Here is what I’m NOT worried about for Saturday afternoon’s matchup on CBS:
1) The Saturday afternoon matchup on CBS. Usually I dread these games. It’s normally a ranked on ranked matchup, one where Georgia is the favorite and has everything to lose. Gary Danielson fawns over the opposing team, almost wishes the referees to call penalties on the Bulldogs, and points out everything that Kirby Smart does wrong. That’s kinda the case this week, yet the Aggies are a bit further down the polls. They’ve lost 3 games (to higher ranked Clemson, Auburn, and Alabama). They are still a year or two away from being in our top tier. So this broadcast just doesn’t have the same luster, nor will it attract as many eyeballs, as the UGA/Auburn bout, or even last season’s UGA/LSU matchup. I’m feeling good about hosting our newest SEC West addition. Plus it’s at home where we can show off our own beautiful sunset.
Except it looks to rain. Oh great, rain. Can I say that we’ve proven we can win handily in the rain? That we can shut down opponents in a deluge? That we’re well equipped and can make adjustments to offensive gameplan based on weather? Should I stop asking questions and put this back as something I’m worried about?
2) No special teams touchdowns for Georgia this season. We’ve done the scoop and score and pick-6 thang, but nothing from the blocking kicks or returning kicks department. I wonder if that changes this week. Texas A&M is only getting a touchback on around 60% of their kickoffs, and they’ve had 26 kicks returned on the season. Georgia, by contrast, has only returned 11 kicks ourselves. Most of that is because we don’t let the opponent into the end zone very often. But the Cadets will have to kick off at least once, and I wonder if this is where we break through. Brian Herrien seems to be the returner-du-jour, and though I don’t seem him as a return specialist with super shifty moves and breakaway speed, he is certainly capable.
3) Outkicking your coverage. No metaphor here, I wonder about this and think it may be an opportunity. TAMU punts it about 4 times a game. I would think we would force at least that number. Punter Braden Mann boots it around 48 yards per attempt, a healthy average. Yet their punt return defense is giving up over 15 yards per return. A big chunk of that was the Alabama game where they couldn’t tackle (Jeudy, I think?). If they boot it that far, and give up that much yardage, I’m anxious as to what Dominic Blaylock could do with a few chances to break one.
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:
1) Can we sustain drives? If you had asked me in September, hell yes. Now? Not so much. I took a quick peek at a comparison on a few data points to see where A&M stacks up. I include Auburn since they were the toughest defense we’ve faced to date, the fact we struggled at times against them, yet we emerged victorious:
- 3rd Down Defense: #13 nationally (Auburn is #11). Our 3rd down offense is #34 nationally.
- Passing yards allowed: #27 nationally (Auburn is #46). Our passing offense is … gulp, #80.
- Total Defense: #25 (Auburn #24), and our offense is #47
- Time of Possession: #9 (Auburn is #56), and UGA is #12. Something’s gotta give here.
Their strengths are our apparent weaknesses. Just this snapshot gives me a case of the rumbly tummies.
2) Someday we’ll find it…The Tight End Connection. But aTm has found it. Over 13% of their receptions, over 15% of their receiving yards, and 30% of their passing touchdowns are via the Tight End position. From point #1, we know Texas A&M holds onto the ball. We know they have about 17% more passing yards than we do, so they throw it a lot more. But our tight ends only have 9% of our completions, 9% of the receiving yardage, and less than 5% of the TDs (1 of 18). I don’t know if this will be Cole Kmet 2.0 show, but we will have to cover their tight ends, or pay the price.
3) Our rushing defense will be tested… again. Auburn wasn’t exactly the running Auburn of old, yet they had a sometimes effective attack that we completely stymied. Kentucky ran for a ton of yards, but not into the end zone, and we held the passing game in check. The bend but don’t break defensive philosophy has proven successful thus far, yet it faces yet another test by one of the most complete offenses on the schedule.
The stats above show that the Aggies are a passing team, but they’re also a running team. They have 5 backs with meaningful carries, and yes, Quarterback Kellen Mond is one of those. Of the true running backs, freshman Isaiah Spiller is getting the most time and has the best stats. He’s got 8 rushing touchdowns on the season and is averaging almost 6 yards per clip. By God, he’s a freshman! Okay, that really doesn’t matter since we won’t see the Aggies until 2025. Still, TAMU gets about 175 yards on the ground per game, over a 5 ypc average, all from over 34 attempts. They definitely have a running game.
So which part of the offense will DC Dan Lanning focus on taking out? Like Bill Belichick, the ‘Dawgs defense seemingly looks to negate a specific part of opposing offenses, and make them beat us left-handed (so to speak). And most of this season it’s been the rushing attack. With so many weapons, including a mobile quarterback, this might be the toughest test yet for the Classic City Canines.
Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about the first conference meeting between the Bulldogs of Georgia and Aggies of A&M.
And as always…
/This was exactly 1,000 words. Oh, until I typed this post script.