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Monday Dawg Bites: Stats Galore, In Praise of Kirby Smart & A Freeze/Auburn Compatibility Study

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NCAA Football: Georgia at Missouri Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Well, that was a satisfying weekend of college football. The Dawgs crushed Missouri with a tidal wave of explosive plays. That’s right, the Georgia Bulldogs have an explosive offense, and watching this team has gone from feeling like a chore to an utterly joyful experience in just a matter of weeks.

Secondly, LOL FLORIDA YOU IDIOTS. Before we get to making fun of Florida, let’s talk about what’s happening with the Bulldogs.

That JT Daniels guy is pretty good, huh? After spending much of the summer and fall hearing a ton of football writers come up with a ton of abstract ways to say that JT Daniels was going to be a bust, I think a lot of fans were skeptical of what the kid from SoCal could do under center. Following a third straight stellar performance where everything looked easy for Georgia’s offense thanks to it featuring a legitimate vertical passing attack, I think we can say that the kid from Santa Ana is the real deal.

Our producer/co-host/stat wizard Josh Hancher cooked up some numbers for last night’s episode of The Battle Hymnal, and the difference that Daniels has made in Georgia’s advanced statistics is staggering.

If you don’t speak math, what this shows us is that JT has more than doubled Stetson’s season output of predicted points added. He has done that while playing half the games that Bennett did. The thing that’s really driven home by these statistics is what a difference a strong passing game can make for a rushing attack. Daniels has opened up the field in ways we haven’t seen since Matt Stafford was strolling around the Classic City, and by doing so he has forced defenses to stop loading the box against the run.

Georgia’s running backs have been feasting on opposing defenses the last two weeks, and it really hasn’t mattered who is toting the rock. If JT is under center, there’s gonna be some running lanes. When it comes to the backs, the biggest benefactor of Daniels insertion into the lineup has been James Cook. He has gone from a much maligned figure with tons of unrealized potential to a true threat to catch or run for a touchdown on every down. The former five-star has gone from averaging 5.1 yards a carry to 9.7, and watching him catch a perfectly thrown ball on a perfectly run angle route out of the backfield for a touchdown on Saturday was wonderful to see.

Hopefully Cook and a few other draft eligible Dawgs are realizing what a full season with Daniels at the helm of Monken’s offense could do for their draft stocks.

Among the many who are reaping the benefits of Daniels’ insertion into the lineup are tight-ends Tre McKitty and Darnell Washington. I joked last week that we should expect to see a ton of balls to the TE’s now that Arik Gilbert is potentially on the transfer market. We did, but Kirby Smart also put words to that action by throwing a not so subtle nod toward the former five-star. “You can never have enough good tight-ends in the SEC...” Indeed you can’t, Kirby.

I know I’ve said this a few weeks in a row now, but 2021 is going to be fun. The addition of Gilbert would only serve to ramp up the speed of a hype train that is going to be running wide open.

Before we get there, a game against Vanderbilt and a bowl are still left to be played. Many have speculated that the contest against the Commodores won’t happen, but as of this moment it is on. Vandy took on Tennessee this past Saturday, so we know they might be able to field a team. If it happens, the outcome of this game will never be in doubt, as Georgia opened as 40-point favorite on Sunday, but it will be fun to watch this team play once more in Sanford Stadium. All of the Seniors deserve a proper send off, and if Richard LeCounte is healthy enough to suit up one more time the mostly empty stadium will sound very full when his name is announced.

In other SEC news, the Gus Bus has finally been decommissioned in Auburn. Malzahn was fired by the Tigers on Sunday afternoon, in a move that both does and doesn’t make sense. On the one hand, Gus took Auburn to a national title game in 2013 and within a game of a playoff bid in 2017. He beat Saban more consistently than anyone else in college football not named Dabo, and he fielded teams that could beat anyone on their best days.

On the other hand, they also could lose to almost anyone on their worst ones. Gus was known to lay an egg or two every year, and he never really evolved after the SEC caught up to his Hurry Up No Huddle offense. He was 0-12 in games played in Athens, Baton Rouge and Tuscaloosa, a truly staggering statistic. What might have finally cost him his job was not the 42-13 loss to Alabama or the 27-6 spanking in Athens at the hands of a walk-on quarterback. It’s more likely that Auburn boosters who wanted to be rid of him could look at his supporters in the room and argue that continuity isn’t important when your recruiting class ranks 42nd. With only twelve commitments three days before the early signing period begins, there was little reason to keep him. No stud five-star high-schooler could be pointed to as the future savior of the program.

Reported candidates include Mario Cristobal of Oregon, Bill Clark of UAB and Louisiana’s Billy Napier. There has also been buzz around two rather spicy names- Lane Kiffin and Hugh Freeze. A move by Kiffin would stir up all sorts of SEC West bloodlust, and an incredible storyline in the state of Alabama. If you hear him utter the words “pine box” in public this week I suggest you rush to a bookie and lay your 401k on his hiring.

You might be wondering what type of fit Freeze would be at Auburn. Fortunately for you I made a nifty chart. Let’s see what Hugh has in common with the school.

Well would you look at that. I think these two are going to be on a Match.com commercial talking about how compatible they are in a year or two.

Before we go, we must address what happened in Gainesville on Saturday night. You know, the thing we said would totally happen to a Dan Mullen coached team because he’s a massive schmuck who can’t regulate his emotions? It definitely happened. I ranted about this on last night’s episode of The Battle Hymnal, so I won’t spoil that post for later today, but players take their cues from the top. So horrible at management is Mullen that he left the quarterback who threw for 474 yards and has carried Florida all year to take blame for the loss while making excuses for Marco Wilson.

He had to cover for Wilson. That’s the bed he made when he decided to literally hide behind a Darth Vader mask instead of taking responsibility for the halftime brawl he started against Missouri earlier this year. What was the great ‘Remember The Titans’ quote? “Attitude reflects leadership, captian.”

A Florida team with everything on the table had players announcing they’re going pro early on Twitter the Friday before a game. A Georgia team with all their major goals down the drain and a host of NFL talent spent Friday night doing a walkthru in a strip mall before coming out and smashing a fired up Missouri team. They continue to play for the name on the front of the jersey instead of the back, as well as for one another.

Throughout the craziest season of our lives, Georgia has remained focused despite having every reason not to be. Players who could opt out and be handed tons of money by an agent the next day haven’t. Attitude reflects leadership, and there’s never been a time where I’ve been more grateful to have Kirby Smart as the head coach at Georgia than I am right now.

Until later, Go Dawgs.