Back Chubb & Michel Key Against Notre Dame

Back To SEC

Chubb & Michel Key Against Notre Dame

By Jim Johnson
SouthernPigskin.com
Follow us at Twitter.com/SouthernPigskin.  Become a fan at the SouthernPigskin.com Facebook Page

This could be said for every game Georgia plays this season, but especially against Notre Dame: Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will be the keys to victory.

This could be said for every game Georgia plays this season, but especially against Notre Dame: Nick Chubb and Sony Michel will be the keys to victory.

For whatever reason, when Jacob Eason was the starting quarterback last year, and even in the handful of snaps before he went down against App State, Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney felt compelled to tailor his offense around the young signal caller, often at the expense of what might be the best backfield in the country.

When Jake Fromm, who should continue to be the starter, even when Eason returns, was forced to step in, Chaney seemed to undergo some sort of epiphany in which he realized that perhaps he should feature his standout backs for the remainder of the game -- a decision that paid clear dividends against a Mountaineer defense that has been the best in the Sun Belt every year since joining the league.

With Fromm set to make his first start, at Notre Dame, there is more reason than ever to operate within a similar, if not borderline identical, gameplan.

Jacob Eason averaged just shy of 30 pass attempts per game, in 2016. That is and was, in hindsight, but even in the moment, indefensible.

With a freshman signal caller, it is incumbent upon the coaches to make said quarterback’s life as easy as possible. With the stable of backs at Georgia’s disposal, what is never an easy task, is at least more simple than it would be at nearly every other program in the nation.

With a true freshman making his first start, the approach should, in no uncertain terms, be to run the football… a lot. Even if Georgia had Eason, or any other average quarterback, against Notre Dame’s lackluster run defense, the approach should be to run the football… a lot.

Fromm threw 15 passes against App State and that number shouldn't climb much higher, barring absolute necessity, in South Bend.

It’s not uncommon for coaches to overthink things. This week, more so than most, that flat out can not happen.

Nick Chubb entered the season as Georgia’s second leading rusher, ever, behind only Herschel Walker.

In 2016, after not even being fully recovered from a knee injury the year prior, Chubb was the SEC’s best ball carrier when it came to picking up yards after contact. His unique blend of speed and power, coupled with an uncanny ability to make guys miss, in spite of his size (perhaps is most underrated attribute -- he forced 69 missed tackles on 237 touches as a freshman, but his change of direction ability suffered post-injury) makes for one of the most effective running backs, not just in college football right now, but in the sport’s history.

He should end up around the 30 carry mark on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Sony Michel, who may not bear the brunt of Chubb’s workload, ought to be utilized as the primary option in the passing game.

His yards per route run average of 1.16, in 2016, was second amongst returning SEC backs, and his one drop gave him the second best catch rate within that same group. He’s even better, though, after the catch, having forced an average of .5 missed tackles per reception throughout his career. Plus, aside from his production, he has proven to be an elite pass blocker, relative to other SEC running backs.

So, while 30 carries might not be in the cards for Michel, when factoring in his pass catching prowess, close to that many overall touches is not unreasonable.

Run blocking is the easiest thing for an offensive lineman to do, and with the way Georgia’s has struggled, on top of a lack of experience, the best thing for that group might just be an old-fashioned, smash mouth game. Even if the Bulldogs’ pedestrian offensive line is more or less a wash against a similarly run-of-the-mill Notre Dame defensive front, Chubb and Michel tilt the scales heavily in the visitor’s favor.

Alabama beat one of the best teams in America last week, only completing a pass to one of its receivers. Sometimes uncreative is as effective as anything else. Kirby Smart’s defense is elite, within the the ranks of college football. Win the game on that side of the ball, and just make sure not to let a freshman quarterback lose it.

Sure, get the ball to Isaac Nauta, and let Javon Wims and company stretch the Irish over the top, but don’t forget about the two best offensive players on the team. It seems like that sort of thing wouldn’t happen, however that’s exactly what transpired in Chaney’s first season at the helm.

Nick Chubb is one of the best running backs in SEC history. Sony Michel is no slouch, either, and might be the best receiver on the team. Limit Jake Fromm’s impact, good or bad, and allow “Thunder and Lightning” to run their course. That course could end up being a direct path to victory.

Jim Johnson - Editor of Southern Pigskin, Producer of "Three & Out", and host of "Explosive Recruiting" on the Southern Pigskin Radio Network. E-mail: jim@espncoastal.com Twitter: @JimJohnsonSP