Georgia’s best chance vs. Alabama may be to step on gas

Aaron Murray has 14 touchdowns and no interceptions in last 17 quarters. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Aaron Murray has 14 touchdowns and no interceptions in last 17 quarters. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

ATHENS – When gazing at the nation’s leaders among college football defenses, Alabama doesn’t stand out statistically so much as it leaps off the page, stomps on cars, knocks over skyscrapers, swats away missiles and terrorizes women, children and offensive coordinators.

The Crimson Tide rank No. 1 nationally in total defense. Also No. 2 in rush defense, No. 3 in pass defense, No. 1 in scoring defense, No. 1 in red zone defense. It has shut out four opponents, held seven to 10 points or less and all except one to 17 or less.

Which begs the question: All except one?

Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin relatively humbled Nick Saban three weeks ago with his hyperventilating, no-huddle offense. The Aggies upset then No. 1 Alabama 29-24, scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions, accumulating the second-most yards (418) and the most red zone possessions (five) of any Tide opponent.

The most amusing thing about this was it came after Saban had questioned the “fairness” and “player safety” of Sumlin’s scheme, because that sounded better than saying, “I can’t substitute players. Make him stop.” (That would make him sound flawed.)

Tight end Jay Rome (87) celebrates his touchdown against Georgia Tech with teammates Keith Marshall (4) and Malcolm Mitchell. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Jay Rome (87) celebrates his touchdown against Georgia Tech with Keith Marshall (4) and Malcolm Mitchell. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Which leads me to this four-word suggestion for Georgia going into Saturday’s SEC championship game against Alabama: Step on the gas.

The Bulldogs scored touchdowns on six of their first seven possessions in last week’s 42-10 win over Georgia Tech. No drive lasted longer than two minutes, 42 seconds. It was the SEC meets Formula 1.

One acknowledgement: Georgia had the advantage of going against Georgia Tech’s defense, which hasn’t really stopped any scheme this season (59th in total defense, 84th in scoring defense). But the Dogs’ offense has become increasingly proficient in a fast-pace, no-huddle offense this season.

Quarterback Aaron Murray also has been at his best and most efficient of late. Since the fourth quarter of the Florida game (17 quarters), Murray has 14 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. In the last four starts, he has completed over 74 percent of his passes (71 of 97).

“We can go very fast, relatively fast or we can be at the line of scrimmage for a long time,” Mark Richt said when asked if Murray has become increasingly comfortable in a fast-pace offense. “We have three different tempos we use. We’re not like the Oregons of the world, where just about every single play we’re going at break-neck speed. But we can go at a pretty good pace.”

Georgia has managed to do this despite losing arguably their two best receivers for the season, Marlon Brown and Michael Bennett.

Richt cautioned against drawing too many conclusions from Alabama’s loss to Texas A&M.

“I don’t know if it was the tempo they had problems with as much as (Heisman favorite) Johnny Manziel,” he said. “He creates problems obviously for everybody because he can scramble, so it changes the mindset of defenses. Not to say the tempo wasn’t an issue as well.”

Georgia tight end Jay Rome, who had a 24-yard touchdown reception in the Tech game, said, “I feel like when we speed things up and [make] plays, it puts a lot of pressure on the defense.

Receiver Rhett McGowan, who also had a touchdown against the Jackets, said, “Of course, as a receiver, I love it.  When we have a lot of receivers on the field, it spreads out the defense, puts pressure on their (defensive backs) and also takes somebody out of the box, which means our running backs can make plays.”

(Murray did not make himself available for comment this week on the offense. Or anything else.)

This isn’t to suggest that an up-tempo no-huddle offense is the only way to beat Alabama. But it’s the only thing that has worked this season.

Besides, I figure any concept that prompts Saban to sound almost shaken — “We should look at how fast we allow the game to go in terms of player safety. You can’t substitute defensive players. You go on a 14-, 16-, 18-play drive and they’re snapping the ball as fast as you can and all your players are walking around and can’t even get lined up.” — is worth several pages in a game plan.

Because not much else against Alabama has worked.




