Oh well, we’ve had two weeks to process the defeat in Auburn, so now it’s time to try and salvage the season somewhat, beating our biggest rival, getting bowl eligible and sending the seniors off in style. And some folks say we have nothing to play for? We’ve got plenty to play for.
Overall – With the loss of Jonathan Dwyer at B-back and BayBay Thomas at WR, folks expected the GT offense to see a dip in production but the return of Nesbitt at QB was supposed to keep Johnson’s machine rolling coming off a BCS appearance. It’s been a mixed bag. They still run the ball as well as anyone in the country (actually better, 1st in the NCAA in rushing) but their 86 ypg passing only manages to surpass 1 FBS team (Army). They’re a run-first team and with Nesbitt’s injury that hasn’t changed all that much. It’s going to take nice, fundamental football to stop this group. It’s happened more this year than it did last year, so there’s hope.
QB – With the loss of Nesbitt to injury until the bowl game, GT turned to 6’, 205 pound sophomore Tevin Washington. The results have been a mixed bag. While he’s shown a more accurate arm than Nesbitt at times, the stats show neither were particularly good this year, with both in the 37% completion range. Not good. QB for GT isn’t about passing a whole lot though as they average barely 13 attempts per game. While Washington isn’t quite the bull that Nesbitt was, he did manage over 120 yards against Miami 2 weeks ago. He’s quicker than Nesbitt but isn’t as scary in those short yardage keepers where Nesbitt never seemed to get stopped.
RB – Dwyer’s gone and I honestly thought Anthony Allen would step in and be just as good. While he’s been very good (averaging over 5.5 ypc), he hasn’t been nearly the game breaker that Dwyer was. He’s the first option we’ve got to stop though, as that FB dive play is the core of a lot of what they do. If we can’t stop that, we’re in for a long night. Rounding out the ground game is a bevy of options. Orwin Smith is averaging almost 11 ypc. Roddy Jones had the game of his life in Athens 2 years ago. Embry Peeples is dangerous in space. Lucas Cox is a bruising back but isn’t near the speed threat of Allen.
WR – When you don’t average 90 yards passing per game, your WRs aren’t doing a whole lot. Stephen Hill is the biggest threat. He’s got good height and great speed but in his 2nd year in the system, lacks the brute strength that made BayBay Thomas so successful last year. He can stretch the field but he’s struggled to make the big grabs that Thomas did last year to keep the safeties peeled back. Hill only has 13 catches on the season though and is the only player with double digit receptions on the year. He’s also the only WR with more than 6 catches on the year. The RBs do figure into the passing game some.
OL – Any time you lead the nation in rushing your OL is doing something right, but this year’s jacket OL hasn’t been the force they were last year. They’re a smaller OL than we’re used to facing and they’ll do a lot of diving at our ankles as is their MO, but this group isn’t about size and strength, rather about quickness and positioning. They’re young at the guard spots.
Overall – The GT offense is such an oddity. They have such a different approach to everything than anyone we’ve faced, I think the off week came at the right time. Of course, the last time we lost to them (Athens ‘08) we had an off week to get ready as well. The key to stopping this attack is to play disciplined first. Next we need strong play from our DL, particularly at the NG spot where Tyson will be charged with stopping the dive. He doesn’t necessarily have to penetrate, just take up space and clog holes, more the traditional 3-4 NG role. We’ll need good safety play as well. Ogletree has struggled some in coverage but has been excellent against the run so I’m thinking he could be a key. Rambo will need to up his play though. Our CBs will be on islands all day in man coverage and charged with keeping their eyes in the backfield as well so despite the fact GT won’t throw much, those guys will have as tough a challenge as they’ve had all year.
Matchup – The key for me will be the play of DeAngelo Tyson at NG. If he can plug the middle and take away that option, it limits what GT can do. I expect Akeem Dent to have a big game and Christian Robinson’s lack of size shouldn’t hurt as much this week.
Overall – Like us, GT made the switch to the 3-4 this year under former Jets and UVA coach Al Groh. Like us also, it’s been somewhat of a mixed bag in terms of success. They haven’t held a BCS opponent below 20 all year but only two scored more than 28 (45 to NCSt and 35 to Miami). They’ve struggled against the run (81st in rush D) more so than the pass (41st in pass D), but they’ve really struggled in sacks (94th at less than 1.5 per game) and tackles for loss (95th).
DL – The GT DL hasn’t played all that well this year. While the 3-4 doesn’t call for huge numbers from your NG, you’d still expect more than 0.5 TFLs and 0 sacks from your top 2 NGs. Starting NG Logan Walls hasn’t gotten much penetration at all. At DE, the story is a little better where Sophomore Izaan Cross has managed 6.5 TFLs and 2.5 sacks to lead the DL. His opposite number, Jason Peters, has played decently also. Both have good size as you’d expect playing DE in the 3-4.
