The Georgia football fan base has waited for the 2019 season opener ever since Jan. 1, 2019. That’s the day the Bulldogs staged a shaky performance in New Orleans and suffered a disappointing 28-21 loss to the Texas Longhorns.
Now, Bulldog Nation has to wait no longer as Georgia will kick off the new season Saturday evening at 7:30 ET against the Vanderbilt Commodores at Vanderbilt Stadium in Nashville, Tenn.
I don’t have to tell you the expectations for Kirby Smart’s fourth Bulldog football edition are literally through the roof. With Georgia’s talent and depth on both sides of the ball — compiled as the result of Smart fashioning three consecutive top-three national recruiting classes — the Bulldog faithful are not only expecting this team to win the SEC East Division title for a third consecutive season but also, capture the SEC Championship in early December with eyes then on the College Football Playoff and the elusive National Championship.
No pressure, huh?
Certainly, though, the Bulldogs have everything in place to accomplish all those goals … a veteran, seasoned quarterback, supposedly the top offensive line in the country, an ultra-talented and deep running back corps and a receiving group, while inexperienced overall, that boasts potentially a bunch of explosive playmakers.
And defensively, coordinator Dan Lanning also has loads of talent in the defensive line, linebacking corps, and defensive backfield to be much improved over the 2018 unit (especially at stopping the run) and thus ably complement what is expected to be a very potent offensive team.
Now, that said, all these 2019 Bulldogs have to do is play the games, right?
Unquestionably, the opening game of a new season — and especially when it comes against an SEC opponent — always gives us clues if the team is going to perform up to expectations or not. So as the Dawgs get set to take the field Saturday night against what will be an upset-minded band of Commodores, here is what I would like to see Georgia accomplish on opening night:
*** The Bulldogs’ talented offensive front paving the way for Georgia to rush for between 250 and 300 yards against the ‘Dores defense.
*** D’Andre Swift zipping for 150 yards in the first game of his last year in red and black.
*** Brian Herrien, Zamir White and James Cook each running for more than 50 yards Saturday night; the Georgia fans have really been anticipating the long-delayed playing debut of Zeus (White).
*** Jake Fromm smoothly guiding the Bulldog attack and passing for right at 200 yards and several touchdowns, thus balancing out the Georgia offensive totals to perfection.
*** The much-discussed UGA receiving corps rising to the occasion on opening night, with Tyler Simmons, Demetris Robertson, Matt Landers, Kearis Jackson, Lawrence Cager, Trey Blount and the two freshmen — George Pickens and Dominick Blaylock — all making outstanding receptions and showing they are ready to go against tough SEC secondaries. Add tight ends Charlie Woerner and Eli Wolf to that group.
*** The Bulldogs’ senior-led defensive linemen creating a stone wall when the Commodores’ All-SEC running back, Ke’Shawn Vaughn, has the football in his hands.
*** Georgia’s inside linebackers … Monty Rice, Tae Crowder, Nakobe Dean, Channing Tindall, Quay Walker and the like plugging the running holes when Vaughn and the Vandy backs do break the first line of defense.
*** The Bulldogs’ outside linebackers … Azeez Ojulari, Walter Grant, Nolan Smith, Jermaine Johnson, Adam Anderson, Robert Beal … bringing the heat on Commodore quarterbacks Riley Neal and Deuce Wallace and also being sound at stopping the run when Vanderbilt attempts to attack the edge.
*** Georgia’s highly-regarded secondary, with the likes of J.R. Reed, Richard LeCounte, Eric Stokes, DJ Daniel, Tyson Campbell, Mark Webb, Tyrique Stevenson, Tyrique McGhee, Divaad Wilson, and Lewis Cine all defending the pass (primarily against All-SEC receiver Kalija Lipscomb and TE Jared Pinkney) and run equally well. I’d say three total picks in this game would be a nice start for that group.
*** The Bulldogs’ special teams having an error-free opening night. Great kick coverage, several field-changing kickoff and punt returns, outstanding punting by Jake Camarda and a perfect field-goal kicking night by Rodrigo Blankenship would be just what the doctor, and Kirby, ordered!
Without question, if the Bulldogs accomplish even three-fourths of the hoped-for things I’ve mentioned here, it should equate to a big win Saturday evening in Nashville. I believe they will.
Make it Dawgs 41, Dores 14!