Here is what I’m NOT worried about as we meet the nemesis we always seem to draw in the post-season:
1. The vanilla gameplan against Tech. That happens when you’re resting starters, but even then it should have produced more yardage in the passing game against a inferior Yellow Jacket defense. But it’s also obvious that our passing game is better when our receivers get separation, and the best separators on the roster are McConkey and Bowers. Having Lovett, Rosemey-Jacksaint, Bell, Meeks, and others gives the opposing DBs another look with different moves and tendencies, and makes #84 and #19 that much more effective. That is assuming they will be available.
And I think we don’t have to worry about 4th and 31 defensive scheme indecision - I have a feeling one or two have been eliminated from consideration.
2. We’ve beaten Alabama, but we haven’t beaten them specifically in the SEC Championship Game. There are reasons why this year is completely different. One of which is that it is physically impossible to assess an offsides penalty on Tyler Simmons. Another plus is that we don’t have to worry about a let down after an emotionally draining win- that Tech game was as flat as you can get and missing many key contributors. Then I also feel much better about the backup quarterback situation out of Tuscaloosa – if the USF game was any indication, Nick Saban doesn’t have a good card to play in case things go south for the Crimson Tide in the first half.
3. Defensive execution. Angles, creating free runners, hitting the right gaps... those things seem to have gone missing from the Bulldog defense of late. Maybe especially when looking at stretch run plays, seeing teams gaining the edge on Georgia with some regularity.
I’m putting that down to “partial” inexperience. With injuries to stars like Jamon Dumas-Johnson, frequent contributors like Warren Brinson and Julian Humphrey, the Georgia defensive coaches are using plug-and-play because of necessity, and not from luxury like we’re used to in frequent blowouts. So assignment and communications from the gun aren’t quite as familiar as they are with a double digit lead and well into the 2nd half. But as we’ve seen, this staff and these players will get it down and get it right. The might of Alabama, and the threat of missing the playoffs has everyone’s attention and this week’s practice will be the reps everyone needs to get it right.
Now forgive me, as I was weaned at the nipple of Larry Munson’s scratch. So here’s what does worry me about facing the éléphants rouges:
1. Sure I’m worried about Jalen Milroe. He’s now the favorite darling after slow going in the early season and calls for him to be benched. Well, they did bench him, and seeing the alternative, chose to put him back under center. One of the biggest criticisms was the sacks he was taking. There was blame on the offensive line and on Milroe’s apparent indecisiveness. He was sacked twice in the opener against Middle Tennessee, and 5 times against Texas. Coming back after a 1 game benching, he fell 4 times against Ole Miss and Mississippi State in consecutive games, before suffering 6 sacks in a close Texas A&M contest. Then another 5 sacks from Arkansas and yet another 4 from Tennessee. So why worry?
Because the results are considerably better from there. LSU only got home twice, Kentucky not at all, and only once did Auburn get to the quarterback. All of a sudden Milroe is running more, averaging 6 yards a carry (including those few sacks), and with 2 games over 100 yards on the ground. Those aren’t all scripted runs - the decrease in sacks and the yards gained are definitely related. And he’s only thrown a single interception over this last month. All of his passing stats are good too, including those deep balls.
2. We’re going to need Kamari to be at his Kelee Ringo, Deandre Baker, J.R. Reed shutdown best. Which means Daylan Everette is going to be busy on the other side. Which means Malachi Starks, Tykee Smith, and Javon Bullard will have to be sharp with deep help as well as covering quarters. And again, all of that with your eyes peeking into the backfield to keep a mobile quarterback from getting meaningful yards. There’s a reason defenses have trouble with a dual-threat QB – because its extremely hard to play the run, cover the pass, and contain the quarterback. Let’s just hope one of those doesn’t prove to be a game killer.
3. That Crimson Tide defense is loaded. Caleb Downs, Dallas Turner, Kool-Aid McKinstry, all are current and future weekday NFL draft picks. They’re solid through the front seven and arguably spectacular in the back 4. Normally the defense is the first thing one thinks of when considering a Nick Saban Alabama team. For whatever reason, they’re taking a back seat this year, but only in the press.
Alabama has a top 20 defense is most every category: 17th in total defense, 15th in pass yards allowed, 14th in scoring defense, 9th in sacks, the list goes on. This is going to be the biggest test for Carson Beck, and an offensive line that hasn’t played healthy the entire year.
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 against the Crimson Tide of Alabama. And as always…