreck’s two leading rushers are indeed Marshall and Oliver. That doesn’t mean they can’t burn a secondary with well-timed and well-executed pass routes. No confirmation if Andy Isabella is still getting open.
2) Mistakes, we’ve made a few. But Georgia Tech makes even fewer. At least of the variety most fans would attribute. For this discussion I am leaving out Head Coach Paul Johnson’s playcalling, or DC Nate Woody’s blitz packages. I’m talking about penalties and turnovers.
Tech is one of the fewest penalized teams in the nation. And they do a good job of creating more turnovers than they give away. Tech is currently +8 in margin, and while they do fumble the ball a little more, we’ve seen our own share of fumbles by our quarterback and kick return game. That’s not what we want to see this week. Both teams want to control the clock, not just outscore the other. So killing drives or giving up field position with penalties can really swing momentum, and don’t get me started on giving the opponent the ball deep in UGA territory.
3) Red in the Ledger. And I don’t want our seniors to go out with a losing record to the North Avenue Trade School I’m talking about Da’Quan Hawkins-Muckle, Jackson Harris, Steven Van Tiflin, Kendall Baker, LaMont Gaillard, Juwan Taylor, Nick Moore, Isaac Mize, Mikail Crumpton, Jarvis Wilson, Deandre Baker, D’Andre Walker, Jonathan Ledbetter, Keyon Richardson, Natrez Patrick, Terry Godwin, and Jayson Stanley. Some of these ‘Dawgs contributed more on game days than others, but if you last four years wearing the Red & Black, you are special. And even with all the memories, having a winning record against your little brother will last a lifetime.
What worries you about the last game Sanford Stadium home game of the 2018 season? Leave them in the comments below, and as always…