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October 3, 2012

The Defense: Where we can slow down Carolina

Folks think I am being a downer for pointing out the one place I see on the offense that we should be concerned about, at the same time Coach Bobo expressed concerned about it. Honestly, I get the derision  as I am being an energy vampire, get on the bus and all that.

How will we ever win this weekend?

Tech fans hate you, Connor
South Carolina has significantly re-engineered their offense since the worse display of offense in an SEC game since Tuberville and Croom faced off. It seemed a lifetime ago that South Carolina and Vandy combined for 548 yards. That is what we call 3 quarters in Athens. We nearly had more yards against Vandy alone than South Carolina did against Vandy and Missouri combined.

South Carolina has shortened their passing game, giving Shaw more options to get the ball off quickly. Remember, Connor Shaw was considered the perfect QB for Paul Johnson's offense at Georgia Tech. Against Vandy, they kept setting up to get the home run ball and the longest pass play they had was a 20 yarder. Shaw seemed to be constantly running for his life. Vandy made his passing life miserable.

Since then, Shaw is hitting 74% of his passes. Interestingly, Vandy was his best rushing game of the season, by far (14 runs, 92 yards). South Carolina has gone more power I, with some zone-read thrown in for fun. That is giving Shaw the time and open receivers he needs.

So, what are we in for? The Missouri game, all over again?

That is what I am thinking, with one glaring exception. Marcus Lattimore. Lattimore hasn't had that breakout game yet. The one that makes people think he is all the way back from knee surgery. He was very good against Kentucky, toting the rock 23 times for 120 yards and 2 TDs. Still, he hasn't put South Carolina on his shoulders and carried them like he has done in the past. 

Considering our rushing defense issues, is this that game? 
Georgia Opponent's rushing offense national rank
Buffalo - 32nd in the nation
Missouri - 87th in the nation
FAU - 97th in the nation
Vandy- 58th in the nation
Tennessee- 49th in the nation

I think that is harder to say. The defensive approach favored by Grantham (rush four with blitzes coming from all parts of the field, allowing for LBs to contain edge rushing and pick up TE/RB passing routes) will work in Georgia's favor. We've not had a complete game defensively yet for many reasons. The Missouri game was a close as we have had. We've given up long plays every game, we are 13th in the conference giving up plays over 30 yards. South Carolina has only gained 12 plays over 30 yards. If we are able to keep them from hitting the home run, I like our chances. 

We have to have a great game out of Ogletree and the front line. They have to be in a position to recognize pass/run and get to the rusher. South Carolina's offensive line isn't as experienced as Tennessee's but they aren't slouches either. It wasn't until the fourth quarter that Tennessee had any real success running the ball, gaining 51 of their 197 yards (also keeping in mind that another 45 was a weird ass busted half back pass that should have been called back). If we keep South Carolina from the long runs and keep them averaging under 3.5 ypc, I think we win.

One other note, I harped on the offense in the fourth quarter and failed to mention something that is equally important. Georgia's defense is spectacular in the fourth quarter, holding opposing QBs to 38% completion rate and opposing rushers to under 3.33 yards per carry. Maybe Bobo is on to something slowing down in the fourth quarter. Either way, if we have a lead in the fourth, we should feel pretty good about it.

South Carolina is going to rack up the yards. The power running game and short passing games are just good at finding weaknesses. The key will be to keep them to FGs and make them make mistakes. Getting to Shaw isn't easy, as he will run. We have to make him think twice about that. Oh, and we have to keep the TEs from hurting us, especially on 3rd down, like Rivera did last weekend.


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