Category Archives: SEC
I turned 31 last week. Tough pill to swallow. Every year I feel a little bit older, but the LSU game really aged me. You see, I’m old enough to remember when Georgia was a nationally relevant football program. I’m something of a dying breed in that regard.
Kirby Smart, so it seems, has ruined Georgia football. Even among his true peers – programs who have changed coaches recently – he looks bad. He’s lost to Ole Miss, Tennessee, Florida and now LSU in his incredibly brief tenure. Not exactly a murderer’s row of quality opposition.
Frankly, the state of Georgia football is so dire heading into the annual tilt with Florida in Jacksonville that I can’t in good conscience preview the game itself. We already know how that’s going to end up. In lieu of a preview and a prediction, here’s a step-back look at the season so far.
Over the next few days I’m going to power rank the worst parts of the 2018 Georgia Bulldogs. As a word of disclaimer, Kirby Smart is clearly the worst facet of this program. As such, you could list him in every single one of these spots. But these are the single components that have been most disappointing thus far. Today, I’ll start with the running game.
Heading into the season, we knew the running game might need some fine-tuning. One doesn’t simply “replace” Nick Chubb and Sony Michel. Those guys don’t grow on trees. And they apparently don’t grow on Georgia’s roster either.
Last year, Georgia led the Southeastern Conference with 3,876 rushing yards (no other school was within 375 yards of that total). Currently, Georgia doesn’t even lead Georgia in rushing yards. Seriously, the Bulldogs trail both Georgia Tech and Georgia Southern in rushing yards. Tech’s racked up 2,476 yards on the ground; Georgia Southern sits at 1,929; UGA is at 1,584. Within the SEC, Georgia trails Alabama (1,735), Mississippi State (1,645) and Kentucky (1,621). Among the national powerhouses with stronger running games than Georgia: Every service academy (Army, Navy and Air Force), Coastal Carolina, Western Michigan, Cincinnati, Troy, UNLV, Louisiana-Lafayette and UAB.
What in the name of Herschel is going on? Honestly, I’m not sure. Neither is Kirby Smart, apparently, because he has no idea who to run. The Bulldogs are averaging 5.8 yards per attempt, which is a halfway-decent total. Part of the problem, however, is the Dawgs’ refusal to give the ball to the most talented runners on the team. Elijah Holyfield is having an okay-ish season and has racked up 7.5 yards per attempt, but four runners have averaged more yards per attempt than Holyfield. Unfortunately, those four runners have been given just 28 carries. Georgia is running the ball with the wrong people.
|Player||Carries This Year||Yards Per Attempt||Appropriately Used?|
|D’Andre Swift||71||5.1||Way too many carries|
|Elijah Holyfield||65||7.5||Too many carries|
|Brian Herrien||30||5.9||Way too many carries|
|James Cook||30||5.5||Too many carries|
|Justin Fields||18||7.6||Not enough carries|
|Mecole Hardman||4||9.0||Not enough carries|
|Demetris Robertson||3||32.3||Not enough carries|
|Tyler Simmons||3||26.7||Not enough Carries|
If Georgia gave the most carries (Swift’s 71) to its best runner (Demetris Robertson) and so on and so forth, the totals above would look like this:
|Player||Revised Carries||Yards Per Attempt||Total Yards|
Georgia has left nearly 3,200 yards on the table (3.176) by not appropriately allocating carries. That may not seem like a lot to Kirby Smart, but an extra 454 rushing yards per contest would be really helpful if you’re trying to win football games.
At the end of the day, that comes down to coaching.
Until next time,
The Kirby Smart Hater
Everyone seems awfully excited about a “big” win over South Carolina, don’t they? What an accomplishment! I guess it makes sense in a way, seeing as the Gamecocks are one of the only teams in the SEC that Kirby always beats. Read a schedule sometime. Since arriving in Athens, Kirby has coached against 10 SEC teams. He’s found a way to lose to 6 of them. Unreal. “Georgia football is back,” they say. Tell me that win Kirby has a less than 40% chance of losing to a conference opponent.
Fortunately, the problem with Georgia football is pretty easy to diagnose. It’s the quarterback play. Last year, there was no quarterback controversy. As Kirby Smart pointed out in July of 2017, “Jacob Eason is our starter going into the season.” Unsurprisingly, Georgia was decent in 2017. The offense improved from 87th in the nation in yards per game in 2016 to 32nd. Undoubtedly, having a settled quarterback position helped those improvements.
