Archive for November, 2014

Stopping Auburn: Think Tech

A few parting thoughts on this brisk Friday morning.

Auburn’s offense reminds me a lot of Georgia Tech’s option offense.  A lot of misdirection with receivers going in motion and what not, and the threat of the pass.  Nick Marshall will give it to the sweep guy, to Cameron Artis-Payne, keep it, or throw it deep.

Very similar to the Paul Johnson’s triple option, just with better athletes and more competent coaching.

Auburn doesn’t throw it a lot-in fact, they are last in the SEC in pass attempts with 216.  Florida, Georgia and LSU only have fewer pass attempts, just to give you some context.  Auburn’s passing yards per game is 220; Georgia is 196.

Where Auburn gets teams in trouble is their passing game, though.  It is the opposite of Georgia.  Auburn will run the ball, run the ball, fake the sweep, run it some more, then BOOM!  hit a big pass over the top to Sammie Coates.   Auburn has 9 passing plays of 40+ yards.  That is 3rd most in the SEC, behind Kentucky, Texas AM and Alabama.  Coates does his damage on 2nd down, with half of his 20 receptions coming on 2nd down.  Of his 10 2nd down receptions, 4 have gone for 15+ yards, and 4 have gone for 25+ yards.

So Auburn isn’t going to throw the ball much.  But they can be dangerous in the passing game, with Marshall throwing it up, and are their most dangerous on 2nd down.  Auburn has 796 of their 1984 passing yards-40%- on 2nd down.  A good chunk of those yards are Coates’.

So the key for stopping Auburn and the explosive play will be for Georgia’s defense to win 1st down.  If Auburn has success running the ball on 1st down-and they average 6.23 ypc in that situation-then it opens up the play action deep pass.

If Auburn gets into a situation where they are having to throw it when they have to, not when they want to, their offense isn’t nearly as effective.

Georgia needs to focus on Auburn’s running game and play disciplined, assignment football.  Just like they do against Georgia Tech.

In the years Malzahn has been associated with Auburn-2009, 2010, 2011 and 2013-let’s take a look on how Georgia has also done against Tech.

2009-Auburn: 24 points; Tech: 24 points

2010-Auburn 49 points; Tech 34 points

2011:  Auburn 7 points; Tech 17 points

2013: Auburn 43 points; Tech 34 points (2OT)

Georgia has superior athletes to Tech, and probably about even to Auburn.  But the key to stopping Tech is being disciplined.  The times the Georgia defense has been successful against Tech, they have been successful against Auburn, too.

One thing that can help Georgia are penalties.  Auburn is dead last in the SEC in penalties, and it ain’t even close.  Auburn is flagged for 68 yards per game.  Seeing how this is a night game, the first time in 6 weeks the Dawgs have been at home, and the first time in 3 years Auburn has come here, the crowd should be raucous.  A rowdy crowd could cause Auburn to make some mistakes and get put in unfavorable down and distance situations.

If Auburn is having their way against us on the ground on 1st down, we are going to be in for a long night.



Full Support For Coach Richt

I wanted to go ahead and get this out there before the Auburn game, because depending on the outcome of the game, the following statement could be construed as a knee-jerk reaction:

I fully support Mark Richt as coach at UGA and think he is the man for the job.

If you are a frequent reader of the Grit Tree, this sentence should come as no surprise to you. I’ve been as ardent of a Richt supporter there is. However, even I have been rattled. I guess everyone goes through these sort of things. I was wavering on if I thought it was time for Richt to go.

It wasn’t just a knee-jerk reaction to the Florida game, either (and no, this isn’t a response to whipping Kentucky). I had these thoughts since the end of last season. My internal conflict intensified, not after the South Carolina game, but after the Tennessee and Vanderbilt games. After Missouri and Arkansas, I was like everyone else in America, praising Coach Richt. But after the Florida game I was near despondent. I have never broken up with a serious girlfriend. My wife is my college sweetheart. Wanting to part ways with Coach Richt was the closest thing I knew about a breakup.

