Han Vance on Georgia football: At 4-0, the University of Georgia Bulldogs are one of many teams roughly one quarter of the way to winning an American college football national championship. Let’s look at how they got here and the upcoming challenges.
The Dawgs opened up at Vandy, a much more “exotic” destination than usual for an opener. The Georgia coaches had the guys all tuned up for the long run back to New Orleans – where they had fallen flat on their faces in a Sugar Bowl loss to an emergent Texas Longhorns on the first day of 2019. In three consecutive drives, junior quarterback Jake Fromm led the talented offensive side to three touchdowns, while stellar safety J.R. Reed captained the defense as it blanked the under-matched Vanderbilt offense. The preseason pressure was off at 21-0, and Georgia turned off the high-energy flow, seemingly, only edging the private school’s team 9-6 thereon. This was not extremely troubling because the game was so solidly in-hand and the Commodores are known for fighting hard, used to losing as valiantly as they can. 30-6 Georgia (1-0) but more importantly already with a road win in the SEC. Cocktail Party resultant, every other year Georgia has barely any road games. An extreme advantage when it comes around, this is that year. In 2017, Georgia rode such a favorable schedule to the SEC championship and CFP.
Then, came the cupcakes. Nothing besides money is ever gained by playing cupcake games, and it is especially bad for the fans. I watched from the soothingly air-conditioned environ of the old City Bar in Athens, after melting in Sanford Stadium at the home opener last year for a half. Georgia stayed in a slow mode and did not start the game well. A bigger opponent could have been up by two scores instead of one, by the time Georgia awakened. The offense exploded for 63 points. The defense yielded a quarter-season high of 17.
Mid-major Arkansas State looked to be a slightly more challenging opponent than the Murray State team of the small bracket FCS had been, noting here that I could write a paragraph about a Murray State football game without even saying their name in it. Dawgs opened up a can and won 55-0. Yawn.
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The Irish came in at #7 and the Bulldogs sat at #3. Again, Georgia started super slow and were trailing. This time the disadvantage continued into the 2nd half, though. When, Jake Fromm led the team to the huge home win behind some great catches by Lawrence Cager, 98 (total) rushing yards by one-time Heisman candidate D’Andre Swift and two UGA interceptions, most-notable a diving sideline snare by J.R. Reed. The game Golden Domers tackled extremely well in space and limited the nationally foreseen power football rushing attack, forcing a close and low-scoring football battle to the end. Notre Dame matched the high-water Murray State mark of 17, holding Georgia to just 23 – the Dawgs were favored by as much as 16 some places – in a classic game that in many ways mirrored the fabled 20-19 Georgia win at South Bend.
Bye week (4-0).
Win at Tennessee (5-0, 2-0 SEC) – Redout at Neyland at 7:00 p.m.; they’re in the tank.
South Carolina in Athens should be easy enough. They lost their starting quarterback early in the year and were 6-7 last year. Georgia alum Will Muschamp may be on his way out.
Homecoming for Kentucky in Athens should be easy enough. They lost their starting quarterback early in the year and after a great 2018 lost perhaps their best runner and defender in school history.
Another bye here, and Georgia should be undefeated.
I’m going to Jacksonville this year for the SEC East championship, just as I was in Lexington for the de facto SEC East title tilt last year. I can’t make them all, but this is the big game. Florida can beat a Georgia that starts slow, has lapses of focused play and clinches too tightly in close games. If Georgia is a true CFP contender, the Bulldogs must play well in Jacksonville. Go Dawgs!
Back in the Classic City, still without a challenging true road game, Mizzou comes to Athens, when I will be hosting the 4th annual ATHENS LEGACY PARTY, at ‘That Bar’ downtown. All day throwdown. They lost their opener out of conference, but Missouri is a darkhorse SEC East contender.
November 16th looks like a tough spot. Kirby Smart has not won at the SEC West, at all, suffering three blowouts of varying degrees in his short three-year tenure as a head football coach on any level. This is an area of improvement that must be made, and Auburn with a veteran defensive line looks formidable. It won’t be a Redout in The Jungle. Very late, crazy infrequent to be getting a (lone) road challenge.
On November 23rd, my grandpa’s school visits Athens for a second and final top home game of the year. Texas A&M faces the toughest schedule in the country in 2019, has a national championship head coach and a statistically productive quarterback. Georgia has not lost at home since Georgia Tech of 2016.
It is not 2016 anymore, and Georgia Tech lost to the Citadel this year. Dawgs win big in ATL.
Then the SEC championship will see the Georgia, Florida, Mizzou survivor versus the probable favorite from the SEC West: Alabama, LSU or Auburn. Georgia over Bama by ten is my prediction.
The CFP has, I’d guess, Clemson, Ohio State, Oklahoma and just one team from the SEC, its champ. I previously picked Clemson, Bama, Georgia, Oklahoma but Alabama has more weaknesses than usual this season and the league schedules for the other three are looking much softer than they did in the preseason.
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