This year, however, there is an alleged QB controversy. Smart did everything he could to run off Eason, the personification of consistency. And now, a battle between Jake Fromm and Justin Fields has the offense backsliding and currently ranked 36th in the nation despite an easy schedule that has featured one FCS opponent (Austin Peay) and a game against one of the four SEC opponents Smart knows how to beat (South Carolina). I’ll detail the specifics of Georgia’s struggles in my Top 10 at the end of the article, but yet again the issue is QB play.
Jake Fromm has thrown for 351 yards, 3 TDs and 1 pick this year. That’s pretty good—for a single game. But if you’re a keen follower of sports like me, you know Georgia has actually played TWO games. Fromm has failed to throw for 200 yards in both contests. Of course, that shouldn’t be surprising. Fromm has now failed to throw for 200 yards in 12 of his 17 career games. He’s just not a good quarterback. He has as many sub-100 yard games as he does 300+ yard outings. It’s honestly amazing that he still even sees the field seeing as he’s put up the following combined statistical line against Georgia’s two biggest historical SEC East rivals (Florida and Tennessee): 11 of 22 for 185 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT. That’s in TWO GAMES!
But there is hope for Kirby because there is SUCH an obvious solution: Justin Fields. For the second-consecutive game, Fields posted a better completion percentage than Fromm. And don’t forget, Fields has been responsible for infinitely fewer turnovers than Fromm. Who would you want under-center?
|TDs to INTs||Infinity||3||Fields|
|Yards Per Rush||9||-1.3||Fields|
If Kirby doesn’t start Fields, he needs to be fired.
Now, here are ten things that bothered me from Georgia’s narrow win in Columbia:
- Deandre Baker is overrated. He did nothing to stop Deebo Samuel in my opinion. Seriously, if Deebo was playing in a standard PPR fantasy football league he would have put up 13.63 points. If that’s average for a roster, the squad would score damn-near 123 points. That would beat my team every week.
- Seriously, if Baker is so good why was he responsible for 2/3 of Georgia’s penalty yards while trying to stop Deebo?
- Seriously, if Baker is so good why did Deebo play a hand in 50% of South Carolina’s touchdowns?
- Remember when Georgia had a good ground attack? The Bulldogs have only had one game with a 100-yard rusher in the last 298 days and that was against a defenseless Big 12 team in a meaningless Rose Bowl.
- For the second week in a row, Georgia doesn’t know who should be a running back and who should be a receiver. Mecole Hardman was the best runner on the team but only got one carry.
- D’Andre Swift led the team in carries despite having the fourth-best YPC average on Saturday.
- This incongruity apparently is something we should get used to. Swift is the team’s leader in carries despite averaging only 5.4 yards per carry, which trails the team’s average of 6.5 and individually trails Demetris Robertson, Mecole Hardman, Tyler Simmons, Justin Fields, Elijah Holyfield, James Cook and Brian Herrien.
- Georgia’s talented tight ends continued to be utilized. The crew combined for one catch, 10 yards and no touchdowns.
- Georgia logged its first sack of the season! That was huge, wasn’t it? Only five teams in the country—such powerhouses as UMass and UConn—have fewer sacks than Georgia. Junkyard Dawgs are back!
- In general, giving up 336 yards and 19 first downs to a Will Muschamp-coached team just kinda hurts your soul, doesn’t it?
Until next time,
-The Kirby Smart Hater
Look, if you’re late to the party you’ve missed out on free money. I can’t fix stupid, so jump on board. Last week, I went 8-3-1 on games broken down on the site. I miffed majorly on a “bonus” game of FAU vs. Oklahoma, which brought me to 8-4-1 overall. These are real, verified picks via Action Network (follow me here) or see the screenshot below.
So let’s jump in.
12 p.m. Mississippi State (-9.5) at Kansas State (ESPN)
I’m not a believer in Mississippi State. I think that’s pretty well-documented. But Kansas State needed two late scores to get past South Dakota State last week while the Bulldogs absolutely cruised. I would have had this line closer to 14.5, but that’s just me. I’ll take the Bulldogs, but it would be sweet to get validation of my hate this early in the year.
