Georgia is on the brink of punching their ticket to Atlanta to represent the East in the SEC Championship in back-to-back seasons. After forgetting to get off the bus against South Carolina, redemption was so sweet against the #2 ranked Gators last Saturday. It certainly looks like the Bulldogs will take care of business against two winnable teams in Ole Miss and Auburn. We saw flashes of this ‘12 team and what they could accomplish when they drubbed Vanderbilt 48-3 in September, the best overall performance to date. However, after four less than impressive games and three wins, Georgia looks to return to Athens with a total team breakout performance where everything clicks. And to beat the SEC West champion, firing on all cylinders is a must, and the Bulldogs have to roll into Atlanta clicking, not hoping they can click once they get there.
In early September, I wrote that this Georgia team was different than the rest – you know, all those ultra-talented teams that laid an egg somewhere along the line. They utterly proved me wrong after the drubbing they took against South Carolina in Columbia a few weeks back. However, my feeling about this Georgia team still remains, as the offense is so explosive, with multiple weapons running or throwing, and the defense, including the nation’s best defensive player in Jarvis Jones, has all the pieces to be top five in the country.
The offensive game plan and play calling clicked through the first five games, as the Bulldogs scored over 40 points in each of their contests, and Aaron Murray and Todd Gurley looked like they would go head-to-head for the SEC Offensive Player of the Year award. It was a balanced offense that could score six seemingly at will. However, against South Carolina, Kentucky and Florida in the last three games, the offense had a tougher time against conference defenses and has averaged only 17.6 points per game.
Up until South Carolina, the running and passing game combined to make Georgia the most explosive offense in the SEC. And while that still has a potential to be true, the running game struggled against Kentucky with just 77 yards, and Aaron Murray struggled against Florida with three turnovers. Thankfully, Todd Gurley was a monster against the Gators, rushing for 118 yards and one touchdown, and helped lift the offense to a win, and Murray set personal records with over 400 yards passing and four touchdowns against the Wildcats.
The defense, aside from dominating Vanderbilt, was the most underachieving squad with the most talent in the country through the first eight weeks. With suspended players through the first four games, the nine returning starters didn’t have time to gel as a unit and was largely a middle-of-the-pack SEC defense ranking behind both Missouri and Vanderbilt. However, after Shawn Williams’ verbal jabs, calling out his own teammates with a brutally honest ‘we’re too soft’ charge, the defense came out much more physical, suffocating Florida’s running game and forcing six turnovers. The light switch finally flipped for this talented bunch, and it looks like the defense will return to 2011 form. Their best football is ahead of them as a unit.
The special teams unit has been shaky at best, as they rank in the middle to the bottom of nearly every special teams statistic worth keeping. Two areas that must improve are the punting and point after attempts after touchdowns. Georgia is ranked 13th in punting and 13th in PATs.
The Bulldogs enter week 10 hoping to peak at just the right moment.
Every year it seems the Dawgs never play to their potential, and while the loss to South Carolina marred a perfect season, there is still business to be had and a destiny to control.