Success for the Georgia Bulldogs over the years has started up front on both sides of the football. On the backs of NFL level players on the offensive line, a solid foundation is set with this group allowing the offensive coordinator Todd Monken to get into what they really want to do strategically.
This year is no different. Georgia’s offensive line was a finalist for the Joe Moore Award for the best offensive line group in the country. The offensive line on the other hand has given up seven total sacks on the year. They’ve had some help from quarterback Stetson Bennett’s elusiveness, but that number is elite.
Ohio State’s defensive line has created pressure, but they will need to be at their best to have an impact in this game. Georgia’s run scheme uses leverage and strength, which their offensive line does a great job with. If Jim Knowles needs to bring additional pressure, they can hurt Georgia’s offense. The few times they’ve given up sacks, Georgia’s offensive line has been beat in individual effort over scheme.
Looking at the success of Georgia’s offensive line, Ohio State has the talent to match on the other side, the question will once again be — Can they get the job done and be disruptive?
Starting on the offensive line, their pass protection is the first place that separates this unit. As a group they work collectively, and this collective work is what makes their protection so hard to beat. They do a great job communicating and passing off rushers. They also understand that when a rusher leaves there is work to be found.
Against Missouri, Georgia is in a 3rd-and-7 in their own territory. The down-and-distance alludes to a passing situation. Missouri shows a five man pressure, and ends up bringing three with a linebacker spying the quarterback. The defensive end slants inside and the defensive tackle loops to the outside. Georgia’s offensive tackles washes down the end into the guard and is able to still stay outside to take the looper out of the picture.
This gives Bennett the protection and time needed to throw. Unfortunately for the offensive line, not everybody did their job here.
In the next play, Auburn tries a similar strategy to create pressure against the Bulldogs. They slant the outside rusher and loop around the left defensive tackle. Georgia communicates and slides well enough to make this a non-factor in the play. Now this is important because Jim Knowles and the Buckeyes like to move players around with stunts. Georgia is smart enough to counter the stunts.
This matchup game will come down to well-timed play-calls from Knowles. Fooling Georgia should not be the plan. Creating number advantages and putting pass rushers in opportune positions should be the goal.
In this last play, we see the pass rushers rushing the quarterback with a twist between the defensive tackles for Auburn. This works because the tackles get up field, the right defensive tackle gets up field then slants to the middle. This takes two blockers out of the play, and allows the other defensive tackle to get up field without a blocker. The edge rushers keep Bennett in the pocket, and the pressure is able to get home.
This is by no means a complicated rushing scheme, but the timing and individual effort overwhelms the offensive line leading to a sack.
While Georgia’s offensive line is one of the best pass protection units in all of football, they do rank third in the country in yards per rush. But situationally, their struggles are similar to Ohio State’s. Part of their issues stem from the same area as the Buckeyes — a lazy run scheme that is over reliant on inside and outside zone. When the run game is working, the offensive line is getting to the second level and the running backs have the feel to find the blocks.
In the first play here, Georgia is starting their drive on the 10-yard line. They are running outside zone. The defensive end for Missouri play side takes away option No. 1 from the running back which is getting outside the end. This forces the cut back to the middle, Georgia’s center and left guard double team the tackle with the center sliding off to get to the backer. The center gets to the backer and the right guard washes down the slanting tackle. They out muscle Missouri, creating a huge hole in the middle for what should have been a long gain.
Georgia in the next play is in a power run situation in 3rd-and-3. They rank 68th in power run success rate at 68.8 percent. The reason for this is they have the same tells of Ohio State and teams know what is coming in these scenarios. Missouri’s defensive end uses his eyes this time and see the play is coming his way, instead of getting up field he anchors down forcing the running back to make a choice. Interior penetration forces the back outside and doesn’t allow the Georgia offensive line to get up to the second level. This allows the backers to flow and make a tackle before the line to gain, forcing a punt.
The last strength of their run game is getting their more athletic linemen moving as pullers. Georgia uses a pin-and-pull blocking scheme to run their counter as well as their GT-Counter. Both plays are run in early downs, in this case it’s 1st-and-10 for the Bulldogs. Based off the defensive alignment means the guard and tight end are pulling across. Brock Bowers gets around the filling defender, Washington gets up to kick out the corner. This allows the back to get outside with a lot of grass in front of him.
Overall, consistency is Georgia’s offensive line’s greatest strength. They run their concepts, stay organized in pass-pro, and do both with a necessary physicality. At times the simple stuff gets to them, but generally they are a tough nut to crack. For the Buckeyes, it will require strong individual performances in matchups and well timed blitzes from the second level. If they can create confusion or get pressure with four, Georgia can be taken out of some of their more long developing concepts which would be a win for the Buckeyes.
Ohio State’s greatest strength starts with their ability to disguise pressure. That will challenge Georgia’s offensive line communication early. For the Buckeyes this can be the difference. On the other hand for Ohio State, we saw that the communication of Georgia almost completely made any stunts useless. The few times we saw Georgia’s offensive line has a misstep, it was because well designed timing and strong individual efforts.
On the other side with the run game, Georgia runs the ball well. They have three talented running backs with different skill sets. Sound familiar? Similarities aside Georgia has many of the same issues as Ohio State. Against equal talent the run game’s predictability creates problems in short yardage situations. If the Buckeyes are prepared and locked in, they should be able to key in on alignment to understand what play is coming in a given situation. Georgia is going to run a variation of zone or a pin-and-pull counter.
The talent of Georgia’s offensive line is underrated compared to some other position groups on the team, but the offense goes as they do. When they’re locked in there aren’t many better units in the country. For the Buckeyes to find success, they will need to match the physicality, and honestly, it just comes down to executing better on a play-to-play basis.
Ohio State has the talent up front, now they need to go out and prove that as a unit, they have what it takes to win the battle in the trenches against a team like Georgia.