The Ohio State Buckeyes will take on the Georgia Bulldogs in a college football playoff matchup taking place in the Peach Bowl down in Atlanta, Georgia. These past few weeks, we have taken dives into what has made Georgia, so successful this season on both sides of the football.
Using the film that has been cut and looked at already, can help visualize areas the Buckeyes can attack come New year’s eve. Looking back at how Georgia has attacked teams will give us a quick look into how other coaches have tried to counter the Bulldogs. The few things that have worked Ohio State does well, but the challenge in front of them is something they have yet to see this year.
Starting with the Bulldogs defensively, they are an aggressive man-coverage team who relies on a four-man rush to get the job done in the passing game. When it comes to defending the run, Georgia has athletic defensive linemen who take on blocks well, win matchups with quickness, and give the linebackers plenty of freedom to flow by eating up blocks as well.
For Ohio State, this means gaining leverage at the line of scrimmage, and when offensive linemen are doubling, getting to the second level to interfere with the linebackers' flow to the football. As frustrating as this has been to watch, Ohio State’s Wide Zone concepts, toss Counter, and Power toss have been schemes that have worked for other teams against Georgia – albeit very minimally.
In the play below we see a situation Ohio State has struggled mightily this year in power run situations. Kentucky runs an outside zone look against Georgia in short yardage, and this play has a similar result to what Ohio State fans have become accustomed to seeing in this scenario. For the Buckeyes winning in the trenches will play a pivotal role in extending drives and keeping Georgia’s defense on the field. If they can’t win in short-yardage situations, the result can turn quickly like we’ve seen the past two seasons for the Buckeyes.
The other area Ohio State will need to have success is in its misdirection game, their pin-and-pull counter concept would fit the bill. This play attacks the tendencies of Georgia’s defensive line slants creating a split second of confusion. The way the Bulldogs step on the defensive line is by crossing the face of the offensive linemen’s step and squaring up the opposing offensive linemen to give them leverage to move in either direction. When done correctly, this eliminates run lanes to the play side and gives both eh defensive line and linemen leverage to attack any cutbacks.
Once again looking at the play above, we see how Kentucky’s pin-an-pull action turns the defensive line away from the run action and creates a step of confusion for the linebackers. Both units recover, but Kentucky is able to make a pretty positive play due to the slight misdirection.
Now to the passing defense of Georgia, they are a man-coverage dominant defense and they have the guys to get the job done on a play-by-play basis. Kelee Ringo and Kamari Lassiter have physicality and athleticism. That is where Ohio State needs to match them, if the Buckeyes receivers match their physicality at the point of the catch, they have the talent to make plays. If they don’t they can give up big plays to the defense like this.
The other defense that Georgia plays is a soft zone coverage in more obvious passing situations. In these looks Georgia likes to maintain a two-high shell playing either quarters or Cover-5 (2-Man Under). In the next play, we can see how the lack of communication can turn into a big play.
Looking above, we see LSU’s best receiver rip off a big gain against the soft zone of Georgia. In man coverage — especially the way Georgia plays it — there is little communication between players outside of pre-snap alignment. The switch to zone shifts the thought process and creates a reliance on communication, or receivers can find space between the zones. This lack of communication is what leads to this touchdown.
The last aspect to look at is the pass rush and how Ohio State needs to be able to protect against a four-man rush. If the receivers can find space against the coverage, they’ll have to take matters into their own hand bringing additional pressure. This is where the Buckeyes can start ripping off big plays if Stroud and the offensive line can handle additional rushers. We can see the damage below four rushers can do, and if the Buckeye offensive line can’t match the athleticism.
For the Buckeyes though, Stroud can help his offense line by using his pocket mobility. Now the result of this play below doesn’t do the quarterback for LSU justice. That being said, Georgia’s defensive line can be overzealous at times. For Stroud, he struggles at times with staying in the pocket and maneuvering through the traffic to deliver downfield. If Stroud can stay confident in the pocket he can neutralize the rush with his footwork – and hopefully throw the ball down the field with a better result.
Flipping over to the other side of the ball, Georgia’s offense is by no means a slouch in comparison to their defense.
Led by 25-year-old signal caller Stetson Bennett and a pair of elite tight ends, they find success in a variety of ways. Their offensive line is not individually dominant, but the Buckeyes will need to get creative because the Bulldogs are strong as a unit. They work their double teams efficiently, communicate in pass protection, and have given up seven sacks on the year. Add to the fact they have three running backs totaling over 500 rushing yards, and you get a strong offensive unit.
