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2019 Season Opponents Preview: Georgia Bulldogs

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Either a measuring-stick-game or a great opportunity for some solid exercise outdoors

NCAA Football: Sugar Bowl-Georgia vs Texas Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Georgia Bulldogs

Last Season: 11-3 (7-1)

NCAA Football: SEC Media Day
This man is, unbelievably, 43-years old.
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Head Coach: Kirby Smart – 4th year (former Alabama DC)

Overall Record: 32-10 (18-6)

School Record: 32-10 (18-6)

Offensive Coordinator: James Coley – 1st year (former Georgia QBs coach)

Defensive Coordinator: Dan Lanning – 1st year (former Georgia OLBs coach)

Last Game Against Mizzou: 2018 at Faurot Field, won 43-29

This Year: at Sanford Stadium – Athens, GA – November 9th, TBD

Projected Overall S&P+ Rank: 2nd

Projected Offensive S&P+ Rank: 4th

Projected Defensive S&P+ Rank: 6th

Returning Production: 62% – 53% Offense, 72% Defense (69th in the nation)

NCAA Football: SEC Media Day
Really disappointed Jake Fromm didn’t wear khakis here. And wow I hope you all remember that State Farm commercial
Vasha Hunt-USA TODAY Sports

Offensive Players to Watch

-Jake Fromm – QB – JR: 206-306 (67.3%)/2,749 yards/30 TDs/6 INTs/16 sacks/8.34 ypa

-25 rushes/67 yards (lol)/0 TDs/2.68 ypc/24% OPP rate/1 fumle

-D’Andre Swift – RB – JR: 163 rushes/1,049 yards/10 TDs/6.44 ypc/52.2% OPP rate/2 fumbles

-42 targets/32 catches (76.2%)/297 yards/3 TDs/9.3 ypc/7.1 ypt/12.1% tr

-Tyler Simmons – WR – SR: 16 targets/9 catches (56.3%)/138 yards/2 TDs/15.3 ypc/8.6 ypt

NCAA Football: Georgia at South Carolina
Fairly certain Mr. Clark is the scariest dude named Tyler on the entire planet
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Defensive Players to Watch

-Tyler Clark – DT – SR: 23 tackles/15 solo/4 TFLs/1 sack/0 INTs/3 PBUs/0 FFs/30.4% HAVOC

-Monty Rice – WLB – JR: 42 tackles/25 solo/1.5 TFLs/1 sack/0 INTs/1 PBU/1 FF/8.3% HAVOC

-Richard LeCounte – SS – JR: 59.5 tackles/45 solo/1 TFL/0 sacks/1 INT/3 PBUs/2 FFs/11.8% HAVOC

Preview

It must be really nice to be a Georgia fan. From 2001 to 2015, Mark Richt went to a bowl game every single year, won the East 6 times, won the SEC twice, and was in the National Championship picture at least 3 times while recruiting at a Top 5 level nationally. And you know what? THAT AIN’T GOOD ENOUGH!!! WHY ARE WE SETTLING FOR MEDIOCRITY?!?!?!?!?!?!

I’ll admit, I was champing at the bit for Georgia to fall flat on their stupid faces when yet another Saban disciple took over the chief headset in Athens. I fully anticipated a leap in recruiting, an installation of blandness and control, and then a decrease in wins for the next 4 years before they made yet another coaching change. I mean…that was basically what happened at other programs who plucked a Sabanite, so why not Georgia? And for the first year I was totally right: Georgia pulled in the 9th best recruiting class in the country while regressing from 9 wins to 8 wins and a lowly Liberty Bowl birth (yes I know we’ve gone to the same bowl, I stand by my opinion) while Mark Richt immediately turned Miami into a 9-win program. I laughed. A lot. But then the next year happened and Smart pulled in the THIRD best recruiting class while winning the East, the SEC, and being one play away from winning the national title. In 2018, Smart and friends brought in THE BEST recruiting class in the country while winning 11 games and the East division yet again. And oh, by the way, Georgia brought in the #1 recruiting class again this offseason.

