Welcome back to Overreaction Monday, where we answer the No. 1 question on your mind this week: Yes, this would be the first time that Georgia and Georgia Tech play for the national championship and the Falcons go to the Super Bowl in the same year. Meanwhile, back on Earth . . .
Last week: Won at Oakland 35-28. Record: 1-1. Next game: Monday at New Orleans.
Overreaction narrative: “A-ha! We were right! Matt Ryan is great in the no-huddle and Kyle Shanahan finally listened to us on Twitter so he’s only slightly less stupid now! I should coach this team! Hey, Fred, are we out of onion dip?”
Reality check: Not so much. But here’s what I think has been going on. Shanahan and quarterback Matt Ryan are figuring each other out. Offensive coordinators are, by nature, obstinate because they believe in their systems and sometimes they get caught trying to jam square pegs in round holes — or throwing all of the perfectly good pegs away. Shanahan has never been a big no-huddle guy, but has come to the realization that Ryan is pretty good in it. So the Falcons will use it periodically to change the pace of the game and keep defenses guessing. They used a lot of no-huddle against Oakland, and I’m not convinced that’s going to be the norm. But I do believe given Ryan’s success in it Sunday, and before Shanahan’s arrival, that it will become more of a staple in the offense than maybe Shanahan anticipated. It would be silly not to exploit one of Ryan’s strengths.
There is an argument to be made that Shanahan’s scheme is not the best offense for Ryan. But that doesn’t mean Ryan can’t succeed in it. I’ve long believed that Shanahan took way too much heat from fans, and some media, for some of last season’s failures. Ryan – by his own admission – did not play well and he and receivers at times seemed to not be on the same page. But consider the start Ryan is off to in his second year in the scheme: He has thrown for 730 yards on 72.6 percent passing (53 of 73) for five touchdowns and one interception. It would be six touchdowns but Ryan slightly misfired to an open Jacob Tamme in the end zone against the Raiders and the pass was intercepted. Nonetheless, Ryan leads the NFL with a 121.4 rating.
The stat of the game: Ryan went 12-for-12 for 195 yards and two touchdowns after the interception.
The only fault I find with Shanahan this season is at times he seems to forget he has possibly the league’s best wide receiver (Julio Jones) on the roster when it comes to red zone play selection.
Here’s an excerpt of a recap of the game by the football analytics’ site, Pro Football Focus:
“The Falcons’ offense rolled the entire day with balance, rhythm, and superb play-calling by Kyle Shanahan. Matt Ryan silenced some doubters on his ability to push the ball vertically, going a perfect three-for-three for 124 yards on throws that traveled 20-plus yards in the air …”
Last week: Won at Missouri 28-27. Record: 3-0 (1-0 in SEC). Next game: Saturday at Mississippi.
Overreaction narrative: “Did you see Jacob Eason’s last touchdown pass! Ain’t no stopping us now!”
Reality check: Slow your roll. Any road win in the conference is huge. But when this season is over I doubt Missouri is going to be ranked or considered one of the better teams in the SEC. Georgia still has significant issues on both lines. Eason, for as much as he has off-the-charts talent and already has shown an ability to make game-winning plays, is still a freshman and will continue to make freshman mistakes.
This will be an interesting week. Coach Kirby Smart preaches about playing to a standard every week and avoiding the emotional ups and downs that can plague teams. Having that stability has been a key for Alabama since Nick Saban’s arrival. The Dogs did not play with the needed intensity against Nicholls State and to some degree learned their lesson. Do they fall back now against one of the better teams in the SEC and in a difficult stadium for visiting teams?
Ole Miss also can go either way after a 1-2 start in a murderous schedule (losses to No. 4 Florida State and No. 1 Alabama), with three more ranked teams coming in the next four weeks (Georgia, Arkansas, LSU). Their desperation this week can work for or against them, and Smart knows that. I’ll get into the Georgia-Mississippi game more later in the week but in short: It’s way too early to assume anything about Georgia this season.
Last week: Defeated Vanderbilt 38-7. Record: 3-0 (1-0 in ACC). Next game: Thursday against Clemson.
Overreaction narrative: “We’re about to get smacked!”
Reality check: Yeah, maybe. But maybe not. Clemson opened as a 13-point favorite and the line is down to nine. What does that tell you?
You could pick an All-Star team from Georgia’s Tech’s first three opponents (Boston College, Mercer, Vanderbilt) and it still wouldn’t match up talent wise to the Clemson team the Jackets will face at Bobby Dodd Stadium. The Jackets’ defense, not often the most comforting element of the team, will be tested big time by quarterback Deshaun Watson. However . .
Clemson, expected to compete for the national championship, hasn’t proven anything yet this season. It struggled in the opener against Auburn, struggled against Troy and took apart South Carolina State (which really doesn’t count). Also, the Jackets’ offense has improved each week, rushing for 289 yards against Vandy.
And there’s this: Tech coach Paul Johnson has had a fair amount of success against Clemson, despite having less talented rosters and usually being the underdog. He’s 5-4 in the series and 3-0 at Bobby Dodd Stadium since taking the Tech job in 2008. (Note: Technically, the NCAA vacated a win over Clemson in the ACC title game and Johnson is 4-4. But he’s 5-4 on the field.) The home wins: 2009 (30-27), 2011 (31-17) and 2014 (28-6). It helped in 2014 that Watson was injured in the first quarter of the game two years ago.
This isn’t a gimme for Clemson.
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