Saturday, December 31, 2011

Don't let your NYE be an epic fail

Stay safe tonight Reader. You have my permission to do something I wouldn't do. But if you get this crazy, you deserve more than a bad headache tomorrow morning.

DawgCast Outback preview

Derek and I talk about ol' Sparty and how we think the Outback plays out. If you missed it yesterday, check it out. Or download the Stitcher app to your phone for free and enter "Dawg".

SkyCam gate 2011

Wasn't it Iowa that put a beat down on Tech a couple years ago? And don't the engiNerds mass produce technical equipment for ESPN when they should be learning how to cut block?


h/t @RTDEW

Dawg questions, Spartan answers

You asked the questions and Mike provided the answers.

BourbonDawg - Who's the biggest deep threat for Michigan State?

-- B.J. Cunningham. He isn’t a burner, but he is great at going up and getting the ball. He has shown tremendous body control and athleticism throughout the year and is the leading receiver in MSU history. He also is Kirk Cousins’ go-to receiver. Keshawn Martin would be a close second because he is a burner, and has emerged as a downfield threat this season.

SugarHillDawg - Do you see the Spartan rush offense as a real threat to Georgia's defense?

-- I do, but not as a threat to post 200 yards or some crazy number like that. Le’Veon Bell has been playing really, really well lately and is hard to bring down. I do think they run the ball away from Jarvis Jones, especially early. Honestly, the run game for MSU will be the number one key to the game, because if they don’t get it going it will leave Georgia with the freedom to blitz and blitz and blitz Cousins.

CLT Dawg - How do you think the MSU offensive front matches up with Georgia's defensive front 7?

-- With the Georgia defensive line, pretty well. The front seven … the matchup isn’t as good. Jones obviously is scary, and Alec Ogletree is a great linebacker as well. Right tackle Dan France has his work cut out for him in blocking Jones. The tight ends (Brian Linthicum, Garrett Celek and Dion Sims) will be used in blocking plenty, as well as fullback Todd Anderson. The running backs, Bell and Larry Caper in particular, do a good job blocking, too.

The MSU offensive line was a real concern early in the season, but they have jelled very well of late and haven’t allowed a sack in five games. That will change against Georgia, but I do think they will do a good enough job for the offense to do some good things. The size and speed of the Georgia front seven, thought, would give Georgia an advantage against the offensive line of MSU.

RTDEW - How will the loss of your long snapper affect the Spartans' special teams?

-- Let me put it this way, had anyone heard about Matt Giampapa this season? No. Which means he does his job and doesn’t make mistakes. But, based on the fact that the freshman long snapper Matt Giampapa beat out Steve Moore in a competition late in the fall, it shouldn’t be too much of a problem. The coaches certainly feel that way and are very strong in backing Moore – who has played in games this season.

MortonUGA - I haven't seen Mich St play. Is the QB very mobile? Are the defensive linemen quick off the block?

-- Cousins isn’t very mobile. He can run if he has to for a few yards, but won’t break off a 20-yard run or anything. They will run some play-action bootleg plays once in a while, but he will throw out of those sets. Backup Andrew Maxwell, who will be playing in the game is much more mobile. He is more of a threat to run and out of the bootlegs, he can definitely pull it down to run.

Jerel Worthy is the fastest defensive lineman off the block you will ever see. Too quick, in fact. In the past two years, I can think of at least five penalties for jumping offsides – including one in the Big Ten Championship Game. Ends Will Gholston and Marcus Rush also do a great job off the block, more so with Gholston, but none compare to Worthy.

5thYearSoph - Is the MSU offensive scheme centered on establishing the run and setting up the play-action pass? Also, does Cousins have the arm to really hurt teams deep?

-- It is run-based, and definitely uses plenty of play-action off the run. Mark Dantonio and offensive coordinator Dan Roushar will seek to establish Bell early, and then start trying to open it up. When I looked back at the Big Ten title game, the first quarter had eight runs play in two total plays, and the second quarter had 15-of-25 plays in Cousins’ hands.

Is he going to air it out 60 yards routinely? Not so much. But he can hurt teams downfield, but it will usually be done in a more finesse sense of a hitting a wide receiver down the sideline.  

Friday, December 30, 2011

Outback Bowl Preview

Well, the time is almost here. Georgia takes on Michigan State in the 2011 season finale on Monday. After answering each other's questions earlier in the month, Mike of The Little Brother Blog and I decided to collaborate on a preview. We break down the Outback Bowl matchup from both sides of the ball and give our keys to the game as well as which players to watch. Here are our thoughts.

