Georgia operated under the same misconception that Tony Barnhart was propagating last week: Tennessee is weak against the run, so Georgia should run the ball a lot. What Georgia ended up doing was that they made themselves predictable by running between the tackles on obvious running downs until the game was out of hand. What Mark Richt and Mike Bobo did is they allowed Tennessee to defend them easier. They overrated the value of Tennessee not being able to stop Florida's spread option, which is irrelevant to how the Vols would defend the Dawgs, and Cal's attack, which is also different. Cal and Florida also started by passing the Vols silly and then went to the ground game once they had a lead. Georgia got things backwards and were thus shut out in the first half. Georgia ran on their first six first and tens. By the time they determined that maybe they should throw the ball outside of obvious passing downs, they were down 28-0. I kept scribbling notes to myself like "Mike Debord would LOVE this gameplan" and "Barnhart is muttering to himself yet again that this worked in 1982."
That said, Georgia was going to lose this game regardless of whether they deployed a better offensive gameplan. Georgia is weak on the offensive and defensive lines and Tennessee exploited that ruthlessly. This Georgia team simply isn't especially good. With the upset win over Alabama being devalued in the past two weeks, Georgia looks like a team that is going to have to play well to get to 8-4. And because I'm not very high on Georgia, I'm also not buying the "Phil Fulmer saved his job" line, either. Throughout Tennessee's decline, Fulmer's saving grace has always been his ability to beat Alabama, Tennessee's arch-rival. If the Vols lose in two weeks to the Tide, then Tennessee's decision-makers will be confronted with the fact that the Vols' major rival now has a better coach and in order to compete, Tennessee is going to have to upgrade in that department. If Spurrier then beats Tennessee again, the writing will be on the wall that Tennessee has been surpassed by a program with significantly less talent. That's the nightmare scenario for Fulmer.
I don't know why I let sports radio nitwits get me worked up (especially since they are trained for that exact purpose), but I could not believe Doug Conkle (sp?) proclaiming on Sunday morning that Les Miles' decision to go for 4th and 1 from the six was the "most stupid call that ended up working." Brian from MGoBlog gets this exactly right
The final call is the least debatable. Kicking a field goal is not automatic (LSU's kicker had already missed a 36-yarder) and gives Florida the ball back with about 2:30 on the clock to drive for the win. Going, on the other hand, either leads to Florida with the ball on their own six, needing a first down to kill the game, or what actually happened: first and goal, eventual touchdown, harried Florida drive that needs to go the length of the field to win the game. Anyone with a passing familiarity of the probabilities involved here should understand that going for it is the far superior choice, but how many coaches would pass up the temptation of a chip-shot field goal there? Certainly not our current set, and probably very few across the country.To chime in my two cents, if LSU kicks the field goal, then their chances are significantly less than 50%. First of all, they would be underdogs in overtime because Florida had a better kicker. Second, just getting to overtime would be an accomplishment because Florida would have had 2:30 to drive roughly 40-50 yards to get a field goal attempt. Given that Florida had driven into LSU territory on five of its eight possessions up to that point, UF would have had a better than 50-50 chance of getting into field goal range. Conversely, with Jacob Hester and two quarterbacks who can run, LSU's chances of converting a 4th and 1 were probably 80%, at which point they would either score a touchdown (80-90% chance of winning, depending on how long it took them to hit paydirt) or kick a field goal with very little time remaining.
What I'm really liking about this LSU team is that it looks like the first instance in which Les Miles has brought his reputation as a great coach of the running game to bear. (The fact that he had to bring in a pass-first offensive coordinator like Gary Crowton to do so is interesting.) Bo Schembechler would have been proud of the execution of that last drive. Miles has also taken to heart a lesson from Schembechler that the current Michigan coaching staff has completely forgotten, which is the importance of being multiple in the running game. Bo's offenses ran the ball so well despite the fact that their opponents knew that the run was coming because they didn't know the direction or type of run. Bo's offenses typically featured a mobile quarterback who could threaten the defense with the option, a fullback who could do damage between the tackles, and multiple tailbacks who could run all over the place. Miles' offense has all of these ingredients. (LSU's undoing might be the same as the undoing of all of those Michigan teams under Bo: a spotty passing game.) Michigan's current offense has one tailback. Michigan doesn't utilize their depth at the position, they have no running threat from the quarterback (despite the fact that Chad Henne was reasonably mobile coming out of high school), and they haven't handed to the fullback since the opening drive of the January 1, 2002 Citrus Bowl against Tennessee.