It was the aftermath of the Florida game, when I saw all the negativity out there on the internet and on Twitter, that strengthened my resolve. I was in a low place, but after some time to think, I snapped out of it. Here are my responses to the often-cited criticisms:

Mark Richt doesn’t care about winning, and he isn’t enough of a competitor.

Of all the complaints, this is the biggest BS one of them all. The man doesn’t put in the hours, the years of coaching in the SEC if you don’t have a competitive spirit. Just because he doesn’t make a jackass of himself on the sideline, like Will Muschamp, it doesn’t he mean he doesn’t care.

I mean, for crying out loud, the man had to have hip replacement surgery a couple of years ago. He was in intense pain as he walked up and down the sideline. Coach Richt has made plenty of money, and could make plenty of money if he ever decided to go into another field, TV or another coaching job. If he wanted to become a missionary, he could do so.

Clearly, he wants to coach, and he wants to win.

Oh, and ask Penn Wagers if Mark Richt is a docile and passive coach.

Mark Richt will never put Georgia in a position to win a National Championship.

I’ve tried this exercise before, but humor me again.

Which of the following teams were more deserving to play for a BCS National Championship?

Team A: Beat teams who had a combined record of 78-62 before the bowl game, had one loss to a 8-5 team by 7 points. Beat 4 teams who finished in AP top 25.

Team B: Beat teams who had a combined record of 60-69 before the bowl game, had one loss to an 8-5 team by 7 points. Beat 4 teams finished in the AP Top 25.

Both of the above teams won the SEC Championship with 1 loss. Team A is UGA in 2002. Team B is LSU in 2003. The only difference? Outside circumstances dictated who played for it all. Yes, even the great and almighty Nick Saban has needed a little bit of luck to win the National Title.

Saban did go undefeated in 2009. But his 2003 team needed help. His 2011 team needed help, and I still argue that Oklahoma State should have played LSU for it all. His 2012 team needed a lot of help to get back in the conversation, though give the Crimson Tide credit for winning the SEC Championship that year.  Georgia was finally the same recipient of luck in 2012, and just couldn’t quite get it done in Atlanta. While the loss to Alabama in the 2012 SEC Championship Game was disappointing and heartbreaking, I certainly wouldn’t call it damning.

How many times have we all said, “If there was a playoff in the Richt era, Georgia would have a National Championship?” In the current format, the 2002, 2007 and the 2012 teams would have certainly made the playoff. Maybe even the 2005 team.

Georgia has been to Atlanta 5 times in Richt’s 13 seasons, and are a win Saturday from probably making that 6 times in 14.

Sure, I’m as disappointed as you are about not winning a SEC Championship since 2005. I cringe when I see the talent we have had over the years, and all the Dawgs making contributions in the NFL, and have those players not help Georgia win it all.

But the criteria for winning it all has changed. Sure Richt couldn’t win the National Title under the old criteria. But don’t you think we should see how this new playoff structure plays out before we start jumping to conclusions?

Georgia could hire another coach and they could come in and win a National Title immediately.

Let’s go back to 2001. The following coaches have played for a National Title, with bold representing a win:

Larry Coker, Frank Solich, Jim Tressell, Bob Stoops, Nick Saban (3), Pete Carroll, Mack Brown, Urban Meyer (2), Les Miles, Gene Chizik, Chip Kelly, Brian Kelly, Gus Malzahn, Jimbo Fisher.

This is a very exclusive list…somewhat.   Ask yourself, is Nick Saban walking through the door at Butts-Mehre? Is Les Miles? Urban Meyer? Pete Carroll? Do you want Jim Tressell, Bob Stoops, or Mack Brown? Chip Kelly isn’t coming. Neither is Gus Malzahn. I don’t want Frank Solich or Jimbo Fisher.

Everyone after 2010 was saying, “Dan Mullen should be the next head coach.” Of course, now that looks good. No one in their right mind after 2012 would dare say Dan Mullen over Richt.