When Georgia has the ball
Bernie -- I wish I could say the Dawgs will come out and run the ball early, often and effectively. But we don't know how strong tailback Richard Samuel will be coming back from injury or how many carries Crowell can manage. So the key for Georgia will be how well quarterback Aaron Murray works through his progressions and finds his targets. To do that we'll have to slow down the MSU pass rush. I think our interior line can match up well with All-American Jerel Worthy, but we've suffered with protection on the edge. So neutralizing William Gholston and Denicos Allen will be key.

Fortunately for Georgia, there isn't anyone in the nation that can effectively cover Orson Charles. So if we can provide Murray adequate time, I think our #7 and our other playmakers can get the separation needed to move the chains and make big gains.

Mike -- The Michigan State front seven is going to try and put a lot of pressure on a team that allows a considerable number of sacks and an offensive line that is massive, but not quick. The blitz packages defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi employs will try to exploit the lack of quickness of the offensive line and the shaky blocking of Orson Charles with the use of his linebackers from all angles, and bringing Johnny Adams on corner blitzes. Adams and the other defensive backs do a good job in man coverage, and should be spending most of the game working to lock down the Georgia receivers and give the front seven time to get into the backfield. Will Gholston will be huge off the edge and should have an advantage in putting pressure on Murray. 

Georgia has a well-balanced attack, and Murray effectively moves the offense down the field. But apart from LSU, he has not seen a secondary as physical and with as many playmakers as Michigan State has. If there is ample pressure on Murray, there should be enough three-and-outs to give the ball back to Kirk Cousins and the offense.

When MSU has the ball
Mike -- The run game will be a focus early, and also keeping Cousins on his feet. In an attempt to use the speed and aggressiveness of the Georgia defense against itself and neutralize the blitz, the passing game will go laterally to Keshawn Martin, B.J. Cunningham and Keith Nichol in the flat and let them try to make some plays. Offensive coordinator Dan Roushar will seek to spread out the Bulldogs defensively and get the ball to his playmakers and let them try to make something of it.

The most important thing the MSU offense can do is convert third downs -- something Georgia does a great job of stopping. They did not allow a first down to LSU in the first half of the SEC title game, and held the Tigers to 1-of-9 in the game. Michigan State will have to do a much better job of that if the Spartans are going to come out on top in this one.

Bernie -- I like what MSU has going in Bell and Baker. Together they give opposing defenses a lot to think about. But they're going to have a hard time getting yards Monday in Tampa. In the games in which the Spartans struggled to rush the football (Notre Dame, Ohio State and Nebraska) defenses were able to contain #24 and #4 and make the Spartans one dimensional. Christian Robinson and Alec Ogletree have really benefited from having true nose tackles in Athens with Kwame Geathers and John Jenkins. Together they'll work to clog up the middle while Jarvis Jones creates his usual havoc on the outside.

If the Dawgs can pin their ears back it could be a long day for Kirk Cousins. On the other side of the coin, if Bell and Baker can break loose and put up 100+ it would give the veteran QB enough time hurt Georgia downfield.

Three keys for Georgia
  1. Creating a pass rush. I haven't seen anyone that can block Jarvis Jones yet. The smart teams just go ahead and start holding him early to try and contain his relentless pursuit. I think Georgia has a secondary that can match up with MSU's downfield targets, but if Cousins has time to use his eyes to scan the field it wouldn't be good for the Dawgs.
  2. Establish the ground game. When Richard Samuel went down in late October with an ankle injury he was at his highest moment as a Bulldog. I think he's the guy to watch in Georgia's backfield. He's an effective runner with good speed to go along with his size. Plus he's really good in pass protection. So if he gets 15-20 touches that bodes well for Aaron Murray and the passing game that relies heavily on the play action.
  3. Avoid the turnovers. Safety Bacarri Rambo has reaped the rewards of a defensive front that consistently puts pressure on the quarterback. As a result Georgia enters the Outback Bowl at a +7 in turnover margin, same as MSU. Who protects the ball better? Like with so many games, whichever team answers that question best is usually the one on top at the end.
Bulldog to watch
Brandon Boykin. He came back for his senior season when he nearly left early. In his last game for Georgia he'll likely be charged with shutting down B.J. Cunningham. It should be fun to watch these two go after it and Boykin has the skills to neutralize Kirk Cousins favorite target. Boykin hasn't seen many balls thrown his way this season, but the Spartans will look for ways to get Cunningham involved early and often. Boykin should have plenty of chances to make some plays Monday. Plus, he's overdue for a kickoff return touchdown. Could he get one in his last game in the silver britches?

