CFN Analysis - The Dawg-Vol Shootout
Where was the defense? The Dwags and Vols put on a show.
Georgia 51 ... Tennessee 44
By Richard Cirminiello
All's (Cro)well that ends (Cro)well.
Georgia survived against Tennessee on a day that the defense was uncharacteristically generous, sloppy and easy to navigate. It happens, and the Dawgs will be fine on that side of the ball, especially once LB Alec Ogletree and S Bacarri Rambo get another game or two under their belts. QB Aaron Murray did enough through the air to keep his team one step ahead of the Vols in the second half. But the game ball (s) belongs to the Bulldogs' young backs, Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall.
Georgia has gone from SEC East favorite to a legitimate national championship contender because it has adapted on the fly to the offseason dismissal of its best back, Isaiah Crowell. Crowell was slated to be the feature runner in Athens before getting the boot and leaving the backfield in a lurch. Enter Gurley and Marshall, a pair of true freshman who have performed like anything but rookies. Both ran for more than 100 yards against an overmatched Tennessee defense, Gurley for the fourth time this month, and Marshall for the second time.
Georgia has balance on offense, which hasn't happened much Between the Hedges in recent years. Thanks in large part because of the emergence of a pair of precocious first-timers, none of their opponents were able to hold the Bulldogs under 41 points in September. And that level of potency and big-play ability sure comes in handy when the defense experiences an off day.
By Matt Zemek
In the wake of a 95-point shootout, a very un-SEC thing to see, it's worth making the distinction between good football and… well… not-so-good football.
People often focus only on the scoreboard in evaluating a game. LSU-Alabama games were mighty defensive classics. Games such as Saturday's Baylor-West Virginia point festival are seen as embarrassments by the SEC set. The reverse is true for fans of other conferences in other regions.
Let's get one thing straight about quality football: It should generally involve quality on both sides of the ball and feature competent special teams as well. As long as both units on each team are trading punches, one can view a game favorably. Some games involve superior defenses, with the offenses finding ways to make plays on select occasions. In other contests, the offenses hold the clear upper hand, but the defenses find ways to rise up in the red zone or push a little harder to make a third-down stop. It's the push-and-pull nature of a good football game that makes it good. When the offenses or the defenses enjoy one-way traffic, that's not a high-level display of pigskin.
Briefly stated, then, Tennessee's defense against Georgia was non-existent for the first 50 minutes of play. Georgia's ball security was rubbish for most of the day. Then, in the final minutes of regulation, Tennessee quarterback Tyler Bray couldn't protect the ball at all. Tennessee's kicking game suffered, costing the Vols several precious points. Georgia's kick return game squandered dozens of hidden yards.
Baylor-West Virginia wasn't a well-played game. This wasn't one, either. Forget the conference involved. Fans and pundits should be able to agree on the basic components of high-level competition.
By Phil Harrison
Follow me @PhilHarrisonCFN
Don't write off Georgia just yet.
There will be many asking some tough (and justified) questions about the lack of defense the Bulldogs displayed against Tennessee today. There will be many who believe that Georgia can't possibly stand toe-to-toe against Alabama or LSU. After all, both juggernauts DO play defense.
There comes a game (or more) every season in which a championship caliber team has to survive a phobia game. This might have been just that unfolding between the hedges. A thriller of the worst kind. But survival persevered.
Georgia still has a talented guy pulling the trigger on offense, has an explosive running game, has athletes galore on defense and has a fairly kind schedule the rest of the way (missing LSU and ‘Bama).
Kind words aside though, the jury is still out on just how good Georgia, South Carolina or Florida are for that matter. All have looked good at times. All have looked like they have cracks in the SEC East dam at other times.
The good news for Georgia? There's still a long way to go. The bad news for the Bulldogs? You guessed it, there's still a long way to go. In the end though, there's a lot more to like than throw to the curb with the 2012 version of the Georgia Bulldogs.
On to next week where we'll find out a little more about Georgia AND South Carolina--and perhaps the SEC East. Maybe then, the Bulldogs will put themselves in position to toe the line against the SEC West champion.
By Bart Doan
Follow me @Bart_cfn
If you're going to crack wise about West Virginia-Baylor, the same mentality fits here in the Georgia win over Tennessee.
Tennessee lost this game late, again, and whether that's a byproduct of them not understanding the moment, not being in it enough, or just being incapable of dealing with a big game, a perception changer, again. Tyler Bray's three turnovers in the final six minutes. And then the dubious running into the kicker penalty with around 20 seconds left when UT had a last gasp effort doomed them. Tennessee feels a lot like Michigan under Rich Rodriguez. Their coach can coach, but something seems a bit off tick, like maybe this marriage would work five years from now.
For Georgia, it's par for the course. Coming into a season with what was thought to be a shaky defense but a manageable schedule, the Dawgs plod on. Though they will be chided for the style in which this happened, it doesn't matter. Wins are wins. No one asks how you bought the ticket when you win the lottery. The SEC East is a three team race now, and the Dawgs are racing fine with the rest of the pack.
By Terry Johnson
Follow me @TPJCollFootball
Believe it or not, the outcome of this game proves that Georgia has what it takes to play for the national championship.
Let be honest: the Dawgs did not look like the No. 5 team in the nation today. The team struggled with turnovers, miscues, and mental lapses throughout the course of the afternoon.
So how does that make UGA a candidate to play the title? Simple: championship caliber teams find a way to win the game, even when things don't go their way.
That's exactly what the Bulldogs did today.
Statistics fail to tell the story about how well the Dawgs played defensively. Sure, the scoreboard says that they surrendered 44 points, but that's a misleading number. One of those scores was a pick six, while two additional TDs came after Georgia turned over the ball inside its own 20-yard line.
However, when the game was on the line, the UGA defense was up to the task. After a Volunteer TD cut the lead to 7 in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs took over the game. Georgia forced turnovers on Tennessee's last three drives, including a crucial fumble with just under two minutes to play.
That's the stuff that championship teams are made of.
Does today's win mean that Georgia is ready to win the SEC? No, it doesn't.
But it does suggest that the Dawgs will respond when they have their backs to the wall, just like any other championship contender would.