Let’s Hope It’s Not Like Georgia’s Last Liberty Bowl: A TCU Preview
At least its not Shreveport!
Georgia’s disappointing first season under Kirby Smart will end up in a disappointing location (Memphis) against a disappointing opponent (TCU) in a disappointing time slot (noon). Can the Dawgs salvage anything and get the way-too-real ‘bowl bump’ into next year’s preseason top 25?
TCU was considered a darkhorse CFP contender before the season. Then, Gary Patterson’s defense straight up broke, Kenny Hill was Kenny Hill (decidedly NOT Kenny Trill), and the explosive offense of Trevone Boykin’s heyday seemed a distant memory.
In 2014, the Horned Frogs made a surprise run to CFP contention, likely missing out only because the Big XII failed to declare them or Baylor champions. Their scoring margin was a ridiculous 46.5-19.0. After slight regression in 2015, they collapsed to 31.7-27.8 this year. They had two ‘complete’ performances, both in November: a 62-22 cathartic rout at Baylor, and a Charlie Strong-killing 31-9 win at Texas. Each win was followed with a home loss in which the Horned Frogs scored exactly 6 points.
To say this team is bipolar is a stretch– they’re just not very good. They gave up 41 points to South Dakota St., lost to Texas Tech, only beat Kansas by 1, and suffered three blowout losses (WVU, Oklahoma St., Kansas St.). The losses of Boykin and Josh Dotcson slowed what was a devastating offense, and Patterson’s 3-3-5 defense finally succumbed to being a Big XII defense.
Doug Meachem and Sonny Cumbie are co-OC’s, and come from the now-cliche Baylor coaching tree. TCU likes to spread it out and create mismatches in space, pretty much the M.O. for any
Baylor coaching tree Big XII offense. Their iteration relies on a dual-threat quarterback who is accurate and efficient, which Kenny Hill is not. The ex-Texas A&M Heisman candidate completed 61% of his passes–decent, not great– but threw 13 interceptions to 15 TD’s. Dominick Sanders and the secondary should be able to turn him over a couple of times.
He was better on the ground, averaging right at 5 yards per carry in tandem with Kyle Hicks, who wasn’t super-explosive compared to backs past. He also averaged 5 yards per carry, but wasn’t particularly efficient or explosive. The Frogs do have four other backs who will get touches, including freshmen Darius Anderson and Sino Oloniula, both of whom averaged at least 8 (!) yards per touch.
The receiving corps is also just a bunch of dudes, as only Hicks and leading receiver Taj Williams averaged over 3 catches per game. True to
Baylor offense form, they spread the ball out a ton, just not very effectively.
The advantage here goes to Georgia, as they should be able to condense the field against a not-very-vertical passing offense with the most talented D TCU has faced this year.
Like I said, probably Patterson’s worst. There are some names that I recognize from years past still roaming the field, notably DE Josh Carraway (12 TFL, 8 sacks), LB Travin Howard (125 tackles), and DB’s Nick Orr and Denzel Johnson. Carraway is an NFL talent, Johnson is a box safety who helped TCUs run D not fall off the map– they only gave up 4.1 yards per carry.
Opponent passer rating has crept up since an anomalous 2011 season (130+). Besides that year, 2016 represents Patterson’s WORST pass defense, as they recovered from ’11 to go 115, 108, 106, 112…and up to 127 this year. If Jacob Eason can find intermediate routes early, it will open room for Chubb and the boys to do work on the ground, and Riley Ridley et al to find holes downfield. Actually, I’ll go ahead and call that the key to making this a Georgia blowout versus a close win: the intermediate passing game early.
Advantage Georgia here, again. Think a North Carolina or Missouri-level defense, with a month to prepare.
I’m not breaking this down. Instead, I will give you the biggest joy to watch in this matchup, college football’s sweatiest man Gary Patterson.
Recall, if you will, the magic of Gary’s immaculate sweat. In last year’s Alamo Bowl, Patterson changed shirts out of necessity (or maybe superstition, but that’s a hindsight call and thus not applicable) down 31-0 against Oregon. In what was the best comeback I’ve ever seen, TCU stormed back behind Gary’s purple shirt and beat Oregon 45-38 in OT.
So, yeah. This is a blah matchup to cap off a blah season. As long as it doesn’t resemble Georgia’s last Liberty Bowl, we’re good right?