Georgia Football: An Honest-to-Goodness TaxSlayer Bowl Preview
Georgia returns to Jacksonville, the scene of many untold horrors, for the TaxSlayer Bowl against Penn State on Saturday. It is widely joked about as the most boring bowl game imaginable, and on the surface…that’s no real joke. Penn State has disgraced-former-mock-draft-legend QB Christian Hackenberg, and an offensive line made of balsa wood. Georgia has the incurable stench of Brian Schottenheimer still stuck in the air vents, as an offense that averaged 17.2 regulation points in its final five wins looks to show out on film for Kirby Smart and staff.
So that’s one theme. Not the only one, mind you, but all of them add up to bowl season’s second-lowest Vegas over-under of 43.5 points. Obviously, Georgia’s failure to find a quarterback and offensive anemia post-Nick Chubb cost Mark Richt and his staff their jobs. But for those of us (should be all of us) who don’t follow the B1G, James Franklin let his OC John Donovan go immediately following the season. Given the ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ nature of both offenses, this game is a difficult one to nail down. Which staff goes conservative? Which goes #CFI mode?
Get to know Penn State
There was nothing at all overwhelming about Penn State this season. Good defense, at times laughable offense. James Franklin is still the coach, and he likely still lives and breathes to brag about beating Georgia that one time.
State’s best win was…Jesus. San Diego State ended up winning the Mountain West and their bowl game. Indiana finished 6-7 but played Michigan and tOSU close. They haven’t beaten a team of Georgia’s ilk, and come in riding a 3-game losing streak.
I saw way too much of Penn State’s loss to Michigan on November 21. My breakdown of their offense would be: in good positions, they threw desperate heaves down the sideline hoping for a big play or pass interference. If they were behind the sticks or backed up deep, their playcalling was akin to a turtle facing a hammer. Here’s hoping that continues.
When Georgia has the ball
Penn State’s defense is legitimately pretty good, so the ‘throw <insert RB here> into brick wall 45x’ offense that Schotty made famous is doomed to fail. Given the lack of a coaching staff, I would love to see them throw Brice Ramsey in and just chuck and duck.
PSU is led up front by DE Carl Nassib, who had 19.5 TFL and 15,5 (!!!) sacks on the year. That, my friends, will be a problem. Overall, PSU gave up 21.7 points per game (17th in the nation) and ranked 19th in overall defensive S&P.
A good gameplan for Georgia (or anyone in an SEC vs. B1G matchup) is to get the ball to athletes in space. Isaiah McKenzie, Terry Godwin, Malcolm Mitchell, and Sony Michel fit the bill. As I said above, please don’t limit what they can do by sticking to 1985 NFL principles and reap the benefits.
When Penn State has the ball
This is the game where Christian Hackenberg’s application for health insurance officially gets denied for ALL of the preexisting post-traumatic medical conditions. Leonard Floyd and Jordan Jenkins are playing for draft position, and the defense should be extremely motivated to get one more good impression on film for the new staff. Hackenberg’s sack rate (per dropback) of 9.9% is staggering. If I were him, I’d seriously explore graduating early and finding a place with a pro-style offense and a line.
Holy shit, Christian Hackenberg would be PERFECT for 2016 Georgia.
The guy who most strikes fear into me on the PSU side is freshman RB Sequon Barkley, who averaged over 6 YPC and looked like a star in the making in flashes against some of the Nittany’s best competition. Let’s go back to that 6 YPC for a second though– Penn State played an offense (by necessity and ineptitude) that kept the ball within 15 yards of the line of scrimmage. For Barkley to hit that number is quite good by any objective measure, let alone on this team.
If PSU is going to exploit Georgia’s depleted secondary, they must first stop the pass rush. But sophomores Chris Godwin and DaeSean Hamilton are decent threats if they get their hands on the ball– and Hackenberg will target them at an alarming rate. Godwin was thrown to 106 times, Hamilton 81…the next highest player 30.
What to expect
With all of the intangibles that are impossible to account for, including motivation, coaching staff (or lack thereof), and disappointing seasons for both programs, this is the type of game that can range from low-scoring Georgia win to Penn State blowout.
I have seen lame duck coaching staffs’ efforts in bowl games before. I love Bryan McLendon and crew, and hope some of the guys stick around for 2016. But its hard to get a team up for an exhibition in this spot.
In a game that has absolutely ZERO impact on the future of the Georgia program, give me Penn State 20, Georgia 13 in a desperate slog that we can’t wait to forget about. .