If I’m a Georgia fan, here’s why I’m nervous about the rest of 2017
The sky is falling in Athens.
Not really, but there are reasons to be nervous for the rest of the season. Some of it has to do with Georgia’s effort (or lack there of) against Auburn, and some of it has to do with things outside of the Bulldogs’ control.
Here are the things that are making me uneasy if I’m a Georgia fan:
1. The SEC East
OK, so you might’ve already read when I went in depth with this. Apologies if you have read, but it bears repeating. Outside of Georgia, the SEC East is still the same old SEC East.
Other than the Dawgs, Florida was the only East squad in the top 25 at any time since Week 3. And there’s another troubling sign for a Georgia team that has beaten its divisional foes by an average of 29 points.
South Carolina is the only East opponent Georgia has played with a positive scoring margin in conference play. (Kentucky, Saturday’s opponent, is even in SEC play.)
- South Carolina +34
- Missouri -24
- Florida -54
- Tennessee -127
- Vanderbilt -155
It’s fair to question if the Dawgs were really pushed as much as they could’ve been. After facing Notre Dame and Mississippi State in September, Georgia went five straight games against those aforementioned teams. None of them resembled anything close to Auburn.
Georgia struggled to raise its level of play after facing lackluster competition in that pivotal month of October. In the time that the Bulldogs should’ve been developing into a championship caliber team, the starters were on the bench in the fourth quarter.
2. The lack of in-game adversity
There’s one downside to being a dominant team for the first 10 weeks of the season. Georgia was pushed from start to finish once all season. Notre Dame was the only victory all year by less than 14 points. But while that Irish win was extremely important for Georgia’s résumé, it didn’t check all the boxes.
The Dawgs traveled well to South Bend. Like, really well. It looked more like a neutral site game than a road game. Look at Georgia’s other true road games:
- at Tennessee
- at Vanderbilt
Call me when those teams win an SEC game.
Playing against a good team on the road is a different kind of adversity. That was a hostile atmosphere at Jordan-Hare, and understandably so. Granted, the SEC Championship is a neutral site game, which would also be the case for any postseason games.
But it was troubling to see Georgia collapse at the first sign of duress on Saturday at Auburn. They kept saying on the CBS broadcast how dejected Kirby Smart’s squad looked on the sidelines. There were really no signs of offensive life after the opening drive when Georgia came out on fire.
It’s one thing to be all smiles and hugs when things are going right. But you really see the identity of a team when things aren’t clicking. Are guys staying upbeat on the sidelines? Are stupid penalties being avoided? Are simple tackles still being made? Georgia didn’t do any of those things when Auburn started to pull away. If that’s the way it’s going to be in the SEC Championship Game, forget about the Playoff.
3. The blueprint is there
Piggybacking off that, there’s finally a clear blueprint to beating Georgia, though it’s easier said than done. Lord knows enough teams have claimed to have figured it out, only to have still lost in blowout fashion. But technically, Auburn didn’t follow the exact blueprint to beating Georgia.
The Dawgs got off to a blazing start. It looked like another big-time statement. After Auburn kicked field goal after field goal, it seemed like Georgia had avoided the disaster scenario for its offensive makeup — falling too far behind.
But eventually, Auburn got on the track one needs to get on to take down the Dawgs. That is, build a multi-score lead, generate pressure without having to load the box, and establish the run. The Tigers did that to a T.
Without getting too technical, Auburn did a lot of things on defense that confused the Georgia offense, both at the line of scrimmage and in coverage. Anybody who faces Georgia — Georgia Tech, Alabama/Auburn, whichever bowl opponent it draws — will pop in that Auburn tape and try to copy it.
And if they don’t, they’re nuts.
4. The Notre Dame factor
I’m a believer that timing is everything in life. One couldn’t help but notice the timing factor of Georgia’s first loss of the season on Saturday. Hours later, the same Notre Dame team that helped get the Dawgs to No. 1 was trounced by Mark Richt’s Miami Hurricanes squad. I mean, the Irish were pummeled in Coral Gables.
How many people, do you think, were saying, “well, how good was that Notre Dame win, really?”
Coming into last weekend, it was the single most pivotal game in college football this year. After the Irish not only lost but got dismantled, some Georgia fans were definitely wondering if their team was as battle-tested as they once thought.
Don’t get me wrong. Notre Dame absolutely deserved to be the No. 3 team in the country. They beat three top-25 teams by three scores each. Miami, despite its undefeated record, was still relatively unproven. But after looking vastly superior to the Irish, the perception of the Canes changed in a hurry.
Georgia’s Notre Dame win is still impressive. It just might not be quite as impressive as we once thought.
5. The offense doesn’t match up well against Alabama and Auburn
This, perhaps, is the most troubling thought for Georgia. It’s one thing to be content to throw the ball 7 times a game against Florida when you’re dominating the line of scrimmage. Against Alabama and Auburn, that formula won’t work. Smart knows that.
The problem isn’t that Georgia can’t throw. It absolutely can. To discount Jake Fromm’s ability to move the chains would be unfair. But can the passing game really establish the balance that Georgia needs? LSU reminded us on a yearly basis that it doesn’t matter how good your ground game is. Against the Tide, you can’t just assume you’ll control the line of scrimmage.
You need balance. You need rhythm.
As good as the Dawgs are on defense, they’re going to get worn out if the offense can’t sustain drives. We saw that against Auburn.
Georgia’s offense hasn’t been any secret. It’s Nick Chubb, Sony Michel, a little DeAndre Swift and the occasional three-step drop and throw from Fromm. The Dawgs do have the ability to shake some things up to try to hit on some big plays. But while they do have weapons on the outside, they aren’t exactly loaded with possession receivers who can consistently move the chains in obvious throwing situations.
Jim Chaney is going to have his work cut out for him, regardless of who Georgia draws in the SEC Championship Game and beyond. I’m not crazy enough to say that the Dawgs should want to face Alabama — like Joey Galloway did on the College Football Playoff rankings show on Tuesday night.
But after the weekend that was, it’s safe to say Georgia isn’t counting down the days until it sees either Alabama or Auburn.