Picks: Mississippi State outright and Mississippi State -9.5
12 p.m. Nevada at Vanderbilt (-9) (SEC Network)
If an SEC program pummeling MTSU can be surprising, then I guess Vandy’s 35-7 season-opener was surprising. I think that score, however, is a bit misleading. In reality the teams played fairly evenly. MTSU had more first downs and Vandy had more yards while neither offense looked even a faint shade of explosive. Turnovers were costly for the Blue Raiders, however. All this being said, there seemed to be enough positives for Vandy to imply a comfortable win over Nevada.
Picks: Vandy outright and Vandy -9
3:30 p.m. Arkansas State vs. Alabama (-36.5) ESPN 2
I really don’t like massive spreads in Alabama’s favor early in the season. Arkansas State is a talented Sun Belt squad and their passing game does some interesting things and I think that could keep them within 5 scores.
Picks: Alabama outright but Arkansas State +36.5
3:30 p.m. Georgia (-10) at South Carolina (CBS)
Frankly, this line is insulting to Georgia and a byproduct (in my opinion) of three narratives: 1. South Carolina played Georgia close last year, 2. Somebody has to step up in the SEC East, and 3. It’s tough to play at South Carolina. First and foremost, the game last year was ugly but it wasn’t really all that close. Jake Fromm was 16/22 for 196 yards and two scores and after the game Gamecock head coach Will Muschamp declared some sort of victory saying, “We made Jake Fromm play quarterback.” That seems to imply that Carolina shut-down the Bulldogs’ ground attack, but Georgia ran for a cool 242 yards. Georgia held the ball for 38:22 and South Carolina had possession for just 21:38. Georgia racked up 26 first downs to South Carolina’s 14. Georgia racked up 438 yards of offense and South Carolina managed 270. The game was never—ever—in doubt. Secondly, yes, someone does have to step up in the SEC East, but that’s all relative to Georgia’s spot at the top. The presence of a behemoth in the division does not necessitate a competitive rival so much as it might induce a wide gap between first and second. Finally, it is very tough to play at South Carolina. That would be concerning if these two teams were remotely even by any measure (talent, coaching, etc.). But that’s not the case. I think it plays to Georgia’s favor that there is so much South Carolina hype right now.
Picks: Georgia outright and Georgia -10
4:00 p.m. Eastern Tennessee State at Tennessee (No Line) (SEC Network)
Jeremy Pruitt’s boys looked all-out out-matched against West Virginia last week. The Volunteer offense was predictably unproductive (172 passing yards, 129 on the ground), but the defensive woes really surprised some of the Volunteer faithful. Who could have predicted a Will Grier-led team beating Tennessee in painful fashion? In any event, the Vols will get to 1-1 against in-state rival ETSU.
Pick: Tennessee outright
4:00 p.m. Southern Illinois at Ole Miss (No Line) (SEC Network)
Ole Miss looked strong against a Texas Tech team that seems destined to can its coach mid-season. So good on ya, Matt Luke. The Rebels will move to 2-0 this week and may be knocking on the door of Undefeated-SEC-Teams-Who-Get-Ranked-Just-Because house (see South Carolina and Florida).
Pick: Ole Miss outright
7:00 p.m. Clemson at Texas A&M (+12.5) (ESPN)
Jimbo Fisher will get his first real test as the Aggies’ head-man this weekend and what a test it will be. Clemson is a popular (if boring) pick to be in the College Football Playoff and its pretty damn hard to argue with that logic. A&M looked promising against a clearly out-manned FCS program, but it’s hard to believe Jimbo could close the gap between a program that fired its coach and a program that is a perennial playoff contender this quickly. Frankly, 12.5 points seems to small here.
Pick: Clemson outright and Clemson -12.5
7:00 p.m. Wyoming at Missouri (-18.5) (ESPNU)
It was only one game and it was only against Tennessee-Martin, but Derek Deooley hasn’t ruined the Mizzou passing game—at least not yet. Drew Lock hit on 19 of 25 passes for 289 yards and 4 scores and his backup threw for another 109 yards. I stand by my assertion that Missouri has as good of a shot as anybody at finishing 2nd in the SEC, and if the Tigers win big this weekend and the Gamecocks get throttled that sentiment may pick up some steam.
