3 Georgia football keys against Georgia Tech: Bulldogs must leave with momentum
ATHENS — Georgia coach Kirby Smart has a made a point to publicly stress how serious he takes Saturday’s game at Georgia Tech.
Privately, it’s a sure bet Smart and his coaching staff are mindful of getting through the noon game in Atlanta (TV: ABC) with as few injuries as possible.
Especially after Wednesday’s shocking news of Lawrence Cager’s ankle injury.
The No. 4-ranked Bulldogs (10-1) are a four-touchdown favorite over the Yellow Jackets (3-8), but style points don’t matter for Georgia like they do some other teams chasing a College Football Playoff spot.
It’s very simple for Smart and his program: Beat Georgia Tech and LSU, and the Bulldogs are in the playoffs.
Lose to either, and Georgia is out.
It has been hard for Bulldogs’ fans not to fret about facing the Bayou Bengals in the SEC Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
After all, LSU hammered Georgia 36-16 last season in a game that was every bit as lopsided as the final score. Smart and his staff and players were outclassed in every area: offense, defense, special teams and coaching.
There will be a lot more talk about that next week, particularly now that Coach Ed Orgeron has overhauled his offense and made his program arguably the most explosive in the country.
And then there’s Saturday’s game at Georgia Tech.
It’s a game that has lost its flair outside the state, with the Yellow Jackets falling off the football map and other more competitive rivalries overshadowing it.
Georgia will get Georgia Tech’s best punch, and the Bulldogs might even get stung early.
Here are three keys for Georgia in their Saturday game against the Yellow Jackets.
The Georgia players said all the right things this week leading up to the rivalry game, but this is a game that’s more important not to lose than it is to win.
There are enough players on the UGA roster that were around the last time Georgia Tech won this game, in 2016, to understand the lifetime of shame that would accompany defeat.
But this Georgia team has had a habit of doing just enough to win of late, failing to show a killer instinct on offense or defense.
At times earlier this season, these Bulldogs played down to the level of their opponents — trailing at Tennessee, playing a scoreless first half against Kentucky.
Georgia needs to show up and play like a College Football Playoff team for two quarters and then utilize the talent and depth that has been recruited.
UGA needs to come out of Georgia Tech with more than a win. It needs to warm-up the bus in the third quarter and leave with momentum.
Protect Jake Fromm
There have been 29 starting quarterbacks in the SEC this season, and Fromm is one of only four who has started every game for his team in the league. The others are LSU’s Joe Burrow, Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond and Auburn’s Bo Nix.
Georgia needs to make sure Fromm stays upright and healthy, which has factored into the game plan all season and led to a more conservative approach than some would prefer.
It has been a smart approach, and it has paid off with a 10-1 record and Fromm managing the offensive carefully and effectively.
Fromm has only three interceptions this season, and they all came in the same game, the 20-17 overtime loss to South Carolina. That’s 10 of 11 games with no interceptions, and that’s impressive.
Ideally Fromm won’t play past the first series of the third quarter.
Run the ball, a lot
It’s not exciting, it may not lead to Georgia covering the spread or even a very entertaining football game.
But the objective is to win and get out of Bobby Dodd Stadium with as many players healthy as possible, and that means keeping the clock moving.
D’Andre Swift shouldn’t need any more than 10 touches. The Bulldogs have a deep backfield filled with hungry backs capable of carrying the offense.
Senior Brian Herrien has thrived with added opportunities, while sophomore James Cook is running out of time to look like a fit in the Georgia offense.
Cook might also evolve into more of a receiving threat now.
Redshirt freshman Zamir White has yet to hit stride, but even with his bull in a china shop style should have success in this matchup.
Freshman Kenny McIntosh is a skilled runner who has unselfishly toiled away on special teams all season, earning respect from his head coach but apparently not carries from the assistant coach overseeing running backs.