Georgia’s Offensive Weapons Can Beat Alabama: Why I’m not Terrified of the Tide Defense
The Crimson Tide’s defense is pretty good. They rank first in the nation in scoring defense. They rank first in the nation in yards allowed. They rank second in the nation in rushing defense. They drop way down to fourth in the nation in passing defense, but they’ve intercepted 17 passes. They are stout.
Are they scary? Yes. Terrifying? Surprisingly, no. And I say that for three reasons. First and foremost: Georgia managed to defeat a team with an almost equally stout defense in Jacksonville this year. Florida’s defense ranks third in the nation in points allowed and fourth in yards allowed, and the Gators have played much more difficult opposition (Texas A&M, LSU, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida State) than Alabama (Michigan, Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU, Texas A&M). Georgia’s offense didn’t perform well against the Gators – the first half set football back 45 year – but they got things done on the scoreboard. And, I think Georgia’s offense is clicking much more efficiently than it was in October.
Secondly, and in line with the last comment I made, I think Georgia has more weapons on the offensive side of the ball than Alabama. Malcolm Mitchell will be the best big-play threat on the field and he opens things up nicely for Tavarres King who is quietly leading the conference in yards per catch by over three full yards (his 20.7 mark ranks 4th in the nation). I think Gurshall can match wits with Eddie Lacy and T.J. Yeldon. And, I’d take Aaron Murray over A.J. McCarron. I’ll detail this further in a few moments but in short I think Georgia has more weapons than any team Alabama has faced.
Thirdly, I’m not terrified – though I’m rightfully concerned – by the Alabama Crimson Tide defense because I do think Georgia’s defense is playing better right now. Over the last four FBS games Georgia has surrendered a normalized (opponent scoring average vs. outside opposition adjusted to equal the national average and multiplied by points scored against Georgia – as explained here) total of 27.48 points. In other words if those four offenses (Florida, Ole Miss, Auburn and Tech) had been exactly normal the Dawgs would have surrendered just under 7 points per game. Over the same stretch Alabama has surrendered a normalized scoring total of 43.1 points – or just under 11 points per game. Alabama’s defense may not scare Georgia’s offense because it might not be as fierce as what they see at practice.
So, how exactly are the offensive units shaping up?
Georgia’s offensive line has been a real highpoint for the Dawgs. Yeah, I said it. Sure, Murray has been sacked a lot but Richt has stated several times that he didn’t know if the offensive line would be cohesive enough to achieve the success that Georgia wanted to attain. It obviously has been.
In pass protection Murray has been sacked 21 times, but a lot of that is a reflection of slow developing plays (Fire Bobo! Georgia’s offense sucks!!!). Another large portion of that figure can be attributed to an offensive line that is still developing. Granted, Georgia Tech and Auburn aren’t known for the defensive pressure, but Murray has only been sacked twice in the last two games FBS games. Not bad for a team that saw him sacked 15 times in the other eight such outings.
And as I’ll address in a few moments, Murray’s passing has improved drastically with a little more time.
The running backs are talented, patient and hard-nosed (more on that soon as well), but it’s hard to blame an offensive line that opens up 1850 yards of rushing for two true freshmen who average 6.6 yards per carry.
Alabama’s offensive line gets a lot of credit, but let’s not forget that Georgia has racked up 5564 yards of offense this season against Alabama’s 5196. And, if every play begins at the line of scrimmage it’s hard to hate on Georgia’s efforts along the line. Has Alabama played better defenses? Maybe, but if so it is a negligible difference. Georgia’s 11 FBS opponents this year allowed a combined average of 27.04 points per game this season – that would rank 54th in the nation if it were an individual unit. Alabama’s opponents allowed 26.44 points – which would rank 52nd.
I believe in Gurshall. Man, oh man, do I believe! When those guys can combine for over 100 yards in eight of eleven FBS outings, while combining for 10 individual 100-yard outings and two games in which they both surpass 100, it’s hard not to feel good about your running game.
I also feel good about the fact that Alabama has only faced one offense this season with a better running game than Georgia (statistically, measured by yards per game), and that was Texas A&M. And I think we remember how that one went down.
If you had told me before the season that Georgia would lose Michael Bennett after he established himself as Georgia’s leading receiver through five games and that four weeks later we would lose Marlon Brown and his three 100+ yard receiving games, I would have had some concerns for the pass catchers. To that point: Bennett and Brown still rank fourth and third respectively on the team in receiving yards and they’re tied for second in TD catches despite missing a combined 11 games.
But, somehow Mike Bobo and company have gotten things done. Malcolm Mitchell has made plays repeatedly and Tavarres King has continued to sneak behind the secondary. Meanwhile, Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome who combined for just one catch and fifteen yards in the Bulldogs first two games have come on strong. Rome seems to make a big catch down field just about every game – typically in high-flying acrobatic form that defies his 265 pound frame. Lynch had 73 yards receiving against FAU, 75 more against Tennessee and 68 yards worth of damage against Georgia Southern.
Murray has plenty of options to throw to.
Folks don’t know what to think about Aaron Murray. On one hand he’s hot right now. Since the fourth quarter of the Florida game the Murr-Man has hit on nearly 73% of his passes for over 1200 yards, 14 TDs, 0 INTs and a QB Efficiency of 213.42. That’s incredible.
On the other hand, while he has won a big game – the Florida game qualifies, folks – he hasn’t been decisive in earning a big win yet. We haven’t seen him play well and lead his team to victory for four quarters against an elite team.
I think an important factor in this game will be Murray’s future. His draft stock is rising dramatically right now, and a big game against the Tide’s stout defense could catapult him as high as the first round – something I never would have anticipated given his smallish stature. Georgia’s defensive studs (Shawn Williams, Bacarri Rambo, Jarvis Jones, Alec Ogletree, Jon Jenkins, etc.) have been jockeying for position all year on NFL Draft boards, but perhaps it is Murray’s turn to do it.
So how will he perform in the tryout? Everything we know about Murray indicates that he is a dedicated student (both in the classroom and in the filmroom), a relentless preparer and a pleaser. And no matter how you try to paint those qualities – Gary Danielson who is an idiot tried to say this week that Murray tries to hard to please his coaches, and that is a bad thing – they seem to play out well in most professional careers. I’m optimistic that Murray will get a start on his career this Saturday. As a guy I had lunch with said yesterday, there are millions of dollars to be won in this game.
I don’t expect Georgia to score 40. In fact, I know they won’t. If they do I might leave the dome early to beat the traffic and avoid hurting the feelings of Alabama fans (juuuuuust kidding). But I do think they are capable of moving the ball against the Tide – the same way I felt they could against Florida.
And frankly, as I’ll discuss at length tomorrow and Saturday morning, I do think the Bulldogs are capable of winning – the same way I thought they were against Florida. I hope I’m not crazy.
Be Sure to Read this Coverage of Conference Championship Week as well:
- Weekly Recap
- SEC Coaching Carousel
- Manti Te’O would be a backup for Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree
- Data Dump: White and Nerdy Statistical Analysis on the SEC and the BCS Top 3
- Georgia’s Defense vs. Alabama’s Offense: Stopping the Tide Rush the Key to Georgia Victory
- Knocking the Heisman Candidates
That’s all I got/