ROB SAYE/UGA
It's been a good season for Jim Chaney, pictured here on the right.

Jim Chaney in Year 2, Jake Fromm in Year 1, and how do you beat UGA?

Welcome back to the UGA Mailbag, where each week we invite readers ask our expertise (low bar) about Georgia football, UGA athletics or whatever springs to mind. This week someone did jump on the latter ask about candy corn, as well as recommendations on what to do in Athens. These are very important subjects, especially candy corn, which you can read at the end of this mailbag.

In the meantime, our editors inform us that we should lead with Georgia football, what with it being ranked No. 1 in the country and in the hunt for a national championship, having the best season in years, etc. Apparently that draws a bit of interest. Who could’ve guessed.

So let’s go:

Jim Chaney second year playcalling: Your analysis on if we’ve seen it all and it’s vanilla OR we haven’t had to see anymore of it because of dominance?
– Jon Crenshaw

As I always say, I’m not involved in the weekly gameplan installation meetings, for some reason, so I can never say for sure what’s coming down the pike. But my sense is that Chaney is ecstatic with what they’ve been able to do, but can now add some wrinkles for the stretch run.

The Jacob Eason injury had to scramble the thinking a little bit. As smart as the coaches knew Jake Fromm could be, most of the offseason gameplanning revolved around Eason’s big arm and also Eason being in his second year. So when he went out, they had to ditch, or at least put on the back-burner, some stuff. Luckily they happened to have two great tailbacks to lean on in the process, and Fromm proved really good at managing the offense and checking in and out of plays.

Chaney deserves a lot of credit for this season. Maybe it’s the Eason injury, but Georgia’s offense has played within itself in textbook fashion, not trying to do much because of how good the defense is, but doing enough to not put everything on the defense.  The Bulldogs may not pass much, but when they do, it’s effective, in large part because Chaney is picking his spots. The blocking schemes have been more creative, the playcalling has been less predictable and the scheme is fitting the talent.

Another week, another opposing defender saying that Fromm can’t pass. As you have pointed out, Fromm leads the SEC in yards per attempt, but those numbers have come against teams that already couldn’t stop the run, and success in the run game opens up the pass. The best run defense Georgia has faced is Notre Dame, ranked 16th. Fromm’s yards per attempt in South Bend? 4.86, second worst of all quarterbacks to face ND this season. Should we write off the Notre Dame numbers because it was his first start, or be concerned about his ability to pass when the run game isn’t working?
– Sam Irvin

You know what sticks out to me when I hear those comments from opposing players? Their coaches either aren’t preparing them well, or the players aren’t listening. These were interview sessions on Monday and Tuesday, by which time at least some cursory defensive preparation should have shown that Fromm leads the SEC in yards per attempt and pass efficiency and has hit on more than just slant passes.

Now, I do think it’s still a legitimate question whether Fromm can fully carry the offense is a defense shuts down Georgia’s running game. Alabama may be the test for that, but Auburn has a good front seven, too, and as good as Georgia’s offensive line has been, I’m not sure it will push those two teams around. So if Fromm has to air it out 25-30 times in a game, can he win it? We don’t know yet.

That said, there are some good signs for that, which I will allow esteemed colleague Chip Towers to post for a story he has been researching. Don’t want to scoop my partner on the beat.

What would it take for a team to beat Georgia? I don’t mean for Georgia to beat themselves. What would someone have to do to beat UGA?
– Adam Wynn

Reiterating the previous few paragraphs, a defense needs to force Georgia to pass the ball. That won’t necessarily do it, but it’s step one. That increases the chances of a turnover: Fromm only has four interceptions this year but he hasn’t had to take too many chances. He’s still a true freshman. Jake Bentley, the other quarterback in this week’s game, also has four interceptions this year but has attempted nearly twice as many passes (241) as Fromm (128).

On the other side of the ball I keep coming back to Georgia’s pass defense. It looked great, and I mean great in both facets – pass rush and downfield coverage – against Florida. But that was just Florida. Missouri had more success, as did Vanderbilt, and those are two of the top four passing offenses in the SEC. Auburn ranks No. 3 and South Carolina ranks No. 5.

Finally, if I were another coach I would break out the trick plays. Nobody has really tried much on Georgia this year, perhaps because seven of the eight opponents have been behind by so much. Alabama may be a team that will take its chances straight up against Georgia. Otherwise, other teams may need to throw in a fake field goal, fake punt or a flea-flicker or two.

Are people going to hate me for this answer, as if I’m giving the playbook to other teams? If so I’ll remind them I’m paid much less than SEC coaches and if any of them need me for advice then they should be immediately fired. I’m not that smart.

Is the gap between the haves and have-nots growing wider?
– Tony Porter

They have this year, for sure. Alabama and Georgia are in a world of their own, with Auburn trying to be a solid second tier by itself. Maybe Mississippi State and Texas A&M can push into the discussion for that second tier, too.

But what happened this year is two-pronged: SEC West teams other than Alabama are knocking each other off, no clear No. 2 emerging. The SEC East saw traditionally strong teams – Florida and Tennessee – struggling mightily, and they weren’t really replaced, unless South Carolina or Kentucky emerge late.

