Despite having three losses on the docket, this is the first elite team that Missouri has gone up against in 2019. As I’ve done these previews, it’s occasionally been hard to find something that’s an actual threat; in this case, it’s been really hard to find something that gives the Tigers a chance. Going into this week, I had a pretty good idea of how to take advantage of the 14th ranked Bulldog offense and the numbers back that up. Unfortunately, everything else is incredibly competent. Therefore, I’ll list the depth chart with the stats and then address the... (pulls collar) ...few opportunities the Tiger defense has against the Georgia attack.
Jake Fromm - JR: 143-204 (70.1%)/1,685 yards/11 TDs/3 INTs/11.8 ypc/8.0 ypa
Stetson Bennett - R-SO: 18-23 (78.3%)/233 yards/2 TDs/1 INT/12.9 ypc/10.1 ypa
D’Andre Swift - JR: 135 rushes/838 yards/6.2 ypc/7 TDs/5.63 HLT/54.1% OPP/51.9% success
Brian Herrien - SR: 60 rushes/324 yards/.4 ypc/5 TDs/4.09 HLT/55.0% OPP/55.0% success
Lawrence Cager - SR: 30 targets/26 catches (86.7%)/377 yards/4 TDs/14.5 ypc/12.6 ypt
Matt Landers - R-SO: x
George Pickens - FR: 35 targets/24 catches (68.6%)/322 yards/2 TDs/13.4 ypc/9.2 ypt
Tyler Simmons - SR: 17 targets/10 catches (58.8%)/89 yards/0 TDs/8.9 ypc/5.2 ypt
Demetris Robertson - R-JR: 29 targets/20 catches (69%)/229 yards/3 TDs/11.5 ypc/7.9 ypt
Dominick Blaylock - FR: 16 targets/12 catches (75%)/209 yards/3 TDs/17.4 ypc/13.1 ypt
Eli Wolf - SR: 15 targets/11 catches (73.3%)/142 yards/0 TDs/12.9 ypc/9.5 ypt
Charlie Woerner - SR: 12 targets/6 catches (50%)/35 yards/0 TDs/5.8 ypc/2.9 ypt
Andrew Thomas - JR
D’Marcus Hayes - SR
Solomon Kindley - R-JR
Justin Shaffer - JR
Trey Hill - SO
Warren Ericson - R-FR
Cade Mays - SO
Ben Cleveland - R-JR
Isaiah Wilson - R-SO
Jamaree Salyer - SO
Ok! So how do you stop these Bulldogs? Here’s how:
It’s in every preview I do, right? This time, however, it’s an actual weakness of the opponent we’re playing. The Bulldogs are 94th in explosive plays, 95th in the effectiveness of explosive plays, 95th in explosive rushing plays, 74th in explosive passing plays, and 94th in hitting explosive plays on standard downs. For a unit that ranks 25th or better in damn near everything else, that’s stark. Now, I’ve written many words about the defense’s allergy to stopping explosive plays and that’s still true through eight games. So what happens when the movable object meets the stoppable force? Well, in cases like this I assume the more talented side wins out, so my assumption would be that UGA finds a way to connect on some big plays. However, I will point out that the Tiger defense doesn’t give up a lot of big gains to running backs, instead letting mobile quarterbacks land haymakers on the ground. Jake Fromm, for all his accolades, is not mobile, so there is a chance that the Tigers can continue the frustrations of Georgia backs looking for a big gain. However, Georgia, much like Missouri, can not effectively pass down the field to save their lives. Lawerence Cager is the deep threat, and if you watched the Cocktail Party last week, you saw Fromm attempt a few more deeper passes to back the Gator defense off the line. They didn’t connect, mind you, but they’ll try. It’s better, in my opinion, to be an efficient offense that stays ahead of the chains but takes 14 plays to score rather than an explosive offense that relies on one or two big plays but fizzles out for the rest. Georgia is definitely that type of offense and the Tigers have shown an ability to keep offenses off schedule. If UGA starts hitting on big plays, however, that will be a harbinger of a loss for Missouri.
Again, passing downs are 1st or 2nd and long, 3rd and 6+, essentially a down where you’re more likely to pass than run. At the college level, offenses tend to be worse in passing downs than in standard downs (where they can be a little more unpredictable) unless you have a magician quarterback — your Manziels, Watsons, Mayfields, Jacksons, Mariotas — that can make crazy throws or scramble for the yards. While Georgia is elite in standard downs success (11th) they are a merely a mortal on passing downs (51st). Jake Fromm is a very good quarterback, but has 57 yards rushing on 16 rushes this year and only completes 11 yards per attempt, so if the Tigers keep the ‘Dawgs behind the chains they should, in theory, be putting themselves in a position to shut any individual drive down.
The only other area that Georgia isn’t Top 25 in the nation is in third down situations. Most of their third downs are of the shorter-variety but if a defense does get them in third-and-medium or third-and-long? Well... 30th in converting third-and-medium, 51st in third-and-long. Again, no team in the nation is better at third-and-long than third-and-short, but we’re grasping at flaws to exploit here. The Tigers have been very good at forcing offenses into longer third-down situations, so the tell here will be how many yards Georgia needs on an average third down. If it’s over 8, then the Tigers probably had an excellent defensive day and if it’s under, then the ‘Dawgs probably had an easier day moving the ball.
Georgia is not a confusing puzzle: they run it over and over with their 5-star running backs, add a few quick passes, and then attempt a rare play-action deep pass that doesn’t connect. In fact, most of their longer passes this season were screens or sideline passes that had the receiver shake a tackle and add yards after catch. So, in theory, the Tiger defense should be able to stack the box, keep tight man coverage on the receivers, not worry about a scrambling quarterback, and keep the Bulldogs off schedule to force multiple third-and-longs. Now, the ‘Dawgs are much more talented at every position on the field and should handle the Tigers easily, but good tactics can win the day and if Missouri rises to the occasion, anything is possible.