In past years, when Georgia hosted the Georgia Southern Eagles at Sanford Stadium, the Bulldogs got a pretty good tuneup for the following week’s game with the state rival Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets.
That’s because the Eagles then ran pretty much the same triple-option offense that Tech runs under Paul Johnson, Johnson of course also being a former head coach of Georgia Southern.
But this weekend, Georgia’s game against the University of Massachusetts Minutemen won’t be a very good preparation for the Nov. 24 battle with the Yellow Jackets between the hedges.
That’s because UMass is exactly the opposite of what Kirby Smart’s Dawgs will see when the revitalized, now bowl-bound Tech team rolls into Athens. Instead of a ball-control option run attack, the Minutemen will be throwing the ball all over Sanford Stadium. UMass has the FBS nation’s leading pass catcher in senior Andy Isabella, a 5-10, 190-pounder who has blazing speed and can catch ’em short, can catch ’em deep and certainly needs to be a marked man by the Georgia secondary come Saturday’s 4 p.m. kickoff.
It’s kinda difficult to fathom that in UMass’ 62-59 triple-overtime win over Liberty on Nov. 3 Isabella had a staggering 303 receiving yards, which of course was a new school record. And throwing to Isabella, who wears No. 5, will be a pretty fair quarterback named Ross Comis. Comis, a 6-0, 195-pound redshirt senior who took over the quarterback reins after three-year starter Andrew Ford suffered a torn ACL on Oct. 20, made Isabella’s record day against Liberty possible by passing for 540 yards and four touchdowns.
So, most assuredly, the Bulldog defense can’t take a day off against these pass-happy Minutemen. Georgia can’t be caught looking ahead to the Ramblin’ Wreck or that monumental game in Atlanta on Dec. 1. Controlling Isabella, Comis and the rest of the UMass offense, which also has a good running back in Marquis Young, is the only thing the Bulldogs need to be occupied with on Saturday.
But the Minutemen’s aerial fireworks, being honest about everything here, won’t be enough to enable this team to hang close to the No. 5-ranked, 9-1 Dawgs this weekend. Far from it because while Massachusetts enters this game averaging 33.4 points per outing, the Minutemen have been simply atrocious on defense this fall. Can you believe the UMass team is giving up a whopping 40.8 points per game to opposing offenses? Easy to see why the Minutemen stand only 4-7 entering the Georgia game.
In contrast, the team from Amherst, Mass. will be going against a Bulldog edition that puts 37 points a game on the scoreboard while surrendering just 15.8 points per contest, plus Georgia is second in the SEC and 10th nationally in passing yards allowed, giving up 172 yards per game.
Nope, this should be a blowout by Georgia from, say, the second quarter on. I wouldn’t think the Bulldog regulars would have to play more than the first half Saturday. Freshman quarterback Justin Fields should get a bunch of consecutive series guiding the UGA offense and Smart and his staff should be able to play a multitude of their young players who haven’t yet played in four games this season and still would qualify for a redshirt, under the new NCAA ruling established for 2018.
While the Bulldogs won’t tune up for Georgia Tech by facing a team that is similar to the Jackets on the field, Georgia will tune up for Tech by continually lighting up the Sanford Stadium scoreboard and thus building on the momentum the Dawgs will take into the Thanksgiving weekend version of “Good, Old-Fashioned Hate.”
Make it Georgia 54, Massachusetts 10.