What every Michigan fan should know (and fear most) about Georgia
Georgia’s defense is known as one of the best in the country, and long-time college football fans will realize that in several ways, it is historic.
The scoring defense is the crown jewel of a host of categories that describe the smothering defense, and even after the lackluster effort in the SEC Championship Game, the Bulldogs are still allowing just 9.5 points per game. Georgia leads the country in scoring defense, and is in the top 5 in the nation in passing, rushing and total defense.
Georgia allowed 536 yards to the Crimson Tide, and that dropped it to second in total defense, at 255.4 per game.
The 41-24 loss to Alabama in Atlanta was an outlier after a regular season in which Georgia didn’t allow more than 17 points in a game.
Throughout the season, and in the lead up to the Orange Bowl, defensive tackle Jordan Davis has been and will be promoted as a stalwart of the Georgia defense. After all, Davis has won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top interior lineman and Bednarik Award as the top defensive player. There are 2 other players on the line, Devonte Wyatt and Jalen Carter, a pair of 300-pounders who some talent evaluators believe are more dynamic than Davis.
But what sets Georgia apart from other top-shelf defenses is the onslaught of linebackers that seemingly swallow offenses whole, usually in the backfield.
Georgia boasts 5 players with at least 6 tackles for loss, and 5 players with at least 4 sacks. And only 2 of those players are in each category. What’s more, Travon Walker is believed to be the best NFL Draft prospect on the defense, and he is only in the top 5 on the team in sacks (4).
One of the best of a decorated bunch is Nakobe Dean, who won the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker. Part of his resume is that he’s tied for the team lead in sacks, interceptions, tackles, and tackles for loss.
turned on the tape for Treylon Burks….stayed for Georgia’s Nakobe Dean….just a few plays but wow. winning as a pass rusher, in coverage, and against the run…if a team needs a ‘mike’ dean will complete the assignment #2022NFLDraft pic.twitter.com/9jV4TNQNPJ
— Ray G 🏁 (@RayGQue) December 22, 2021
For Michigan fans, Dean has drawn comparisons to Devin Bush Jr. because of his ability to erase mistakes and improve each time out.
in addition to a whole bunch of other stuff — Michigan will get a taste of what life was like for those who had to block Devin Bush Jr. in college when they see 17 in a few weeks. pic.twitter.com/IHrqdWvZPN
— Nick Baumgardner (@nickbaumgardner) December 10, 2021
The overlooked ability of Georgia’s defense to play more man coverage than the average team stems from the improved secondary, thought to be a weakness entering the season, along with Dean’s presence.
However, the depth also extends to the coaching staff, since the eventual loss of defensive coordinator Dan Lanning to be Oregon’s coach. Kirby Smart has named assistants Will Muschamp and Glenn Schumann as co-defensive coordinators after Lanning.
Muschamp and Smart have been philosophically aligned since early in their careers, and this time of year that extends to how they develop practice plans and evaluate game plans and recruiting. That’s why the Lanning departure has been as seamless as possible for a Playoff team losing a coordinator in December.
While Georgia in general has a reason to be motivated to prove that the Alabama loss was, in fact, an outlier, the secret sauce for the most feared part of Georgia, it’s defense, is the standard.
Smart preaches that it largely competes against itself to aim to be elite, and not concern itself with the scoreboard, rankings or stats. It became news in the SEC when teams like Kentucky scored late against Georgia to only lose 30-13.
About 2 months ago, Smart put it this way to summarize the message.
“I think that the standard of being elite is what keeps them from becoming poisoned,” Smart said. “When you compare yourself against greatness, there is a certain standard you have to reach and it supersedes the opponent. When you say, ‘I want to be great.’ What does great look like, and want to see pictures of that and stats that reflect that. That is what you are trying to emulate and you are not trying to make it about who you are playing.”
There can be a debate over which unit within the Georgia defense is most dangerous, or has the most NFL upside, but that message, and the fact that it’s hit home with the players, is what Michigan should fear the most.