Last one of the year…
Download PDF version of the writeup here
Week 13 (SECCG)
Opponent: LSU Tigers
Kickoff: 4:00 PM
Folks, this last 10 weeks has been fun. Let’s close it out in style.
About the GT game…
Simply glorious. That game was never in doubt. After the hiccup that was Murray’s INT on the opening drive our offense was essentially doing whatever they wanted. Defensively we were able to slow the vaunted Paul Johnson rushing attack and allow the decidedly unvaunted Paul Johnson passing attack to debacle itself. I’ve tried to use debacle as a verb at every opportunity since hearing Emmitt Smith use it as such. That man is a wordsmith.
Anyway, not much transference from last week to this one as we’re going from the Yellow Jacket “defense” to one of the top defenses of the last few years in LSU. On the other side of the ball, instead of playing a run-first, second and third offense that occasionally tries to pass, LSU brings a truly balanced attack to the game that can move the ball equally effectively either way. Oh well, let’s do this.
- The LSU offense is loaded with dynamic playmakers outside, a ton of big, athletic RBs, a solid OL and experienced depth at QB. They’ve scored on everyone they’ve played this season with relative ease, other than the notable exception of the Bama game. They’re stronger on the ground than through the air but they aren’t shy about throwing it if needed. As with most balanced offenses, they’ll flip the script occasionally to surprise the defense and with a Les Miles-coached team, the surprises can come early and often.
- At QB, a pair of seniors have split duties this year in what is probably the underemphasized aspect of why I think Les Miles is the clear coach of the year in the SEC. Jordan Jefferson gets suspended for his role in a bar fight, gives way to Jarrett Lee, returns, works his way slowly into the rotation before taking over outright and the team just kept on winning. Jefferson has a good arm and is very mobile if necessary. Lee hasn’t been rotating in much the last few weeks but is far more of a pocket passer that seems to have conquered his early career knack for throwing pick 6s (He threw 2 to Daryl Gamble in Baton Rouge in 2008…in my best Chris Farley voice: “You remember that Daryl? That was awesome”).
- At RB, they have a bunch of depth. Spencer Ware was getting the bulk of the touches early in the year but since his suspension has seen his touches cut drastically. A former HS QB, the guy is a load when he gets going. Prior to suspension he got over 20 carries in every meaningful game. Since then, not once. Fellow sophomore Michael Ford is explosive and his 6.2 ypc is impressive but not quite as good as 3rd stringer Alfred Blue’s. You see the depth they have. Add in FB/HB/bowling ball Kenny Hilliard and LSU sports 4 different RBs with 6 or more rushing TDs (we have none).
- LSU has churned out fast, agile WRs for years. This year is no different as Rueben Randle has experienced a major breakout, catching 48 passes for nearly 900 yards and 8 TDs. He’s listed at 6-4, 210 but moves like a much smaller WR, very quick in tight spaces and if you miss, he’s got plenty of speed to get yards in chunks. RFr Odell Beckham Jr. has emerged as the top threat on the opposite side, joining Randle as the only WRs on the team with more than 14 catches on the season. The X-factor here is former top recruit Russell Shepard. As good a pure athlete as you’ll find, he’s struggled to find a spot as a true WR where he doesn’t seem natural. Once the ball gets in his hands though, he’s dangerous. Look for him on sweeps, reverses and in the Wildcat occasionally. LSU has several big, fast TEs but they haven’t gone to them much this year. That probably means they’re about to bust out.
- The LSU OL is big. Not as big as ours, but who is? The only underclassmen starter is at LT and they’re pretty deep too. They lead the conference in sacks allowed (1 per game) and are 2nd in the league in rushing yardage. That tells me all I need to know about their OL.
