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What To Watch For: Georgia

I’m glad we’re here but... gulp

Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

First of all. I’m just happy to be here. Now that that’s out of the way, we have to talk about what it means to play the best team in the country:

They’re rather good.

When LSU has the Ball

Health of Jayden Daniels

This is first and foremost. The fact of the matter is, if Jayden Daniels can’t move around at an incredibly high level, a lot of the offense is not going to work. Daniels spent the early part of this week in a boot so, it’s a huge thing to monitor.

The Heart of Darkness.

Georgia is entering the level of those mid-2010s Alabama teams where, no matter who you are and what you do, running the football is not an option for you, because they have ghouls up-front. In particular, LSU’s dominant run scheme, inside zone, is a non-starter against Georgia’s front structure. To deal with inside zone and cancel interior gaps more broadly, Georgia likes to live in their “mint” front, which is known in other circles, like Dave Aranda’s as “tite”. (Note: In Georgia’s defense, “tite” is a call to the TE to set the location of the 3 technique in an over front).

The basic run fits are below.

Cody Alexander

A “Ralph” or “Larry” call will determine the side of the call

The basic idea is to use two 4i techniques and a 0 technique NOSE to crush the interior gaps and force the ball laterally, where contain defenders can chase it down. Normally on inside zone, the back will like to cut back into the backside A gap, which is why defenses will often “lag” their NOSE into the backside A as his primary gap. Against these fronts, Denbrock likes to adjust the path of the back to hit right behind the back of the backside OT (to the side of the RB), who will work with the rest of the line to wash all of the interior guys toward the frontside. A lot of times they’ll read the M on either zone read or their TE slide RPO known as “COPY” which I’ve written about here. It’s a good plan, but only if you can generate push and prevent them from manhandling you up-front. Like the Alabama teams of 2015, 16, and 17, that’s just not really going to happen. Despite the loss of their superstar NOSE Jordan Davis, and star 4i Travon Walker to the NFL, they have rotated in replacements and haven’t missed much of a beat. In particular, NOSE Nazir Stackhouse (78) has established himself as a premiere interior run defender, as of course, has Jalen Carter, who is dangerous from the 4i spot.

When they’re in even, 4 down fronts, such as “over...”

which are geared to get DL upfield into a single gap fast, superstar 3 tech Jalen Carter’s (his natural and best spot on the DL) explosiveness makes him a dangerous TFL generator, pass rusher, and general monger of destruction. Their LBs and EDGE defenders are athletic and violent too. They lost a lot, but the Georgia defensive front is once again a pit of misery for offenses.

Georgia’s DBs

It’s gonna be hard to see without All-22, but expect Georgia to play their DBs tight on the back end and weaponize the best defensive backfield in college football to put the clamps on a spread-out LSU pass game.

When Georgia Has The Ball

Staying Ahead

LSU has one of the best defenses in the country in obvious pass situations. With everything House does out of his 2-3-6 rush package (which I’ve called “Dragon”) to scheme pressure, spy the QB, and everything they do to mix coverages on the back-end, LSU is deadly when it’s 3rd and long. The problem has been getting there. LSU’s D has been prone to inefficiencies on early downs, particularly against the run. With unsound fit structures and techniques, good run games have been able to stay ahead in the sticks and stay in favorable situations. Georgia doesn’t quite have the dominant run game we’re used to from them, but they can still really run the football. The only way LSU has a chance is if they can force them into 3rd and long situations with frequency and get off the field.

Tight Ends

The entire Georgia offense runs through their TE room, and how they use them to make defensive coordinators wrong in whatever personnel package they put on the field. They spend most of their time in 12 personnel and carry pretty much every concept and formation in their playbook from it. This creates irreconcilable personnel conflict for a DC. Because 12 personnel is technically a heavy personnel grouping, built to tighten up and run the ball, a lot of times, a defense will answer 2 TEs on the field with base personnel. This means you have only 4 DBs on the field. Due to the versatility of their TEs, who can play both true, in-the-core TE and every WR position, they can spread you out and make you defend something like this look in base.

It’s hard to defend in space with bigger bodies, and they’ll throw the ball all over the yard on you if you allow them to.

If you decide to deal with that by answering 12 personnel with nickel, they can just as easily get heavy and run the ball against the lighter lineup. Within these parameters, they can run their entire offense. This includes running the ball, attacking with heavy play-action shots, spreading you out and attacking the underneath zones with their quick/intermediate dropback game, and using boot-action to stress you horizontally. Depending on what fronts, coverages, etc you play, they can press any of those buttons. All of this while making your personnel package decision wrong at all times by doing everything from 12 personnel. This is the value of tight ends like Bowers and Washington, their existence creates conflict. It’s hard to match personnel when a single player can line up at the X and run an iso slant, burn a guy vertically on a slot-fade, catch a go ball from the Z, get open on a deep over from any position, make plays in space on choice routes underneath, and block ends and linebackers in the formation. It’s impossible when your opponent has TWO of them.

You just have to hope you can dominate up-front and hope Stetson Bennett has a really bad day. That’s your only chance.