At the end of October, Georgia was sitting at 4-4 on the season and fans were wondering if this team could win enough of their final four games to become bowl eligible. Fast forward a couple of weeks later, and the Bulldogs have a solid road win against Kentucky and then pull off an upset of 9th ranked Auburn at home last Saturday. Now, at 6-4 on the season, they will host Louisiana-Lafayette, and if they want win number seven, here are my five keys for a Dawgs’ victory.
1. O-LINE GROOVE
Georgia’s offensive line has had its struggles this season blocking the run, for the pass, and avoiding costly penalties. Offensive line coach Sam Pittman is amongst the best in the business and his plan is to soon have Georgia’s front amongst the very best in all the land. Amongst the highlights for the Bulldogs line this season was the fourth quarter performance in the 27-24 win at Kentucky. While dealing with an injury to Tyler Catalina, the Bulldogs pieced it together and went on two scoring drives that delivered the win. That’s the kind of toughness, grit and guile the Dogs need moving forward. Getting a big push from the front is essential to put up big numbers against the Ragin’ Cajuns, and with the biggest game of them all against Tech looming, with that triple option attack, it will certainly take a lot of points to defeat the Jackets. A groove and rhythm for the offensive line is essential for a happy end to the season.
2. FRONT SEVEN DOMINANCE
Georgia’s defensive line features just one upperclassman, junior John Atkins. Everyone else is a freshman or sophomore. They keep getting better, the group is made of highly touted prospects and they are a big reason there is such optimism for the Bulldogs defense looking ahead to 2017 and beyond. Throw in a linebacking corps led by sophomores Natrez Patrick and Roquan Smith, and this youthful front seven that already packs a pretty good punch has the chance to be downright outstanding. A shutdown of the Lafayette run game is a must. Then comes the pressure in the passing game and a chance to create turnovers.
3. SOUND SPECIAL TEAMS
This is a key every time out, and it has been a question mark for Georgia for many years. It’s one of the top priorities for Kirby Smart, his staff and players moving forward. Georgia must get to sound and steady before the goal of tremendous can be achieved. The punt game in particular, on both ends, has proven to be amongst Georgia’s biggest obstacles this season.
4. BIG PLAYS ON OFFENSE
This season, the Bulldogs haven’t put together many long scoring plays. There was Nick Chubb’s 55-yard jaunt in the Georgia Dome, Isaiah McKenzie’s catch-and-run against Nicholls and a couple of freshman-to-freshman scores against the Vols that covered some pretty good acreage, but the chunk plays haven’t consistently been there. The McKenzie and Sony Michel touchdowns in the Bulldogs win at Kentucky … those are the types of plays Georgia needs to close this season out in style.
5. BE SHARP
This is a classic “tweener” game. After eight straight SEC showdowns, including last week’s 120th edition of Georgia-Auburn, and with Tech on deck, the noon kickoff and Louisiana – Lafayette doesn’t present the storylines of what’s up next. But Georgia must continue to strive for consistent sound execution and solid play. The Bulldogs need to be clicking to win these last two between the hedges. The near-disaster loss to Nicholls State will serve as motivation enough for Kirby Smart to preach the no-look ahead message to his team.