Duel of the Jews
No week would be complete without a little fact-checking of our old friend MANDEL!!! Here's where Stewart plays Soviet historian with USC:
In one unthinkable evening, the very tenets that fostered the aura of invincibility that's surrounded Carroll's program these past five years -- that no individual is irreplaceable, that no problem that comes up can't be fixed, that the Trojans' recruiting machine just keeps humming and that freshmen can step in and shine right away -- were shattered.Apparently, Mandel missed USC losing to a good, but not outstanding Oregon State team and an exceedingly mediocre UCLA team last year. He must have also missed the Trojans doing their best to lose to Washington (at home) and Washington State. In reality, USC's loss on Saturday night was certainly surprising because the Trojans hadn't lost a home game in over six years and they lost to the worst team in the conference. However, it was not unforeseeable because they had problems with inferior opponents throughout 2006 and because their quarterback simply isn't very good. This is why the media was so foolish in anointing the Trojans as the unanimous #1 team in the land before the season.
Here is where Mandel forgets that Ohio State was leading the nation in scoring defense going into the Michigan game last year:
A year ago, the season-long No. 1 Buckeyes tried to win a national title -- and came within one game of doing it -- while contradicting the accepted adage that defense wins championships.Yes, Ohio State's defense turned out to be something of a mirage when they faced quality offenses later in the year, but they were excellent for the first 11 games. Additionally, why would we assume that this year is different? Because the Bucks shut down Purdue, the same Purdue team that rolled up huge numbers on bad opponents in 2006 and couldn't move the ball on teams with defenses?
Here's the part where I agree with Mandel, although he doesn't get the reasoning right:
Because the Big Ten lacks a true litmus test, it's hard to say what would happen if OSU actually reached its second straight title game, but generally a great defense (the Bucks are currently No. 1 nationally in scoring defense, No. 2 in total defense) gives a team a chance against just about anybody. There's only one team in the country right now that would be a prohibitive favorite against them on a neutral field.Leaving aside the fact that stopping Purdue doesn't give any indication that Ohio State could stop Cal, Mandel is right that LSU would be a prohibitive favorite over Ohio State. In so concluding, he might choose to mention the fact that the Bucks have never beaten an SEC opponent in a bowl game (0-1 vs. Georgia, 0-1 vs. Florida, 0-2 vs. Alabama, 0-1 vs. Auburn, 0-2 vs. South Carolina, 0-1 vs. Tennessee) and that LSU would have homefield advantage over Ohio State in the Louisiana Superdome if they met for the national title.
Here's where Mandel thinks that LSU is copying Florida's use of Tim Tebow and ignores the fact that Gary Crowton used a similar quarterback rotation last year at Oregon with Brady Leaf and Dennis Dixon:
Football coaches are notorious copy-cats, so it was almost inevitable that Florida's unique use of Tim Tebow off the bench last season en route to the national title would spawn its share of imitators. What's remarkable, however, is not only how quickly it spread to this year's new national title favorite, but just how much LSU has advanced the concept with the way it uses Matt Flynn and Ryan Perriloux.Note the misspelling of Ryan Perrilloux's name, as well.
Here is where Mandel forgets that LSU might have to rematch Florida at a neutral site:
But the fact is, LSU just played the one team on its schedule that matches up with it athletically. Florida had a near-perfect game plan, played about as well as humanly possible, and might have won if not for the second-half turnovers. If the Tigers do lose sometime in their next six games, it will almost certainly require a "letdown" performance on their part (the type which they proved capable of against Tulane), because no other SEC team has both enough weapons on offense to score points against Glenn Dorsey and Co., and a defense that can handle all the various elements of LSU's offense.After all, the result may be quite different in the Georgia Dome because more of those classy Florida fans will be in attendance.
I H8 the Mouse
It is bad enough that ABC/ESPN demonstrates tremendous commitment to showing every Big Ten game in their grubby little hands to the entire country while games like Cal-Oregon and Texas-Oklahoma are regionalized. It's worse that ABC blue-balled its audience in the Southeast by cutting to the Red River [Insert term connoting a battle that will pass muster with anti-violence 527s] when the Florida State-N.C. State borefest was stopped by lightning and then promptly switched back with two minutes to go and Texas about to embark on a potentially game-tying drive. I would think that ABC should cut away to a dramatic conclusion of a rivalry game even absent a weather delay. The fact that they chose to pull viewers out of that exciting game right as it was reaching its denouement is borderline criminal.