Three Keys to Each Game of Georgia’s September Gauntlet, or ‘No Offense to you, North Texas’
You may have heard by now that Georgia has a completely brutal first month of the season in 2013. According to PhilSteele.com, the Dawgs will play three of the top 12 teams** in the country in the first four games of the season. As the alternate title indicates, I will not be providing way-too-early keys to the North Texas showdown on the fall equinox, but I will tell you that Mean Joe Greene played there. And he ain’t walking through that door.
(**- The most comprehensive rankings he has up are his projections of the preseason AP poll (predicting projected predictions…that’s
perfectly clinically reasonable insane), but that is a pretty good indication of where these guys will be ranked when we play them. For what it’s worth, he has UGA at #6, SC at #9, Clemson at #11, and LSU at #12.)
The Tigers are riding high after closing out their 11-2 2012 campaign with a Chick-Fil-A Bowl win over LSU (hey, we’re talking about them later in this post!) As of right now, it is May so Clemson wideout Sammy Watkins still has three months to get himself suspended before this game. TO THE KEYS!
1) Overcoming the first-game jitters: High-profile non-home openers haven’t treated the Dawgs well in recent years (Oklahoma State, Boise) and the common theme in those games was a seeming lack of early-season confidence. It is my opinion that this will be the toughest road game of the season, so a strong start and an early defensive stop against this Tiger offense are going to be vital.
2) Controlling tempo: More than any team the Dawgs will play in the regular season, Clemson likes to push the pace on offense. This video indicates the type of pace the offense likes to play, getting the formation set within 10 seconds and the play started within 15. With a young defense lacking in depth, it is vital that UGA ride Gurshall early and hold off on Aaron Murray’s Heisman campaign for a week. While Clemson’s rush D improved as the season went along (176 yards per game in September, 121 in November), they still finished 60th in the country against some pedestrian (linebacker playing quarterback for Maryland, didn’t even mention BC, Duke, or Wake, ALL OF WHOM THEY PLAYED!!!) ACC offenses. Run it downhill with Todd and Keith, throw in some nice intermediate routes, and get into the upper 30’s in time of possession.
3) The kicking game: Marshall Morgan was short of spectacular as a freshman, missing 6 of 14 field goals and 4 extra points. Clemson opened a 2-point favorite in Vegas. Vegas people tend to be pretty good at these predictions, and the home team in college football generally gets a three-point boost. Morgan needs to make up that difference, or at least not BE the difference. Against an offense like Clemson’s, the Dawgs can’t afford to get into the red zone and not come away with points.
After Morgan kicks us off (see what I did there?) with a close victory, we’re on to…
1) Attack, attack, attack: This is gonna hurt a little. Take yourself back to October 6 of last year, with the undefeated Dawgs meeting the undefeated Cocks in a game that would surely define the season and determine the fate of the SEC East. The Cocks marched into the endzone in three plays on their first drive, a Devonte Holloman pick led to a second score, and Ace Sanders set Georgia special teams back 60 years after three more failed Georgia plays.
/takes deep breath.
/holds back vomit.
/promises better reading below.
Now imagine doing that to them. After rushing for 280 yards against Clemson and winning the toss Between the Hedges (and receiving), Murray fakes an off tackle run at Clowney, where Gurley chips him long enough for Mitchell, Bennett, Conley, or whoever else to get past South Carolina’s inexperienced secondary and open Sanford Stadium in style. After a South Carolina three-and-out (Marcus Lattimore’s 156 yards per game vs. the Dawgs are gone too), we let Murray take the top off the D again, and again, and again.2) Harness the Clowneyraptor (and friends): My colleague Johnathan Barnes keeps posting articles with the same picture of Jadeveon Clowney jumping over a hapless Georgia O-line in Columbia. It’s getting annoying. (Dude’s note: In JB’s defense the Dude has been doing the photo uploads for his pieces).
While Clowney’s freakish play was a major factor in last year’s game, it was nothing compared to Melvin Ingram’s impact in the 2011 game (Dude’s note: Great point. If you don’t remember that game the recap in newspaper formatting from my old site is here.). The point is that you can’t let one defensive player disrupt the rhythm of your entire offense. The South Carolina D plays at another level when Clowney is making plays, and a quick passing game (against a SC defense that lost 8 starters) and running right at the freak himself could slow him down in the early September Georgia heat.
3) Play smart: Position by position, man for man, Georgia has more talent than South Carolina. Neither Connor Shaw nor Dylan Thompson are going to lead an incredibly explosive offense, so the D needs to keep the receivers in front of them and the offense needs to hold on to the ball. Minimize mistakes, avoid third-and-longs, don’t extend their drives with stupid penalties, and execute, and we are looking at 2-0.
1) Defensive line depth: LSU has established its reputation as a big, mean, fast, physical team in the Nick Saban and Les Miles eras. With powerful backs Jeremy Hill, Alfred Blue, and Kenny Hilliard running at a young Georgia defense, it is critical that the three calendar weeks between South Carolina and LSU (bye, UNT, practice) be used to find 8-10 capable bodies to neutralize the running attack. Barring an 0-2 Georgia start, this will be the 3:30 CBS game that day, and staying fresh into the 4th quarter (see point #3) is critical.
This means that Chris Mayes or John Taylor (or both) need to establish themselves as space-eating threats in early games, or Mike Thornton prove himself as a penetrator at the nose, and that there be no significant dropoff between the 1’s and 2’s (and even 3’s), because they will all see significant action.
2) Special teams play: I’m not going to rehash 2011 SEC Championship memories on this column after causing PTSD with the S.C. breakdown, but LSU is always strong in special teams. While there is no established Patrick Peterson or Tyrann Mathieu returning kicks for the Tigers yet, it does not mean one will not emerge.
Also (again, see point #3), Les Miles is not afraid to allow special teams to determine the outcome of the game. Punter Brad Wing (the only punter I’ve ever known to declare for the NFL early) is gone, but you can count on at least one crazy fake field goal or punt on this big stage. If you’re not familiar with Wing, he’s in some ways punting’s equivalent to Sebastian Janikowski. Strong leg, trouble child, suspended for a bowl game, and famously scoring a 52-yard touchdown against Florida that was called back for excessive celebration.
3) Don’t let them stay in striking distance: While modern-day LSU is characterized by the Mad Hatter being the luckiest man in sports, I think there is something to be said in the theory that preparation can create luck. Expecting the unexpected against the Tigers is a must. If the game is within 10 points in the final 7-10 minutes, there is really no telling what could happen.
QB Zach Mettenberger is famously (more likely infamously) making his return to Sanford Stadium, and adding to the intrigue is the fact that he’ll likely want to make his presence known to Bulldog fans. While an overly-hyped Mettenberger could be a blessing for the Dawgs, the combination of him and Les Miles’ uncanny ability to pull wins from where the sun don’t shine would make for a very nervous crowd of 92,000 in the closing minutes of this game.
In my first ‘Go Dawgs’ post for DudeYouCrazy, giving you the business,
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