It won’t be like that forever. There are going to be coaching changes this offseason as East teams try to avoid falling behind Georgia and West teams try to get back on track. So while it’s basically been a two-team conference this year I don’t think it’ll stay that way for long. Everybody has money and strong recruiting bases. They just need the right coaches.

Nick Saban is the Dean of college coaches, but I really wish that you DawgNation media guys would push back a little bit, when some of your colleagues opine that Kirby learned his craft at the feet of Sensei Saban. Of COURSE he learned some things from Saban. But I’m sure he learned some things from his Daddy, who was a high school football coach. He probably also managed to pick up a thing or two while he was a graduate assistant to Bobby Bowden for 2 years. IMHO, a legitimate argument can be made that Saban and Kirby may have learned some things from each other:

In Saban’s first 2 years at Michigan State his record was 12-11-1, and for his next 3, it was 22-13. After he took the LSU job, he hired Kirby Smart. After that, he made it a point to bring Kirby to the NFL, and then to ‘Bama.

So since defense wins championships, a real zealot might even believe that Kirby made Saban.
– Mickey Hand

This question escalated quickly. I mean, when it started I was curious where you were going with it, there were some interesting turns, and then it kinda surprised me there at the end. Good job.

OVER-UNDER

As usual, ForestryDawg sets it up and I try to answer.

Jake Bentley Pass Attempts, 34.5 … Under. Bentley comes in averaging 30 a game, and even if South Carolina is playing from behind all game, and it’s likely they will, I expect Will Muschamp to try to run the ball a lot.
Jake Bentley Flops*, .5
… Under. If you don’t know what this refers to, here you go.
South Carolina Rushing Yards, 99.5
… Over, but only because of that Muschamp run emphasis and late yardage to push it over 100. South Carolina is only averaging 123 rushing yards per game and 3.9 per rush attempt, and we all know how good Georgia’s run defense is.
South Carolina Touchdowns, .5 …
Over. Bentley is good enough to lead one or two touchdown drives.
Nick Chubb Rushing Yards, 114.5
… Over. While South Carolina’s run defense is decent, my gut says Chubb has a big game.
Touchdowns by Different Georgia Tailbacks, 2.5
… Under. Touchdowns by only Chubb and Michel this game, I’ll predict.
Jake Fromm Attempted Passes, 11.5
… Over. South Carolina’s pass defense is not great (12th in SEC in yards allowed, seven in yards per opponent attempt) so Georgia will throw more.
Georgia Total Points, 39.5
… Under. I see this as a 31-14 type game.
Georgia Allowed Sacks, 1.5
… Under. Jadeveon Clowney isn’t walking through that door.

BASKETBALL SEGMENT

Over the weekend UGA played #2 ranked Michigan State in Grand Rapids to raise money for Hurricane relief. The game was a sellout with over 10,000 people in attendance and almost $350,000 was raised for the Red Cross. Interestingly, E’Torrion Wilridge, a forward, started the game at the two spot. This move has riled the Fox hating crowd. Jordan Harris was nursing an injury, but wouldn’t it make more sense for Crump to start at shooting guard? I am a Fox supporter, and I’m telling myself he wanted to test a “big” lineup. Your thoughts?
– Steve Shockley

I was curious about that, too, and it’ll be interesting what the lineup is in Thursday night’s exhibition against Valdosta State. I’m on record that Tyree Crump needs to play, and while a really tall lineup is intriguing, in today’s college basketball world you need shooters. If they put Crump and Nicolas Claxton both out there, then you have two shooters off the ball, presuming Turtle Jackson (or Teshaun Hightower) is at the point.

Georgia should be in good shape in the post this year, especially with Rayshaun Hammonds either starting or playing decent minutes off the bench. But while coaches like Mike Kzyzewski – and he’s a good one – subscribe to the theory of just play your best five, ultimately I think you still need shooting. And if Turtle Jackson is the starting point guard, then I’m not sure you can count on that shooting to come from that spot.

LIGHTNING ROUND

Does number one ranking help us in the case of being undefeated and losing to bama and still getting into playoffs, compared to say, being ranked 2 or 3? Or will it matter?
– John Vaughn

I really don’t think it matters, other than the reason Georgia is No. 1 is the win at Notre Dame, and that will remain on the resume if it becomes a close call in the end. But ultimately Georgia vs. Alabama should shake itself out in the end. The question becomes whether Georgia, if it goes 12-0 then loses to Alabama, will beat out enough one-loss teams from other conferences. 

Does Andrew Thomas move to left tackle next year after Wynn graduates?
– Andy Parry

I’m betting he does. That would open up right tackle for either Ben Cleveland or Isaiah Wilson, and that could be a pretty interesting competition, if that indeed is the lone starting spot to open on the line.

Do you think that with the message the selection committee sent about strength of schedule, that McGarity will start looking for better OOC opponents in the future?
– BamaDawg

To be fair, Georgia is No. 1 based mainly on that win at Notre Dame, so that’s not a concern right now. The only issue for the future would be if the SEC continues to slide and having eight conference games plus Georgia Tech won’t be good enough in a normal season. That Notre Dame game may actually end up saving Georgia’s playoff hopes this year, because of the struggles of the rest of the conference.

