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Cocktail Thursday: SEC Championship Game Edition

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NCAA Football: SEC Championship-Alabama vs Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Are your Georgia Bulldogs preparing to take the field in Mercedes-Benz Stadium against arguably the top SEC offense in recent memory? Then you could probably use a drink. Allow me to help.

The vast majority of amateur sporting events are lost, not won. That is to say, no one wins the third flight of the club golf tournament by crushing it 320 yards off the tee and hitting 20 foot birdies like Jordan Spieth. They win it by being the one participant who doesn’t three putt and has the sense to lay up short of the creek and play wedge into the green. Little League games are decided far more often by a kid letting a dribbler go between his legs or overthrowing the third baseman by eight feet than by preteen Jake Fromm jacking home runs over the centerfield fence (that actually happened though. There are exceptions to every rule.)

And so it is sometimes even at the highest levels of athletic competition. Life is often won by those who show up on time with their pants right side out. That’s honestly about 40% of the battle.

This SEC Championship Game is going to pit two teams against each other who do not make a lot of mistakes. Georgia has surrendered only 8 plays of 30+ yards on defense all season. LSU’s offense has converted an impressive 50% of third downs.

Nathan has more hard numbers to offer you. But the fact is both of these teams got here by doing what they do well very, very well.

They’re committed to what they do. Kirby Smart would probably like to score 50 points per game. But only if he can do it while keeping his defense fresh to pitch shutouts or near shutouts. Ed Orgeron, also a defensive coach, would love to pitch some of those shutouts himself. But he’s not putting the governor on his high-powered offense to do it.

There’s been a groundswell among UGA fans for the Bulldog offense, with a banged up D’Andre Swift, a missing Lawrence Cager, and a partially suspended George Pickens to do, well, something. Tyler Simmons fanned the flames earlier this week by implying that the Dawgs have lots of plays in the playbook they haven’t run yet.

Friends, I don’t buy it. One should never attribute to malevolence or genius that which can as easily be attributed to stupidity or laziness. James Coley is not holding back some treasure trove of offensive genius which he could have pulled out earlier. There may very well be some gadget plays, and some wrinkles off of the luxe we’ve seen previously that are exposed for the first time in Atlanta on Saturday night. But if you are counting on James Coley to fall out of love with the back shoulder throw or the inside zone read, you are setting yourself up for disappointment.

All of which is to say that the worst case scenario for Georgia fans, Kirby being Kirby and James being James, ain’t that far-fetched. More and more it’s become clear that this UGA offense really does need to execute better. But it would execute better with Mecole Hardman on one side and Jeremiah Holleman on the other. With the guys we got, we’re getting what we’ll get, at least within a certain reasonable margin.

It’s not inconceivable to me that this Georgia offense can put 28 points up on the LSU defense. It’s also not inconceivable to me that if they do so they could still lose. One of the most curious things about this LSU offense when you watch it in person and when you parse the statistics is that it’s not that incredibly efficient. The Tigers give up sacks. They are okay on first down. They don’t blow people off the line. But they make enough big plays to get theirs. Joe Brady and Steve Ensminger know that if they keep plugging they’ll manufacture six or eight scoring opportunities against even good defenses.

That could translate into 21 points. Or it could be 56. The difference is in whether the Tigers execute on those drives inside the 20. The Tigers have shown a propensity to try to run the ball inside the red zone far more than they do between the 20s.

It would be a mistake to do that against a team that’s given up one rushing touchdown all season. Kirby Smart wants a knife fight inside a phone booth, not an aerial battle.

LSU has also turned the ball over. Not a lot, mind you. They’re third in the SEC in average turnover margin at a solid +.50 per game, behind only Auburn and Alabama. But they’ve done it enough to let you know they can, turning it over 12 times this season (5 fumbles and 7 picks).

The ratio is also helped by the Bayou Bengal secondary’s 14 interceptions on the year, third in the SEC behind only Alabama and Florida’s 15. LSU has played only four games all season without at least one turnover.

Joe Burrow, Heisman front runner, has thrown 6 interceptions in 401 pass attempts (1 per 66.8 attempts). Jake Fromm has thrown 3 in 313 tries (1 every 104). All were against South Carolina. Every one. That remains the most ridiculously frustrating statistic in Georgia football this season. Because if he had any of them back this might be a matchup of undefeated teams.

In some ways this game plays right into Kirby Smart’s risk averse little hands (I don’t know if his hands are that small, but they are incredibly risk averse, just like the rest of him). Because a lot of games are lost, not won.

It’s not inconceivable that a Georgia defense that swarms to the ball could cause one more LSU turnover than the Louisianans’ season average, whether by Burrow interception or Edwards-Helaire fumble (Edwards-Helaire hasn’t lost a fumble all season. Neither had Sony Michel before the 2018 Rose Bowl). Getting two turnovers and getting 14 points off those turnovers could very well be the difference in this game that SP+ views as statistically almost a dead heat.

In short, Georgia could play a perfect game and lose this one. But if LSU plays a perfect game, Georgia is just about guaranteed to lose. Fortunately, perfect games are rare. We need the Bayou Bengals to mess up, and we need to take advantage of it. What we need is a.... Bayou Bungle.

This particular recipe is a punch with enough booze to make you miss open receivers and forget the snap count. Offer one to anyone you see and suspect to be on Coach O’s two deep. You’ll need:

  • 2 (750 ml) bottles vodka
  • 1 (750 milliliter) bottle white rum
  • 1 gallon orange-flavored drink mix (Kool-aid, store brand, whatever)
  • 1 large (46 oz) can fruit punch
  • 2 quarts pink lemonade
  • 2 quarts pineapple orange juice blend
  • 5 oranges, sliced
  • 4 limes, sliced
  • 1 quart strawberries (quartered) or blueberries (whole)

Mix the liquid ingredients into a large container. A clean plastic garbage can is ideal. Then stir in fruit; let sit minimum two hours and up to six. Serve over ice and enjoy.