"The Hedges". Many of them are driving South. - Scott Cunningham
A quick talk to the staff at DawgSports about what has happened with the Bulldogs this season.
Happy Monday morning to you fine folks. Now stop grumbling, I know it's Monday, but the majority of you have tomorrow off, so it's a necessary evil you can go through. As for those of you that don't have tomorrow off (like me), well it's alright.
Part two, right below these words, talk about the team and season, and what they have gone through as expect come Tuesday afternoon.
1. Well, from an outsider looking in, it seems that Georgia really has only played one bad game, and that was the debacle at South Carolina. Even against Florida and Alabama this team seemed pretty good. So, how did the team and fanbase take Florida getting into the BCS while the Bulldogs went to Orlando?
Mr. Sanchez - We were disappointed, but more disappointed about losing to Alabama in a winnable game. The way the BCS is set up, we couldn’t get in to the BCS. Alabama was #2, and therefore locked in to the title game. Florida, being ranked #3, was guaranteed a spot by the rules set up by the BCS being in the top 4. With only 2 teams per conference allowed, we couldn’t have possibly made a BCS game. Of course, that brings up a complaint about the new 4 team playoff proposal, since it would have essentially penalized Georgia for beating Florida and making the SEC Championship as they’d been a top 4 team and playoff bound with Georgia on the outside looking in because they had the better season.
Ludakit - The biggest issue Dawg fans have is not with Florida getting in over us, but more of the ridiculousness of the rest of the BCS system. Northern Illinois (while a good story, and actually may beat Florida State) lost to Iowa. I’ll let that sink in for a minute. Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl is a joke as well. The truth of the matter is that the BCS and its rules have created more terrible games than they have produced good ones, and that’s why a new system is coming. I don’t begrudge Florida for going 11-1, but I don’t think there’s a soul out there that could sensibly argue for either Wisconsin or Northern Illinois getting a shot at a BCS bowl above UGA. At some point, ticket sales for BCS and non-BCS bowls alike will demand that they have less rules and more matchups that people want to see.
2. Aaron Murray has had one hell of a career in his three years at QB for you guys. What is the overview of his season and career going into the end of his Junior season, and what are the odds he declares for the NFL Draft?
Mr. Sanchez - He had a good season, and has had a good career. He’s struggled against top teams, but so has the entire program over the last several years. It’d be nice if he performed better under pressure (both against big teams, and when defenses are spending a lot of time in the backfield), but that can be said about almost any QB. I’d guess he’s coming back, as he both seems to really enjoy college life, and has seemed angry over the loss to Bama wanting to come back to win a title. But his main issue in the NFL (height) can’t be solved in another year, and with the success of Russell Wilson, among other 6’ or so passers, I don’t think it’ll be as much an issue come draft time.
Ludakit - Aaron Murray finds himself always on the fine line of being loved by the fans or absolutely hated by them. When you look at his statistics, he’s arguably one of the best quarterbacks to play for Georgia in the last 30 years, but then you look at his record against ranked teams and your heart just breaks for the kid. He’s been an amazing leader, and has never said a cross word about his coaches, teammates, or anyone else. He’s won at least 10 games for two straight seasons, and I’m not necessarily sure that some of those "big games" people complain about can be blamed solely on Murray. I still think his odds of leaving are about 30%, but an extra year in college isn’t going to make him taller. The only thing he can prove by coming back is that he can win the bigger games, like the ones we have next year (Clemson, South Carolina, Florida, LSU).
3. Rushing wise, Georgia averaging over 180 yards/game in the SEC is saying something. With Nebraska’s interior D Line, as we would say it, thin, is this something that the Bulldogs are drooling over Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall running both through and around the Huskers (especially after watching the Wisconsin game)?
Mr. Sanchez - In a word, yes. Marshall hasn’t been as productive as Gurley, but he’s shown the ability to go a long way if he gets just the slightest seam. Gurley is bigger, but not much slower (and has an impressive youtube highlight reel of his own). He does a tremendous job setting up his blockers and has a deceptive speed to me, almost like he’s jogging as he turns a corner and breaks a long one.
MaconDawg- Georgia is definitely going to try to run the ball. But it's critical for Husker defenders to remember that Bulldog OC Mike Bobo likes to run to set up the play action pass. Georgia's offense is most effective when the power running game and play action passing game are both humming.
Ludakit - From what I’ve heard, and from what I’ve seen us do during the year, we’re going to try and run the ball until you absolutely stop us. If there’s even a hope of us getting four yards a carry, then we’ll keep running it. Georgia’s still in the mix for a couple of top OL recruits, and the best way to get them excited about coming to UGA is by road-grading whomever we can. So, I would be shocked if Nebraska fans didn’t see a strong dose of both Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall on New Year’s Day.
4. Tavares King, Malcolm Mitchell, Marlon Brown... some good receivers for Murray to throw to. Considering the secondary for Nebraska has been and (should) be their strongest defensive group on Tuesday, is there a worry that the Huskers secondary can shut down the Georgia receiving corps?
Mr. Sanchez - Marlon Brown is out injured, as is Michael Bennett, so don’t worry about either one of them. But Georgia has been able to throw it against Alabama and Vanderbilt, both team 10 passing defenses. He has several good receivers, including speedsters King and Mitchell, as well as bigger targets like Jay Rome and Arthur Lynch. The biggest problem has been when the line doesn’t give him time (see the above comment about handling pressure and games against South Carolina and Florida), so if they can protect, he and his pass catchers can carve up just about anyone.