At one point, I thought Kyle Fitzgerald at Northwestern would be good. Same with Al Golden. I think that has proven to be incorrect.

The point is, it is cyclical. After 2010, Georgia fans would have loved to see Gary Patterson be the head coach in Athens. After 2013, after TCu went 7-6 and 4-8, Patterson wasn’t the trendy name. He is now.

Consistency is the key. Georgia has been close many times, could be really close now with a playoff. For every Auburn example, I say look at Tennessee or Alabama. Alabama went 10 years from the end of Gene Stallings before Nick Saban came in. They suffered through Mike Dubose, Dennis Franchione, Mike Price, and Mike Shula. 4 head coaches in 10 seasons. Alabama had 5 losing seasons during that time period, and several other 7-5 or so.

Be careful what you wish for.

Georgia’s record versus ranked teams is bad, therefore the program is trending downward.

The best sports talk radio host in the history of the medium, Bill Shanks, was going through Richt’s record versus ranked opponents since 2008. He said that since the record was mediocre, therefore the program was on the decline. Going by his criteria-teams that were ranked at the time Georgia played them, I calculated that Georgia is 12-19 since 2008. Why choose 2008 as your arbitrarily assigned starting point?

The reason I ask that is Georgia wasn’t very good at all in 2008-2010. Georgia went 8-5 in 2009 and 6-7 in 2010. The point is, Georgia didn’t had a hard time winning period during that time, regardless if the team was ranked or not. They did not have good teams, period.

I’ve said before that 2009 was the last year of the “old” Coach Richt, and 2010 began the career of “new Coach Richt”. Recruiting has improved in the past 4 years, administrative changes have been made, and Richt has made changes to his coaching staff.

Against ranked opponents, Georgia did as follows: 2008, 3-3; 2009, 1-3; 2010, 0-3: 2011, 2-4; 2012, 2-2; 2013, 2-3; 2014, 2-1.

I think it is unfair to judge the 2014 team based on the sins of the 2008, 2009, and 2010 teams. In the past three seasons, 2012-present, Georgia is 6-6 versus ranked teams. In the past two seasons, Georgia is 4-4 versus ranked teams. And this year, Georgia is 2-1 versus ranked teams.

If you are being fair, you can’t be too critical of the 2013 team and the coaching job there. The team that started the season obviously wasn’t the team that finished the year.

2010 was the low point, but the program has been on the upward path since then.

In conclusion, there are things that Coach Richt does that drives me bonkers. He is not perfect, and not immune to criticism. Can we complain? Sure. Can we be critical? Of course. Should we have the torches and pitch forks on standby after every single loss? Absolutely not.

Things were bad a few years ago. Things are getting better. Coaching is there. Coordinators are there. Recruiting is there.

But he is a fine coach, and I think we are should stick with Coach Richt, warts and all, to lead us on to bigger and better things. If things turn south again, like in 2008-2010, then we may have to revisit this conversation.

But for now, be patient. Stick with it.







Neat Stories About Two WWII Vets

I lost my grandmother this past spring.  She was 88 years young, and was the last of my surviving grandparents.  All four of my grandparents grew up in hard times during the Great Depression.

As we remember the Veterans today, remember the ones who stayed at home.  I love a good History Channel documentary, especially one about WWII.  There was a particularly good one this past spring called The World Wars.  What gets lost in these great documentaries about these colorful personalities and the soldiers who went around the world to fight are the stories of the women who stayed at home.  We all know Rosie the Riveter, but really the women who stayed back, sacrificed for the war effort, worked in the factories, etc…they are the heroes, too.

Both of my grandfathers fought in WWII and served in the Pacific Theater.  They grew up not far from one another in rural Northeast Alabama, probably no more than 30 miles from each other.  Didn’t have a clue who each other was.  When my mom and dad started dating in the late 1960s, my grandpas sat around and talked.  They were talking about a battle, and soon they realized that they were on the same island at the same time, stationed just a few miles apart from one another.

