If you watched the National Championship last year (who am I kidding, of course you did), the Georgia offense is pretty similar to what we saw then. Running backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel have been substituted for Elijah Holyfield and D’Andre Swift, but their styles are similar to their predecessors, and the offense hasn’t really made any fundamental changes.
We’re looking at a similar offense to what Alabama ran in the Pre-Lane-Kiffin-Era, but with slightly more modern wrinkles and explosiveness.
The running game is the lifeblood of this offense, and it runs through Swift and Holyfield. Both are stout, muscular backs who pack a lot of explosive power and acceleration, if not top end speed. Swift is slightly in the lead with 139 carries to Holyfield’s 133, but it’s very nearly a 50-50 split.
Even looking at their splits, both backs seem to be used equally in both short yardage situations and 1st down drive starters. The only real difference is that Holyfield has been a non-factor as a receiver, while Swift has 21 catches for 204 yards, plus is an outstanding pass protector.
The two have combined for 1858 rushing yards on a 6.8 yards per carry average. It’s a monstrous rushing attack that no one this season has truly shut down yet. Tennessee actually did the best, keeping both below 5 yards per carry despite each have double digit attempts.
The passing game is a pro style attack that focuses on play action and working the intermediate areas of the field, particularly the seams and midrange outs. They often work out of tight formations with 3 or 4 receivers and a single running back. QB Jake Fromm has been efficient and impressive in his follow up sophomore campaign, hitting 69% of his passes for 2236 yards on a 9.6 yards per attempt average. All quite solid numbers, if not staggeringly huge. He also has 24 touchdowns to only 5 interceptions, very near a 5:1 ratio.
Riley Ridley leads the team with 34 catches for 450 yards and 8 touchdowns. The 6’2” junior has been a reliable receiver and is Fromm’s favorite when trying to hit passes just past the sticks.
The smaller and electric Mecole Hardman is only a notch behind with 32 catches, but leads the team with 519 yards. The speedster is both a deep threat and a slippery ball carrier. His 16.2 yards per catch are a mark of his explosiveness.
Those two are bolstered in the receiving corps by Jeremiah Holloman and Terry Godwin. Holloman is built just like Ridley, and usually plays opposite him on the outside in 3 WR sets. He has 21 catches for 350 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Godwin splits time with Hardman in the slot, as both are small, dynamic players. Godwin is actually the senior starter, but has dealt with some injuries that have allowed Hardman to get the bulk of the targets. However, Godwin leads the team in explosiveness with over 18 yards per catch on his 316 yards.
Tight end Isaac Nauta resumes his role as the featured tight end. He’s more blocker than receiver, but is still an important safety valve for Fromm in the passing game. He’s the third leading receiver with 25 catches for 346 yards and 2 touchdowns.
To bring in more similarities from the Pre-Kiffin Alabama offenses, the Georgia offense has been insanely efficient between the 20’s when they can use the threat of deep to intermediate passing to open up the run game, but has struggled mightily in the redzone when things start to condense.
The wild card in it all though is QB Justin Fields. Many thought before the season that he would wrestle the job away from Fromm with sheer talent, but in the end he couldn’t unseat the sophomore. Kirby Smart has mostly used him as a sort of Wildcat specialist, giving him 39 carries for 390 yards. Many are designed runs off of playaction, but many more are well-timed scrambles. He’s also hit 71% of his passes for 328 yards and 4 touchdowns without a single pick so far this season. Might Kirby get a bright idea at halftime if Fromm struggles against the Alabama defense? I wouldn’t put it past him to try and copy his mentor.