LB – Taking the OLB spots are Steven Sylvester and Anthony Egbuniwe. Sylvester is having a solid year, but isn‘t the explosive 3-4 OLB like Houston. As you see with many of the NFL 3-4 teams, the ILBs racks up stats. For the Jackets, that means Brad Jefferson (1st in tackles) and Julian Burnett (2nd in tackles). Jefferson is particularly active, leading the team in sacks.
DB – The GT secondary has some serious experience, starting 3 seniors and a junior. The best player back there is probably CB Dominique Reese, who has managed to be 4th on the team in tackles, 2nd on the TFLs, and first on the team in pass breakups. Their 2-deep at CB lists 3 guys at 6-0 or better and one at 5-11, but the seem to play smaller than that. It will be interesting to see who they match up with AJ as they haven’t faced too many top notch WRs this year.
Overall Defense – UGA has had a rough year this year but since the return of AJ Green, offensive production hasn’t been one of them. UGA ranks 26th in points scored nationally. GT has only faced 3 teams ranked in the top 60 nationally in points scored. How’d they fare against those 3 (VT at 23rd, NCSt at 28th and Miami at 56th)? They managed to hold VT to 7 points below their average but gave up 10 points over their average to the other two. Their best effort on the year was probably in holding VT to 28 points. Hardly something to get super excited about. We’ve had a ton of success throwing the ball lately and Murray has played well but we beat GT last year by running the ball and they certainly look more vulnerable to the run so don’t be surprised to see us try to “run this state” II.
Matchup to watch – We haven’t faced too many 3-4 teams other than in practice so I’m curious to see how well we protect Murray. Sylvester has good size and speed off the edge and could be trouble. GT hasn’t had much success with sacks this year and we’ve done a pretty good job protecting him but something tells me GT sells out and brings the house a lot this week.
Overall Thoughts -
As much as UGA has struggled this year, this game still means so much. Last game for the seniors (and some juniors) to play between the hedges. A win makes us bowl eligible. The season has been a train wreck for the most part. We didn’t meet basically any of the goals coming into the season. Oh well, it’s Georgia Tech. That’s about all you should have to say to get the team motivated. That and then stand the seniors up and let the team know that this is their last shot to beat Tech. Then maybe play the tape of them tearing up the hedges the last time we played the game in Athens. That should do it. If our guys can’t get up for that then we need new guys.
I do worry a bit about Murray. He’s never played in really cold weather and with a 8 PM kickoff and a low that night of around 32, I expect this one to be a pretty chilly affair. With is being relatively mild all week he’s not exactly getting a chance to get acclimated either. Hopefully he won’t be plagued by the early game jitters we’ve seen a few times this year.
- Expect a big game from Kris Durham. That guy just comes up big when we need him and in his last game in Sanford I think he’ll make us remember him in a good way.
- Jakar Hamilton’s move to CB makes sense with the depth chart we have. If he’s got the speed to handle the position I really like having him there next year, especially if Boykin leaves early (doubtful).
- Alright, so Newton was as good as we thought…I really don’t want to get back into that game too much as it just gets me in a bad mood. I have no issues with losing to Auburn, we had beaten them 4 straight, they are having their best season in years and we’re having our worst. A win would’ve been an upset. A big one. What upset me about that game wasn’t just the dirty play of one Nick Fairley, it was the way many Auburn fans have defended and embraced it. Clean hits on the QB in the course of play are fine, it’s part of the game. What Fairley did? Not so much…. Roll Tide. I never thought I’d say that, but Fairley cemented it for me.
- So Ben Hardin and Charles White will be walking with the seniors with a year of eligibility left. It’s nice that that clears up 2 more scholarships for guys in the upcoming class. What I love about it though is that both guys will graduate prior to us parting ways. It’s like the anti-Saban move. Neither guy contributed a whole lot that we could see in terms of tangible results on the field but Richt made a commitment and rather than ushering them out the door a year or two ago when it became obvious they weren’t going to be big contributors, he kept his end of the scholarship bargain and maintained his reputation as a class act.
- I’m thinking if we make any coaching changes it’ll happen quickly, as in prior to signing day which is in early February. I’m not saying I necessarily expect any but it’s possible we lose an offensive coach or two I guess. I don’t see any defensive staff changes. I could certainly see some additions in the strength and conditioning realm coming.
- So Boise State plays like the 90th toughest schedule in the country and they are still poised to make the big dance should Auburn stumble? How exactly is that fair? Kudos to them for trying to beef up their 2011 schedule but I’m wondering if their coach doesn’t hop to a better job if they do somehow manage to play for it all.
- Don’t look now but UGA is 3-0 in bball with wins over a couple of decent teams in Colorado and St. Louis. All that with our best player, Trey Thompkins, not having played a minute recovering from an ankle injury. Mark Fox is looking like a brilliant hire.
- Speaking of basketball, is anyone else really enjoying the karma dump going on right now with the Miami Heat? I’m loving the fact that LeBron took his talents to South Beach to be 2nd fiddle and never really thought about the fact that his salary alongside Wade and Bosh wouldn’t allow for the addition of any of those role players that make the Celtics and Lakers so tough. I know Cleveland has to be eating this up.
have a safe weekend.