Three keys for Michigan State
  1. Running the ball. The Spartans have been running the ball very well in their past five games, but now face their toughest test. The Bulldogs are ranked ninth-nationally against the run and have size in a defensive line and speed in linebackers to really challenge the Michigan State offensive line. The battle in the trenches will be key on both sides for MSU, but especially on offense. The Spartans must run the ball well and establish the ground game early and often. If they don't, Georgia will have all the freedom to blitz Cousins constantly and force the Spartans to pass more than they want to.
  2. Cover Charles. The All-American tight end is easily the biggest threat the Bulldogs have in the passing game. Aaron Murray looks to him down the middle between the safeties, and on intermediate routes between the linebackers and safeties. Players like Chris Norman, Trenton Robinson and Isaiah Lewis will need to have eyes on him at all times. If there is one area this defense has been prone to lapse in this season, it has been allowing a big play. There cannot be mistakes like that against a very good Georgia team.
  3. The decision making of Cousins and Andrew Maxwell. Cousins has only thrown three picks in his past eight games and he must continue to take good care of the football. Georgia will bring pressure and lots of it, which is why the Bulldogs have 17 interceptions. Cousins will have to be careful not to force throws, and be willing to take a sack or throw it away. Maxwell will be even more challenged against a high-caliber team. He will need to show poise beyond his years in decision making and not turn the ball over. How well the Spartan quarterbacks protect the ball and keep their defense resting on the sideline will have a lot to do with the success MSU has in the Outback Bowl.
Spartan to watch
Max Bullough. The Spartans middle linebacker is the key to the run defense and the pass defense. He leads the team in tackles and makes plays from sideline to sideline throughout the game. In the pass blitz game, he is central -- along with linebacker Denicos Allen -- to apply pressure on the quarterback. He will come through the A-gap either as the ball is snapped, or on a delayed blitz. The Georgia rushing attack will give him plenty of chances to make plays and the passing game should give him opportunities to get to Murray.

Overall Thoughts
Bernie -- These two teams share a lot in common: runners-up in their conference, rely heavily on defense and are well coached by experienced men who have their teams prepared. An intangible to keep an eye on is which team wants to win more. Georgia has made a significant turnaround from last season in which they rarely finished games strongly. This season they've played well in the 4th quarter. My feeling is that the Spartans are more upset about missing the Rose Bowl than the Dawgs are about losing out on the Sugar. Plus Georgia has a number of players from the state of Florida and Tampa area specifically.

So which team is more eager to win the Outback Bowl and willing to fight for it for 60 minutes? I think this is a close game for 3 quarters. I think the teams are about as evenly matched as any other bowl game's two teams. However, in the end I think Georgia has the playmakers on the offensive side that can eventually neutralize the opposing defense more effectively. I think Orson Charles, Brandon Boykin and Aaron Murray have big plays that make the difference.

Mike -- The winningest senior class in Michigan State history was "denied" a Rose Bowl for the second consecutive year. Getting the opportunity to play a BCS-caliber team in a bowl game is the next best thing, and they know it. The Spartans should come out firing like they did against Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game. If they come out flat, they will be in trouble.

These teams are mirror images of each other, and I am torn between thinking it will be a shootout or a defensive showdown. But, the Spartans defense has struggled in the first quarter and gives up plenty of yards. I don't expect that to be much different this time around. The second quarter, though, has been the best for the Spartans (in two games with Wisconsin, Michigan State outscored the Badgers 45-0). I expect them to turnaround after a rough first quarter and take the lead. Only difference, they must keep the foot on the gas in the second half and not let up. Kirk Cousins and his trio of senior wide receivers will have to be making plays and executing throughout the game. If they do that, they should win.

Bernie -- Georgia 27  Michigan State 13
Mike -- Michigan State 28 Georgia 27

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Crowell's sick days

Crowell asks for a sick day...playing the part of Crowell, is Bernie. Playing the part of Coach Richt, Mr. Burns.

Bernie: Excuse me, Mr. Burns....I don't feel well.
Mr. Burns: Too many "donuts" Bernie?
Bernie: Well, no. I just don't think I can practice today. Do you have a thermometer?
Bernie: Dock me Coach. Throw me in the dungeon. I just can't keep up with DickSam4.
Mr. Burns: This is NOT an oligarchy #1, this is a monarchy and I'M THE SUPREME DICTATOR AFTER TAKING US BACK TO THE A-T-L beeotch!
Bernie: Don't you have one green jersey left? I heard Gilliard out ran a bull. He don't need it no more.
Mr. Burns: Green jerseys were left at Butts-Mehre in my new Ford F-150. Here's a dollar. Try getting a cab. Team Bloomin' Onion Dinner is at 7 though. Be back before I order the Choc Thunder from Down Under!
Bernie: [shrugs shoulders...takes place on sideline, willing to accept consequences]

Whatever they may be.