Two poor farm boys from Alabama literally went all around the world.  Didn’t know each other at the time, but some 20+ years later, they reconnected when their children met in Chattanooga.

I just think that is pretty cool.


Putting The Special Back In Special Teams

I was looking at one of my favorite websites,, and I was specifically looking at some of the special teams stats.

I was looking at how Georgia fares in some of the categories.  While I am a stat guy and love looking at numbers, these stats seemed skewed to me.  For example,  Georgia ranks near the bottom of the SEC in kick off yards per game at 92.3.  Unlike the teams that are below us-Florida, Alabama, and Arkansas, we haven’t given up a kick off return for a TD.  Alabama and Arkansas have good offenses along with Georgia.  Scoring a lot of points per game.  Doesn’t it make sense that if you are scoring a lot of points per game, you would be kicking off a bunch.

So I am not going to dig in the stats here and rely simply on the eyeball test (except for net punting, which statistically and looking at has been pretty terrible).

Last year, poor special teams was a detriment.  It cost us games (Vanderbilt) and nearly cost us others (Tennessee).  It was always an adventure, and not in a good way.  There was 0 confidence when the ball was snapped or in the air.  Kick off returns were out of the question.

My hope was that special team play would go from disaster to merely competent.

I think we are far beyond competent.  Isaiah McKenzie has been a welcomed addition to the team and has provided the spark that good special teams play can give.

You don’t want to be too reliant on special teams play.  What I mean is if you are relying on special teams play for your points, it isn’t good.  Think back to the 2009 season.  If Brandon Boykin had not returned some kicks, we would have lost or not been as competitive.  You need to score points independently of your kick offs, but if you can get points that way it can help provide a spark or give some wiggle room.  The same goes for defensive touchdowns.

Like on Saturday.  Georgia would have easily beaten Kentucky without McKenzie’s dazzling returns.  Georgia would have beaten Clemson without Gurley’s return.  But this play is a nice garnish good teams need, not the main course.

And a complete 180 from last year, it hasn’t been a detriment-overall.

Sure, there have been some problems.  Quayvon Hicks tried his damnedest Saturday to make some.  The punting game has been awful.

But it is nice to know when the ball is in the air, or when the punt team comes out, that you just don’t have that feeling of dread.


A Look At Kentucky

I made a mistake.  I really did.

Like the Georgia defense, I took Florida for granted.  I’m guilty as charged.

Like many of you, I was hoping we would destroy Florida, and thought we might.  But I truly was expecting a hard-hitting and hard-fought game.  I thought Florida could beat us; I absolutely, positively did not think they would beat us.

I thought we’d beat Florida, beat Kentucky, and have a monster game with Auburn under the lights of Sanford Stadium.  I was already thinking of Auburn, taking for granted that Florida could not only whip our ass, but simply beat us.

I’m not going to make that mistake again.  Clearly, our Dawgs aren’t good enough to overlook anyone.

Now, Kentucky is still Kentucky.  Coach Mark Stoops is doing a fine job in Lexington, but they still aren’t quite there yet.

But if anyone  thinks that because the uniform says Georgia and theirs says Kentucky that will be enough to win, well Kentucky will beat us.

They should’ve beaten Florida, beat South Carolina, and then gave Mississippi State all they could handle.

In conference games, Kentucky is only scoring 22 points per game, while Georgia is scoring 35.  That fits about with Georgia’s average of scoring defense in SEC play, which is 26 ppg.  Kentucky is giving up 31 points.

What might be good news, is Kentucky doesn’t run the ball particularly well, 130 ypg in Conference, nor do they stop the run very well.  In conference play Kentucky has gotten gashed for 226 ypg.

Kentucky’s biggest strength is their pass defense, only giving up 183 yards through the air.   Surprisingly, in conference play, Georgia is giving up less than 200 yards per game.  How about that weak secondary?

Two areas I like to look at are penalties and turnover margin.  I think this is a good indicator of if teams are prone to make mental mistakes or shoot themselves in the foot.