Ludakit - I would say don’t sleep on the Tight Ends and keep an eye out for Chris Conley. For Nebraska fans who aren’t familiar with him, he’s the unfortunate soul who caught the tipped pass in the SEC Championship. Everyone knows about King and Mitchell, but the bowl game is a chance for some of 2013’s playmakers to make a statement. I expect the entire playbook to be opened up, and as Mr. Sanchez mentioned above, the play action pass may cause problems for the Nebraska secondary. That’s not to say Georgia’s just going to have their way out there, but in order for the secondary to be effective, Nebraska’s front seven is going to have to show up.
5. We know about John Jenkins losing his chance to play in this game, and it takes away the only person with double digit sacks for this Defense. Talk to us why this isn’t a bad thing, and who/how the Bulldogs Defense will match up across the board both in the running and passing game.
Mr. Sanchez - John Jenkins was the nose guard. The man with double digit sacks is All-American OLB Jarvis Jones. It can get confusing, considering we have those JJs, as well as freshman OLB Jordan Jenkins, who has stepped up at the spot opposite Jones. While it’d be better to have that 350 pound, potential NFL first round pick, eating up space in the interior, he hasn’t exactly played at a high level all year. He has big potential, but his backup, junior Kwame Geathers, is also a 350 pound beast of a man (nephew of NFL legend Jumpy Geathers, and brother of the Bengals’ Robert Geathers Jr and the Cowboys’ Clifton Geathers). If senior DE Abry Jones is healthy, he’ll help negate the loss of John Jenkins, but our DL has been a weak spot all year. As such, we are susceptible to a power running game (as Alabama showed grinding out 350 yards mostly between the tackles). This defense is at it’s best chasing and attacking on the outside, with LBs Alec Ogletree and Amarlo Herrera chasing sideline to sideline along with SS Shawn Williams delivering big hits, and the aforementioned OLB JJs, as well as guys like Cornelius Washington, giving pressure off the edge. We have great pass rushers, and a talented, veteran secondary in coverage. So pass defense is a huge strength of this unit, with interior run defense being it’s weakness.
Ludakit - Mr. Sanchez pretty much nailed it. The entire DL has been a little bit of a letdown this year, which is why the Georgia fan base wasn’t so incredibly torn up about Rodney Garner leaving (he was our DL coach and Recruiting Coordinator). Kwame Geathers and John Jenkins will both be in the NFL at some point, although Kwame could stay one more year if he so chose. It never hurts to have a future NFL’er at a position, and getting Abry Jones back could be big. However, just like Mr. Sanchez said, we just need the DL to contain so that our LBs can crash down on the QB. If we can contain, I like our chances to give Martinez a really long day. If we can’t, we’ll be in big trouble.
6. Looking strictly at stats, it seems that the Bulldogs kicking game could worry some. Marshall Morgan going 8 for 13 on FG’s and the team only averaging 7 yards per punt return can make one worry. Is there cause for concern, or is there something better than the numbers indicate there?
Mr. Sanchez - Punt return has been an issue. Malcolm Mitchell is capable of big returns, but he struggles with his decision making, and hasn’t broken one all year. Rhett McGowan took over the job because he makes better decision and has surer hands, but he’s not a threat to break a big gain. Mitchell and Gurley have big play potential in kick returns, but we haven’t shown that aside from one time against Buffalo. Freshman Collin Barber struggled with distance early, but has always had good hang time, and has been able to get more length to go with the high kicks as the season progressed. Between Morgan, and Jamie Lindley, we have big legs for kickoffs. But while Morgan has a big leg on field goals, his consistency has been an issue, and you almost feel safer with him on a 50 yard FG than an extra point (he’s missed 5 of them this season, including 2 vs Tennessee). Simply put, we’ll be sitting on pins and needles every time he lines one up.
Ludakit - If this year has taught me anything, it’s that extra points aren’t to be taken for granted. I’ve liked the way we’ve covered punts, and I do think special teams overall have improved throughout the year, but you never know what you’re going to get from Marshall Morgan. I’m much less concerned about our ability to return punts and kicks, as our offense has been able to flip the field often, but I’m terribly worried if we get into a FG-critical situation.
7. Simply put, what would a win for Georgia in Orlando mean going into the offseason? On the other hand, what would a loss do?
Mr. Sanchez - It’d be a relief to win, and cause for concern if we lose. We lost the SEC Championship last year, then lost the bowl game in Florida to a Big 10 team (Michigan St in the Outback) to end last season. To have this season end in similar fashion will be disappointing, and kill the good vibe that this season has created. A win over a solid team would help give some positive energy going into the off season. It will build on the optimism in the fanbase that the team is getting back to the form that saw them win 2 SEC titles, and finish in the top 6 4 times in Richt’s first 7 seasons (plus another ending the season ranked #10 in 2005).
Ludakit - I’ll try to keep this one as simple as possible, but a win continues the momentum that this team, while it didn’t win its way into the national title game, it definitely played its way into the conversation of one of the best teams in the nation. A loss almost eradicates the positive equity in recruiting that we’ve gained since the SEC Championship, and takes the Dawgs out of any conversation as a team to watch in 2013.
8. Alright everyone, lets have your predictions with final scores and how the game will play out for both teams.
Mr. Sanchez - I see Georgia taking a commanding lead early, with Martinez leading a furious 4th quarter comeback to make it close, before Gurley puts it away with a late TD. 48-38, Georgia wins.
Ludakit - No offense to Nebraska and their fans (who are seemingly the nicest people on the planet), but I don’t see any way Georgia scores less than 30+ points, and if this defense can play up to its level, Nebraska will have a hard time breaking 20. I’m thinking 38-13 Dawgs.