Tale of the Tape: Georgia
You know the scene in any heist move where the anti-heroes come up with their plan of attack? It’s the reconnaissance montage that clearly shows how big of a challenge this particular rag-tag collection of anti-heroes faces if it wants to get out of the museum/casino/mansion with the priceless whatever.
First there’s the guard dogs, then the lasers and cameras. Get through all that and you’ll need to take a guard hostage (for the retinal scan) and then you’ll be in the room with the safe. Too bad it has a pressure-sensitive floor. The veteran safe-cracker – who’s probably past his prime but still doing this one last job – will have to crack the safe while suspended from the ceiling. It won’t be easy, but the group will go in anyway.
From a talent perspective, that’s sort of like what watching tape on Georgia was like. The Bulldogs have a lot of big, fast, NFL-ready weapons at their disposal. That’s been the storyline since the Capital One Bowl match-up was announced, but, like that museum/casino/mansion, Georgia’s not impervious.
Kentucky (2-10, 0-8) went toe-to-toe with the Bulldogs in October, losing 29-24. Tennessee (5-7, 1-7) put up 478 yards of offense but lost by a touchdown to Georgia. Nebraska’s better than either of those teams. The Huskers aren’t without a few weapons of their own.
Here’s how they might choose to match-up with Georgia on Tuesday:
At 6.98 yards per play, Georgia ranks third nationally and has what some consider one of the best offenses in school history. The good news for Nebraska:
1) Georgia isn’t very diverse when it comes to formations. For the most part, they’re going to be in some sort of pro-set with two wide receivers and a tight end. This means the Huskers will likely spend the majority of the game in its base 4-3 set – though we can debate if that’s truly a good thing – and Will Compton shouldn’t have to spend a ton of time playing traffic cop while the Huskers seek the individual match-ups they want. If nothing else, Nebraska should look calmer on defense.
2) Quarterback Aaron Murray isn’t of the mobile-QB mold that every defensive coach, Bo Pelini very much included, fears. He’s good, maybe even very good, but given the Huskers’ pass defense, he’s likely the lesser of two evils.
Or maybe three evils if you count freshman running backs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall separately. Both are averaging better than 6-yards per carry with Gurley getting nearly twice as many carries per game as Marshall. As far as teams Nebraska’s faced, only Wisconsin compares to Georgia’s one-two punch at running back.
Stopping the run has been the one key to the Huskers’ success all season. To an extent, that’s the case in football in general but it’s particularly important for Nebraska here. In the Huskers’ three losses this season, Nebraska allowed 1254 yards rushing. That’s nearly half (49.5%) of the total rushing yards the Huskers allowed on the season. If Georgia can run the ball, watch out.
There’s nothing sophisticated about the plan of attack here — load the box and take your chances with Murray. He ranks second nationally with a 172.37 passer rating, but he will occasionally force throws. After throwing three interceptions against Florida, Murray only had one pass picked over the Bulldogs’ final three games.
Nebraska’s going to need one or two of those in this game. In that sense, it’s sort of like the 2009 Big 12 title game. Once the Huskers started picking Colt McCoy, who rarely threw interceptions, you knew Nebraska had a shot.
Technically speaking, Nebraska has a higher-ranked defense (26th nationally in yards per play) than Georgia (34th). Realistically speaking, when controlling for strength of schedule, you can likely flip those rankings. But it’s not like either team played in a great offensive conference.
At 6.25 yards per play, Nebraska is the third best offense Georgia has faced behind Alabama (6.92 ypp) and Tennessee (6.42). For all of the talent the Bulldogs have defensively, they’ve been gashed a couple of times this season.
Georgia’s given up more than 300 yards rushing in each of its past three games. Two of those games were against option teams in Georgia Southern and Georgia Tech, but that’s still where Nebraska starts. This feels like a vintage Rex Burkhead game and, in his last Nebraska game, there’s no better way to approach it. The Huskers will likely ride Rex as far as he can take them.
Georgia’s defensive line, even without future first-rounder John Jenkins at nose guard, is a unit to be feared. If Nebraska is in a ton of drop-back passing situations, it’s in trouble. But if the Huskers can stay on schedule through the running game, they can potentially do some things with three-step drops and the hurry-up in particular. Georgia likes to shift its ends around depending on formation. Nebraska can try to take that away with tempo.
This game is a big test for two people:
1) Taylor Martinez. Can he be spectacular, as he is at times, against a defense that’s equally (but also sporadically) as gifted physically? If he’s good, he’s Nebraska’s biggest weapon in this game. The Huskers will need him to make a few “Taylor Martinez plays.”
2) Tim Beck. It gets overshadowed due to the big defensive collapses, but Beck had a very good year two as offensive coordinator. He’ll have to be at his smartest in this game. Nebraska’s will have to scheme Georgia a bit. The Bulldogs have talent everywhere, but, with the right play calls, you can always put talent in positions where they’re less likely to succeed. (See also: Wisconsin 70 Nebraska 31) With 31 days to prepare, Husker fans should hope that Nebraska has a decent plan in place.
There are yards to be had against Georgia. Nebraska has too much talent offensively not to find them.