Although the 2013 college football season is only two games old, I would say there’s plenty we’ve already learned thus far.
Let’s start with the team we all follow and cover here, the Georgia Bulldogs.
We already know that this UGA offense is as good as advertised in the preseason. The Bulldogs pounded the Clemson Tigers for 545 total yards and then came back with 538 yards running and passing in the 41-30 win over South Carolina this past Saturday. Against Clemson, it was simply a combination of miscues, the experienced offensive line’s failure to rise to the occasion in a pressure debut situation in Death Valley and, yes, some very questionable play calling. All of that added up to the Georgia offense not being able to outscore the Tigers in that bitter 38-35 setback.
Still on offense, Todd Gurley has been everything we thought he would be, and more. More and more college football observers are now throwing out “the best running back in America” designation at Gurley and the way he’s started this season, he’s surely deserving of such a label. He’s bigger than he was last season and that was evident when I stood near No. 3 in the UGA dressing room Saturday. People, this guy is h-u-g-e. He’s every bit of 6-3 height-wise now, not the 6-1 he’s listed in the program, and actually looks like he could be 6-foot-4. They’re calling him 232 pounds in the program and, again, Gurley looks like he could be tipping the scales at 240 right now. And that increased size has been on display in the Bulldogs’ two outings when Gurley has flat run over a whole bunch of Tiger and Gamecock defenders. And wasn’t that some kind of stiff-arm he put on a South Carolina defensive back as the now 9th-ranked Bulldogs ran over eight minutes off the clock in one of the prettiest, dominating late-game drives in UGA history?
Aaron Murray, after committing a costly fumble and interception in the season opener, of course came back against Carolina and played the game of his life …. 17-of-23 completions with three on-target passes dropped, 309 yards, four touchdowns. You just can’t play any better than that. And Murray did just what Bulldawg Illustrated’s Jeff Dantzler has been advocating all along … let Murray use his mobility to get out of the pocket and make things happen, rather than be a sitting duck in the pocket for opposing teams’ pass rush, with his lack of height. Twice against the Cocks, we saw Murray do exactly that and the result was an 85-yard TD bomb to Justin Scott-Wesley and an 8-yard scrambling scoring pass to Todd Gurley.
And the Georgia O-line, what a difference a week made for this unit. Unlike the night in Clemson when Will Friend’s charges seemed jittery and unsure of whom to block, they came back against Spurrier’s defense and Mr. Clowney and were in control of the line of scrimmage all game long. Let’s hope they remain dominant when those fierce Tigers from the Bayou come between the hedges two weeks from Saturday.
And now for the Bulldogs on the other side of the ball. Truth is, I’ve been disappointed with the play of Todd Grantham’s defense thus far. Sure, we lost all those defensive guys who comprised the starting lineup last season to the NFL but all spring practice and in summer camp, we heard of how these new Bulldogs were quicker, faster and more athletic than that 2012 unit that sorely underachieved. And while I think that kind of talk isn’t far off the mark, the Georgia defense has struggled mightily in the two outings to date. You can discuss it, dissect it, break it down any way you want but when you give up 38 points and 467 yards in the first game and then 30 points and 454 yards your second game, you’ve simply not played the kind of defense it’s going to take if these Bulldogs are to make it back to Atlanta and beyond. And yes, I fully realize our “D” is a work in progress, that it’s loaded with a good blend of sophomores and freshmen and, also, the Dogs have gone against back-to-back Top 10-ranked teams but, still, the Georgia defense has got to improve by leaps and bounds if the Bulldogs are going to get to where we all hope they can go this season. And, yes again, our offense is fully capable of outscoring any team left on the schedule but, remember, these guys on the defensive side of the ball were all saying in the preseason, “We don’t want our offense to have to carry us this year. We want to make our own name.” Let’s hope the Bulldog defense starts doing just that in a little over two weeks when Zach Mettenberger, Odell Beckham, Jr. and the rest of Les Miles’ LSU bunch comes into Athenstown sporting a 4-0 season record and 1-0 conference mark. And, certainly, the Bulldog Nation is all hoping what Grantham’s guys did in the second half Saturday − when the defense held the Gamecocks to six points and fashioned that tremendous goal-line stand − is the beginning of great things to come for the UGA stop-em gang.
And what have we learned around the rest of the SEC in the two outings to date?
What I’ve learned is that LSU team we’re talking about is much better than we all predicted the Tigers would be in the preseason. With Miles losing so many defensive players to the NFL from last season’s 10-3 squad, not many observers figured LSU would be able to overcome Alabama and Texas A&M in SEC West this season. Well, to that, I say “not so fast, my friend.” As they always do in the Bayou, the now 8th-ranked Tigers simply have reloaded on defense and, offensively, Mettenberger, the Oconee County native and ex-Bulldog, has been razor-sharp throwing the ball in LSU’s opening wins over the alphabet teams, TCU and UAB. Against UAB Saturday, “Mett” was 16-of-19 for 282 yards and became the first QB in LSU’s proud history to throw five touchdown passes in one game. And that guy Odell Beckham, Jr. has done everything but sell programs and popcorn for the Tigers. Can you fathom what he did against UAB last Saturday …. 331 all-purpose yards while running back field goal attempts (100 yards) and punts, catching 136 yards in passes with three touchdowns and generally being a one-man wrecking crew against the Blazers? That’s insane!
Also, in the conference, Will Muschamp must be doing his usual exploding all over the Florida practice field as he’s still searching in vain to put some spark in a lethargic Gator offense that has Florida fans wanting someone else besides Jeff Driskel to play quarterback. But, word of warning, don’t rule out the Gators in the East just yet. They still have one of the country’s best defenses, one that can keep them in most any game they play.
