Some of my frustration from the game was caused by the realization that Auburn is a Pac Ten team in disguise. SEC fans have routinely mocked teams from the Left Coast and, more recently, the Big XII for being offense-heavy units that are not truly great because they can't stop their opponents. Does that remind you of any team you saw on Saturday? Auburn's defense isn't exactly '98 UCLA, but if an opponent can block their front four, there are options aplenty going on in the secondary. Mike Bobo drove me crazy on Saturday because he didn't recognize that Georgia needed to be scoring touchdowns on every possession and the surest way to do so would be to keep throwing the ball to A.J. Green until Auburn showed that they could stop him by shifting their secondary. Green had a monster first half and then Georgia seemed to forget that they had the best NFL prospect on the field. The third down screen pass at 35-28 was an especially egregious example. If Auburn can't stop your downfield passing game generally and A.J. Green specifically, then why would you ever go away from it? If Steve Spurrier has something working, he'll call it ten times in a row until the opponent stops it. To use an example from another sport, Coach K is the same way. Bobo was either too cute or too committed to balance to realize that he had one major advantage and that he should just keep using that advantage. The Senator concurs:
But then there are the times when Sharp Bobo defers to Dogmatic Bobo, and we saw that yesterday when the Dawgs got the ball back in the second quarter leading 21-14. That’s the Bobo who reminds himself about things like time of possession, balance and number of plays run and forces his offense into an ideological straightjacket, because there’s a book on what an offensive coordinator is supposed to do to be successful and it’s important not to stray from those principles.
The thing is, Auburn’s defense has its flaws, too. The single worst unit I saw on the field yesterday was the Tigers’ secondary. As Danielson noted, they literally couldn’t cover A.J. There were several pass plays during which you could see on replay that Georgia had multiple receivers running open. And Murray was getting decent protection for the most part. The strategy there should have been to stick with what was working in the first quarter (at one point, Murray’s average yards per completion was an eye-popping 21.3) and damn the time of possession and number of plays stats. But that’s not what Bobo elected to do, and Georgia’s scoring pace slowed considerably from that point forward through the rest of the game.
I’ve always believed that the first rule of being a good offensive coordinator is to take what the defense gives you. In his heart, I think Bobo believes that as well. The difference is that he doesn’t trust his judgment enough to stick with it for an entire game. That’s what separates him from a coordinator like Malzahn. In the end, I think it’s the biggest (although not the only) reason for yesterday’s loss. And the question for Mark Richt is whether he can get Sharp Bobo to convince Dogmatic Bobo to take a hike.
The Malzahn comparison is dead on. Auburn didn't throw a single pass in the third quarter. Why? Because their basic running plays were working and there was no reason to deviate. Dan Mullen did the same thing against Georgia this year. To use a counter example, in the 2006 Rose Bowl, USC went from 3-3 at the half with Michigan to 32-10 ahead by abandoning the running game and throwing 29 straight passes. There's no need for balance when one aspect of your offense is working beautifully. Bobo needs to learn that lesson. I suspect that he's too traditional and would be offended by the notion of throwing 29 straight times, but that was the way that Georgia was going to avoid losing its sixth game of the year.
Speaking of Malzahn and Mullen, I kept waiting for Gary Danielson to acknowledge that his never-ending claim that the Spread is dying might be a tad weak in light of the fact that Auburn has overcome a mediocre defense to go 11-0 on the basis of an unstoppable Spread attack. Crickets.
A few other thoughts from the weekend:
- I love the way some members of the media uses the term "style points" with such disdain when describing TCU's close call against San Diego State. Leaving aside the fact that "style points," a.k.a. scores, are statistically significant, how exactly does one separate unbeaten teams without them? Does anyone really want to parse out TCU's and Boise State's schedules?
- Another benefit to Auburn losing one of their last two games: a non-AQ conference team will almost certainly make the national title game, which will puncture the air out of Mark Shurtleff's balloon.
- Just to show that he does have something in common with Bo Schembechler, Rich Rodriguez mimicked Bo's decision to kick twice to Rocket Ismail by leaving his right tackles one-on-one with Ryan Kerrigan. Kerrigan repeatedly blew up Michigan's passing plays while Michigan's right guard Patrick Omameh looked for someone to block.