Kirk Herbstreit picks Baylor to upset Georgia, identifies biggest offensive issue

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ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit said he's picking Baylor to beat Georgia in the Sugar Bowl.

NEW ORLEANS — ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit indicated Georgia’s biggest offensive issue this season has been the receivers, and with three UGA starting offensive linemen missing, he’s picking Baylor to win the Sugar Bowl.

“We can talk Jake Fromm all we want, but the receivers, that’s been the issue for Georgia all year, can they stretch a field,” Herbstreit said on ESPN’s pregame show from the Rose Bowl on Wednesday.

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The Bulldogs are a 4-point favorite over the Bears, even without go-to targets Lawrence Cager (ankle) and Dominick Blaylock (knee), two of the three UGA receivers with catches of more than 40 yards this season.

“So the combination of their inability to get the ball thrown downfield and the confusion the offensive line could have against this Baylor scheme of Phil Snow’s, the 3-3-5, where they are coming from a lot of different areas, that’s going to be a matchup concern to me for Georgia,” Herbstreit said, citing a Bears’ defense with 43 sacks and 30 takeaways.

“The other thing is, after what they did also year against Texas (a 28-21 loss) — they showed up flat, Texas won the game, they deserve the credit. Did Georgia learn from that in their preparation this time around against Baylor?

“I like Baylor to win that game. I think they can upset Georgia.”

The No. 5-ranked Bulldogs (11-2) play the No. 5-ranked Bears (11-2) at 8:45 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

Georgia will be missing three starting offensive linemen, two top receivers, likely two top running backs — D’Andre Swift is doubtful — All-American safety J.R. Reed and defensive lineman Tyler Clark and his 35 career starts.

But Fromm gives UGA a chance. ESPN analyst Desmond Howard praised Fromm’s consistency in the offense, pointing out what separates Fromm as one of the more accomplished collegiate quarterbacks.

“The way he’s able to manipulate defenses with subtle movements and subtle pumps, and go through his progressions, that’s what Jake Fromm brings to the Bulldogs’ offense,” Howard said. “That’s what makes him so consistent.”

Maybe so, but UGA legend and College Football Hall of Fame nominee David Pollack points out there will be some serious challenges.

“You talk about up front on the offensive line, one guy is up front where he was for the offensive championship game (Center Trey Hill), and they are going against some bad dudes that stand up and confuse the heck out of you,” Pollack said.

“James Lynch is a dude, and you talk about both of your offensive tackles being out? This guy can line head up and beat you inside or beat you outside, uses his hands and be very physical,” Pollack said.

“They play with an attitude, they play with an edge, they will bring that. That travels all the time, Georgia better match it.”

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