– By Jeff Schultz

434 comments Add your comment

Chi Town

November 27th, 2012
4:24 pm

1st

Roll Tide.

dean

November 27th, 2012
4:30 pm

Hoping for a UGA win but know it’s going to be a slobberknocker.

bigman

November 27th, 2012
4:33 pm

Third. Go Dawgs! Time to show them the REAL UGA Team!!

GTT

November 27th, 2012
4:36 pm

Hope the Dogs win. It’s going to be fight.

GTBob

November 27th, 2012
4:42 pm

UGA scored quickly against GT therefore they should do the same against Alabama. Hmm. There seems to be some faulty logic in there somewhere.

Stank Wren

November 27th, 2012
4:42 pm

Heard often: Georgia’s path to the SEC championship game was facilitated by a schedule that didn’t include Western powers Alabama (No. 2 in the BCS standings), LSU (No. 7) and Texas A&M (No. 9).

Alabama’s path to the SEC championship game was facilitated by a schedule that didn’t include Eastern powers Georgia (No. 3), Florida (No. 4) and South Carolina (No. 10).

George

November 27th, 2012
4:42 pm

I hope Bama learned something against Texas A & M ? Hopefully , we will be ready. Georgia has a great team and one that can win it all. I just think the difference will be in the Dawgs lack of disicipline . Those penalities always seem to come at crucial moments in a game.

Dawg Fan

November 27th, 2012
4:47 pm

Dawgs will win this one….Bama is way over rated. Ask LSU and TAM

GTBob

November 27th, 2012
4:49 pm

Stank Wren, Alabama has more National Championships in the last three years then UGA has wins over ranked teams. They have earned a little higher level of respect.

DP

November 27th, 2012
4:51 pm

Jeff, regarding Murray going without an interception “since the 4th quarter of the Florida game”, that would be the last time he saw a decent defense.

supsalemgr

November 27th, 2012
4:52 pm

George makes a valid point. The team with the fewest overall misstakes will probably win. UGA has to be disciplined.

lodi6

November 27th, 2012
4:53 pm

Bob you can’t STAND the fact that the only time tech is mentioned is when they’re talking about UGA dragging them through the mud huh? lol Always next year huh? Must suck to turn on ESPN or read any sports article and all you hear about is UGA & Bama huh? I hurt for you! lol I bet you shut the door and just scream your lungs out in rage! lol After UGA beats bama……….just take some time to pick up another hobby because I don’t think reading about us is good for your health. lol

Go Dawgs….thanks for the scrimmage Tech!

GTBob

November 27th, 2012
4:56 pm

Must suck to turn on ESPN or read any sports article and all you hear about is UGA & Bama huh?

Actually, ESPN doesn’t say much about UGA right now. I wonder why that is.

DP

November 27th, 2012
4:58 pm

But I agree in general with what Jeff is saying. Trying to run the ball consistently against Alabama is a waste of time. I think Richt should have Bobo keep in some extra pass protection and throw it virtually every down early. If Georgia has some success throwing the ball downfield and gets Alabama backed off in a nickel or dime defensive package, then they can run some traps and draws.

I think the Alabama offensive strategy should be the opposite. I think given the strength of its offensive line and its running backs that Alabama has gotten too pass happy in the name of balance, particularly on first down. Georgia’s defense has shown itself plenty vulnerable to the run and I’d like to see Alabama go to a run/pass mix of 65/35 or so, more of what they did in 2008 and 2009. Throw the ball with play action on 2nd or 3rd and short.

ACC TitleMan

November 27th, 2012
4:59 pm

GT: Got your $4.50 ACC Title tics yet?

Buckeye

November 27th, 2012
4:59 pm

In the spirit of the fiscal cliff I am cutting tom brown

richie

November 27th, 2012
5:00 pm

GTbob,The H@#$! with alabama,They are a over rated team,They backed into the game last yr,and when they played texas the qb got hurt in the 1st half. Please!!!!! they are not the world beaters.They have issues over there in a lot of areas.

Buckeye

November 27th, 2012
5:01 pm

Bama believes they will win

dogs believe they can win

The question is how far into the game will the dogs continue to be believe they can win

HUH?????

