Why Jake Fromm is more prepared for a shootout than he was last year against Alabama
Facing pressure from the Alabama front, Jake Fromm dropped back and delivered one of the best throws we saw from him all year. It was a perfect ball in stride, roughly 48 yards downfield to an open Mecole Hardman. It was the type of throw that you see from an All-American or a future first-round draft pick.
It was the height of Fromm’s national championship. That was the problem.
After Fromm’s bomb to Hardman made it a 20-7 game, the legend of Tua Tagovailoa was born. Fromm stepped aside and let another true freshman — the same quarterback who Lane Kiffin decided he wanted more than Fromm at Alabama — steal his moment. That sequence, which was preceded by Tagovailoa’s first of 3 touchdown passes that night, was the only time the two really went back and forth.
Fromm’s post-touchdown pass stat line was ugly (2-for-6 for 20 yards with 2 sacks taken and an interception). As a result, the Dawgs’ only points the rest of the way came via a 51-yard field goal in overtime.
Quite simply, Georgia wasn’t ready to put that game in Fromm’s hands. And in reality, he didn’t show that he was ready to handle it. Trying to go blow for blow with Tagovailoa wasn’t a game that Fromm could play. It was different than a week earlier when he faced a porous Oklahoma defense and Fromm helped fuel a Georgia comeback in the Rose Bowl.
Now, with Fromm set for a rematch against Alabama in the same place he watched Georgia’s national title dream fade away, times have changed. He’s now better prepared to go 60 minutes with Alabama than he was in last year’s national championship.
What suggests that? How about Fromm’s past 5 games?
- 73 percent accuracy
- 9.7 yards per attempt
- 11-1 TD-INT ratio
- 41.6 PPG
- 5-0 (4 wins by +3 scores against Power 5 teams w/ winning records)
That last part is key, and it’s at the root of why Georgia fans should feel more confident in Fromm right now than at this time last year.
Last year in the regular season, Georgia faced 3 Power 5 teams that had winning records in conference play (that includes Notre Dame, which was 6-3 in regular season Power 5 games). Those happened to be Georgia’s 3 worst offensive outputs of the regular season. Fromm averaged just 6.6 yards per attempt on 56 percent accuracy in those games.
This year in that 5-game stretch alone that Fromm put up those numbers, here’s where those 4 Power 5 teams rank in scoring defense:
- Florida — No. 23
- Kentucky — No. 7
- Auburn — No. 19
- Georgia Tech — No. 78
So even if you want to throw away the Georgia Tech game and just focus on his final 3 SEC games against a trio of top 25 scoring defenses, Fromm had 69 percent accuracy, 8.5 yards per attempt and a 6-1 touchdown-interception ratio.
Any notion that Fromm is just a game manager should be all but gone.
It’s not just the numbers, either. It’s the throws that he continues to make that suggests he’s made a noticeable Year 2 jump:
The questions surrounding Fromm have since faded from that LSU game, when he saw a season-high in pressure percentage (35.7%). Last year against Alabama, Fromm was pressured a season-high 19 times. Obviously, Alabama wants to repeat that, though outside of LSU, Fromm has been rock solid against the blitz/pressure this year.
Maybe that’s just a product of experience. The guy does have 26 career starts, 11 of which were against Top 25 teams. Fromm does look more comfortable than ever, and that’s not just based on his increased post-snap ball-flipping ways (at least it feels increased).
In a perfect world for Georgia, Fromm doesn’t need to get into a shootout with Tagovailoa because game flow still allows for the Dawgs to be balanced. That’s obviously easier said than done. We’re talking about an Alabama team that just went 12-0 without winning a game by less than 22 points. Georgia is a double-digit underdog for a reason, and it’s the same reason that Alabama prevailed in last year’s title game. Tagovailoa can take an opposing team out of its bread and butter in a hurry.
Tagovailoa is easily the best quarterback that Georgia faced this year. The same could be said about Fromm for Alabama (yes, Fromm is better against quality opponents than Drew Lock). Both defenses will face quarterbacks who can fit balls into windows unlike anyone they’ve seen this year.
That’s why this game has much more shootout potential than last year’s contest (the over/under is in the low 60s). Georgia players admitted that they didn’t prepare to face someone who could stretch the field Tagovailoa, and that they couldn’t adjust after he replaced Jalen Hurts in the second half.
This year, you get the feeling that both of these teams will want to air it out with their prolific quarterbacks. Why wouldn’t they? Tagovailoa and Fromm rank No. 1 and No. 3, respectively, in quarterback rating. More important, they’ve shown throughout 2018 that the moment won’t be too big for them.
Maybe the moment was too big for Fromm last year. Perhaps Saturday is his chance to avenge that frustrating second-half performance and shock the world. The SEC Championship can be a new height for Fromm.
Now would be the perfect time to soar.