Pick: Missouri outright and Missouri -18.5
7:00 p.m. Southeastern Louisiana at LSU (No Line) (ESPN 2)
I totally whiffed on the LSU/Miami game and I will never, ever, ever, ever trust Mark Richt in a big game. I should have learned my lesson a decade ago. I’m not totally sold on LSU and this game won’t change many minds, but I’m starting to gear up for the Tiger-on-Tiger LSU/Auburn game next week.
Pick: LSU outright
7:30 p.m. Alabama State at Auburn (No Line) (SEC Network)
I’m not totally sure how good this Auburn team is, but I was impressed last week. The Tigers beat a good Washington team despite an inherent coaching disadvantage (no one in their right mind would pick Gus Malzahn over Chris Petersen). Further, if you buy into the notion that Auburn typically starts slow (and that tends to be the case), the ceiling for this team is sky-high.
Pick: Auburn outright.
7:30 p.m. Kentucky at Florida (-14) (SEC Network)
Honestly, I think this is a must-win game for Kentucky if the Wildcats have any intention of moving into the top half of the SEC’s weaker division. For some reason, that urgency and the longstanding losing streak (UK has lost 31 games in a row to Florida) seems like it will keep things interesting.
Picks: Florida outright but Kentucky +14
7:30 p.m. Arkansas (-13.5) at Colorado State (CBSSN)
I don’t feel like we learned anything about Arkansas in Week 1, but this Colorado State team is really in trouble. It’s hard to see the Rams covering the spread after losing 43-34 to Hawaii (when they were favored by a wide margin) and dropping a 32-point game to Colorado.
Picks: Arkansas outright and Arkansas -13.5
That’s all I got/
If a picture is worth a thousand words, a well-timed bar graph might be worth a billion. Or, at least it might be worth $7 million – or whatever Kirby Smart’s salary is.
Consider this quarterback “comparison” (and I use that term loosely). Justin Fields should be Georgia’s starter. And yet, there’s been no official announcement from Saint Kirby, whose team didn’t even play a complete 60 minutes against lowly Austin Peay!
Who is the better passer? Well if you care about simple things – like I don’t know, did the pass land in a Georgia receiver’s hand – the answer is clear.
Who plays risk-free football? Well Fields (always the black quarterback in this analysis) has TD-to-INT ratio of infinity right now. Fromm (shown in red) is much lower than infinity.
Who does more with their legs? No contest.
And who wins more? You guessed it: Fields.
If Kirby Smart can’t figure this out, we need to find someone who can. It’s just not that hard. Maybe these graphs will help him see something that everyone else in Bulldog Nation has already witnessed. But I’m not that optimistic based on last week’s performance, and I WILL expose him if things don’t improve.
Speaking of room for improvement, here are the ten things that bothered me most about Georgia’s meager 45-point win in Week 1:
- The Bulldogs didn’t even play 60 minutes! Nobody’s talking about that. Georgia leads the damn conference in minutes of football skipped on account of laziness.
- James Cook was kicked out of the game for a targeting violation on a punt-returner. I don’t want to point out the obvious: But if you don’t want to scramble your opponents’ brains, maybe don’t sign a Cook. Further, is it even normal for Georgia to have running backs playing on punt coverage?
- Why isn’t Demetris Robertson playing running back? He didn’t do a damn thing in the passing game (0 catches for 0 yards and 0 TDs) but led the team in rushing yards, yards per attempt and rushing touchdowns. I’m no genius but maybe he’s playing the wrong position?
- I think the exact same thing could be said of “wide receiver” Tyler Simmons. Simmons is averaging 19 yards per rush attempt this season. The junior hasn’t hauled in a 19-yard pass in his entire career. Football just isn’t that hard. Maybe they coaches would have figured that out in the 56th minute of the game…
- It’s great to see Georgia using the tight ends more this year. Three different tight ends caught a pass for a total of 22 receiving yards. Electric! You can’t pick up that level of production – 7.3 yards per completion – just anywhere. Wait, yes you can. Great “scheme,” Georgia.
- The Bulldogs didn’t log a single sack. That’s inexcusable against Austin Peay or any lowly opponent from the state of Tennessee. Now admittedly, the Governors probably weren’t as bad as last year’s Tennessee Vols team offensively, but the Dawgs got three sacks against UT last year. Gonna be tough to own the Volunteer State if the defense doesn’t start…I don’t know…defending.
