1. To date, Georgia has done everything that could be expected of them, but the schedule has been pretty light. Any concern with the step up in competition?
This is going to sound as contrarian as hell, but as someone who believes that the team has struggled with focus at times because it knows it’s more talented than the opposition it’s faced in the first six games, I think the step up is going to help in that regard. That’s not to say I expect Georgia to dominate Saturday afternoon, but I do believe the quality of the opponent is going to help with consistency.
2. Jake Fromm has been incredibly efficient as a quarterback, but the running game still seems to rule the roost for the Georgia offense. How would you describe this team’s approach?
Kirby Smart’s mantra from the get-go has been for Georgia to impose its will on the other team. The Dawgs’ identity is wrapped up in that big offensive line leaning on the other team’s defense in order to wear it out come the second half. It’s worked, too.
(With two starters on the o-line out for this Saturday, though, we’ll see how well that holds up.)
That being said, Georgia came out throwing last weekend against Vanderbilt, partly to get Mason’s defense to back off defending the run and partly, I think, to send a message to upcoming defensive coordinators not to sleep on Georgia’s passing game.
Still, Georgia has run for more than 200 yards in every game this season but one and even in that one, against Missouri, managed 185. That’ll be the goal again in Baton Rouge.
3. Both the running game and passing game seems to flow through a number of different sources. Who are the main names LSU fans should know?
Chubb and Michel are gone, but Georgia is actually rushing at a better rate this season than in 2017. The two leading rushers are Elijah Holyfield, who’s averaging almost seven-and-a-half yards per attempt, and D’Andre Swift, who’s been recovering from a nagging groin injury but looked close to full recovery last Saturday. Fun stat: of UGA’s top five rushers, the leader in yards per attempt is quarterback Justin Fields.
The receiving corps has, to date, been the most pleasant surprise of the season for me. The leading receivers are Mecole Hardman, who’s a burner, and Riley Ridley, who (like his older brother) is a superb route runner with great hands. Also, keep an eye on Terry Godwin, who was Georgia’s top returning receiver, but has been dogged with injuries. He opened the scoring against Vanderbilt with a 75-yard touchdown reception and appears to be as healthy as he’s been in a while.
One other thing to say about Georgia’s receivers is that they are, by far, the best blocking bunch I’ve ever seen play for the program.
Jake Fromm is having a better year than he did as a true freshman, when all he did was play for a national title. He sees the field better and makes the intermediate throw as well as anyone in college football. The one area where he seems to have taken a (slight) step back is in making throws under pressure. Fortunately, there haven’t been that many such situations this season.
4. Georgia ranks dead last in the SEC in sacks so far. Is the pass rush a real concern?
A certain chunk of the fan base and media sure thinks so. Smart and some of the players have been asked about it regularly.
But here’s the thing: despite being at the bottom of the conference in sacks, Georgia leads the SEC in defensive yards per pass attempt. Smart and Tucker have focused the defense on season on not giving up the big play and — guess what? — the Dawgs have given up the fewest pass plays of 20-plus yards in the conference and are fourth in that regard nationally.
If you’re going to beat Georgia’s pass defense, you’re going to have to do it methodically. I can live with that.
5. The Dawgs have shown a slight vulnerability in the running game a few times this year. Could that be something LSU could exploit?
Georgia has been good, but not great, defending the run. It’s eighth in the SEC in average yards per rushing attempt. Again, though, it’s only allowed one rushing play over twenty yards all season.
The concern has been a lack of consistency. They’ll make a great play and then turn around and allow a good gain on the next. Run fits and gap control appear to come and go at times. Besides not giving up the big play, what’s helped is that once Georgia gets out to a big lead, opposing offenses are forced to abandon the run.
The Dawgs haven’t faced a situation all season where an opponent kept the game close enough in the second half to maintain a running attack as a viable threat. If you’re asking me what my biggest concern is this Saturday, that’s it in a nutshell.
6. Can you give us a run-down on the injury situation for Georgia? My understanding is that the offensive line is a little banged up.
Ben Cleveland, the man mountain who started at right guard, is out with a fractured fibula. He’s not expected back until much later in the season. Cade Mays, a true freshman who’s also huge, is playing the position in Cleveland’s absence. Saturday will mark his third start (he also started at left tackle for a game).
Solomon Kindley, the starting left guard after the second game, suffered a mild right knee injury that evidently looked worse initially than the post-game MRI revealed. They’re hopeful he can play Saturday. If not, he, too, was replaced by a true freshman in the Vandy game and that’s probably what we’d see against LSU.
A couple of defensive players, cornerback Tyson Campbell and linebacker Monty Rice, are banged up but expected to play.
There’s also a wide receiver, Tyler Simmons, who’s the best blocker in the receiving corps, dinged up enough to have worn a shoulder brace last Saturday. I don’t think his condition has improved.