Last Saturday saw Georgia post a huge win over Florida. This week, the Dawgs step out of Conference to face Appalachian State. While any game can be a potential stumbling block, Georgia should be able to jump on the Mountaineers and maintain a comfortable lead.
Now, before I’m inundated with angry comments, let me state that I’m well aware that Appalachian State upset Michigan in 2007. I’m also aware that State won three FCS Championships from 2005-2007. But these are not your father’s Mountaineers. The 2013 team posts a record of just 2-7, and has lost to such powerhouses as North Carolina A&T, Samford, and Furman.
Let me be clear. I’m not saying that Georgia can’t lose this game. The way the Bulldogs have played this season, anything is possible. I’m merely stating the obvious: this is a game that Georgia should be able to win without any late game heroics. That being said, we now come to the main question concerning Saturday’s game: should Todd Gurely play and, if so, how much?
On Wednesday, Mark Richt made the statement that Gurley was "hobbling around a little bit" during practice. This would lead us to believe that Gurley still hasn’t completely recovered from the ankle sprain he suffered against LSU. If this is indeed the case, perhaps the coaching staff should rest him against Appalachian State. As we all saw in the Florida game, Gurley (with the possible exception of Aaron Murray) is the Dawgs’ most indispensable player, and with Georgia’s next game at Auburn, the Bulldogs will need a healthy Gurley to have a chance at winning on "The Plains." So maybe the best thing to do would be to limit Gurley’s playing time, or not play him at all.
But then again…
Last Saturday, Gurley was forced out of the game several times because, according to the Georgia sideline, he was "gassed." It appeared that conditioning was a much bigger problem for the tailback than the ankle sprain. If this is true, then perhaps the coaching staff should consider playing Gurley more instead of less against the Mountaineers. Maybe 20-25 carries would help him get back in top shape for the matchup with Auburn.
But then again…
Without question, it’s always difficult to know how to handle a roster in a game like this one. For a team like Georgia, playing an FCS team is almost like an NFL preseason game, with one major difference: it counts. While you don’t want to run the risk of letting a team like Appalachian State hang around in a game they shouldn’t be in, you also don’t want to risk injuries that could affect the team down the line.
The thinking here is that, while Gurley shouldn’t be held out of the game completely, his playing time should be minimal. 8-10 carries should be enough to keep him in the swing of things without overdoing it on his ankle. Georgia should be able to handle the Mountaineers without any more than that from its star tailback.