Alright, a quarter of the season (hard to believe that) is gone and we’ve managed to get to this point unscathed, roughly as expected. It’s interesting to look at how we’ve gotten here. Preseason I felt like we had a very solid team at QB and WR, ultimately would have a solid RB stable once they got some experience and I was pretty concerned about our OL. Frankly, we’ve exceeded each of those expectations. Our defensive inconsistencies are where it’s been an interesting road so far. We’ve had a singular performance from Jarvis Jones that matches any defensive effort I can remember and outside of that I can’t say any of the other personnel groupings have outperformed expectations. That’s not fair, Shawn Williams has probably been all we expected. Abry Jones as well. Granted, when expectations are that high it’s hard to exceed them but we’ve given up too many big plays in each of the 3 games for me to feel as good as I hoped I would at this point about our D. Maybe when we add back two of our best defenders next week we’ll see our A effort.
It’s strange to be in this position though. Folks clamoring for Bobo to get the boot are left in a position where they have to acknowledge the fact that no UGA team ever has scored 40 or more in each of the 3 opening weeks. Not many expected the offense to be the reason we’ve been climbing the polls. They’re way ahead of schedule as Gurley looks like an upperclassman and the OL has benefited greatly from Murray’s (and let’s face it, Bobo’s) ability to get us into the right plays. The beauty of this situation is that as we hit the meat of the schedule, the D should start to play markedly better and the O can use all of the confidence they’ve built in the opening weeks to produce what could be a pretty potent football team if everything clicks. We can only hope. Now, on to Vandy.
First, quick points from FAU:
- I don’t know that Murray’s ever looked as sharp as he did Saturday. Honestly, I wasn’t that upset at the pick on his final attempt either, as he’s the kind of kid that will gnaw at, making him practice that much harder in the coming weeks.
- I’m sure it’s not a record or even close to have two true freshmen get 100 yards rushing in the same game but somehow I highly doubt it’s been done on so few carries (10 each) before. That’s truly remarkable. I still think Marshall is getting acclimated to the extra weight up top but that move he put on the DB on that naked pitch thing we ran showed what he’s capable of.
- Justin Scott-Wesley can cover some ground in a hurry. I don’t want to read too much into one play but while he looks insanely fast, he doesn’t look particularly fluid in terms of trying to make folks miss. I’d imagine he’d be a great target on a reverse though or as a decoy on a reverse.
- You got the feeling we could run at will last week or pass at will if we wanted. To the tune of over 700 yards of offense with over 12 minutes left in the game and our 2nd string offense already in. I mean, the last time we went over 700 yards was, well, never.
- James Franklin’s attempts at subterfuge this year extend to starting another QB last week and not having their normal starter play a single snap. Now, the fact that the normal starter, Jordan Rodgers, has been completely ineffective this year has something to do with it I’m sure. I’m not convinced who we’ll see this week but I don’t know that it matters. Rodgers is mobile, as is last week’s starter Austyn Carta-Samuels. The new guy appears to be a touch more accurate, but most folks are against Presbyterian. I expect we’ll see both unless the starter is on fire. I don’t expect to see that unless Jarvis Jones breaks out a lighter and adds it to the arsenal.
- Vandy always has several smallish, quick RBs that are indistinguishable. I imagine they will again.
- Their OL is a little small and will likely struggle with John Jenkins (most do, don’t feel bad Vandy).
- They have a pair of big WRs that have between the two of them caught almost 75% of the team’s completions this year, meaning they don’t spread it around a whole heckuva lot.
- I expect to see our defense play with a lot more fire this week. It’s no secret that Grantham wasn’t exactly pleased with Franklin last year and I’m betting he’s privately (or likely not very privately) had this one circled. He probably took full advantage of the blown assignments and resultant big plays to grill his boys and expects solid play. In theory, we should be able to maul Vandy but last year we eeked out a win in a game where we won the turnover battle 4-1 and Vandy’s best QB went 4-19 for less than 50 yards.
- As explosive as Malcolm Mitchell is and as much potential as he has at CB, Saturday we saw the fact that he’s still learning the positions. In zone coverages against some combo routes you could see he was having to think too much on who to follow/release/etc. He’s more at home in man coverage, where he can utilize his superior athleticism to it’s fullest extent. The problem with that is if you start topping your hand to man, a mobile QB will start running at that spot behind a fly route. Obviously it’s early, and he’s still learning but it’s pretty clear he’s an unfinished product.
- At the end of the day though, Vandy is averaging 13 ppg against the two FBS teams (SC and NW) they’ve faced this year. That’s not good.
- Look for a Big Game from: Cornelius Washington. The guy is built to wreak havoc and he’s played well this year, it’s just been lost in all of the Jarvis talk. With defenses focusing on Jarvis, I expect big Cornelius (Soul Train) to get more opportunities one on one and that could result in a big day for him.
- Key to the Game: Keep Vandy from getting into a rhythm. The defense has struggled giving up a few big plays to date but I’m more worried about the potential of the Vandy offense getting into a confident rhythm picking up several first downs. I want 3 and outs and general confusion from the Vandy offense.
- Vandy did a very solid job against SC on defense, easily playing well enough to win if their offense had contributed anything. They admittedly received a large boost from the fact that Connor Shaw was limited, but they were the ones who limited, hitting him early and often, exposing a poor SC OL.