Countdown to Kickoff - Outback Bowl

Al Keck gets us ready for the Outback Bowl.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

TEH SEC SKED 2012!!!!!1

The anticipation was almost too much.


Sept 8    at Mizzou
Sept 22  Vandy
Sept 29  Tennessee
Oct 6     at S. Carolina
Oct 20   at Kentucky
Oct 27   WLOCP
Nov 3    Ole Miss
Nov 19  at Auburn

So no bye week before Florida...BUT the gators have South Carolina on October 20th.

Other than that, about as expected. What are your thoughts?

Spartan Focus: BJ Cunningham

The quality on this video is low, but it shows how Michigan State playmaker BJ Cunningham is used to help with run blocking (they frequently run to his side for a reason) and to make big gains down field.

I think I'd like to see how Cunningham goes against Commings. More later, but that may be a key battle to watch on Monday.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

LeMay to stay

While Hutson waits until January to make his decision, Christian LeMay will stay in Athens next season. Not that he had to make a decision. He just decided to put some pesky rumors to rest.
“That is something that is definitely out of the question,” LeMay said. "I am just trying to get better and learn things. Yeah, I am staying.” 

The freshman was surprised that the rumors were taken seriously by anyone. 

“I don’t know where these things start,” LeMay said. “There are always things out there in social media. I am going to be here.” 

Special Teams question. Cordarrelle Patterson an answer.

Coach Richt is already beginning to address 2011's special teams' questions. Perhaps this year's #1 JUCO prospect is one of the answers.

Cordarrelle Patterson from Rock Hill SC averaged 51.8 yards a return on kickoffs this season for Hutchinson CC in Kansas. With Boykin leaving we have a void at kickoff returner. I know the competition in the SEC is a little different than in the Jayhawk Conference. It'd be hard to put up those kind of numbers against the speed and size in the SEC. 

But jeez...52 yards a return! If nothing else maybe Richt can consult with the Hutchinson staff. Whoa!

Back to Patterson, he's down to Tennessee and Georgia it looks like and the Dawgs are on solid footing to land this big time receiver.

The Gang's all there!


Monday, December 26, 2011

The Spartans - waddya wanna know?

You remember Mike right? He's the MSU blogger that I did a Q&A with a week or so ago. Well, we're also working on an Outback Bowl preview post that we'll "co-post" on later this week.

Which got me thinking...what do you want to know about the Spartans? Do you have a question you think Mike could answer and help you prepare better for the bowl game? Want to know more about their top ranked defense or their experienced signal caller? Perhaps you'd like to know more about a specific player or just how this team is different from the Spartan team we played a couple years ago in the CapOne. 

Fire away! Post the question in the comments, hit me on the twitter or shoot me an email. Only serious questions that provide an opportunity for good feedback will get posted. So word them carefully and consult your nearest dictionary if needed.

On Charles, Rome, Lynch...and Figgins

89 = DamnGoodDawg
No meatloaf today. After all that Christmas Day turkey and fixins I just didn't have the energy to make a meatloaf. If all goes well I should have some leftover turkey for your Tuesday. However, I did want to share a couple really good reads.

First, Ching evaluates ($$) the tight end position with White graduating and Charles possibly leaving for the NFL. Jay Rome ended up redshirting this season and is now on the bench for Coach Fox. Lynch is the often forgotten man at the position. White and Bobo talk like he will more than fill any cleats left behind. There's also a nice interview with Rome by Nabulsi.

Georgia has proven they have the system to support multiple tight ends. And even should Charles turn pro (which many think he will according to the poll) we should still have some quality depth, just inexperienced. Lynch has seen few legitimate snaps and Rome will be just a redshirt freshman. We have a commit in Ty Smith of Colquitt Co as well.

Also, really good read by Clarkson on Bruce Figgins' career as a Dawg and what his graduation meant to his family, especially his mom who is fighting breast cancer. Figgins' road in Athens has been a little bumpy, but he's proven to be a team player and a damn good Dawg. I'm really sad to see him go. I think I get pretty soft and mushy when it comes to players who change positions to help the team. I've heard Richt say on a couple occasions that he's hesitant to hand the ball off to someone who's never had a carry in his career. I get that. But I hope we work 89 into the plan some more in the Outback. Would bark extra loud if he found the endzone.

And I really hope NFL scouts see what he did this year as a fullback and see him as a valuable commodity in a tightend/H-back role. I think he'd do well. And it couldn't happen to a better man. Stay strong Ms. Figgins and GATA Bruce!