As we now look at Georgia-Texas A&M, one prediction that will likely come true is that it will be a wet Dooley Field at Sanford Stadium come the 3:30 p.m. kickoff Saturday.
The forecast shows it raining much of the night Friday in Athens and then most of Saturday morning. Hopefully, however, as this key Southeastern Conference battle between the Bulldogs and Aggies unfolds, the two teams won’t be playing in the monsoon-like conditions that enveloped the Georgia-Kentucky game back on Oct. 19.
Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs enter their final conference tilt armed with a 9-1 season, 6-1 SEC ledger and a No. 4 ranking in the CFP poll while Jimbo Fisher’s Aggies venture between the hedges playing pretty good football themselves. Texas A&M, in fact, comes to town with four consecutive wins under its belt … over Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Texas at San Antonio and, the same South Carolina team that dealt the Bulldogs their only setback of the fall.
That streak has enabled the Aggies (24th ranked in AP) to boost their season record to 7-3, and, take a look at the three teams A&M has lost to. That would be the presently 3rd-ranked Clemson Tigers (by 24-10), the 15th-ranked Auburn Tigers (28-20) and the 5th-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide (47-28).
And making their first trip to Georgia since they joined the SEC in 2012, it goes without saying that Jimbo — who won a national championship at Florida State — will have his team highly motivated to take down a top-5 ranked team.
And, especially on the offensive side of the ball, Texas A&M has the talent to go toe-to-toe with the Bulldogs. Junior quarterback Kellen Mond may well be the best quarterback Georgia’s defense will encounter during the regular season as he gets the job done both throwing the football and running it. In the loss to Alabama, Mond passed for 264 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 90 yards and another score. Are you ready for this guy, Bulldog secondary?
Mond also has two pretty good running backs behind him as the Aggies use a two-back formation. One of those is freshman Isaiah Spiller, a 6-1, 220-pounder who ripped Texas at San Antonio for 217 yards and three touchdowns in A&M’s 45-14 waltz on Nov. 2. The other is an even bigger back, 240-pound sophomore Cordarrian Richardson, who ran for 130 yards including a 75-yard touchdown burst in last weekend’s 30-6 win over South Carolina. Spiller was right behind in that game as he totaled 129 yards.
And when Spiller, Richardson, and Mond aren’t pounding opposing defenses in the run game, Mond is throwing it … most of the time to his ace receiver, 6-2, 228-pound junior Jhamon Ausbon. Texas A&M’s leading pass catcher, Ausbon has posted back-to-back 100-yard receiving games this season with one of those being against the sticky Auburn defense.
So, no question, Georgia’s SEC-leading defensive unit has its work cut out in attempting to slow the Aggies’ balanced offensive attack. On the other side of the ball, however, you would think the Bulldogs’ offense will be able to find success against a Texas A&M defense that ranks 36th in the country against the rush. But Smart said this week on the SEC teleconference that the Aggies’ defense has made measurable improvement during the course of the season. Outside linebacker Buddy Johnson and defensive tackle Justin Madubuike are two of the Aggies’ talented defenders that the Bulldogs’ O-line has to deal with.
But again, and they did limit the Gamecock offense to six points and just 45 yards net rushing this past Saturday in College Station, the Aggies have had trouble at times this season slowing down opposing running games. So the Bulldogs, who haven’t run for 200 yards since the Oct. 19 game against Kentucky when they compiled 235 on the ground, will have ample opportunity to reach that mark on Saturday.
It’s difficult to gauge how the rain and wet playing conditions will affect Saturday’s contest. You would think both the Bulldogs and Aggies will lean heavily on their ground-and-pound games with just a mixture of passes by Jake Fromm and Mond to keep the defenses from stacking the box too much.
Coming after the big win on the Plains last weekend, which locked up Georgia’s third consecutive SEC East crown and a trip to the Dec. 7 conference championship game once again, the Bulldogs can’t have an emotional letdown and win this game against this dangerous Aggie bunch.
And with this being the final game between the hedges for Georgia’s talented senior class, and likely a couple of juniors name Swift and Thomas as well, there’s no reason that the Bulldogs shouldn’t be ready to play. Sure, they’re in the SEC title game against LSU no matter how this game goes but an upset loss to Texas A&M would all but surely end any college playoff hopes that Georgia holds.
So I’m looking for the Bulldogs to get the job done once again, with a 28-17 win over the Aggies. Then, state rival Georgia Tech as well as the No. 1-ranked Bayou Bengals will have this team’s full attention.