Will the Bulldogs get back to Atlanta? We examine that in our 2013 Georgia Football Preview.
When Georgia lost a heartbreaker to Alabama in the 2012 SEC Championship game, Bulldogs players looked dejected. And for good reason. Georgia fell five yards short of the BCS National Championship Game.
Alabama was the juggernaut last year, as they seemingly are every year as of late. Only Texas A&M was able to best the SEC giant, which took every second of the game. Georgia played as well as they could, and although they lost to the Tide, the Bulldogs found they could compete with Alabama. But the real takeaway from that game was the mindset that Georgia gained in losing. Last year the Bulldogs didn’t think they were as good as Alabama; this year Georgia believes they are on the same playing field as Alabama, and that’s a big positive for the Bulldogs.
2013 Georgia Football Preview
From top to bottom, the Georgia roster is loaded with as much offensive talent as anyone in the SEC. And although they don’t have a Johnny Manziel, they do have a battle tested veteran in Aaron Murray. Murray appeared to be NFL ready after his junior season and his performance against Alabama. Immediately electing to return for his senior season, Aaron Murray is what every coach dreams of in a quarterback. Yes he has great abilities in his accuracy and arm strength, but much more important are Murray’s intangibles: His calm demeanor during big games, his constant desire to learn, and most importantly his ability to step up and lead other great players. Murray is going to be THE pivotal piece in Georgia’s offensive machinery as the Bulldogs look to sling the ball downfield as much as possible. And with so much attention being drawn by star running back Todd Gurley, opponents will find themselves on the wrong end of a blowout if they don’t put equal attention into the running game as they do the passing game.
And even against a “successful” gameplan to stop Gurley, he’s been known to run right through defenses and frustrate opposing coaches. Similar to Marshawn Lynch, the speed Gurley possesses for his size makes him very hard to stop, especially in the red zone. The only problem Georgia’s running game faced last season came when Gurley had to exit to catch his breath.
Backup running back Keith Marshall showed great promise last season, recording 700 yards despite never getting more than 12 touches a game. But Marshall lacked the “it” factor Gurley possesses. That could change this year with Marshall learning alongside Todd Gurley. Between the two backs, Georgia would have a good deal of success if their passing game was archaic, as was Florida’s last season. Unless you are Alabama or LSU, there really isn’t an immediate answer to Georgia’s running game, which of course sets up the play action pass to perfection. Sell out to stop the run and you get burned.
The Georgia receiving corps hope to have something to say about that. And no receivers will be more involved in the Georgia offense than their two tight ends, Arthur Lynch and Jay Rome. Both of these players have a similar style; they’re big, strong receivers that can body up defenders as well as block like extra linemen. When the Bulldogs line up in two tight-end sets, they are very difficult to defend. When they run out of this set, power back Todd Gurley will have seven very capable blockers. This means Gurley will only have to beat four defenders, getting beyond the line of scrimmage to the next level…something that isn’t a problem for the upcoming sophomore. And even worse, when the Bulldogs choose to pass out of this formation, Lynch and Rome have size and speed that make them an automatic mismatch on the field. When they both line up on the ball, linebackers and cornerbacks will have a physically tiring day covering these physically gifted tight ends.
If a talented defense is able to halt Georgia’s run game and figure out how to limit the success of their two tight-end set, then there’s no doubt that Georgia would struggle. But even then, Aaron Murray has some deep threats that allow them to compete even in offensive shoot-outs. Take converted cornerback Malcolm Mitchell; although he is smaller in stature than most wide-outs, Mitchell has so much speed that he can use to blow by defenders and set up Aaron Murray with very easy throws downfield. Combine Mitchell with a healthy veteran in Michael Bennet, and the Georgia offense becomes a legitimate SEC threat.
Unlike the Bulldogs offense, where everything has seemingly fallen into place, the defensive unit isn’t as lucky. After losing 12 players of importance, Georgia will have to rely on their offense and youthful energy on defense to win games. Unfortunately, lack of experience is the worst trait you can have in the SEC, and good offenses will be able to take advantage of this.
Georgia will be a competitive, if not impressive team this year, and their offense should be in the top three in the conference. But unless the Dawgs can learn how to manage the clock on offense, and grow up quickly on the defensive side of the ball, they will struggle against teams like Alabama and Texas A&M that are much more balanced on the defensive side of the ball.
Thanks for checking out our 2013 Georgia Football Preview. Tomorrow we examine LSU.
—Special to the Capstone Report By Alex DeRemer