- Kirby doesn’t know gold when he sees it. Rodrigo Blankenship is arguably the only good thing this football program has going, and he only got to log one field goal attempt? What the heck was that? There’s no way Hot Rod wins the Heisman if he doesn’t see a pick up in usage.
- Some would say Kirby Smart is a good recruiter. I have trouble reconciling that notion with the fact that that the lowest-rated player in Kirby’s most recent class (3-star Jake Camarda) made the biggest impact on this game of any freshman. Camarda picked up 165 yards on three punts. For comparison’s sake, even over-hyped and should-be-on-the-bench Jake Fromm only threw for 157 yards. Maybe Kirby should start targeting more three-star players and fewer 5-stars.
- After the game Kirby said the team needs to grow up and grow up fast. That’s Kirby in a nutshell. Size is everything. Speed is also everything. Execution be damned.
- Georgia is, frankly, lucky to play South Carolina this weekend. The Gamecocks are one of the few teams Kirby seems to have any kind of edge against. He’s 2-0 against them. But don’t forget that we could still have Mark Richt as our fearless leader had South Carolina not made advances at Kirby back in 2015. I’m just stunned that Georgia was held hostage by frickin’ South Carolina’s football program and the hire that followed hasn’t been a success.
Until next time,
-The Kirby Smart Hater
As I said earlier, it’s pretty tough to make predictions for Week 1. We just don’t know a lot. But I’ve made my SEC predictions (both outright and against the spread where applicable), and I’ll also be posting weekly previews of every Top 25 vs. Top 25 matchup. For what it’s worth, if a matchup was covered by the SEC Preview, I’ll be copying and pasting.
If you have the interest, I’m going to track all my SEC and Top 25 match-up picks with The Action App (which is also where I’m getting the lines). You can follow my action here.
Lastly, I will be using the AP Poll for rankings.
3:30 p.m. #6 Washington vs. #9 Auburn (-2) (in Atlanta) (ABC)
I previewed this game at length with a blog post and a podcast from the perspective of a Washington fan. As I mentioned on the pod, however, my prediction came from my heart not my head. To be clear, I’ll be cheering for Washington in this game, attending with UW alums and even wearing my Washington Jacob Eason jersey. But I think Auburn is going to be too physical for this Washington team. I trust Jarrett Stidham more than I trust Jake Browning in isolation, but I also think Auburn’s front-four will disrupt a very experienced Husky offensive line.
Picks: Auburn straight-up and Auburn -2
7:30 p.m. #14 Michigan (-1) at #12 Notre Dame (NBC)
It’s a huge red flag if you’re a major college football program and I say, “I trust Brian Kelly more than I trust your head coach.” But somehow we’re there. I don’t trust Jim Harbaugh as far as I can throw him when it comes to big games. It’s baffling to me that the Wolverines are ranked 14th in the preseason poll despite having five games that seem like they should be losses:
- At #12 Notre Dame
- Vs. #4 Wisconsin
- At #11 Michigan State
- vs. #10 Penn State
- At #5 Ohio State
I think there’s this assumption that all these Big Ten teams are about even, but Harbaugh has yet to lead the Wolverines to a finish of better than third in their own division. Further, he’s 1-7 against teams ranked 12th or better. That’s not a good thing for a dude who is about to play on the road against #12 Notre Dame. And I’m not real big on Shea Patterson.
My picks: Notre Dame straight-up and Notre Dame +1
7:30 p.m. #8 Miami vs. #25 LSU (+3.5) (in Dallas) (ABC)
This is a tough one for me. I don’t really trust Coach O and as a Georgia fan, I don’t have a whole lot of inherent confidence in Mark Richt heading into a big game. I think both teams will be fairly nasty on defense and I think this could be one of the worst quarterbacked games of the opening weekend. For some reason, though, I like Miami in an ugly game. Evil Richt is seemingly alive and well in south Florida, and he likes swampy games (even if they’re in Arlington, TX).
Picks: Miami straight-up and Miami -3.5
8:00 P.M. #20 Virginia Tech at #19 Florida State (-6.5) (ESPN)
I’m pretty big on this Florida State team and I think Virginia Tech is going to take time to replace lost talent on defense. But 6.5 points is tough here. I think Cam Akers is ultimately the difference maker for Florida State, but this is a game with two teams with a lot to prove, and I’m not real comfortable with either pick (but I refuse to hedge!).
Picks: Florida State straight-up and Florida State -6.5
That’s all I got/