Georgia football: 4 things I want to see from the Bulldogs against Kentucky
No. 10 Georgia needs to get things back in focus. After its Playoff chances took a big hit against South Carolina last Saturday, the question is how it will respond as Kentucky comes to town. The Wildcats are riding a bit of a high: They picked up an emotional win against Arkansas in their last outing as Lynn Bowden Jr. — yes, the wide receiver — stepped in for Sawyer Smith at quarterback and ended up scoring the game-winning touchdown. Will it be Bowden and Smith getting the call? Coach Mark Stoops isn’t saying, and probably won’t until the last second.
So here’s what I’m looking for from the Dawgs as they host the Wildcats on Saturday before the 2nd open week of the season. There could probably be a number of things to list here, but I’ve limited it to 4 in particular.
Contain a multi-dimensional Kentucky offense
As mentioned, Bowden was the emergency starter at quarterback against Arkansas as Smith continued to recover from several injuries. Bowden turned in a tremendous performance (7-for-11 for 78 yards and 1 touchdown passing, but 24 carries, 196 yards, and 2 touchdowns rushing). And with Smith “available” on Saturday according to Wildcats offensive coordinator Eddie Gran, that should mean plenty of curveballs for Georgia defensive coordinator Dan Lanning to handle.
Gran’s offense could easily include Smith starting at quarterback but might call for Bowden to enter the game behind center for passing plays or designed runs, or have him line up as a traditional receiver and use A.J. Rose or Kavosiey Smoke as the primary ball carriers at running back. Or Bowden could get the start the whole way.
You won’t catch Gran or Stoops tipping their collective hands, however. And that multi-dimensional approach could catch the Dawgs on their heels if they aren’t careful.
Win in the trenches
Kirby Smart mentioned the importance of moving the ball well against the defensive line of Kentucky in his weekly press conference Tuesday. With a couple of massive players in nose guard Quinton Bohanna (361 pounds) and defensive tackle Calvin Taylor (300 pounds), its job will be to open spaces for the pass rush to try to keep Jake Fromm uncomfortable (something South Carolina did well) while helping its linebacker corps wipe out chances for D’Andre Swift and Georgia’s running backs to do damage.
It’s crucial that the Bulldogs’ front 5 bounce back from the showing against the Gamecocks. Fromm was frazzled and was forced into uncharacteristic mistakes. Swift, along with Zamir White, were hemmed in and their runs struggled to get to the next level, with Swift’s best run measuring just 14 yards.
On the flip side, the Dawgs’ defensive line needs to win its own battles up front. Bowden gashed the Razorbacks as his offensive line gave him enough time to survey the defense and identify his plan of attack. Georgia has done well against the run all season; then again, it’s never faced a quarterback with his mobility.
More creative playcalling
I wrote about it Tuesday. Swift mentioned it during his media availability. But James Coley simply needs to open up the playbook and add an edge to this Georgia offense.
The run was used too heavily last Saturday against the Gamecocks. Instead of using it as a tool to draw in South Carolina’s defense and open up the pass game, Coley kept going to it repeatedly when the opportunity existed to throw the ball. When Fromm did throw it, a number of passes were on comeback routes, screens and quick tosses, with a few of his longer passes a touch past his receivers.
As I mentioned earlier in the week, I don’t expect Fromm to go into gunslinger mode, but it’s on Coley to build upon his strengths and effectively use all the weapons in his arsenal.
As close to a perfect performance as possible
I don’t think simply winning out against the rest of their schedule will be good enough for the Dawgs, certainly after losing to South Carolina in the fashion that they did. A positive you may be able to take from it — if you can call it a positive — was that it wasn’t a blowout.
The best situation for the Bulldogs, then, to start to get back onto the good side of the College Football Playoff committee might be to not only win but do so decisively. No more letting teams hang around during first halves, no more promising touchdown drives that result in field goals or no points at all, no more drive-extending penalties on defense. This needs to be as perfect a performance as possible for Georgia heading into the open week and a telling stretch of games in November that begins in Jacksonville with No. 9 Florida.
The focus for the Bulldogs this week has been to rebound and keep themselves on track to achieve their goals. Their next slip-up will see those goals go out the window for good.