There are two ways you can look at the scheduling quirk that has Mark Richt’s Bulldogs facing the triple-option offense on consecutive Saturdays to wind up the regular season before heading to the SEC Championship game in Atlanta.
On the one hand, playing FCS power Georgia Southern this week will give Todd Grantham’s defense an edge in preparing for in-state rival Georgia Tech since both of those schools use a run-heavy triple option. The Eagles might be from the lower level of Division 1 but they managed to run for 302 yards and score 21 points in a losing effort against Alabama last season and they’ll give the Dogs a much better look at that rarely seen offense than Georgia’s scout team could hope to replicate in practice.
Of course, UGA sees Tech’s triple-option running attack every year and did a pretty good job containing it last year. But the extra experience against that scheme is bound to help.
As Richt noted Sunday, “We’re going to play defense so completely different than how we’ve been playing all year long” against Georgia Southern. “Everything changes. The alignments change, the assignments change, the type of block you’re dealing with changes, and it’s very, very difficult to simulate in practice. You just can’t do it. You just have to be disciplined in what your assignments are. This offense tends to have a lot of fumbles. A lot of balls get on the ground when you run that type of system. Sometimes the only way you can stop one of their possessions is with a turnover.”
So you can credit having Southern and Tech back-to-back as smart scheduling.
But looking ahead to the big game at the Georgia Dome, the downside to the schedule is this: Two weeks of concentration on the triple option will take the Georgia defense out of its usual rhythm, and they’ll then have just a week to reboot before taking on the SEC West opponent, most likely Alabama, which runs a pro-style offense more like Georgia’s.
In the meantime, the Crimson Tide has games against lowly Western Carolina and a free-falling Auburn, so it wouldn’t be surprising if Nick Saban had his team spending a bit of time over the next two weeks getting ready for Georgia.
The Dogs, unfortunately, won’t have that luxury.
Now, a few more thoughts and observations from the win over Auburn …
The ESPN crew covering the game indicated Tavarres King’s ballet-like move keeping a toe in-bounds on that 17-yard second-quarter touchdown strike from Aaron Murray was likely to show up on “SportsCenter,” and that was indeed the case Saturday night. It was a tremendous effort on TK’s part.
But what was especially encouraging was that it was the kind of play that is par for the course this season for Georgia’s athletic receiving corps. Even with Michael Bennett and Marlon Brown out, the Dogs’ passing attack didn’t appear to miss a beat, with Murray throwing TD passes to three different receivers — Chris Conley and Malcolm Mitchell in addition to King. Special kudos are due to Conley, who was making his first career start against the Tigers. …
Murray continued to spread the ball around, completing passes to six different players, with tight ends Artie Lynch and Jay Rome getting much more attention as receivers. For the most part, they did well, with Lynch catching three balls and Rome making two receptions.
But while it was good to see the tight ends becoming a bigger part of the passing attack, there’s room for improvement: Lynch did have a conspicuous drop on what would have been a first-down pass late in the first half, and Murray had to do some sideline tutoring with Rome after the redshirt freshman muffed a route in the end zone in the third quarter. …
A couple more notes on Murray, who got more than his share of bashing earlier in the season: A week after executing the Rooskie play flawlessly against Ole Miss, he had another really nice play-action fake on the touchdown pass to Mitchell. And after getting the wind knocked out of him on one of the many hits he took from Auburn defenders Saturday night, the tough quarterback came back in to make that perfectly thrown scoring pass to King. …
The Georgia defense gave up some yards in the short-passing game early on (mainly to Emory Blake), but overall played a superb game. And when Auburn was threatening to score in the second half, Shawn Williams helped maintain the shutout by stripping the ball away from Blake in a fumble that Georgia recovered. …
Christian Robinson gets the big-hit-of-the-game award for the way he ran over an Auburn receiver on a failed third-down conversion attempt. …
One quibble: Mike Bobo pulled his starters in the fourth quarter but Grantham didn’t. I fully understand why the fiery defensive coordinator wanted so badly to keep that goose egg on the scoreboard for the Tigers; it’s a tremendous confidence-builder for a defense that took a while to get back in sync this season.
But keeping the first string in the game in garbage time just to maintain a shutout was a questionable decision, as one of Georgia’s star defenders easily could have gone down with an injury well after the outcome of the game was already decided. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, but was maintaining a shutout really worth the risk?
JUNKYARD MAIL CALL
Got something you want to discuss concerning the win over Auburn or the upcoming game against Georgia Southern? Thoughts looking ahead to the SEC Championship game? Or maybe a question you want the Junkyard Blawg to tackle? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Find me on Facebook.
Follow me on Twitter.
— Bill King, Junkyard Blawg