I fear for the future of the forward pass in our fair state.
Georgia fans may love to gig their Georgia Tech cousins about the monotony of the option offense and the long, clock-killing drives that it breeds. Two drives of more than 17 plays and seven-and-a-half minutes against North Carolina last week, to be precise. Drives just as easily measured by sundial.
Bulldogs can titter and tease with remarks like:
“Are you trying to score points or induce a coma over there?”
“C’mon, how about running something from this century?”
And, yet, Georgia, for its acclaimed wealth of arm talent, has measured little better through the air. Choosing this season to gently introduce freshman Jake Fromm in lieu of Jacob Eason, Georgia for the second consecutive season ranks last in the SEC in passing offense. And 118th of 129 FBS teams in passing yardage (averaging 149.6 yards per game thus far).
It is a matter of faith that Tech will trade in the flight stats – 127th at 83.3 yards per game, one spot ahead of Georgia Southern – for supremacy by foot. The Yellow Jackets rank second in all the land in rushing offense, just behind Paul Johnson’s previous employer, Navy.
(For the record, Georgia State has the highest-ranked passing offense among FBS teams in the state. It’s a modest 214.7 yards per game, No. 78 in the land.).
We have seen that Georgia under Kirby Smart is by nature a conservative bunch, running a proudly red-state offense. He clearly has been raised on the belief that to air is human, to run divine.
This season, particularly, is one to ask his young quarterback not to do a lot of things: Do not do anything silly; do not put the defense in a compromising position; do not be too proud to default to the run and a passel of skilled running backs.
From an entertainment standpoint, there is great value to the forward pass. It is the sizzle of football, the essential element to the video and fantasy variants of the game. Yet, we here have discovered a very happy place – and in Georgia’s case a top-five ranking – where it is an afterthought.
Can either side accept that they aren’t really so different at this stage of 2017? Georgia and Tech share more traits than you might suspect – they’re just packaged differently.
Even more so now that both teams rank in the top 10 in total defense. Tech is unaccustomed that kind of altitude, although far more difficult chores face the Jackets' D the next two months.
Somewhere along the course of a special season there will come a moment when a team absolutely, positively must make a play with the forward pass. Whether it’s Fromm or Eason at Georgia or TaQuon Marshall at Tech, they will be asked to supply the exclamation point to some future meaningful win. Every fairy tale has to have a rainbow. Who can provide that? We eagerly await the answer.