- Bottom Line: There’s not a lot of hidden stuff with what LSU will do if they have their way. They are a power football team that, while capable of passing, would rather just run it right down your throat. They have a bevy of big, talented backs that pound and gash you. Our DL is built for that and our LBs have shown an increased ability to handle it this year too. While LSU tends to run right at you with that weird pitch-dive thing they do, I feel good about lateral speed on sweeps and the like after watching how we handled Auburn and GT the last few weeks. In the passing attack, Grantham has to love the options he has now with Ogletree, Jones and Washington in terms of bringing heat in passing situations. As well as their QBs have played all year, I still like the idea of Grantham and our D versus Jefferson or Lee in obvious passing situations. While LSU will clearly bring as good an OL as we’ve faced all year, since about week 3 we’ve been as good or better than anyone in the country in terms of getting to the QB. Since Ogletree has returned from his first quarter injury against Boise to play in the UF game, our defense has really seen everyone find their role and the results have been impressive. It’s going to be fun watching that unit try and prove they belong in the conversation with Bama and LSU in terms of the top defenses in the conference (and thus the nation).
- Key matchup to watch when they have the ball: LSU loves to run right at people. They have the depth and talent to do it all game and they’ve shown (like against Bama) that if they’re facing a strong D they feel their defense is good enough that they don’t have to score a ton of points to win the game and are content to control the ball/clock and not make mistakes. That puts a tremendous amount of pressure on our NG and the ILBs. Jenkins has been playing really well lately and Ogletree is rapidly becoming a force. They love doing that pitch dive a lot and the middle of our front 7 better be ready, because if they pick up yards there it could be a long night.
- If it weren’t for the Alabama defense, this LSU unit might be labeled as one of the best ever in the SEC. As it is, they’re just the 2nd best in the conference. It’s a very close 2nd though. They’re 2nd to Bama in rushing, scoring and total defense and 3rd in passing (behind Bama SC). Heck, they’re nearly top 10 nationally in all those categories too despite playing the toughest schedule in the country (the SEC schedule plus offensive beasts WVU and Oregon). Obviously they’re the best defense we’ll play all year, but the other top unit we played (SC) was a game we scored 42 in, so who knows. Lead by longtime UT DC John Chavis, this group has become one of the more opportunistic defenses you’ll ever see.
- The LSU DL is really, really good and surprisingly young. If Barkevious (how did that guy not go to UGA?) Mingo starts over Kendrick Adams at LE, they’ll be starting 4 sophomores along their front. They rotate heavily across the whole group so don’t expect them to wear down much. While they are incredibly athletic across the whole front, they aren’t particularly large at all. In fact, they only have 1 DL listed over 300 pounds and only 2 over 290. While that doesn’t mean they’re weak in any way (Bama certainly wasn’t able to enforce their will), it is interesting to note they could have trouble with our sheer size along the OL.
- The LSU LB corps as expected is incredibly athletic. Given how good the DL is and how much press the secondary gets, the LB unit doesn’t get a lot of publicity but they’re as good as any we’ve faced this year. You don’t put up numbers like they have on defense with bad LBs. Ryan Baker, a squatty senior that reminds me of Tony Taylor after he bulked up leads the unit in tackles.
- This secondary is absolutely unreal. Everyone knows about Tyrann Mathieu (The Honey Badger) who is listed at CB and despite his 5-9, 175 pound frame, will play all over the place, but the CB opposite him, Morris Claiborne is better and is currently the top rated CB for the 2012 NFL draft. How active is this secondary? All 4 are in the top 5 on the team in tackles. In fact, the top 3 tacklers on the team are all DBs. How much of an individual talent is Mathieu? He leads the team in tackles. As a CB. Their 3rd CB, Ron Brooks, would likely be all-conference if it wasn’t for the fact he can’t even start on his own team. He’s good enough to be 3rd on the team in sacks and has two pick 6s on the season. Seriously? The safeties are awesome too.
- Bottom Line: Look, our offense is predicated on the ground game. We run enough to make teams respect it and throw play action off of that. If we can’t run against defenses that are looking pass, then it’s going to be a long, long day. That’s why Crowell is so important against a team like LSU. Sure you can beat the Kentuckys or Techs of the world with a guy like Brandon Harton or Carlton Thomas but against a team as stout as LSU, you need a running threat they have to really fear. As good as LSU’s DBs are, Chavis can afford to play more man coverage than most but if they don’t think they have to commit more to the run to stop it, why would they? I think they’ll take those extra guys and blitz us until we yield, at least early. Our OL isn’t phenomenal in pass protection and we’ve certainly seen Murray under pressure some this year, causing more than a few of his turnovers, so until he (and our OL) prove they can stop or burn the blitz (via run or pass), if I’m Chavis, I’m bringing it early and often. It’s going to fall to Murray (and Bobo) to pick that up and account for it.
