Having just blown through the game tape to the Georgia Bulldogs' Week 1 win over North Carolina, I am a bit confused. I don't have a good feel as to which team "should have won". It felt like UGA dominated the first half and a bit into the second, but UNC had a ten-point lead midway through the third quarter. Then when I looked at the Five Factors data, I came away thinking that Larry Fedora was the reason UGA won. It was weird.
This review is based on Bill Connelly's Five Factors of winning, sacks are counted as pass plays, and it doesn't the clock-killing plays at the end of each half.
|Team||Runs 10+||Pct.||Passes 20+||Pct.||Explosive Pct.|
If these teams got explosive gains every time they went for them, this would've been a pinball match worthy of the old late night WAC games from ten years ago. Mitch Trubisky was not shy about heaving it long every few plays, and Jacob Eason had a few of those throws as well.
In the end, the run games actually did the best job of getting chunks. This factor shows is what I'm talking about when I said Fedora helped UGA. Look at that. One out of every three UNC runs went for at least ten yards. One out of three. Naturally, Trubisky threw it 40 times while tailbacks Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan combined for 16 carries. Their explosive percentage was even better at 37.5%, as two of the team's carries were Trubisky running for shorter gains.
|Team||Run SR||Pass SR||Overall SR||Red Zone SR|
It's easy to rag on UNC's run defense. Like, really easy.
However, the Bulldog run defense wasn't anything special either. I'm not sure whether it was because Georgia was just playing the pass every down—not a bad strategy given what the Tar Heels were doing—but this will not cut it against some of the SEC's good run games that are backed up by better defenses.
UGA did do a good job in pass coverage, though, with Alabama grad transfer Maurice Smith showing that he was worth all of the headaches to get him there.
|Team||1Q SR||2Q SR||3Q SR||4Q SR|
This shows why I thought the Bulldogs were dominating early. It's because they were on a down-by-down basis. They likely would have run up a larger lead if not for Brendan Douglas fumbling it away at the Tar Heel 26.
Efficiency by Player
|Player||Comp. Pct.||Pass Eff.||Yards/Att||Sacks||Pass SR|
I have no good explanation as to why Fedora had Trubisky throw more than twice as many times as he had his running backs carry the ball. None.
Lambert was more willing to check down, while Eason was more willing to toss it deep. These stats are a little too favorable to Eason; three of his poorer throws were erased by a pair of defensive pass interference penalties and a holding flag on his own line, respectively. If those had been counted as incompletions, his completion percentage drops to 53.3%, his passing efficiency drops to 148.7, and his YPA drops to 8.7.
Don't get me wrong, those are still good figures for a true freshman in his first game. Lambert is at his ceiling, while Eason is a mile away from his. However UNC has a Power 5 defense in the same way that Kentucky does, and Eason's occasional carelessness with his throws will be punished more severely by defenses like Auburn's, Florida's, and Tennessee's. The young fella is the future, but he still has plenty of room to grow.
Unlike Fournette, Chubb appeared to be completely over his offseason ailments. This was a vintage game from him, carrying the team when the passing game hit struggles from time to time.
Herrien is an increasingly rare breed in the SEC: a promising freshman running back who doesn't already look like an NFL player. He showed great speed and vision, and he also looked like he can put more meat on his frame. If he fills out to what his body appears to be able to support, he could be the next great UGA running back once Chubb is making millions next year.
Fire Larry Fedora.
Wide receiver was a serious question for Georgia in the offseason, but McKenzie was terrific. Everything about this game for the UGA offense gets the "UNC defense" caveat, but he looks like a fantastic first option for Lambert and Eason.
Switzer was making catches all over the field, but he never really got loose. There were a lot of different guys to keep track of, and the Bulldogs did well in corralling them.
|Team||Avg. Starting Position||Plays in Opp. Territory||Pct. Of Total|
|North Carolina||Own 25||19||32.2%|
Not much to see here. Field position wasn't much of a deciding factor.
A trip inside the 40 is a drive with a first down at the opponent's 40-yard-line or closer or a score from farther out. A red zone trip is a drive with a first down at the opponent's 20-yard-line or closer.
|Team||Drives||Trips Inside 40||Points||Red Zone Trips||Points|
Douglas's fumble, UGA's missed field goal, and UNC's final turnover on downs right at the end were the only times the teams failed to get points on scoring opportunities.
Although multiple quarterbacks were seemingly begging for interceptions at times, the Douglas fumble was the only turnover.
It's really hard for me to judge how much to put into this game and its outcome.
Georgia's defense did a good thing by holding the Heels to only 17 offensive points. No one in the ACC, not even Clemson and its stingy defense, managed that a year ago. In fact, only one team kept UNC under 20 in 2015: the mighty South Carolina Gamecocks.
So yeah, this opponent for Georgia has a history of face planting in openers against SEC teams. And I still must go back to Fedora's odd strategy on offense. UNC only took the run seriously on four drives. Two of them were the team's only touchdown drives, and on a third, Hood got a 32-yard gain before the drive stalled. With Hood rushing for over seven yards a carry and Logan getting over 13 plus a kickoff return touchdown, it's baffling why UNC didn't run a two-man offense through those guys.
Georgia may have gotten some help from the other side on this win, but getting a win isn't anything to complain about for SEC teams this past weekend. Chubb looks back to his old self, and Herrien looked like a more than adequate backup to give No. 27 some rest while waiting for Sony Michel to return to the field. McKenzie was a revelation at wideout, coming through on his potential. No one else really stood out much among the pass catchers, though.
And as for the quarterbacks, I can still imagine them splitting time for a bit. Lambert's lack of mobility allowed UNC to tee off with the blitz, but Eason is far too willing to go for low percentage deep throws instead of checking down to something safe. As the freshman matures and learns the craft, he'll take more and more snaps until the job is his. With Nicholls State and Missouri's weak offense on deck before the showdown at Ole Miss, I think we'll see plenty more of both guys as they show what they can do.
In any event, it's safe to say that Georgia had the best Week 1 performance of any of the East's three contenders and the best in the conference behind Alabama and maybe Texas A&M. Quiet optimism for this team is perfectly fine, but the jury's still out on the offense until it faces Mizzou in a couple of weeks and on the defense until it goes against the Rebels the week after that.