For the Buckeyes defensively, the first area they need to succeed is in limiting Stetson Bennett and making him beat them from the pocket. Bennett is athletic and can make plays outside the pocket, so containment from the defensive ends is that much more important especially if Ohio State plays a high percentage of man coverage. If they do not Bennett can make the Ohio State defense pay with his legs.
If Ohio State loses to Bennett using his legs, it will give fans major 2019 Clemson vibes from the matchup. There is nothing worse than losing to a quarterback doing something he is not necessarily dominant at.
In the next play below, we see where Georgia is able to attack the middle of the field with their tight ends. This play isn’t won by anything the Bulldogs do necessarily, but the threat of the tight ends really plays a role here. The lack of communication from LSU’s secondary allows 6-foot-8 and 270-pound Darnell Washington to run across the middle free. Against Michigan, Ohio State had bad communication in covering a tight end which led to a touchdown.
Now the last aspect Georgia loves to do throwing the ball is sending their receivers on double moves. Seeing how Ohio State’s corners have played throughout the year, this next play should put the fear of death into the eyes of Buckeye fans. Ladd McConkey is a solid route runner and has the speed to make defenders pay. Ohio State’s corners will need to stay disciplined and not fall for the double move like the defender below.
The last thing on the list today is the effectiveness of Georgia’s run game, they ironically run into the same issues Ohio State does including struggling in short yardage. This is because, like Ohio State, they tend to stick to the same zone schemes on a borderline exclusive basis.
The first play here shows Georgia’s base run play, an outside zone look with a read option for the quarterback. Looking at the backfield, Bennett is reading the backside end. If the end crashes he keeps and if he doesn’t, Bennett hands it off. In this play, it is a hand off and we can see the one-cut nature of Georgia’s running backs. The offensive line here uses their double teams to create the running lane in the middle, and the play is sprung by the center getting to the second level. This shows the importance of the interior defensive line eating double teams. If he held the center for another second, there is no hole for the back to run through.
In the next play, we can see Georgia using a little misdirection on the play with a pin-and-pull counter look to the boundary. This play should look familiar to Ohio State fans, as it falls into Ryan Day’s bread-and-butter category of run plays, even if he still doesn’t use it enough. The motion at the start of the play gets the defense’s eyes off of their keys. This allows for free pullers to get out and get their blocks. For the play to have significant success, the block by the tight end is what springs it.
In both of the previous plays, Georgia’s offensive line and tight ends got to the second level with ease. This is what makes their running game so dangerous, and in tandem with the backs, their run game finds regular success.
In the last play, we see how interior penetration is the key to blowing up the zone run scheme of Georgia. Now doing this consistently is easier said than done, but this will need to be a key for the Buckeyes. The penetration neutralizes the double team and doesn’t allow the offensive line to get to the linebackers. This penetration also forces the backs to bounce the play outside, and with the linebackers flowing freely, they are able to make the play before the running back can get the first down.
Now Ohio State does not need to play a perfect game to beat Georgia, but there are definitely some things they need to avoid if they want to have a chance in Atlanta. From a talent standpoint, the Buckeyes are one of the few teams who can match the pure talent of Georgia which should provide the Bulldogs a challenge they haven’t seen at all this year.
For the Buckeyes offensively, winning one-on-one matchups is the name of the game. If the Buckeyes can take Georgia out of the man-coverage they want to run or make them pay for running man-coverage, that would signify the receivers having a lot of success. To do this they will need to protect well against four and take the linebackers out of coverage. Georgia bringing additional pressure opens up the middle of the field and that is a place Stroud is incredibly comfortable attacking.
Now defensively, the worst thing Ohio State can do is underestimate Stetson Bennett. He has the ability to hurt teams with his feet, throwing outside the pocket, and if he has time, delivering the ball downfield. Now stopping the passing game starts with communication and covering the tight ends. They will find success at times, which means Ohio State will need to show some resilience which they have struggled with in big games as of late.
Lastly, stopping the run and making the Georgia offense one-dimensional is my biggest factor in the Buckeyes beating the Bulldogs. If Georgia can’t set up the hard play-action pass, this takes away a lot of their explosive play potential to their receiving threats. Now the Buckeyes will still need to hold up in coverage, but if they can do that and stop the run in key situations, Georgia’s offense has shown periods of stagnation this year. All of that goes double for the Buckeye defense in the red zone, which has been a weak point for Georgia this year offensively.
Now the talk is over, all that is left is to see which team goes out and executes better than the other. Both teams are stacked with talent, but the reason we love sports is that only one team can win the game. If the Buckeyes show up, play disciplined football, and flex their talent, there is no reason the winners can’t be them.