Normally in this space on Mondays we re-watch and analyze Georgia’s previous game. This week we’re going to change it up a bit.
For one thing, it’s questionable how much more can be gleaned about Georgia from re-watching a 48-6 thumping of an FCS team. Maybe a little bit, but not much. No, everyone has moved on to this week’s showdown with Alabama – so why don’t we re-watch its previous game, which also happens to be against a team Georgia faced a few weeks ago?
That’s what I did. It’s not a perfect comparison, as Georgia is already better offensively than it was Week 1, and both teams were a bit vanilla (on both sides of the ball) when they played ULM.
Still, there are some useful notes and observations:
– Alabama also runs a no-huddle, but seems to get plays off at a slightly slower pace. This also isn’t your father’s traditional Alabama pro-style offense: It operates out of the pistol a lot, and uses a lot of those offset formations.
– Quarterback Jake Coker, well, he has some work to do. He had some accuracy issues, and not with his 14 incompletions (out of 31 attempts). There were some completions that were thrown a bit low or not in stride. Part of what’s made Greyson Lambert great the past two weeks has been not just completing passes but hitting receivers in just the right spot and at the right time. Coker was more shaky with that this game.
Coker tried two deep balls on the same drive, both to sophomore receiver Ardarius Stewart: The first, about 50 yards in the air, was nearly caught and might have been if it were a couple yards deeper. Instead it was knocked out of Stewart’s arms by the defender. The next one, about 30 yards in the air with Stewart past his defender, was overthrown. Georgia’s corners, Malkom Parrish and Aaron Davis, have been pretty good in one-on-one coverage this year. Until Coker shows he can hit the deep ball you have to think Georgia will let Parrish and Davis stay in single coverage and free up the safeties to look at the rest of the field.
His lone interception was also a bad decision: Under duress he just heaved a duck downfield, where it was easily grabbed.
Coker’s first touchdown pass came on the first play after a muffed ULM punt, when the Warhawks were playing the run and Kiffin surprised them with a pass to the outside. Freshman receiver Calvin Ridley caught the pass near the sideline, then did the rest. Coker’s second touchdown pass was a catch-and-run by the fullback. There could have been a lot more of those classic, high-percentage type passes from Lane Kiffin, who was either holding them for this week or just was too overconfident with Coker in the pocket. In any event, Coker’s third touchdown pass was his best: Rolling right he found Stewart in the corner of the end zone.
The play-calling by Kiffin was also strange at times. Alabama’s first two drives featured seven passes, and just three runs, and subsequently two punts. The third drive was nine rushes, two passes, and a touchdown. And the next drive? Three passes, zero runs, and a punt.
– This isn’t the dominant Alabama offensive line of past years. It’s not bad, it’s just not great. There wasn’t a huge push on Saturday against ULM., and Coker was sacked twice and pressured a bunch of other times. (Lambert was never sacked by ULM, which led to his first ice cream foray with the line.) Alabama’s top two tailbacks, Derrick Henry and Kenyan Drake, averaged 5 yards per attempt. Georgia’s Nick Chubb and Sony Michel averaged 7.4 yards against ULM.
– Henry made something out of some outside runs. Between the tackles he wasn’t as strong, in large part because the holes weren’t that big. Henry’s size and ability are reminiscent of Todd Gurley; he’s not quite as good as Gurley, but he is dangerous.
– Ridley, the freshman receiver, also impressed me. He had some good catches, though he did drop what would’ve been a touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
– The Crimson Tide front seven seems to be as great as advertised. It swarms at the line and on the edges, and the tackling is typical Alabama: On point, technically sound and seldom broken by the ball-carrier.
Louisiana-Monroe managed 57 rushing yards for the whole game. It seemed like less. But Georgia did a good job on ULM too, yielding just 73 rushing yards.
– Senior inside linebacker Reggie Ragland is a pretty dang good player who Georgia’s offense will have to manage, somehow.
– Alabama had six sacks, and that was with the Warhawks trying to account for the rush with a lot of quick passes. Georgia had three sacks in its game against ULM, and that was without blitzing very much. Alabama didn’t either against ULM: One sack came with just four down-linemen against five offensive linemen, and the Tide still broke through quickly. One thing that will be different this Saturday is Georgia will keep a tight end, fullback or running back to help with the blocking. ULM often just sent five receivers out and left the front five on its own.
– The secondary is a little hard to judge because Alabama was going against a spread offense, which is definitely not what it will face in Georgia. Strangely, though, ULM didn’t try much downfield. ULM tried to pass the ball to the edges a lot. There wasn’t anything there. Rashon Ceasar, who burned the middle of Georgia’s secondary (as in the nickel back and safeties), was clamped up by Alabama. He only had three catches.
In fact, Brian Schottenheimer and Mark Richt might have to skip past this game film and just look at what Ole Miss did, because the Warhawk passing game was basically nonexistent, especially downfield. The only time they really tried was in a two-minute offense at the end of the second half, and some receivers actually got open. But ULM’s quarterback just plain missed on some throws, leading to an interception. When the second half started the Warhawks came out throwing again, and got the ball to midfield with the help of a pass interference penalty, but also a couple pinpoint passes.
– This isn’t some grand revelation, but in order to succeed Georgia will likely have to play quickly on offense and try to keep that front-seven off balance. The Bulldogs are very capable of doing that, as we’ve seen. It’s doubtful they’re going to be able to just hand the ball off to Chubb and Michel 75 percent of the time and live off that. A key is going to be whether Georgia’s offensive line can protect well enough for Lambert to find his receiver. Because based on the Ole Miss game Georgia’s receivers should be able to get open.
Of course that’s not automatic: Louisiana-Monroe was 1 for its first 14 on third downs, and that can’t be all pass rush. It’s possible Nick Saban, the former secondary coach, is getting the unit figured out.
Alabama’s strength is its front seven, if that wasn’t patently obvious by now. Its tailbacks are also very good, and the receivers have good pure ability. The question marks are in the secondary and offensive line. And the quarterback play isn’t overly impressive at all. That makes it sound like Alabama is a vulnerable team, and perhaps it is. But that defensive front seven is good that it has the potential to take away Georgia’s strength: Running the ball and protecting the quarterback.