Georgia Football: Goals Still in Reach After Ole Miss Debacle
Consider this your September report card.
There’s not much to say about the Ole Miss fiasco that took place on Saturday. In my preview, I wrote that the Black Bears had two distinct advantages: their passing game and their D-line. Turns out I was, for once and quite unfortunately, spot on.
With that being said, any sane Georgia fan would have been okay with a 3-1 start in Kirby Smart’s “year zero” in Athens. Working with a green quarterback, a terrible receiving corps and offensive line, injured stars at running back, and a front seven decimated by graduations, anything more than 8 wins would have to be considered a miracle.
Not to make excuses, Georgia can still accomplish its most lofty reasonable goal: winning the SEC East. Yes, they have to beat a suddenly-formidable-again Tennessee team to have that in play past Saturday, but considering what we’ve seen on the field through four games…that’s a nice prize to still have on the table.
What went wrong?
To be honest, a lot:
- a negative point differential through four games;
- bad luck with fumbles: the Dawgs have lost 4 of 5, opponents have lost 3 of 6. Those numbers normalize to around 50%.
- an opposing passer rating of 135.77 despite six interceptions. Said another way, a passer rating 31 points WORSE than 2015’s.
- Jacob Eason has been objectively worse in 2016 than Greyson Lambert was in 2015.
- Special teams still being incredibly clunky. Recspecsdrigo Blankenship could’ve stopped the bleeding early against Ole Miss. William Ham made the Mizzou game very uncomfortable by shanking multiple opportunities. T.J. Logan’s kickoff return in the opener should’ve been the difference in UNC’s favor.
- The running game, for all we bemoaned Brian Schottenheimer’s inability to coach the offensive line’s new schemes effectively, that is MUCH worse than in 2015.
- 2014 (Bobo) 6.04 YPC, 8th nationally
- 2015 (Schottenheimer) 5.44, 18th nationally
- 2016 (Chaney) 4.55, 61st nationally
With all of that being said, if we replay this schedule with similar results, Georgia is probably 1-3 more than half the time.
Consider the following on a game by game basis:
- Mitch Trubisky was 0-7 on passes of 20+ yards against Georgia, as his adjusted QBR for the game was 52.3. Since, he has gone 78/97 (80%) for 1150 yards, 10 TD’s, and 0 picks. At least four of those deep balls were flat misses by the junior QB. Georgia benefited from a shaky first start and a ground game that made its sole appearance in September.
- Nicholls State: Jesus Christ.
- 1st half: 324 yards passing from Drew Lock, which exceeds any single GAME from a year ago.
- 2nd half: good defense, and the worst performance in taking advantage of scoring opportunities presented to the offense I’ve ever seen. Currently Georgia is averaging 4.21 points per “scoring opportunity”, which FootballOutsiders.com defines as 1st downs inside the opponent’s 40. That is 97th in the country.
- Ole Miss: Jesus Christ, round two.
A sampling of teams ahead (and just behind) where Georgia ranks in S&P+:
Wake. Western Michigan. Georgia Southern. Western Kentucky. MizzouColoradoMarylandTempleCal.
It’s bad right now, guys.
What went right?
Despite all of those disgusting stats above, Georgia is 3-1, 1-1 in the SEC (with an all-important road win under its belt), undefeated in the East, and as I said: still has an outside shot at the East.
The Dawgs did the right thing in letting Jacob Eason learn on the fly. The WR corps have to get better, the offensive line has to get better, but for Georgia to reach its potential in 2016, and especially the next two years when the Honeymoon is over, Eason has to be the guy.
On defense, the young guys are stepping up. Trent Thompson, Roquan Smith, and D’Andre Walker are all true sophomores, and all have multiple tackles for loss through four games (Thompson has four). This bodes well for the future. No seniors have even half of one, yet. On the whole two-deep, only Maurice Smith and Chuks Amaechi are set to graduate.
The freshman running backs, Brian Herrien and Elijah Holyfield, have outperformed Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Herrien has been explosive, with 7.1 YPC and 3 TD. Chubb is at 5.08…but at 3.92 after North Carolina. Michel is at 4.61.
I used the term “year zero” in the lead in, and that’s exactly why. There is a significant youth movement on this team, and to have checkmarks in the boxes of “neutral site game vs. ranked opponent” and “SEC night road game” this early in the season is a significant achievement, given the raw numbers on the Dawgs.
Probably a loss to Tennessee this week. However, a rowdy Sanford Stadium crowd, a CBS kickoff, and a key rivalry may be just what the doctor ordered (sorry for the cliches) to get the team’s focus on track.
Schematically, I’ve liked what I’ve seen. They’re allowing Eason to throw the ball downfield, the defense has been ballhawking and aggressive…the young guys on both lines just have to grow up. Outperforming your numbers is better than the inverse.
After Saturday, we will know what to expect from this team the rest of the way. A 9-3 season is not out of reach (although their cumulative projected wins now sits at seven). If the team grows up fast, we can get back to talking about a return to Atlanta next week. If not, get prepared to enjoy watching a young team grow up, take its lumps, and fall in love with the next group of championship level Georgia Bulldogs.