Here is what I’m NOT worried about as we face the Bizarro Bulldogs:
1) In 2022, MSU is outscoring opponents 76-14 in the first quarter. The Bulldogs are 13-4 when scoring first under Mike Leach. Based on his Air Raid background, this sounds pretty daunting. Until you look at our stats.
In 2022, UGA is outscoring opponents 88-9 in the opening period. No touchdowns given up, and 6 blanks in those 9 quarters. Let’s move ahead and look at the 2nd quarter. Georgia has a 120-32 edge here, with 4 opponents held scoreless and only two touchdowns surrendered. So they may crow about a fast start – let them crow. They’ll be eating it soon.
2) I’ve lamented most of the season on our defense’s inability to record many sacks. While that was a) ignoring the pressure we were applying and hurrying the QB thus disrupting the offense and b) summarily dismissed after the performance in Sanford this past week, let’s flip the script and look at the offense. Thanks to a comment by thefirstgenesis in Dave’s 15 Thoughts, the offensive line is frankly doing wonders in pass protection.
Georgia tied for first in the SEC, and 4th nationally, in fewest sacks allowed. And Stacy Searels deserves a lot of credit. Having given up only 7 sacks in 9 games, UGA is ahead of both the 2021 and 2020 seasons at the same point. If you’re unhappy with a lot of the run game blocking, it has looked subpar at times. But Searels has patched together a solid performance especially considering the injuries to many of the OL starters.
3) I don’t know if it’s because they throw the ball so much, or for the defenses they face, but Mike Leach isn’t running the ball very well. They’re almost dead last in the nation in rushing offense, attempting only about 20 runs a game and about 100 yards a game on average (removing sack yardage from the equation).
And Georgia is top 10 in every rushing defense category, only giving up 3 scores on the ground all season. Have good gap discipline, contain the edge, and we can probably focus on the air attack. Drop someone else back into coverage, because I think that’s where we’ll need the help.
Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch. So here’s what does worry me about the baseball school from the Magnolia State:
1) MSU is 5-0 at home. We just experienced what it is like when your home crowd shows up in official “elite” form. Just ask the Tennessee offensive line coach who probably burned his remote up showing his boys film on how they jumped and flinched early seemingly every possession. And this particular home crowd brings accessories. Ones that clang. But is this undefeated home schedule impressive?
Actually, yes. I grant you that Memphis and Bowling Green weren’t the stoutest early season tests. But these Bulldogs blew out Texas A&M and Arkansas in consecutive weeks at home. That is made all the more difficult because they all share the same school colors. (Seriously, what’s with the SEC West teams and all that burgundy?) Then Auburn was well in hand last week in Starksville, deliciously allowing the Barners a glimmer of misplaced hope before dispatching them for good. They’ve scored at least 39 points in each of their 5 contests inside the clangy confines of Davis Wade Stadium, so these guys will be comfortable.
2) Will Rogers famously never met a man he didn’t like. And the MSU QB Will Rogers never met a mesh route he didn’t love. He’s slinging it an average of 49 times a game and completing 33 of them. Georgia hasn’t seen that many passing plays – only 3 teams have completed more than 20 attempts and two of those (Nix and Hooker) are serious Heisman candidates. But this signal caller isn’t some one-hit wonder.
Rogers is an experienced SEC quarterback who has seen just about every defense there is, and picked most of them apart like so many pork butts. So it will be up to execution as much as scheme for UGA. And remember, in only his 2nd start as a true freshman, Rogers came to Athens in 2020 and threw 41-52 for 336 and 2 touchdowns. What gives me some hope is that Rogers’ performance (or Leach’s play calling) has been abysmal against the best defense they face – Alabama. Rogers has yet to throw a touchdown against the Tide in his career. I’m confident we will give the same challenge and I’m hoping for the same result.
3) Where’s the chip on the shoulder? The bulletin board material? The national disrespect? All of that was removed, with no debate, as the sun set last Saturday. And what has replaced it? Rat Poison. The heralding of Georgia as the best team in the nation has happened at an almost unimaginable rate. Players, coaches, the stadium, the program itself, all are having accolades heaped on them like so many Hallmark Christmas movies.
So where were all these compliments during the off-season, the pre-season, the first CFP ranking? Maybe that is what Kirby uses as motivation. Between that, and the team mantra of “Humility is only a week away”, maybe the staff can have the natural-order Bulldogs ready for the Bizarro version.
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 Bulldogs of Mississippi State. And as always…