Georgia football: What I'd like to see get accomplished after bye week
Georgia’s bye week couldn’t have come at a better time. It follows the first loss of the season, an ugly 36-16 beatdown at LSU that ended the Bulldogs’ six-game winning streak to start the season.
It would be very easy to panic after that first loss, but there’s no time for that. It’s simply time to catch their collective breaths and get ready for what lies ahead: huge SEC East showdowns with Florida in Jacksonville and Kentucky in Lexington. All their championship goals, despite the loss, are still attainable.
Here are five things I want to see from Georgia after the bye week:
1. Get this pass rush situation resolved
Georgia has only 9 sacks in seven games, and that’s just totally unacceptable for a defensive group with this kind of talent. Outside linebacker D’Andre Walker is the Bulldogs’ sack leader with 5, and he has been great, but there isn’t a single other player with more than 1 sack. Walker left the LSU game with cramps, and while he was out, there was no pass rush at all to speak of. He’s back to practice this week and will be fine, but the defensive coaches might need to scheme things up a little differently to get quarterbacks on the ground the next couple of weeks.
2. Get Justin Fields a set of plays that includes passes
Georgia has juggled its quarterback situation well thus far, but that all came crashing down last Saturday when starter Jake Fromm finally struggled badly in a game. It has forced the issue to the forefront that freshman sensation Justin Fields should see more meaningful time. Fields has thrown only 9 passes in SEC games so far, and when he has come in, it has been to run or to just hand off. Sure, there’s still this big unknown as to how Fields would handle a pressure situation, but there’s only one way to find out, and that’s to throw him into the fire with all his weapons. He needs to come in for a series or two in the first half with passing plays included as part of the plan.
3. Leaders like Deandre Baker keep team focused
Cornerback Deandre Baker has been Georgia’s best player this season, with 2 interceptions, 8 pass breakups and 18 tackles. He has shut down star opposing wide receivers like Deebo Samuel of South Carolina and Emanuel Hall of Missouri, and that has been big. What’s even bigger this week is that senior leaders like Baker need to take control of this team and get them back on the right track. There were far too many mental mistakes against LSU, and that screams lack of preparation. That’s where leaders come in.
4. Get some nagging injuries healed up
Running back D’Andre Swift is still nursing an ankle injury, and he has been limited in practice this week. It would be nice to see him 100 percent healthy for the second half of the season, because he hasn’t had the huge season we thought he’d have. He has only 362 rushing yards so far, and he has been slowed by a groin injury, too. There are other, bigger issues that can’t get resolved in a week, but we’ll keep an eye on guard Ben Cleveland, who’s still working his way back from a broken leg but should be back sometime in November. The others get to shake the aches and pains and start refreshed against Florida. That’s a big thing, hitting the reset button.
5. Don’t lose that swagger over just one loss
Georgia was the No. 2 team in the country for most of the season for a reason. Some have doubted their easy schedule, but let’s be honest, this is still a very good team. Now, as the season fires back up, they need to show that in these huge battles against Florida and Kentucky. Winning the SEC East is always the first goal, and the Bulldogs can do that in the next two weeks. Show it, do it, get it done.