So, I’m an idiot. Smart and his Sabanization of the Georgia program was a revelation and now they’re “Death Star East” and supporting a roster that’s 79% blue-chip recruits and constantly in contention for a Playoff berth. Sure, they experience a lot of roster churn and staff overhaul in the offseason, but for the moment, that doesn’t really matter. There’s so much talent on the roster and enough experience coming back that they’re projected 2nd overall in S&P+ with the 4th ranked offense and 6th ranked defense. They aren’t unbeatable, but any time you come up against a program like this, you either show you can hang with them (and possibly beat them) or just learn as many lessons you can against the best of the best.

I have to admit, I live in two simultaneous worlds: one where I fully understand Jake Fromm is a junior because I know exactly when he started, and the other where I feel like he has been beating Missouri and the rest of the SEC for the past 7 years. Regardless, Fromm is exactly the type of quarterback that Saban used to seek out and one that Smart certainly utilizes the best— an immobile, accurate, mistake-adverse savant who can run the offense effectively and make enough calls to stay ahead of the defense. Former offensive coordinator Jim Chaney has since departed for Tennessee, and despite his “quarterback whisperer” tendencies, he reliably found a way to make the most of whatever types of players he had. At Georgia that meant running a lot, so Fromm has only thrown for 5,300 yards and 54 touchdowns in two years. But keep in mind, 1) he was starting as a freshman and 2) that’s still pretty dang good and impeccably consistent. Plus, as mentioned previously, most of the time he’s handing off to a stable of 4- and 5-star running backs who are darting through holes opened by 4- and 5-star linemen. And certainly that will be true of this year: two offensive linemen depart, including 1st team All-American center Lamont Gaillard, but the three linemen they do return are all multi-year starters (and blue-chip recruits) and they have three other linemen in rotation (that were blue chips) and are being joined by 5 freshman (all… SURPRISE! blue chip recruits). Elijah Holyfield is a Carolina Panther now, but that doesn’t really matter thanks to the return of D’Andre Swift (and, of course, to their excellent recruiting). Swift has run for over 1,600+ yards in two years and been a decent receiving threat out of the backfield as well. Which is good, considering he’s their leading returning receiver. And not in the, “Oh, the receivers weren’t great and he was super effective in the screen game”. No, as in “5 of the top 6 receivers are gone and the leading returning receiver is a 4th-year senior with 14 total catches to his name.” Is this possibly a worry? Sure! As I’ve stated plenty of times, previous experience is a huge factor in successful passing games and Georgia is basically starting over. However, it’s Georgia, the team with the #1 recruiting class twice in the past two years; they’re going to find plenty of talent to step up (and former Miami Hurricane Lawrence Cager transferred in as well).

On the defensive end, they only lose 5 guys with heavy experience while returning 7 of 8 linemen, 3 of 6 linebackers, and a starting cornerback. They also lose their defensive coordinator (Mel Tucker) but, just like on offense, they’re promoting from within so I doubt the defense looks a whole lot different (especially because it’s really Kirby Smart’s defense, no matter who is in the DC seat). I could rattle off all the returners and what they’ve done and mention the possible weaknesses (linebacker, if you’re curious) but the point is— there’s enough talent on this roster to cover those weaknesses against anybody but an elite team. Ho hum, how frustrating it must be to be a Georgia fan with merely one national championship and so much on-field success.

The game is in Athens, the Tigers play Florida the next week, and we’ve only beaten Georgia once: the 2013 team-of-destiny Tigers, against an injury-depleted Georgia squad that STILL almost beat us despite the heroics of Bud Sasser’s “Colt 45” and a young Maty Mauk playing conservative (for the only time in his life). 9.8 times out of 10 we lose this game. But last year showed us that Georgia doesn’t always look at the opponent in front of them. And they’ll be fresh off the World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail party the week before against Florida in Jacksonville and then have the Deep South’s Oldest Rivalry the week after us against Auburn at Jordan-Hare. Injuries happen, 18-22-year olds are dumb and unfocused, and even the most respected master motivator can fail to wrangle 110 young men and have them pull in the same direction. I don’t think we will sneak up on anybody this year, and we need to count on a lot of external factors to occur before we also put together a great plan and execute extremely well for a full 60 minutes to pull off the upset. Who knows where the Tigers stand at this point in the season, but it’s a great opportunity to show exactly what this team can be, win or lose.