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December 26, 2017

Georgia's Defense in the Rose Bowl

"Big 12 don't play defense."

"Oklahoma haven't played anyone with our defensive speed."

"They don't face any SEC type defenses in the Big 12."

Be honest, how many times have you said that in the past 15 years? This season? Since December 3rd?

We Georgia fans have been raised on the religion of 'Defense Wins Championships, Inc.™.' Well, now we'll have a small sample size, but a sample none the less, to test the theory (mantra, really) that they can't handle SEC defenses.

I'd posit that Georgia's defense hasn't faced an offense like Oklahoma's since Auburn's 2103 National Champion runner up. Yes, Auburn's 2017 offense is pretty good, and I feel comfortable saying what Georgia faced on the Plains in November is a close as we've seen this season. In the linked article, I noted it was more about the short passing game, supplemented with timely running plays, that makes Oklahoma's offense tick.

There are three things Georgia needs to do well to slow them down:

  1. Make Mayfield uncomfortable in the pocket with a four man rush. Call this the Iowa State plan.
  2. Play super competent assignment defense behind them. Call this the Mississippi State plan.
  3. Keep Oklahoma in difficult field position choices. Call this the SEC Championship Game plan.
Oklahoma will score points.  The key is to keep them from scoring TDs on all drives.  Blutarsky hit on this last week. The Sooners will score points. Oklahoma has punted 36 times all season, an average of three per game.  They are only giving the ball back two times a game between turnovers and failed 4th down conversions. That means they are scoring on about 9 drives a game.

Iowa State put Oklahoma's QB in difficult run/pass situations because of LB Joel Lanning's game.  He constantly put Mayfield in 'do I pass or do I run situations' on the underneath passes.  Mayfield got his yards, but Lanning's coverage of TE Mark Andrews gave the Cyclones' front the time it needed to cause Mayfield to run...into Lanning's waiting arms.  

The other two points are pretty self evident based on what Georgia did in their games against Mississippi State and Auburn in the SEC Championship.  I'm not comparing Fitzgerald to Mayfield as much as I'm comparing what Oklahoma wants to do with what Mississippi State tried in our game. Oklahoma doesn't have as much designed QB run built into their offense as they have the option for the QB to get chunks of yardage on runs built in if the pass isn't there. Georgia forced Fitzgerald to win the game with his arm, then took that option away from him. 

We did much the same in the SEC Championship against Stiham, but also closing some of the Auburn play book by keeping them in 2nd and 3rd and long plays. 

Now is the put up or shut up time for SEC Defense as the King of All Football Things trope. I'm still noodling out how this goes, but I'm pretty sure it's going to be as much about slowing rather than stopping Oklahoma.


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