- I’ve been very impressed with our run game and how Bobo has managed to balance it not only with the passing attack but also with the various running game weapons we have. Adding little wrinkles like the Pistol formation or Malcolm Mitchell and going back to old staples like the TE tells me that Bobo is feeling very comfortable with what he has right now. Against SC, Vandy got exposed by Lattimore on a few runs that weren’t the “break a few tackles and rumble through the 2nd level” type plays but were rather the “run through that large gap, make one guy miss and house it” type that Todd Gurley has brought back with style.
- Speaking of Gurley, as talented as Isaiah Crowell was, he had a carry of 30 yards or more last year exactly zero times (got close, but never got to 30, check the stats). Gurley has gone for 38 or more in ever game this season. Crowell had everything you wanted in a breakaway back but couldn’t manage to pull it off. Gurley has done so with ease.
- What I love about our passing attack is that we’ve established multiple guys that are legitimate threats but we’ve done so without running a ton of 4 and 5 WR sets. We just run a lot of base packages, rely on our balance and trust Murray to get us into the right play. We’ve shown the ability to be explosive from base formations on the ground and through the air.
- I’m really anxious to see our OL against a DL with a pulse again. Missouri was able to get some pressure on us. While Vandy won’t rank in the top half of the SEC’s DLs, they did manage to put a hurt on Shaw (mostly on QB runs, but they still pressured him a lot). I’m excited that Beard was playing well enough going into last week to have earned playing time before the injury to Lee. If the light comes on for him and he’s able to add vital depth if not start, then our line, easily the weak point of the offense, starts to look better and more capable of weathering a long season, particularly helpful given that we’ve already lost 3 OL to ankle sprains through 3 weeks.
- You can’t help but be excited to see Malcolm Mitchell split out wide. He’s going to be the ultimate deep threat/decoy all season whenever we want to use him. He’s just so suited to that role.
- Given the number of screen passes we ran when Bobo was a senior, I’m surprised that we don’t see more of them, or rather that we don’t see more of them executed properly. We hit the one to King at Missouri and went a long way (should have been a score). Other than that, I can’t think of one we’ve connected on successfully. With speed like Gurley and Marshall possess, there’s some tremendous potential there and it seems like it’s been a while (Crowell against SC maybe?) since we had one that busted big.
- Look for a Big Game from: Aaron Murray. He’s clicking right now and I honestly feel like he’s starting to get to the next level in terms of confidence and ability to read the defense and translate that into effective plays. I’m hoping we see that continued growth this weekend, as he could easily produce a 275 yd, 65% completion, 3 TD ho hum kind of day that gets overlooked if Gurley/Marhsall have big days. Make no mistake about it, they feed off of each other but it’s Murray’s ability to get us into the right play that puts the whole team at an advantage.
- Key to the game: Turnovers obviously as that’s an equalizer but I’m more concerned with seeing us continue to finish drives. One of the reasons we struggled in Nashville last year was the fact that we attempted 6 FGs (and only converted 4 in Walsh’s season of discontent). We’ve done a great job of going ahead and scoring TDs this season but I’m hoping we continue with that against a defense that caused us some trouble last year.
- I had this conversation with my dad during the game, but the removal of the incidental facemask penalty has resulted in a situation where a defender has no reason to let go when they’ve grasped the mask. It almost resulted in Murray’s head getting snapped off last week. It’s almost like they need a flagrant version of that foul, maybe sit the person out a play or something.
- So Jarvis Jones is now #1 on Kiper’s Big Board? Wow. Impressive. That makes me even more excited about what he can do the rest of the year. With more big performances like the one from week 2, that’s going to be a very, very wealthy man soon.
- Speaking of ESPN love, Murray currently resides at #1 on their Heisman predictor. It’s funny because in the experts’ poll he doesn’t crack the top 10, gaining only 1 5th place vote. Their predictor thing is a balance of remaining schedule, past results, etc. all weighted in. He’s on pace for 36 TDs/8 INTs in the 12-game regular season, so who knows. Both are the level of improvement we were hoping to see out of him.
- If FSU beats Clemson this weekend go ahead and pencil them in to the title game. I think by the end of the season when they face UF, the Gators will be struggling as they don’t have a ton of depth and still have a tough gauntlet of games coming up, with FSU being 1 of 4 teams currently ranked in the top 7 that they still have to face.
- Based on what I saw in Auburn last week, this weekend’s game could be a very, very tough one for the Fighting Chiziks. The great equalizer though is Mettenberger, who has yet to have to really do anything. With that defense and ground attack he won’t have to do much but eventually he’ll face a team that stacks the box and can play some D behind it. I don’t know that it will be this weekend but it’ll happen at some point.
- So, anybody still lumping Arkansas into that group of SEC-West teams we don’t have to face? Auburn could very well finish last in that division, but it’s pretty clear that the drop from Bama-LSU to the rest is pretty large.
- Speaking of teams in the SEC that suck, a big thanks to Arkansas and Kentucky for losing to FCS schools and besmirching the league. Kentucky is going to finish 3rd in their state and that 10-7 win over UT to end the season seems like a long, long time ago.
- I love night games in Sanford, but man, that was a long day for a glorified scrimmage.
- I thought the SEC refs were bad, then I saw that Monday Night Football game. It’s like the NFL had no contingency if their refs went on strike. Reviewing plays to see if a pass was tipped when it was tipped 5′ in front of the WR? It’s just basic stuff that they can’t seem to get right. Roger Goodell doesn’t seem to be the type to handle mistakes all that well. I’m betting he wants to punch a few people.
Until next time,
Have a safe weekend,