- Key matchup to watch when we have the ball: The Honey Badger versus our whole team. That guy is as dynamic a playmaker as you’ll see on defense. He just makes turnovers happen everywhere. He’s like Polamalu-lite. We haven’t turned the ball over a lot this year but we’ve put it on the ground a few times and had more than a few close ones reviewed. Guys like Orson Charles and Murray will have to secure the ball when the Badger’s around and this year he’s as close to omnipresent on the field as you can get.
The Championship Game Overall
Look, LSU is a great football team, there’s no denying that, but the fact is the UGA team that will take the field this Saturday has proved for 10 straight weeks that they are better than everyone they’ve taken the field against too. You can’t discount how good a team LSU is, and they’ve certainly answered every bell they’ve been given all year, but the fact is, UGA isn’t too far behind. LSU has been dominant all season. It just took UGA a couple of games to find themselves.
It’s a combination of things that have resulted in our increased effectiveness but there’s little doubt as to what makes our offensive tick…Aaron Murray. In games he’s struggled, like Kentucky, our offense has looked beatable by, pretty much anyone but Kentucky at a minimum. In games he’s played well, like Auburn, our offense has looked nearly unbeatable. Even against Tech, without the benefit of a running game, Murray was able to drive the offense through the air at will. Today’s college game doesn’t have to have an elite QB to be successful, but it sure helps, and right now there’s none better in the SEC. He’s not immune to mistakes and occasionally makes an erratic throw or three but he’s improved tremendously over the last half of this season and gives us a puncher’s chance this week.
At this point, I think we know what LSU is capable of. UGA has a much wider range of possible efforts come Saturday. Do we get the team that destroyed Auburn or the one that struggled with Kentucky? The scary thing is that as dominant as we were against Auburn in our 45-7 romp, LSU was our equal with a 45-10 win. Granted their game was only 21-3 at the half compared to our 35-7 drubbing but it just goes to show you how good LSU is. That was our best performance this year. That was their average one. They beat 6 SEC opponents (everyone other than Bama and MSU) by 24 and beat four of those by 30 or more, including both Tennessee and Florida (who were admittedly without their starting QBs).
Lastly, this UGA team has gotten more dangerous as the season has gone on. The RB injuries/suspensions/etc. have made Mike Bobo get a little more creative and have forced him to challenge Murray to carry the team a little more and he’s responded. The result is a much more diverse offense than we started the season with. Our young WRs are no longer a bunch of starry-eyed freshmen. If we can bring some healthy RBs to ATL, we have the real chance of having that balanced offensive attack but now with a coordinator who’s operating with a ton of confidence. I was frustrated with Bobo earlier this season but I’ve loved what I’ve seen here lately and I can’t wait to see what happens Saturday. Win or lose, I’m thrilled at the prospects of the next few seasons.
- Crowell will likely go Saturday but given the way his year has gone and the fact it is an ankle issue, I can’t imagine he makes it the whole game. 3 good quarters would be nice.
- I can’t say enough for how well Garrison Smith played in place of Tyson last week. He’s done a really nice job in limited opportunities this year. He’s poised for a really big year next year.
- I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Alec Ogletree could be a terror coming after the passer and will at some point. He and Jarvis allow us some serious flexibility that I love.
- Shawn Williams’ INT of Tevin Washington last week was a thing of beauty. That guy plays with a ton of heart. Now if we can keep it reined in. We can afford dumb 15-yard penalties against Tech. We can’t against this next bunch.
- Jarvis Jones might be my favorite Bulldog defender in a long while. Back to Thomas Davis at least. The guy just does his job and goes back to do it again. Very business-like. Add to it the fact he’s adamant that he’s returning next year despite likely being an All-American with a first round draft rating and what’s not to like? I’m betting Lane Kiffin fired the doctor that wouldn’t clear him to play while he was at USC.