Relative to the college football playoffs, I believe number 1 plays number 4 and number 2 plays number 3.  However, how is it determined which of those 2 games will be played in Pasadena and New Orleans?  I would be real interested in a detailed explanation.
– Jimmy Taylor

The committee tries to be as close as possible to tradition and region, so if there’s any chance of putting the Big Ten champion in the Rose Bowl semifinal game, then they will. (I’m already kind of discounting the Pac-12 champion for the playoff.) But ultimately they’ve done a pretty good job of putting the priority on the seeding rather than as if these were real bowl games. If Georgia were to win out then I’d bet it gets the Sugar Bowl, with the committee deferring to putting the No. 1 seed closer to home.

Seth, I am wondering how our OL depth is progressing. Which players have rotated into the game most often? And who is our backup center?
– JayDog

Technically the second-team center is Sean Fogarty, a junior walk-on, but if Lamont Gaillard were to get hurt in a close game then Dyshon Sims would probably replace him. I can’t give you a firm answer on whether the second team guys are progressing, only that it’s clear there’s been some separation, with the coaches comfortable with the first team guys for awhile now.

Do coaches run their own Twitter accounts? Some awfully quick and creative responses to recruit commitments.
– Drew Corbett

It varies, as far as I can tell, just like with other public figures. You’ve got some who’d rather not have anything to do with it and let one of the football staffers handle it. And you’ve got some who clearly revel in it and want to be at the controls. (Lane Kiffin springs to mind.) My guess is that multiple people have the password on most coaches’ accounts – the coach himself and at least one multimedia staffer.

What is the hardest part of your job?
– Black Baker

Being away from family. The hours aren’t as bad as the coaches, but they tend to coincide with them: We work Tuesday and Wednesday nights, basically all of Saturday, and have to scramble to get home on some other nights, while occasionally traveling on Fridays and Sundays. So football season is really tough.

Isn’t it interesting what winning does for a team and a fan base. You know what question I have not heard one time this year? When will the Dawgs be wearing blach jersey’s this year? Not one time. When you’re winning, fans don’t care what you wear, just keep winning!
– Greg from Leesburg

Good point, and oh hold on a sec …

Seth, I heard earlier in the year from many student and alumni that we were going to wear black jerseys for USC. Any truth to that?
– Nicholas

 I will admit that my digging on this has only constituted asking Claude Felton, the team’s spokesman, and as of earlier in the week he hadn’t heard anything. They could always spring a surprise, but they’ve said before they didn’t want the black jerseys to be a gimmick and that they’d be announced well in advance. Only two more games to do it, and Felton pointed out that it wasn’t necessarily a guarantee that they’d happen every season. We’ll see.

Did you ever see Darius Rucker at South Carolina sporting events?
– Rick Kienel

I did indeed. Hootie and the Blowfish performed at one of the spring games, to much fanfare. The sound system was better than it was for Ludacris at last year’s G-Day. No word on what was in the contract rider for the Blowfish.

HELP A FAN OUT

I’m a lifelong Georgia fan who lives in East Tennessee. I haven’t been to a Georgia game since I was probably in middle school. But we are going to the South Carolina game this weekend. What are some essential things I shouldn’t miss in Athens on gameday?
– Will

Whoa, not sure I want all this pressure on me. Readers, can you help out Will in the comments section?

I will offer up a few recommendations: Tour the campus, especially the Arch off Broad Street, and then do some window shopping downtown before choosing your restaurant or watering hole. There are many good places. If you don’t want to go to downtown then go to Normaltown, which has a bunch of great places to eat – my personal fave is Viva, an Argentinian joint.

AND FINALLY …

Is there any chance Eason is on-track to graduate early (3 years)? If so, is there any advantage to transferring as an undergrad, as opposed to transferring as a graduate?

Where do you stand on candy corn?
– Matt in Brisbane 

While I don’t have Eason’s class schedule in front of me it’s reasonable to think since he enrolled early that he could graduate by the summer of 2019 and be eligible to do so. That’s one option, but would entail staying at Georgia one more year at a place where he fell to No. 2 on the depth chart this year, and when Justin Fields is arriving.

More importantly: I am very much a candy corn proponent, but eating too much of it makes me sick. The problem is I can’t stop at just a few. So I’m trying my best this season to just avoid buying candy corn altogether. So far the results are … mixed.

Now I know a lot of people rant and rave whenever Mark Richt is discussed, as if he wasn’t the head coach at Georgia for 15 years, but he had a very in-depth discussion of eating candy corn this week, and like me Richt also likes to bite off the white tip first. It stretches out the good taste of it, so one piece is actually two. Or three if you also bite off the bottom part!

For those who enjoyed this discussion, or at least made it this far, please join us next week when we discuss the benefits of Golden Grahams as a snack, and how Hershey’s candy corn-flavored chocolate bars are the best and worst things to ever happen to Seth Whitney Emerson. And yes, that is my full name.