Happy New Year, Dawgsporters. Here's hoping that you are all none the worse for your New Year's Eve festivities, enjoyed watching Vanderbilt win its first bowl game since the Eisenhower administration, and are ready for this afternoon's matchup between your Georgia Bulldogs and the Michigan State Spartans. Among the things I think you'll see in that game are:
1.) Javon Ringer. This one is a true no-brainer, isn't it? The Michigan State players and coaches have made no secret this week in Orlando of the fact that they think they can be the more physical of the two squads. That means getting Ringer the ball early and often. My guess is that Ringer sees the ball more than his already obscene season average (30.8 carries per game) but doesn't break the 120 yard barrier. If that happens, it should be a good day for the men in red and black.
2) Two more 1,000 yard receivers. As I write this, Terrance Edwards is the only receiver in University of Georgia history with 1,000 yards receiving in one season. That's a bit staggering when you think about how much we threw the ball around with Eric Zeier under center, and during the latter Donnan years (when Cory Phillips was busy slinging it for a gajillion yards in losing efforts). But A.J. Green currently sits at 951 and Mohamed Massaquoi at 910. After scouting the Michigan State secondary, I simply do not believe that they are capable of stopping A.J., and I doubt seriously that they'll contain MoMass. Both will break the 1,000 yard barrier, and will combine for 2 touchdown receptions.
While the major media focus has been on the Ringer/Moreno matchup, it's the Georgia passing attack that I think presents a serious matchup problem. This is the group that made Penn State's Daryll Clark look like Peyton Manning. Matt Stafford will need no help looking like Manning, as he's already converted himself into a ninja quarterback since the Florida loss (stealthily going for 10 TD's, 1 INT and an average of 332.7 yards passing per game).
3) Willie, or won't he? As I hinted at on Wednesday, this game is a big referendum on Willie Martinez among the Bulldog fanbase. If the defense shuts down Ringer and the MSU offense the way they shut down Hawaii in last season's Sugar Bowl, then I think Martinez buys some goodwill. Of course, that will only last until the Oklahoma State game next season. If the defense however gets shredded by Ringer and cohorts, well, then it's going to be a long offseason. Ringer will get his yards. He's too good of a back not to. But if the defense keeps him under 4 yards a carry and out of the endzone, it's a victory for Coach Martinez.
I have this picture taped to my bathroom mirror, actually. I find it quietly affirming. Don't you?
4) Knowshon under his average. Knowshon Moreno averages 111.5 yards per game on the ground, and while he'll certainly get his touches in this one, I think Michigan State is far more vulnerable in the secondary than they are up front. Look for Coach Bobo to try to establish the run early to set up the play action passing game, but don't expect any of those 8 carry drives we've sometimes seen from Knowshon Rockwell Moreno. Bonus prediction: you'll see some of Caleb King. The coaches have had good things to say about him during bowl practice, and getting him involved out of the backfield in the passing game makes sense against this defense.
5) UGA 34, MSU 20. While Bulldog Nation's focus has been fixed on how we'll stop Javon Ringer, I don't think enough attention has been paid to the manner in which MSU's defense will stop Stafford and company. I just don't think they will if we come out and execute. MSU's secondary is good, but not spectacular. Green and Massaquoi have, quite frankly, torched better units this season. Stafford goes for over 300 through the air in a 'Dawg win, bringing Georgia's alltime record against the Big Ten to 7-0. Until later,