Saturday at 7:00 P.M. in Athens, GA there will be real grown man SEC football played. The battle of the Bulldogs will be a 60-minute physical slugfest that will test the manhood of even the most seasoned SEC competitors. Pads will be popping, noses will be bloodied and a UGA victory may require a hobnailed boot.
The Georgia offense is still trying to find its way while the Dawg defense is playing with swagger. Prior to Notre Dame, Dominick Sanders said UGA would be “coming out and punishing them from the start”. Johnathan Ledbetter said UGA was looking to “prove a point”.
UGA backed up the talk in their biggest physical challenge of the season against the Fighting Irish in South Bend. Against the Dawgs, Notre Dame rushed 37 times for a total of 55 yards – an average of 1.5 yards per carry. In the Irish’s two games this season against opponents not named Georgia they have rushed 95 times for 937 yards – an average of 9.9 yards per carry. The UGA defensive line manhandled Notre Dame at the point of attack on the interior and the outside linebackers limited the mobile Brandon Wimbush to 16 carries for 1 yard by setting the edge and never losing contain. On the rare occasion, there was an opening, it was slammed shut by an ill-tempered Roquan Smith.
Mississippi State is noticeably more physical and athletic at the point of attack than Notre Dame. On Saturday night, the MSU offense mauled the LSU Tigers to the tune of 48 carries for 285 yards. It was not just a few big runs that padded the statistics, it was methodical domination of 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 yards runs at will. Aeris Williams emergence at tailback allows Nick Fitzgerald to pick and choose his spots. However, to a man, the Georgia starting front seven and depth along the defensive front is a different animal than what the MSU faced against the Tigers. UGA is bigger, stronger, faster and deeper than LSU in the front seven. This will be the biggest test for Dan Mullen’s offense since they faced the Alabama on the road last November and were limited to 94 rushing yards on 35 attempts in a 51-3 throttling.
The battle in the trenches is just as critical when Georgia has the football. The formula for every team that plays UGA is to load the box, stuff the run and make the quarterback beat you. MSU has personnel capable of doing exactly that. The defense is led by monster, Jeffrey Simmons, at noseguard and a linebacker corp that is extremely long and athletic. Also, former Georgia safety Johnathan Abraham loves to fly downhill and stick his nose in the running game. There is no question that this is a test of the Dawgs manhood on the offensive line. LSU could only muster 133 yards on 29 carries and Derrius Guice was never able to get on track. Todd Grantham will attack the line of scrimmage for 60 minutes to create negative plays in the run game and attempt rattle Jake Fromm. Four weeks into the season it is time for the offensive line to elevate their play. It is time for the receivers to make big plays when the opportunity presents itself.
After the Samford game, Lorenzo Carter was asked if he had any reaction to the Mississippi State 37-7 victory over LSU and responded laughingly with a blunt, “NO”. Carter went on to say, “It doesn’t matter who we play…we have a lot of confidence”.
The Dawg defense is understandably confident. The offense is gaining confidence after a career day by Terry Godwin and the return to form of a Nick Chubb refusing to be denied.
Any and all remaining questions surrounding this Georgia team will be answered between 7:00 PM and 10:30 PM this Saturday.
This is a game where boys become men.
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