Heading into the bowl season, a lot is happening for the programs involved. Head Coaches and coaching staffs are having to deal with recruiting, game-planning and logistics of bowl preparations and bowl events.
Players are dealing with finals, individual awards, decisions about their future and trying to stay focused on the game ahead. With all of this going on, it is easy for the media, fans, and others to overlook a critical part of the game. Special Teams.
The old adage is that special teams are one-third of the game. Truthfully it comes out to about 20 percent of all football plays in a game that are being handled by the special teams units. When two top ten programs such as Baylor and Georgia meet, it can be expected that a close game will be likely and the special teams units can make a big difference when there is a small margin for error.
John Mayers and Isaac Power have, respectively, handled the placekicking and the punting duties for Baylor all season. Both Mayers and Powers are Redshirt Freshmen and at times their inexperience has shown.
Baylor has attempted fewer field goals than Georgia on the year but has punted more, with less distance. So, according to ESPN, Baylor's special teams efficiency ranks 98th in the country. This is in comparison to Georgia's special teams efficiency ranking of 46th in the nation. Efficiency is based on how much a unit contributes to its scoring margin on a per-play basis.
John Mayers has made 16 of his 19 field goal attempts on the year (84.2%) with all three of his misses coming in the 30 to 39-yard range. Isaac Powers has not shown the ability to flip the field like Jake Camarda, only averaging 39.34 yards per punt.
Sometimes Powers does a high, relatively short, directional kick that produces a lot of fair catches. At other times, the Baylor punting unit will employ a more rugby-style kick that is hard for opponents to handle, much less return, and often results in a good Baylor roll.
Speaking of the returns. Baylor's kickoff and punt return units are the one area of special teams as a whole that I would give the Bears the advantage in. We've talked about the playmaking of Grayland Arnold on defense for Baylor. He leads the team with 6 interceptions, but he's also a dangerous punt returner with a 73-yard touchdown to his credit and an average of 12.3 yards per return.
Josh Fleeks, JaMycal Hasy, and John Lovett make up a quality trio of kick returners, but unless something unforeseen happens, Rodrigo Blankenship likely will kick the ball out of the end zone on kickoffs. Especially considering that the game will be played inside the Super Dome here in New Orleans.
Georgia must cover punts well to prevent Grayland Arnold from making a game-changing play. Also, undoubtedly, Scott Fountain and the rest of the coaches will cover the dangers of the rugby-style punt with the punt return team and with Tyler Simmons, or whoever may return punts for the Bulldogs in the Sugar Bowl.
Ultimately, when it comes to special teams, Georgia has to feel good about this area of the matchup versus the Bears.