November 27th, 2012
5:03 pm

Dawg fans beware. If UGA beats Bama expect an Updyke to poison either your mascot or the shrubs.

HUH?????

November 27th, 2012
5:06 pm

“Alabama’s path to the SEC championship game was facilitated by a schedule that didn’t include Eastern powers Georgia (No. 3), Florida (No. 4) and South Carolina (No. 10).”

Bama played TAM, LSU, Michigan etc. It’s not their fault that Auburn and Arkansas sucked. How many ranked teams did UGA defeat?

One.

HUH?????

November 27th, 2012
5:07 pm

It’s ironic that Notre Dame has beaten more ranked teams than UGA and Bama combined.

NERRRRRDS!

November 27th, 2012
5:08 pm

GTBob- how does constant defeat taste? At least y’all have those rings from 2008. And that ACC title… wait

byourbest

November 27th, 2012
5:09 pm

As a Bama fan I will say it should be a great game. UG has a very good team as does Bama. Go SEC

GTBob

November 27th, 2012
5:09 pm

GTBob- how does constant defeat taste? At least y’all have those rings from 2008. And that ACC title… wait

It tastes fine. I look forward to our beating next year and the year after.

HUH?????

November 27th, 2012
5:09 pm

“Alabama has more National Championships in the last three years then UGA has wins over ranked teams. ”

OUCH

HUH?????

November 27th, 2012
5:10 pm

KY hires Mark Stoops as head coach.

NERRRRRDS!

November 27th, 2012
5:10 pm

Everyone can complain about UGA’s schedule all you want, but you play who’s on your schedule. Really you can argue all day long about who played who, but the fact is if we win one more game, we’re playing for the National Championship.

GTBob

November 27th, 2012
5:16 pm

Everyone can complain about UGA’s schedule all you want, but you play who’s on your schedule.

No one said that its UGA’s fault that they have played a high school schedule this year but that doesn’t change the fact that they have.

Inlet Dawg

November 27th, 2012
5:19 pm

Just line up and play and be smart enough to beat them with what they are giving you.They can’t defend all things at all times.

NERRRRRDS!

November 27th, 2012
5:26 pm

Again… you can continue living in the past all you want. Auburn won in 2010 and look at them now. Things can change quickly and if you want to rank teams based on the past then should Army be number one or something?

NERRRRRDS!

November 27th, 2012
5:27 pm

so GTBob, if UGA played a high school schedule, what was Georgia Tech’s? Pretty sure Milton High School could have beat Middle Tennessee.

MT

November 27th, 2012
5:28 pm

Bama played TAM, LSU, Michigan etc. It’s not their fault that Auburn and Arkansas sucked

It’s not Georgia’s fault that Tennessee, Missouri and Kentucky sucked either.

MT

November 27th, 2012
5:29 pm

so GTBob, if UGA played a high school schedule, what was Georgia Tech’s? Pretty sure Milton High School could have beat Middle Tennessee

Yep, Camden Co. could beat Presbyterian.

MT

November 27th, 2012
5:32 pm

No one said that its UGA’s fault that they have played a high school schedule this year but that doesn’t change the fact that they have.

Doesn’t change the fact that the Gumps didn’t play USCe, Florida or the Dawgs

Joey

November 27th, 2012
5:36 pm

This is for you GTBob, just because you can’t find a word about UGA on ESPN:

http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=8682931&categoryid=2378529

Joey

November 27th, 2012
5:39 pm

“Bama played TAM, LSU…”

First of all, we beat UF, who beat both of those teams.

Secondly, can’t believe you, as an Auburn fan, is kissing up to your big brother . . .

HUH?????

November 27th, 2012
5:39 pm

“Auburn won in 2010 and look at them now. ”

Yeah, but AU fans are still happy to have that crystal trophy and an undefeated season. UGA fans can’t say that.

