Here is what I’m NOT worried about as we face the Booger-Eaters:
1) Second Down. It is the Jan Brady of Downs, often overlooked and frequently whining about “3rd down, 3rd down, 3RD DOWN!!”. Many offensive minds take great care to get positive yardage on 2nd down and long in order to make the pivotal 3rd down more manageable.
Unless you’re facing the Florida Gator defense, that is. While he has departed for more Crimson pastures (that explains Bama allowing half a hundred), Todd Grantham’s legacy lives on. Florida’s 3rd down defense is next to last in the nation, letting opponents move the chains almost 59% of the time. Is this good? For reference, UGA allows a first down less than 30% of the time. See? So I’m not worried about 2nd down, fretting about getting to 3rd and short. For all I care, Monken can dial up some Stetson Bennett deep post overthrows, because we should have no problems converting the next play.
2) Logically, and in real life, Florida is allowing a lot of first downs. 121st of 131 teams nationally. And we should convert those into points. Georgia is #2 in the nation in total first downs. Some of that is lack of a Bulldog deep receiving threat, lack of execution on deep passes, hardly any long runs of note (except from our QB and our TE), and thus more “3 yards and a cloud of dust”. Or more aptly, “3 bubble screens and a 6 yard gain to the boundary”. So we aren’t completing 60 yard bombs or busting 45 yard runs to the end zone. We’re more methodical, move the chains and burn the clock. And that is just what the Florida defense seems to surrender.
3) The Cocktail Party should be a clean game, at least between the lines. Both teams are assessed less than 40 yards of penalties per game on average. No one said Florida was Alabama, and this is yet another example. And yes, Bama is 128th nationally in penalty yards a game (almost 80) and 131st in penalties assessed.
This point isn’t nearly so much “this doesn’t worry me about Florida” as it is “Tyler Simmons was onsides”. Now that the zebras have figured out they actually can throw a flag and blow a whistle on Nick Saban, maybe they will take the next leap and do it at a crucial time in a game of national importance. Okay, back to hatin’ Gatuhs…
Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch. So here’s what does worry me about a bifurcated stadium on the banks of the St. Johns:
1) The first quarter. This has been a recurring theme the last few games and I’m going keep making this same point until... Okay, it improved. Vandy has oft been a salve for what ails ye, and it proved so 2 weeks ago. Many thanks, ‘Dores. So let’s move on to allowing the underneath throws. From what I’ve seen, Florida throws it short. Mostly because they simply haven’t developed a deep passing game down the field, choosing a quarterback that hasn’t mastered that part of the quarterback game. Except when they do, and it works. Let’s pretend we have a fully capable defensive backfield that will prevent that. But they are master of runs after the catch. And our defense does seem to allow these underneath throws.
Anthony Richardson has really come around, completing 56% of his passes and throwing more picks than scores (7 to 6). They have more interceptions on 3rd down attempts than touchdowns. Between the 20s is where they seem to choke down. With that being said, leading receiver Xzavier Henderson has 27 catches at 9+ yards per. Throw in the other top WRs (Shorter and Pearsall) who are averaging over 19 yards a pop and it looks dangerous (I’ll temper this with the fact 56% of the Gator receiving yards came against just two opponents – Tennessee and E. Washington. The other games were duds). If these guys get the ball, they can break tackles and hurt you after the catch. And with Richardson keeping plays alive, the secondary has to cover longer than usual. And that is always an advantage to the offense.
2) Just when you think you’re facing a passing game you can contain, you’re now faced with a mobile quarterback who is truly dangerous on his feet. Richardson is the 2nd leading rusher, both in runs, attempts, and rushing TDs on the team. He is surpassed only by Montrell Johnson, who as a featured back is getting over 7 yards a carry.
Matter of fact, there are 4 Lizards averaging about 8 rushing attempts a game. Add all that up and you’ve got a team that is is still committed to keeping the ball on the ground, even though barely above .500 and renewing their rivalry with Vanderbilt for the cellar of the SEC East (some of that is because Richardson will pull it down and run, and they have just as many if not more scripted QB runs than even noted bootlegger SBIV). And since it doesn’t look like Jalen Carter will be anchoring our D-line, and Dan Jackson’s injury makes us a little thinner in run support, this worries me. Which means we might need a spy, and that is one less person in coverage or one less filling gaps.
3) It’s hard to complain about the lack of havoc plays when our defense is simply stopping the opposing offenses. 9.1 pts per game. 247 yards allowed per game. Forcing 6 punts per game. In fact, the Georgia defense has kept every opponent well under their average in offensive yards, most of them season lows. But only 7 sacks on the season? And 116th in the nation in tackles for loss? We’re even down to 90th nationally in turnovers gained.
So it’s hard for me to reconcile that Georgia has the 4th best defense in the nation. The results are there, you see the defense stepping up, getting offenses uncomfortable, bottling up the best player, and Schumann/Muschamp making teams one-dimensional. But we’re starting a run of going up against better teams and most assuredly better offenses. If we don’t start getting the quarterback down, the back end isn’t always going to be there to bail us out.
Call me crazy, just don’t call me late for dinner. Sound off in the comments below what worries you about the Bulldogs of Georgia versus the Gators of Florida. And as always…