This post begins our series previewing our SEC East showdown with UGA. Today we're talking about the Dawgs' defense vs. our offense. Tomorrow, we'll move onto our defense versus their offense.
First things first, it's important to address what to expect from our offensive play calling based on what we saw in the ECU game. Against ECU, we came out with a fairly vanilla plan. Early in the game, we tested ECU's supposedly weak secondary a with a few deep passes; Shaw's deep throw was incomplete due to an uncalled pass interference, while Garcia's couple of bombs were way off the mark, although, thankfully, they weren't thrown in places where they could be picked off. In the second half when it became necessary to put the game away, we saw more short-field passing and running. In general, I didn't see a lot of variety or cohesion from our scheme--we either tried to bomb it down field, or we tried to move it yard by yard. We didn't seem to be setting much up.
I think we saw this because Spurrier wanted to give both QBs a chance to prove their capabilities on the deep ball more so than wanting to run a balanced offense. However, I also think we saw it because Spurrier--as has long been the case with him--likes to play close the vest before the Georgia game. I expect you'll see a bit more intelligent game plan against the Dawgs, one that's a bit more wise about when it goes the jugular and when it plays more conservatively.
The short passing game should be there. Our bread-and-butter play against Georgia will, undoubtedly, be to hand the ball off to Lattimore and look for him to punish the Dawgs in the middle. However, a textbook approach to Georgia's 3-4 defense is to attempt to disengage aggressive linebacker play with quick slants and screens. Carolina excelled at these plays last week, and I expect it will continue to look to do so this week. Georgia had a lot of trouble shutting down this part of Boise State's offense last weekend, and Carolina has lots of weapons to hurt the Dawgs with in this regard. Lattimore excels catching the ball out of the backfield, Jeffery is great at catching various midfield throws in traffic, and we had some success at times last year running WR screens with Ace Sanders, success I think we can replicate this year. I also wouldn't be surprised to see some kind of jailbreak play out of the wildcat with Bruce Ellington under center.
Keep reading after the jump.
Georgia's 3-4 defense does not appear to have significantly matured. Georgia fans were hoping that Year 2 of Todd Grantham's defense would bring the same kinds of improvements that Alabama's 3-4 saw in Year 2 under Saban. Unfortunately for UGA, that didn't happen against Boise, who moved the ball quite easily against the Dawgs, particularly as the game wore on. Georgia fans were particularly hopeful that John Jenkins and / or Kwame Geathers would fill in the gap at the key nose tackle position, but such was not the case. On the other hand, Carolina's offensive line appears to have taken another step forward this year, although granted it's hard to tell against East Carolina. If Georgia can't wreak much havoc up front with its big uglies, this could be a tough game for the Dawgs, who have to be hoping they can rattle Stephen Garcia. Garcia, by the way, was, despite his lack of accuracy, quite impressive in getting the ball out of the pocket last week. Perhaps he won't rattle against pressure this year, as he has in years past.
Georgia is suffering from the injury bug on defense. In addition to S Jakar Hamilton, who was hurt during fall camp, ILB Alec Ogletree is out for the game with an injury. Walk-on Jeremy Sulek is the likely starter in Ogletree's place, and Mark Richt--unsurprisingly--has expressed concerns that that this injury may be particularly costly to the Dawgs. (How a recruiting machine like Georgia ends up with a walk-on on the depth chart at linebacker is beyond me, by the way.) Needless to say, charging a walk-on with being a key cog in shutting down Marcus Lattimore is not ideal.
Don't worry too much about the turnovers. If our turnovers had been Stephen Garcia interceptions, that would be one thing. That would indicate future performance. However, they were all fumbles, most of them special teams fumbles by players who you may not see much of on returns from here on out. Marcus Lattimore's fumble likely wasn't even a fumble. I expect a much better job handling the ball this week against Georgia.
This is a good matchup for Carolina. I like the way our offensive strengths stack up against the Dawgs' weaknesses. My main worry about Carolina's offense is that we lacked a strong down-field passing game against ECU due to Garcia's continuing accuracy issues. Hopefully, those will take care of themselves as Garcia settles into his regained starter role. However, they may not need to; Boise largely ran over Georgia by pounding the ball down the field. We can too, I think.