Up on the hill in Knoxville, new Vols mentor Butch Jones has the Big Orange smoking out of the gate with romps over Austin Peay and Bobby Petrino’s Western Kentucky team but that smoke is about to be doused out in Eugene, Ore. this coming Saturday when the break-neck speed offense of No. 2-ranked Oregon runs up and down the field on a UT defense that gave up plenty of real estate to those not so powerful offenses in the Vols’ two games to date.
And over on the Plains of Auburn, Gus Malzahn is already getting Tiger fans excited after the War Eagles opened with wins over Washington State and Arkansas State. But, question is, how much has Auburn actually improved after that dismal 3-9 thing of 2012? We’ll let you know the answer to that question following the next three Tiger outings … Mississippi State, LSU and Ole Miss.
OK, all that said, here we are to the game everybody’s excited about this week. Of course, I’m talking about the 6th-ranked Aggies, the guy called Johnny Football, and that famous “12th Man” out in College Station, Tex. lying in wait for the mighty, top-ranked, two-time defending national champion Alabama Crimson Tide on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET. Everyone that knows Alabama and Nick Saban has to be aware that the Tide mentor and his boys have been waiting a full year to extract revenge on this A&M bunch, the team that dealt Alabama its only loss of the 2012 season and dished out a heap of embarrassment on the Crimson Tide before all their home folks sitting in Bryant-Denny Stadium a year ago. And I, like most everyone else, think Alabama is about to administer a big payback to those military guys out in the lone star state. But I don’t think it’s going to be a blowout, like some of the so-called experts have already forecast. The Tide wasn’t overly impressive in its opener against Virginia Tech, when Alabama totaled only 206 yards of offense and had to rely on two long kick returns by Christion Jones to effectively swing the game the Tide’s way. And say what you want. This Johnny Manziel is a punk, a renegade, and anything else you want to call him after his stupid-behavior summer − which has continued unabated in the Aggies’ two wins over Rice and Sam Houston State − but still, the guy is some kind of football player. He can run around you all day, he can pass over you (400-plus yards vs. Sam Houston) and he can flat beat you, as ‘Bama found out last season. But believing the Tide defense will hold J. Football down better than it did last year and also believing that the questionable Aggie defense won’t be able to slow T.J. Yeldon and the Tide running game, I’ll go with Alabama to win this early-season showdown, say by 31-21.
I'd say right now the Georgia offense belongs with the Florida defense, and the Georgia defense belongs with the Florida offense. Sooner or later our offense is going to have an off-day and it sure would be nice to have our defense help out. Besides, which side wins championships?
Nice article, but I have watched LSU play both TCU and UAB, and yes, LSU is a good team; however, I am not sold on them being the best team we will face all year. They will be good, but I argue that Clemson might be better than the Tigers that lie to west of us.
Mettenberger looked good vs UAB, but compare his game vs the Blazers over the weekend to the game versus TCU during the first week away from Death Valley at a neutral stadium. Mettenberger had only a 50% completion percentage versus TCU connecting on 16 of 32 passes. In addition, Mettenberger only averaged 7.8 YPC in the game vs TCU.
As far as LSU's defense is concerned, they played well, but still weren't as stout against the run as they have been. Versus TCU they gave up an average of 4.38 YPC. In addition, versus TCU, there pass defense was good, but they didn't generate a lot of pass rush against TCU's Paschall or Boykin ... yes. TCU has a player named Boykin.
I'm not saying that LSU will not be a hard fought game or an easy out. On the contrary, I expect LSU will be a hard team to beat; however, they come to Athens to play. UGA and Murray play very well at home. On top of that, I don't think LSU is as good offensively as Clemson or even South Carolina.
I do think LSU has two very good WRs in Beckham and Langley, and both guys are very dangerous. Beckham is a guy that take it to the house every time he touches the ball. The question is, can LSU's o-line protect Mettenberger long enough to get Beckham and Langley the ball. I know people will say that we have generated a lot of sacks and this is true, but I ask those people to look at another stat. That stat is the number of QB pressures and hits UGA has generated. Now, we have faced to very mobile QBs who are very good at avoiding sacks and pressure the last 2 weeks. Mettenberger is not near as fleet of foot as either Shaw or Boyd, and he isn't as fleet of foot as Murray for that matter.
What does all this mean? Not much because games are not played on paper or on the internet in conversation boards and blogs; however, it does raise the question on how tested LSU is compared to UGA. At least Georgia has face 2 legitimate top 10 teams in Clemson and South Carolina. They have lost to 1 by 3 points away from home and beat one by 11 points at home. LSU will be the 3rd top 10 team Georgia has faced in 4 games, and I like our chances.
Also, The defense was thrown in the fire early and had to grow up fast. I think we'll see them improve vastly as the unit grows comfortable and more cohesive as they get more comfortable in the playbook. Faster play and better tackling. Remember in 2011, the defense gave up 45 and 35 points the first two games, but as the year went on, they got more dominant. Of course this isn't that same team, but i think the results can be in the same ballpark.
Good Article, but i would hold off on praising a lot of these teams before they even get in conference play. Lsu, Auburn, TxAM need to play a few SEC games before we say who is the best and so on.
@Bulldawg Bob2 Well said Bulldawg Bob2 and certainly, if they were playing today, I would pick the Dogs over the Bayou Bengals. Just saying they are probably the most dangerous team Georgia will play the rest of the regular season. We maybe will be able to tell a little more about LSU on the 21st when they face Auburn the week before coming to Athens but with the game in Baton Rouge, I kinda doubt the Tigers from the Plains will be able to push them very much. But good comments from everyone about this blog.