O'Gara: Why Mike Bobo isn't standing in the way of a UGA title like I thought at this time last year
I could’ve taken a victory lap.
As the clock ticked down on Alabama’s SEC Championship victory and reality set in that Georgia was likely going to be on the outside looking in of the Playoff, it could’ve been an opportunity for me to tell anyone within earshot “see, I told you so.”
But I didn’t for a couple of reasons. The first is that nobody likes the “I’m always right” person. I’ve found that in this business, those people have a lower approval rating than they realize.
The other reason I didn’t pull out a “see, I told you so” as UGA’s 3-peat bid ended was that I was no longer a Mike Bobo skeptic. I became a Bobo believer. A “Bo-liever,” if you will.
I’ll show myself out.
At this time last year, I reacted to Bobo replacing Todd Monken by declaring that UGA would reach a national championship, but that Bobo wouldn’t be a good enough schemer to win on that stage. Some took that as me saying UGA’s offense would flop. That’s not what I was saying. What I claimed was that we needed to understand how elite the coordinators with full autonomy were for national champs in the Playoff era:
- 2014 Ohio State — DC Luke Fickell
- 2015 Alabama — OC Lane Kiffin
- 2016 Clemson — DC Brent Venables
- 2017 Alabama — OC Brian Daboll
- 2018 Clemson — DC Brent Venables
- 2019 LSU — OC Steve Ensminger/Joe Brady
- 2020 Alabama — OC Steve Sarkisian
- 2021 Georgia — OC Todd Monken
- 2022 Georgia — OC Todd Monken
Those are elite assistants who could scheme. Some of the best of the Playoff era, I’d argue.
That’s why I didn’t like it when Georgia fans said “there’s so much talent it won’t matter.”
For winning a bunch of games? Agreed. For winning a national title? Disagree.
But here’s the funny thing — the more I watched Georgia in 2023, the more I realized that Bobo had indeed embraced Monken’s offense with his use of tempo, misdirection and 2-tight end systems (Oscar Delp getting 560 snaps and playing a minimum of 23 snaps in every game was a major win for 2023 and beyond).
Alabama deserved to beat Georgia, so don’t take what I’m about to say as discrediting the Tide’s midseason turnaround. But I came away from that day feeling like if Brock Bowers and Ladd McConkey had been healthy, UGA would’ve played better offensively and perhaps had a path to a national title. That didn’t happen, though. Injuries are part of the game.
Ironically, both of those guys are gone, yet my willingness to pick UGA to win it all in 2024 won’t be held back by Bobo’s presence. If anything, he’ll push me in that direction to go all in with the Dawgs. That’s how much of a believer I became.
Here are some of those final rankings:
- Scoring: No. 5 in FBS
- Yards/play: No. 4 in FBS
- Rushing offense: No. 21 in FBS
- Passing offense: No. 11 in FBS
- 20-yard plays: No. 6 in FBS
- Red-zone TD percentage: No. 22 in FBS
- 3rd-down conversion percentage: No. 1 in FBS
That’s a prolific unit.
Check that. That’s an elite* unit.
Carson Beck looked every bit like the star he was built up to be, which is why he’ll enter 2024 with legitimate Heisman Trophy buzz. Bobo helped him navigate that shaky start and put him in spots to succeed. Another full offseason working with Bobo has me wanting to buy even more Beck stock.
This sounds like a major 180, but I don’t know that I’d call it that. I’d call it a 90. Or maybe let’s just call it a pivot.
I fully embraced that pivot post-Tennessee. On a day in which UGA couldn’t really get a ton going in the ground game, Beck was brilliant. Never mind the fact that he was basically without McConkey and RaRa Thomas while Bowers wasn’t at 100% (the box score told a different story than my eyes). Shoot, it didn’t even matter that Tennessee took the opening play for a touchdown and Knoxville was rocking.
Nah. With even more poise than he showed back in his first true road start at Auburn, Beck was dialed in.
Carson Beck 3rd Down conversions vs Tennessee
3rd and 7
3rd and 6
3rd and 5
3rd and 6
3rd and 12
3rd and 7
3rd and 3
3rd and 2 pic.twitter.com/EhFT7l2Ukn
— 704 Dawg (@FSFRecruits) November 20, 2023
My favorite throw was that back-shoulder throw to Dillon Bell that made Gary Danielson uncontrollably yelp. It was shades of the pre-Monken Georgia offense when far too often, it felt like Jake Fromm’s only chunk plays came on back-shoulder throws. Now, that’s just another card that Beck and Bobo can play.
It’s not just that Georgia has an embarrassment of riches and Bobo meets a certain threshold of “he can’t mess this up.” His success during the Aaron Murray-Mark Richt days was never going to be the reason why he succeeded during this go-around, though I understand why it gave certain people comfort that this would work.
One of those was Murray himself. He and I would go back and forth about Bobo even after the season started. Sure, I may have shot him a text during the slow start against South Carolina, and he might’ve agreed with me at the time that Bobo needed to unleash Beck more. But a couple of months later after the Tennessee game, I told Murray something else.
“I think I was wrong. I’m man enough to admit it.”
Credit to me for not sending him another text after the Alabama game. A true Bo-liever, I became.
OK, leaving now.