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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Six Keys to the Cocktail Party

If you read my chat earlier today, you already know a few of my keys to this week's game. But I'm a firm believe that repetition is the key to learning. Repetition, I say. Just repeating things over and over and over. OK… that joke went nowhere.

Anyway, here are my six keys for Georgia to pull the upset Saturday and knock off No. 1 Florida:

1.) Run the ball. Notice I'm not saying to run the ball well. Chances are, that's not going to happen. Florida doesn't let anyone run on them with great success, but that's not really the point this week. Georgia needs to avoid handing anything to the Gators and limiting mistakes starts with moving the football on the ground. The Dawgs don't need to post continual 7- and 8-yard gains, but a good stretch of 3- and 4-yard carries that keeps the team out of third-and-long, keeps the play calling diversified and keeps the ball out of Tim Tebow & Co.'s hands will be crucial. And with Brandon Spikes and a couple of D linemen coming off injuries, who knows -- maybe the Dawgs eventually break a long run, too.

2.) Catch the football. No one will remember this because the final score looked so bad, but Georgia's offense actually went into the Tennessee game with a good game plan. Knowing the running game was struggling, Mike Bobo called for one short pass after another, and Joe Cox actually completed his first seven of them. Then Rantavious Wooten dropped an easy grab and the wheels came off. Mike Moore, Orson Charles, Aron White, Branden Smith and, yes, even A.J. Green have chipped in with drops in the last two weeks, too. The Dawgs can't afford to waste opportunities, and while Florida will be doing its best to keep Green from beating them deep, Georgia has a shot to dink-and-dunk its way to a few extended drives if the receivers can hang on to the football.

3.) Recognize the play-action. This is Florida's bread-and-butter offensively, and it's Georgia's biggest nemesis. That's a bad combo. But the Bulldogs have had an extra week to prepare, and if Willie Martinez and his fellow defensive coaches were smart, they were drilling the play-action into the brains of every Georgia player for the past two weeks. Of course, the Gators do a nice job of running the football, too -- so it wouldn't be too surprising to see Georgia fall back into its "bet the farm on the run on every play" mentality that has cost the Dawgs so often this year.

4.) Get out to an early lead. No one's expecting a blowout, but if Georgia can rattle the Gators a little early and force the game to unfold on the Bulldogs' terms, that's a huge advantage. Last year, the final score showed a blowout, but it was 14-3 at the half, Georgia had missed two field goals, and the Dawgs were poised to score again before Matthew Stafford threw a killer interception that went all the way back to the 1 on the other side of the field. The early scuffles eventually overwhelmed Georgia, and the game got out of hand. It has to be different this year. Georgia needs to capitalize early and put the pressure on Florida.

5.) Create two turnovers. I'm not going to even mention that the Bulldogs need to hang onto the ball themselves. That goes without saying -- and it's probably a tall order. But more than just ball protection on offense, the Georgia defenders need to create some plays. Tebow is vulnerable, and at some point, his recent struggles have to be creeping into his head. He's making poor decisions and he doesn't have the weapons downfield, meaning he's apt to try to force a few passes. That's where Brandon Boykin, Reshad Jones, Baccari Rambo and company need to step in with a couple of big plays. Looking back over the past few Cocktail Party games, the breaks have always seemed to go Florida's way. This year, Georgia needs to create a few breaks for themselves.

6.) Win on special teams. Florida hasn't allowed a punt-return yard all season, so expecting a big day from Prince Miller may be a lot to ask. But he did have his best game of the season two weeks ago at Vandy, so momentum is on his side. Brandon Boykin continues to amaze in the kick-return game, too, scoring his second 100-yard kick return for a TD of the season against Tennessee. Boykin and Miller don't necessarily have to find the end zone, but with Florida's defense being so tough, the return men need to give the offense a helping hand to set up a few easy scores. And finding the end zone wouldn't be too bad either. (*Bonus note: No on-side kicks this year, Mr. Richt.)

Now, we missed our picks column last week due to the furlough, and this week, Dan's alma mater plays tonight, so I'm throwing in a bonus prediction for you, too...

North Carolina (+16.5) at Virginia Tech

Dan: It is a shame we took last week off do to your mandatory furlough because I went 10-0 on what would have been my picks . . . just kidding. Anyway moving on to this week we have a mid-week special as my Hokies embark on the first of two consecutive Thursday night games. Up this week is North Carolina, which blew a 24-6 second-half lead last Thursday to Florida State to lose that game. UNC now sits at 0-3 in conference. Job well done, Butch Davis. You are really turning around that program. I could have won a few championships at Miami with Ed Reed, Jeremy Shockey, Clinton Portis and Co. Now when faced with only moderate talent, your true colors are shining through.

UNC’s offense is brutal. They can’t run the ball, they can’t pass the ball and their receivers are just not good. I guess that is to be expected when you lose two receivers to the NFL draft. That being said, I feel that 16½ is a bit too much to give to them. Even on a Thursday night in Blacksburg. Problem with Frank Beamer and company is that they play things too conservative on offense most of the time. See last week's Georgia Tech debacle where VT spent the entire first half on Georgia Tech’s side of the field but failed to capitalize. That came back to bite them as they lost the game.

I do not see UNC giving VT a problem this week but I also do not see VT covering. Tech wins by two TDs… Virginia Tech 27, North Carolina 13

Dave: What are the odds the Tar Heels are actually the fourth-best football program in the state of North Carolina right now? Here's my current list:

1.) Wake Forest
2.) N.C. State
3.) Carolina Panthers
4.) North Carolina/Duke (tie)

Man, I almost feel bad for the folks in NC who have to watch that awful football each week. At least tonight, they can skip the football game and tune in to the World Series and new episodes of "The Office," "Community," and "30 Rock." That's what I'll be doing, too, so be sure to tell me tomorrow whether my prediction was right… Virginia Tech 36, North Carolina 10.


Travis said...

I understand that the dawgz in general just need to play fundamental 'get back to basics' kind of ball. I'm just kind of laughing at how basic your keys to the cocktail party were. I'm surprised 'wear your helmet' didn't make the list :)

Anonymous said...

The biggest key in the game is field position! Special teams will be the deciding factor in this football game.

If UGA scores can we kick the ball in the end-zone and cover the kick? Can UGA generate big returns on kick-offs returns to regain field position?

I don't think the Gators can go 80 yds.

Anonymous said...

Anon -

No one thought that UT could do it either. Funny how UGA's defense will probably put tebow at the top of the heisman list again...

David Hale said...

Basic, yes, Travis... but by that same token, Georgia really hasn't done the basic things like "catch the ball" or "run the ball" recently

Nostradumas said...

Great job on the picks guys. Close.

Gemstones4u said...

Maybe "play 60 minutes of inspired football" should be a key to the game also. Not 59 minutes, not 49 minutes, but 60 minutes. Like coach Taylor said, "6:00 sharp means a quarter 'til six."

Risk Point Consulting said...

Ouch - I'm from Charlotte and a big Panthers fan. I realize the team is terrible this year but c'mon. And NC State is worse than Duke and UNC - they are god awful and should be last on your list.