Smyrna Gold

November 27th, 2012
5:50 pm

As a long time Tech fan (60 years), I wish GTBob would crawl back under his rock. He’s more of an embarrassment than our head coach and football program. Geez!

calm down UGA, relax

November 27th, 2012
5:54 pm

UGA fans calm down. You have a shot at Bama and then a NC. Probably the only shot CMR will ever have. Enjoy it. I doubt the schedule is going to be so kind again.To win a NC and play in the SEC, normally you have to beat several ranked teams. UGA dodged that bullet. Make the best of it. Truth is CMR teams always pad stats with weak teams. Like this year. Here is a stat to munch on. Gene Chizik at AU in 4 years (yes counting this egg sucking year) has more wins over ranked teams than CMR has had since 2006.

And UGA, you are not Bama. Not even close. Bama is used to being in this position. For that matter you are not LSU, UF, AU or UT. All these teams have won a NC during the BCS era. Some undefeated NC. Not to mention AU undefeated in 04. Keep in mind that USC can still say they are better this year, way better. No matter what happens on saturday. If UGA beats Bama and ND, its wouild be catching up with the other traditional SEC teams.

UGA fans don’t know how to act like they’ve been there, because they haven’t.
UGA fans, you should thankful and humbled to be in the position are in. Just chill and enjoy the moment.

tonyb

November 27th, 2012
5:54 pm

We know both teams play great defense. Since KY, UGA’s defense has been playing lights out. They are big, they have speed, and they punish. So, this should be one of those defensive battles, with neither team being able to mount many scoring opportunities.

If Georgia is to win, its gonna fall on Murray. He has to break his “play lousy against quality opponents” jinks and take it to Alabama’s secondary. If I was Bama, I would drop the safety in the box and make Murray beat me. He should find some good one on one matchups on the outside. He has to take advantage. If he plays to a solid level, given UGA’s defense, GA has a chance. If he throw 3 picks, Alabama will make us pay.

This is a classic matchup. Maybe one of the best in SEC Championship history. This is how it should be in our great conference.

GO DAWGS

Delbert D.

November 27th, 2012
5:58 pm

Otherwise, they might just pass gas.

GTBob

November 27th, 2012
5:58 pm

First of all, we beat UF, who beat both of those teams.

The SEC strategy for winning national championships: play hardly anyone, then beat one good team who had to play like 4 other good teams, win championship. UGA’s season was basically one game. That is sad and funny at the same time.

OkieDawg

November 27th, 2012
5:58 pm

Bobo for the Broyles Assistant Coach of the Year. Sounds like Bobo is ready for a head coaching job. I think he would be a great hire at Auburn, Tennessee or Arkansas.

He is a great recruiter. His offense is one of the most balanced and prolific in the Nation. I don’t think we will be able to keep him after this successful year. He will be missed.

Smyrna Gold

November 27th, 2012
6:01 pm

@calm down UGA

Smyrna Gold

November 27th, 2012
6:05 pm

@calm down UGA
Good Post – UGA should just relax and enjoy the moment. I was at the 1980 Sugar Bowl and it was exciting even for me. Alas, I was there in 1981 and 1982. Not so good for the dawgs.

HUH?????

November 27th, 2012
6:05 pm

“For that matter you are not LSU, UF, AU or UT. All these teams have won a NC during the BCS era. Some undefeated NC. Not to mention AU undefeated in 04. ”

Auburn has gone undefeated more times than any other school in the last 30 years. They’re not even an elite football program. A good one but not elite like Bama.

HUH?????

November 27th, 2012
6:09 pm

“This is a classic matchup. Maybe one of the best in SEC Championship history.”

The only way it’s a classic is if it goes down to the wire or overtime. Beat downs are rarely classics and Auburn set the all-time score in 2010 with 56 points. I highly doubt any team will beat that anytime soon.

Gorilla Biscuit

November 27th, 2012
6:12 pm

Tech should forfeit. It would be less embarrassing than actually playing.

GTBob

November 27th, 2012
6:12 pm

This is a classic matchup. Maybe one of the best in SEC Championship history.

lol.

kimmer

November 27th, 2012
6:13 pm

UGA played a very weak schedule. Bama, much to my chagrin, will beat the dawgs like a dog.