Georgia's A-gap Pressure Package
I dissect Georgia's A-gap pressure package from the National Championship
With nine days between their playoff matchup against Ohio State and the National Championship, Georgia had ample time to curate a precise game plan for TCU’s Spread offense. Last year, the Frogs held the 17th-best EPA/play (CFBGraphs) in college football and the 14th-best FEI (BCFToys). The Frogs had found ways to win and stay ahead of the chains all year. That ended when Georgia faced them in the championship game.
Looking back at the College Football Playoffs, Georgia became ultra-aggressive against their opponents. Against the Buckeyes, their Blitz Rate (BR) skyrocketed to 48.6 %, and their Stunt Rate (SR) rose to 47% (PFF). BR tracks how often a defense inserts an off-ball defender into the box, and SR tracks how many times a defense uses movement. With the talent differential high in Athens, the Georgia staff chooses to live by the 30/30/30 Rule: 30% base, 30% blitz, and 30% stunts, with about 10% of “play” within a given year.
When facing the Horned Frogs the following week after their matchup with the Buckeyes, those numbers only dropped to 36.5% and 42%, respectively, higher than their year-end average. Their total year percentages for the ‘23 season were ~28% Blitz Rate and a ~31% Stunt Rate. Georgia uses their overwhelming talent to control the line of scrimmage, which allows them to allocate more numbers into coverage.
The Bulldogs have a deep bag of pressures, especially regarding 3rd Down. Any defense on passing downs aims to manipulate protection and create one-on-ones. Georgia seeks to find the “donkey” in an offensive unit’s pass protection and then force that player to block. With their talent up front, they usually win.
Heading into the game with TCU, the Bulldogs felt they could be aggressive against the Horned Frogs’ O-line. For me, one primary concern was the ability of TCU’s RBs to block, especially with Kendre Miller (#33) hurt. One of Georgia’s top passing down pressures in this year’s Championship attacked the A-gaps of the TCU protections.
When Georgia aligned in a “double mug” presentation (I call this BOMBERS), TCU reacted by placing the RB in charge of one of the A-gap defenders. Knowing this, the Bulldogs created looks that forced the RB to block and share responsibility with the Center. The use of the RB in the protection gave a numbers advantage back to Georgia. The Bulldogs could keep an extra defender in coverage with one less route runner in the field. In addition, if sending the house, Georgia felt they could match up with man-to-man outside, forcing quick throws or overwhelming the protection.
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The basis for how the Bulldogs attacked the middle of the protection against TCU stems from the call “Z-Read” (below). In Z-Read, the defense will align in a double A-gap mug presentation. The Mike and Jack will insert into the A-gaps. The defender to which the Center slides becomes the “Rat.” In the diagram below, the Center slid to the Jack, so the Mike continues on his path, and the Jack drops out as a QB spy, screen protector, or a “Rat” against any low crossers.