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Georgia Bulldogs Defensive Preview

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If you thought the Kentucky defense was frustrating, man oh man are you in for a treat this Saturday :(

NCAA Football: Kentucky at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia is the fourth (4th) best defense according SP+. The best defense the Missouri Tigers offense has gone up against this year, so far, was the 24th ranked South Carolina unit. Against the Gamecock defense, the Tiger offense performed at the 25th percentile and only had a quarterly success rate over 40% in the second quarter. And now, they face a defense much, much better than that with either a hobbled Kelly Bryant or backup Taylor Powell. Sports are fun!

NCAA Football: Murray State at Georgia
Tyler Clark
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Tackle

Tyler Clark - SR: 10.5 tackles/3.5 TFLs/1.5 sacks

Devonte Wyatt - JR: 8.5 tackles/0.5 TFLs

Nose Tackle

Michael Barnett - R-SR: 10 tackles/0.5 TFLs

Jordan Davis - SO: 5.5 tackles/1.5 TFLs/0.5 sacks

Defensive End

Malik Herring - JR: 8 tackles/1.5 TFLs/0.5 sacks

David Marshall - SR: 4.5 tackles/0.5 TFLs

NCAA Football: Georgia at Florida
Monty Rice
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

SAM Linebacker

Jermaine Johnson - JR; 8 tackles/2 TFLs/1.5 sacks/1 PBU

Walter Grant - JR: 6 tackles/2 TFLs/1 sack

JACK Linebacker

Azeez Ojulari - R-FR: 17 tackles/5 TFLs/4.5 sacks

Nolan Smith - FR: 7 tackles/1.5 TFLs/1.5 sacks

MIKE Linebacker

Tae Crowder - R-SR: 24.5 tackles/3 TFLs/1 PBU

Quay Walker - SO: 12.5 tackles/2.5 TFLs/1.5 sacks

WILL Linebacker

Monty Rice - JR: 35 tackles/0.5 TFLs/2 PBUs

Nakobe Dean - FR: 8.5 tackles/0.5 TFLs/1 FF

NCAA Football: Georgia at Tennessee
Richard LeCounte
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports

Cornerback

Eric Stokes - R-SO: 18.5 tackles/1 TFL/1 sack/8 PBUs/1 FF

Tyrique Stevenson - FR: 5 tackles/2 PBUs

Free Safety

J.R. Reed - R-SR: 27 tackles/2 TFLs/0.5 sacks/4 PBUs/1 INT/1 FF

Tyrique McGhee - SR: x

Strong Safety

Richard LeCounte - JR: 25 tackles/2 TFLs/2 PBUs/1 INT

Lewis Cine - FR: x

Cornerback

D.J. Daniel - JR: 16 tackles/1 TFL/3 PBUs

Tyson Campbell - SO: 4.5 tackles/0.5 TFLs/3 PBUs

NCAA Football: South Carolina at Georgia
Hot Rod Blankenship
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Kicker

Rodrigo Blankenship - R-SR: 31-31 PATs/15-17 FGs (88.2%)

Punter

Jake Camarda - SO: 24 punts/47 avg/6 touch backs/3 fair catches/9 down inside 20

Kick Returner

Brian Herrien - SR: 4 returns/22 avg/2 fair catches

Punt Returner

Tyler Simmons - SR: 8 returns/16.8 avg/3 fair catches

Bad news: regardless of if it is healthy Kelly Bryant, injured Kelly Bryant, or young Taylor Powell, I just don’t think the Tigers are going to find a lot of success against this Georgia defense. Just like yesterday, I scoured the advanced metrics to see if there were any cracks in the wall. There weren’t. So, instead, I’ll cite a few things that the Tigers must do to keep pace.

Third Downs

As in, stay away from them! Missouri has shown a propensity of forgetting how to football on third down the past few games, and the Georgia defense excels in third down defense— 10th in long, 40th in medium, 26th in short. However, 66.3% of opponent first downs come on first and second down against this Georgia defense, so there are opportunities to move the ball enough to avoid third downs. The main point, however, is to just hold the ball for a decent amount of time to give the Tiger defense a break. If Mizzou logs 2 or 3 three-and-outs early-on it’s going to wear out and demoralize the defense and cause the dam to break. Staying ahead of the chains, avoiding third downs or keeping the yardage minimal, and playing the field position game will be key in trying to straight up beat this defense.

Turnovers

As in, don’t commit them! South Carolina beat Georgia earlier this year by not committing a single turnover while benefiting from four of them. If the Tiger offense kills a drive by handing a superior opponent the ball more than once this game will, essentially, be over. Unless the Missouri offense can magically start connecting down field on big plays, utilize the run game successfully, and break some tackles, the focus should be to limit possessions, slow the tempo down, play the field position game, and make the safe choice on every play. It’s boring and ugly but its the best way to limit the effect that superior talent has on turning the game.

Havoc Rate

As in, don’t give them the opportunity! The ‘Dawgs defense ranks 70th in stuff rate, 72nd in sack rate, and 38th in completion rate. If you remember the Alabama defenses of 5-8 years ago, they weren’t super disruptive or havoc-y, they just operated like an amoebic cloud that swarmed quickly and limited the impact of the play rather than jumping pass routes or crashing into the backfield. Kirby Smart has brought that style to Athens and, safe to say, it’s working. It’s a safe way of playing defense and the talent on hand lets them do it effectively; therefore, if there are a lot of havoc-plays being logged by the Bulldogs, then that’s a good indicator that the Missouri offense is outclassed and will be effectively limited for most of the game.

Conclusion

Friends, I have a confession: I have no faith in the Tigers pulling off an upset. Georgia is just so much better, the Tigers have been so incredibly bad the past few weeks, and Georgia will not be sleeping on this game. They’ve already been upset at home and can clinch the East with a win over Missouri, so they’ll be on high alert and ready to pounce. The Tigers need to play a perfect game and lean on its defense to put a shaky offense in good positions. Can it happen? Yes! Will it? We’ll find out...