Georgia is 1st in the conference in turnover margin, and Kentucky is 3rd.

Kentucky gets more penalties than Georgia…though the difference isn’t all that much.  So these two areas are basically a wash.

It is going to be a cold day Saturday in Lexington.  Good thing Georgia took a trip to Florida to become acquainted with the cold.

It seems this is a good match up for Georgia to get right…but Georgia can’t afford not to take this game seriously.





What I Was Thinking

The Senator posted something that I had been thinking also.

In 2011, Florida was still in Muschamp’s first year, and Coach Richt was presumably coaching for his job.  He went for it on 4th down twice that led to touchdowns, and threw it to Chris Conley on 3rd and medium.  As Gary Danielson pointed out in the TV broadcast, those decisions are ones you make when you have to win.  It was a gutsy call that basically iced the game.  Had the pass gone incomplete-and Murray had something like 9 straight incompletions, you have stopped the clock for Florida.

Richt is at his best when he is either coaching with aggression and a chip on his shoulder-think Evil Richt-or has a shut down defense that can’t be scored upon.

In Jacksonville, one coach who was coaching for his job threw all caution to the wind, attempted a risky play, and it galvanized his team and completely turned momentum.  Another coach was playing too conservatively, and trying not to lose.  When it was all said and done, playing not to lose was what made the team lose.

No lofty goals are in place.  To even make it back to Atlanta, Georgia needs to beat Auburn and Kentucky AND have Missouri lose to mediocre Tennessee, Arkansas or Texas A&M.

I hope Coach Richt finds the aggression needed to get us 10 regular season wins, and not the conservative nature that will get us to 7 or 8.


The Best Case Scenario Is The Big Picture

It appears Georgia wasn’t as good as we all thought we were after blanking Missouri and pasting Arkansas.  I’m convinced we aren’t as bad as it looked against Florida.  So where do we go from here?

Of course, the best case scenario would be to have crazy 2007-type things continue to happen, and Georgia somehow backdoor its way not only to the SEC Championship but the Playoff.  I’m not going to kid myself to think that is a possibility, but if we are going to talk best case scenarios, then I guess that is it.

The most realistic best case situation would be to find a way to beat Kentucky and Tech, keep it close against Auburn, and win the Bowl game to go something like 9-4 or 10-3.

I guess, considering that UGA had to replace a legend at QB with someone who can’t consistently make the SEC throws, had its receiving and running back corps depleted due to injury and other “issues”, and were trying to break in a new defense without a secondary…I guess you couldn’t be all that upset.

If this scenario plays out, when I am soul searching in April and May, I can take an honest look and not be too disappointed after the emotional reaction wanes. At least that is what I’m hoping.

But don’t get me wrong.  I’m upset.  Coach Richt and I aren’t on good terms right now, and I might be his biggest fan.  I’m as close to hopping onboard the “Fire Mark Richt” bandwagon as I’ve ever been.  When you’ve lost Corbindawg, you’ve lost the Bulldawg Nation.

I’m at a fragile state right now, and after a couple of nights sleep on the game I’m trying to reconcile everything and look at the big picture.  I’m a big picture guy, but it is hard.

I’m in a dark place.

The worst possible situation would be for the team to faceplant and to have to make a change at head coach.

Many of you out there would probably love for that to happen, but let’s use our noggins.  We have two excellent coordinators, and most importantly, an outstanding recruiting class lined up.  Defense is the biggest problem area on the team, and while Pruitt is a great coordinator, he doesn’t have the horses.  This class should address that.  Of the 23 commitments, 12 are defensive players, and 7 are defensive linemen.   The Dawgs have also have commitments from some VHT WR, OL, and the star of the class is big boy Trenton Thompson from Albany.

If things go south, I can’t say right now where I’d be at.  But I do know this.  There is about to be an infusion of talent.  Talent that can come in and help right away and be major contributors for the next couple of years.  There is an investment here, and there might be a payoff soon.