With Georgia’s remaining schedule, a bowl game is no guarantee
A bye week separated Georgia’s losses to Vanderbilt and Florida, but the two games looked disappointingly similar.
The Bulldogs’ offense was rendered one-dimensional behind an offensive line that can’t consistently win in the trenches, while the defense allowed a few key plays at the wrong time.
After winning three consecutive games to open the season, Georgia has now lost four of its past five games and the road ahead is suddenly looking more daunting. The last time the Bulldogs endured a 1-4 stretch was in 2010, when Georgia started 1-4 while A.J. Green was suspended by the NCAA. Notably, that team was also starting a freshman quarterback in Aaron Murray.
If the Bulldogs don’t stop the bleeding soon, however, they are in danger of losing five games in a six-game span for the first time in over a quarter of a century, when Ray Goff’s squad ended the 1990 season by losing six of the final seven games.
It would be a troubling footnote, but there’s more at stake than that. With games against Kentucky, Auburn, and Georgia Tech forthcoming, there is the possibility that Georgia’s streak of 19 consecutive bowl games – the third-longest active streak in college football – could end.
This is obviously a worst-case scenario. But after Saturday’s loss to Florida, it’s clear that Georgia shouldn’t be guaranteed to beat anybody. Fortunately, the Bulldogs have a matchup against Louisiana-Lafayette remaining, which would assumedly take some effort to lose, meaning they need one additional win to reach that six-win threshold.
Let’s take a look at Georgia’s upcoming stretch and break down the Bulldogs’ chances.
Nov. 5: at Kentucky (5-3, 4-2 SEC)
The Wildcats are on a three-game win streak and fresh off an impressive 35-21 victory at Missouri. Kentucky gained 377 yards on the ground and had over 500 yards of total offense in the win.
Kentucky’s greatest strength is its running game, which averages over 200 yards per game. Fortunately, the strength of Georgia’s defense lies in its ability to stifle an opponent’s ground attack. This is a matchup that could very well determine the outcome of the game.
Defensively, the Wildcats are a much more manageable opponent than the one the Bulldogs just faced. Kentucky is surrendering about 30 points per contest and isn’t particularly great against either the run or the pass.
ESPN’s FPI, which measures several factors to determine an opponent’s ability and the likelihood of a victory, currently has Kentucky ranked No. 75 among college football teams – for reference, South Carolina is ranked No. 73. That is likely to change, however, after the recent win against Missouri is accounted for.
The FPI is projecting a 66.1 percent chance of victory for the Bulldogs, but that might be a bit on the high side considering the teams’ recent performance and the fact that the game will be played at Kentucky with a 7:30 p.m. ET kickoff.
Nov. 12: vs. Auburn (6-2, 4-1)
Like Kentucky, Auburn has put together a string of impressive performances, including three dominant wins against Mississippi State, Arkansas and Ole Miss.
The Tigers’ offense appears to be firing on all cylinders and they are averaging over 35 points per game. Fortunately for Georgia, Kirby Smart’s background means that he is no stranger to Auburn’s offense. Still, it will be a tremendous challenge for the Bulldogs’ young, improving defense.
The big problem for Georgia will come on offense. Auburn’s defense is among the best in college football and is behind only Michigan and Florida in points allowed, giving up just over two touchdowns a game. If the Bulldogs can’t get things fixed on offense, this could be another tough outing.
Per ESPN’s FPI, Auburn is ranked No. 7, which is 11 spots higher than Florida. Georgia has an 18.3 percent chance to win this home matchup.
Nov. 19: vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (3-4)
This is a game Georgia will be expected to win, and it’s one it will need to win down the stretch.
The Bulldogs will have more talent on the field in this game, but against Nicholls State, they showed that doesn’t necessarily mean an easy victory.
Louisiana-Lafayette struggles to score, averaging under 25 points per game, and is near the bottom of all college football teams with 378 yards of offense per outing. On defense, it has proven to be a little more capable. The Ragin’ Cajuns are giving up just under 28 points a game and are stout against the run.
Still, Georgia should win this game and it has a 94.6 percent chance of victory, according to the FPI.
Nov. 26: vs. Georgia Tech (5-3)
It’s entirely possible that Georgia’s bowl eligibility will come down to this rivalry contest against Georgia Tech.
While Mark Richt was overwhelmingly successful against the Yellow Jackets, it remains to be seen how Smart will fare against that other in-state school.
Although this isn’t one of the dominant Georgia Tech squads we’ve seen a couple of times under Paul Johnson, it is one that can hang with most teams. The Yellow Jackets are once again among the nation’s best when it comes to running the football, averaging 235 yards per game, but quarterback Justin Thomas has shown he’s capable of throwing it as well.
Defending a triple-option offense is no easy feat, and Smart’s ability to prepare his defense will be tested mightily in this matchup.
Because of its ball-control offense, Georgia Tech’s opponents don’t get much time with the football. The Bulldogs will need to be efficient on offense and can’t afford to waste many possessions.
ESPN’s FPI has Georgia Tech No. 50 among college football teams, one spot higher than Missouri, and gives Georgia a 64.1 percent chance of emerging victorious in this matchup.
William McFadden covers the University of Georgia for Saturday Down South. For news on everything happening between the hedges, follow him on Twitter @willmcfadden.