Why the Florida game is just the start of Georgia’s season-ending gambit
When the Georgia football team was looking at its 2019 schedule, they broke it down into three parts.
The Vanderbilt through Notre Dame games counted as part one. The Bulldogs went 4-0 during that stretch. Part two was the three-game October slate. That section of the schedule went much worse, as the Bulldogs lost to South Carolina and slogged through a game against Kentucky.
The Bulldogs now enter part three and this one is a doozy.
It begins with a game against No. 7 Florida in Jacksonville. The Bulldogs then host Missouri before visiting No. 9 Auburn. Both sets of Tigers will also have a bye week prior to facing Georgia. The Bulldogs then host a battle-tested Texas A&M team and then end the month with a visit to Georgia Tech.
Georgia always knew this was going to be their toughest test on the season. But now that the Bulldogs enter it with an unexpected loss, the No. 10 team in the country will have to run that gambit without suffering another loss if the Bulldogs are going to reach the College Football Playoff.
“Part three was going to be the meat and potatoes. We’ve known that. We’re building up this week to work on it,” Georgia coach Kirby Smart said this week.
That’s why Georgia is spending part of this bye week prepping for all of those teams, as opposed to just drilling down on the upcoming game against the Gators.
“(We’re) trying to look at a lot of different game tape to figure out what people are doing to us and what other people are doing defensively and offensively to get better,” Smart said.
And as this past month has shown, Georgia does have a few areas to work on. The offense stands out in particular, given the performances against Kentucky and South Carolina.
One such area that Georgia will have to get more out of in the final month of the regular season is the explosive plays, particularly in the passing game.
“I’m very concerned about their inability to create big plays offensively,” ESPN’s Greg McElroy said. “I love their running game, I love their offensive line, but I want to see them get more creative when they go down the stretch and really play against some quality defenses.”
Georgia ranks 72nd in the country in completions of 15-yards or more. Some of that can be attributed to the poor weather conditions against Kentucky, as Georgia only threw the ball 12 times all game. And the Bulldogs will be tested by the likes of defensives coordinators Todd Grantham, Kevin Steele and Mike Elko during the November run.
But the concern isn’t just limited to the offensive side of the ball this week, as Smart really hammered his defense for their tackling effort against Kentucky.
“When you watch that tape, there’s a lot more concern,” Smart said. “Tackling, gap fits, if you went to a coach and said ‘watch this game,’ they would come in and say, ‘that is atrocious, tackling, fits, eye discipline, leverage, blockers,’ but walking around, whistling by the graveyard that everything is fine and we’re just OK, and we’ve got good defensive numbers, and that’s not the case when you watch the true integrity of it.”
Georgia did shut out Kentucky and ranks first in the SEC in both scoring defense and total defense. But the Bulldogs also haven’t been great in creating negative plays near the line of scrimmage, as they rank 9th in the SEC in sacks and 10th in tackles for loss.
Georgia has been in this scenario before, as one has to look back to just last year. Georgia had a stretch that saw them play Florida, Kentucky and Auburn in consecutive weeks last season. The Bulldogs already had one loss, as they were snuffed out against LSU.
Georgia was able to win each of those contests and the regular season 11-1. It survived the treachours run. It’s reward was a game against Alabama in Atlanta for a spot in the College Football Playoff. The Bulldogs lost that game, falling 35-28.
So the Bulldogs will be looking to repeat their November success from last year. But they’re also hoping that this month leads to a much happier December this time around.
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