So here we sit, 11-1. "Eleven, and One!!" And nobody outside the state-wide intersections of Rome to Valdosta, or Albany to Tocoa wants to give us a chance. Fine! We are Georgia. And we are represented very, very well by the true, loyal, undying fans of the University of Georgia.
So, there's a football game? About that...
I like where our Dawgs stand in this matchup. A lot. Over the last 13 weeks, nobody has given the University of Georgia a crying chance when it comes to the offensive line. Yet, the last four weeks, this unit has been the driving force behind an ultra-successful latter part of the Dawgs' schedule, assisting junior QB Aaron Murray with time to throw 13 touchdown passes without giving up a single interception. The big uglies are peaking, and at the right time. But they have not seen a defense as physical as Bama this year. It will be interesting to see if the momentum they have right now can hold up for four more quarters.
Speaking of Aaron Murray, he has been lights out since giving up three interceptions in a winning effort against Florida in late October. Despite losing his two leading (at the time) receivers, Murray continues to find and use a plethora of weapons. Lately, senior WR Tavarres King has reemerged as a favorite target, and I wouldn't expect that to change in today's game. Another one of Murray's weapons to keep an eye on today is redshirt freshman TE Jay Rome. UGA fans are finally starting to see why he was the #1 ranked TE when he committed to the Dawgs back in 2010 out of Valdosta High School. Rome's huge frame and physical play should keep the Alabama linebackers honest when he is lined up as a receiver.
What has the fine people of Georgia most excited this season has undoubtedly been the play of "Gurshall," a play on words for true freshmen RBs Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall. These two have combined for over 1,800 yards and 22 touchdowns, leaving all the doubters prior to this season saying "Isaiah who?" Gurley is the more physical RB, which will likely be needed more against the monster defensive line of Bama. Marshall is the finesse speedster, and if he is able to get to the outside, he could turn up and outrun any DB or safety in the sport. While Bama's specialty on defense is stopping the run, I believe the balanced play of Aaron Murray will keep the Bama D from selling out and clogging all the running lanes. So look for "Gurshall" to at find the endzone at least once in this game.
Since now famously being called out by senior safety Shawn Williams, the UGA defense has finally lived up to all the hype it received during this past offseason. After the lackluster effort against lowly Kentucky six weeks ago, the fire has been lit under this unit, and the return of the "Junkyard Dawgs" has been more than welcomed in Athens. They held Florida to only three field goals, answering the age old question of "how do you keep a Gator out of Georgia?"... by placing an endzone at the state line. The last four weeks they have only given up four touchdowns, and two of them have come in "garbage time" when the starters were no longer playing. But today, they will face the most brutal and physical running attack they have seen all season, and it will likely be a deciding factor to keep an eye on as to how they slow Bama down and force A.J. McCarron to throw the ball. I expect this defense to be hyped up more than they have all season, and find success in not only slowing down the run enough to force McCarron to throw, but be able to get to him when he does drop back.
Keep in mind, the last two weeks UGA has played teams that run the triple option, making them play a style of defense that will not be put into play against the pro-set style of Bama. Many have speculated that this may have hurt in the preparations for this game, but I expect the D to be excited about the more traditional game plan, and of course not being cut-blocked every single play.
Last year, UGA was just happy to be in this game after starting the season 0-2, and eventually collapsed against LSU despite building an early lead. This year, just being in the Dome in early December is not enough for Mark Richt's Dawgs. Expectations were set before this season ever kicked off, and while it took a little longer than some had hoped to see the full potential come out, this team is paying its best football at the right time. I expect a stereotypical SEC game full of hard-nosed defense and pounding runs by both teams. However, I have a really good feeling about UGA's chances within the individual matchups. So long as UGA doesn't get in its own way, protects the ball and makes smart decisions when needed, they roll the Tide, setting off a frenzy in the state of Georgia not seen in 30 years. It will be a very, very good Christmas in the peach state.
Dawgs: 20 Elephants: 14
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