Welcome to your one-stop shop for all the relevant UGA football news and takes every Monday through Friday. In today’s edition, Christmas is over and we get ready for a short week. The Liberty Bowl, played between Georgia and TCU, is this Friday. It’s time to get ready for Memphis.
There is no game to recap so for “Top Dawgs” this week we’re counting down the Bulldogs I expect to be most important to Georgia’s success in the Liberty Bowl:
- Nick Chubb — Chubb’s junior season did not go how he or anyone expected. But he’s coming back for his senior season, and with that comes an opportunity for a little course correction, beginning with the Liberty Bowl. Chubb should be motivated and running harder than he’s run all season, just to prove he’s still the player we all knew so well before he blew out his left knee. The matchup is a favorable one for him, too. TCU’s run defense is by far the weakest facet of its game, so the more UGA can exploit that, the better chance it has to win.
- The offensive line — There isn’t a single player to point out on the offensive line that needs to step up. All five guys — plus the tight ends — need to have strong showings to keep Georgia’s offense on track. If the line can open some holes, it’ll make life far easier on Chubb and Sony Michel and allow them to exploit that weak TCU run defense. The tackles will need to deal with the pass rushing prowess of Josh Carraway in order for Jacob Eason to have time to find his targets. The more time he has, the more likely he is to throw the ball with some touch and make a completion. The line doesn’t need to have its best game of the season in order to produce a win, but it will need to get damn close.
- Dominick Sanders — TCU’s other big weakness is passing the ball. QB Kenny Hill is prone to wild throws and has thrown 13 interceptions to 15 touchdowns. That should be music to the ears of Sanders, UGA’s interceptions leader. Georgia coach Kirby Smart and defensive coordinator Mel Tucker have done well disguising coverages this season. If that trend continues, with Hill’s propensity to let the ball fly without much thought, Sanders should be able to hide in the cut and have a few chances to jump in front of a pass for a pick. He or his fellow defensive backs securing a couple will go a long way toward a Georgia victory.
- Roquan Smith — UGA has quietly been one of the most efficient teams in the nation versus the run. Luckily for the Bulldogs, the ground game is TCU’s offensive strength, so they should be ready to counter all of the Frogs’ best shots. Smith is the most improved player for the Bulldogs this season, and a big reason for that strength against the run. His lateral movement speed allows him to sniff out, then snuff out any play before it really gets started. TCU’s top rusher, Kyle Hicks, is adept at going both north-south and east-west, as well as catching the ball. UGA needs a do-everything inside linebacker to counteract that, and there are few LBs better equipped to that task than Smith.
- Rodrigo Blankenship — I’ve spent the last few paragraphs harping on UGA’s strengths and TCU’s weaknesses, but that doesn’t mean this won’t be a tremendously close game. It will be. Georgia is favored by only a point, so a kick could settle this. Blankenship has become a cult figure of sorts in Athens after his first season, and he could solidify that status with a couple of clutch kicks that help Georgia win a tight game.
Another domino falls
Another 4-star instate prospect has pledged to the Georgia Bulldogs. ILB Nate McBride of Vidalia made his commitment to the Bulldogs on Christmas Day via a video posted on DawgNation. Georgia now holds commitments from nine of the Peach State’s top 15 prospects in the Class of 2017. And with a month to go until signing day, some more instate pledges could be coming down for the Dawgs before all is said and done.
Merry Christmas. I have made my decision. I am committing to ….. (https://t.co/U0WfRM4OUU)
— nate mcbride (@nmcbride13) December 25, 2016
Dawgs in the NFL
Todd Gurley of the Rams still hasn’t eclipsed the 100-yard mark in a game this season, but he had a solid outing this week in a 22-21 loss to the 49ers. The tailback ran for 67 yards and a touchdown, only his sixth rushing score of the season.
— Mon V (@GoTeamMV19) December 24, 2016
Alec Ogletree added 8 tackles in the Rams’ loss.
The New England Patriots put a beatdown of epic proportions on the New York Jets, winning 41-3 on Christmas Eve. Wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell played a small role in the slaughter, catching 3 passes for a total of 29 yards.
The Bengals lost a close game to the Texans, 12-10, but former Bulldog Geno Atkins was able to record his 8th sack of the season in the loss. Shawn Williams also pitched in 3 tackles for the Bengals.
For all those who Santa shortchanged this year …
- Why the nation’s top ILB, Nate McBride, chose Georgia over Auburn and Oregon (Jeff Sentell, DawgNation)
- After an eventful year, Georgia’s big freshman hopes he showed people that ‘I am that good Julian’ (Seth Emerson, DawgNation)
- Letter of reprimand gives added details on Shane Beamer’s fine for role in ‘WakeyLeaks’ scandal (Cody Pace, DawgNation)
- 5 great gifts under the UGA Christmas tree (Connor Riley, DawgNation)
- 5 great gifts still on UGA’s Christmas wish list (Cy Brown, DawgNation)
- The best Christmas present for Georgia and Kirby Smart would be … (Jeff Sentell, DawgNation)
- Georgia’s 2017 recruiting class gets coal if … (Jeff Sentell, DawgNation)
A belated Merry Christmas to you and yours.
My brother took this slow-mo video of our family bulldog dressed as Santa and I promise it's the best thing you'll see this Christmas. pic.twitter.com/LjCIrXoefv
— Brian Altano (@agentbizzle) December 25, 2016