- Can you name the starting Center on the 2005 SEC Championship team? It stumped me. Answer at the bottom.
- So Ed Cunningham went to Washington. I guess they didn’t take the ol’ Apple Cup (the Washington-Washington State Rivalry game) very seriously up there. That’s the only reason I can figure he kept saying we’d probably be sitting Murray and Orson and Jarvis in like the 2nd quarter. Does he not realize how big that game was? A loss in that game from sitting starters would have probably gotten Richt’s seat hotter than anything else he’s done to date. Seriously.
- Recruiting seems to be ramping up with the conclusion of so many HS seasons. Our top RB target (and one of the top RBs in the country) announces Tuesday and is considered to be a UGA lean. A speedster out of NC, Keith Marshall would be an ideal addition at a position of need. There’s a ton of top guys that we’re still on but probably the next two highest wants are another top OT (the Young kid out of FL would be ideal) and the guy who could be Jarvis’ understudy next year in Josh Harvey-Clemons out of Lowndes County. With Florida being down and Florida State not stepping up like they had thought they would, we need to make that count.
- Everyone keeps saying that Bama is a lock for the BCS game but they fail to remember what happened back in 2007. UGA fans darn sure do. Basically the pollsters all stepped back and instead of moving people around based on recent wins or losses they kind of reset the whole thing on the big picture. If Oklahoma State manhandles Oklahoma and LSU struggles with UGA or loses, I could easily see OkSt passing Bama in some measure of backlash against the SEC. OkSt is already in front of Bama in more than 1 computer poll. You want to see nuclear meltdown? Tell Bama fans they are denied what they feel is their right to play for whatever national title they’re now claiming. It’d be the worst thing to happen to them since…well, last year, when Auburn won the whole thing.
- The Kirby Smart to Ole Miss rumors are interesting. Given how well he recruits Georgia, I’d like him to go ahead and get away from Bama. I’d prefer he go to Texas A&M just because it’s even farther but anything that gets him out of Bama is a good thing.
- If I were a Heisman voter I don’t think I’d be real happy about having to vote in this year’s contest. Trent Richardson is a very fine RB but he’s not really been dynamic. I just think Ki-Jana Carter. Everyone talks about how weak our schedule was and how we missed out on the top 3 west teams. I think they missed out on us. We’d probably be the 2nd toughest team Bama played this year as they missed the only two good teams from the east and got both LSU and Arkansas at home. Outside of a road win over a bad Penn State team their OOC games were Kent State, North Texas and Ga Southern. That’s pathetic and I think it would be funny if it burned them.
- LSU is so good their punter has a taunting call against him…while scoring a TD.
- If this game comes down to a Blair Walsh field goal I don’t think I can watch. For a guy who’s been so good for 3 years, what’s happened here this season is painful. Although, if he did get that shot and knocked it through, all would easily be forgiven on my end. Of course, LSU has some weird voodoo hex on kickers. Ask Bama.
- So Urban Meyer is back in coaching. That didn’t take long. His tenure at UF (6 years) was a full 3 times longer than either of his other previous head coaching jobs. I think he obviously does a very good job early on but I wonder if the long haul aspect of being the man isn’t something he’s geared for. If he’s there for 4 years that might be long enough to see them off of probation but I’ll bet he wins and wins big there but I don’t see him being there a long time. Even though it looks like they’re poised for some possibly serious NCAA sanctions, I’d still take that job over Penn State in a no-brainer.
- This is the 3rd time we’ve faced LSU in the SECCG. The first time (2003), they were the clear favorites and clobbered us on the way to the national title. The second time (2005), they were the clear favorites and we clobbered them on our way to…an embarrassing loss to WVU. Who did we open the season with in 2005? That’s right, Boise State. Of course we completely killed them and made their All-WAC QB cry but that was a while ago. Here’s to repeating history.
- Trivia Answer: Ryan Schnetzer. I completely forgot about that guy. I had thought it was Russ Tanner but they split time and Schnetzer started and played most (if not all) of that game.
Have a safe weekend,