Is this the biggest game in Sanford Stadium history? According to my admittedly limited 27 years of life and Dawg fandom, it definitely is. It is the first non-conference top 10 match up at Sanford in 53 years. I find special meaning in this game. Not only is this game against the most storied team in college football but it’s also the game we used two years ago to lift ourselves from mediocrity. The trip to South Bend was not only the start of a new football era for Georgia but a renewal in unrivaled fan support. 2017 was truly a unicorn year and South Bend was the start.
Last week was an emotional game. I was so encouraged by the love shown by Dawg nation to a coach and family that are struggling. Even with heartfelt empathy coursing through a pink stadium, the Dawgs on the field were emotionless. Emotionless in remaining focused on the task at hand and thoroughly defeating an over matched opponent one week before Notre Dame. The Dawgs need to be emotionless this weekend in the biggest game in Sanford Stadium history. That’s not to say they shouldn’t feed off the energy of a passionate fan base desperate for another playoff run. Play with controlled energy, not unpredictable emotion. The Dawgs need to approach this game with a dominant, business like attitude. No black jerseys, no selfish retaliatory penalties, no pregame trash talking antics. These big games and top 10 matchups are the new normal for Georgia football and need to be treated as such. Business needs handling this weekend and I expect the Dawgs to pack a lunch.
Freshman Impact Rankings
- Nolan Smith- I know many would have George Pickens in this spot, but Nolan Smith has made a huge impact since game one with elite speed rush and a motor that doesn’t quit. Smith may have the highest ceiling of all of Georgia’s 2019 signees. I don’t want to get too aggressive here but with Smith’s 1.5 sack start through 3 games, combined with his talent, keep an eye on David Pollack’s career sack record of 36.
- George Pickens- hasn’t been one like this at Georgia since AJ. Huge praise, I know, but it is deserved. In the preseason, I thought if Pickens was playing a big role by Florida, it was a huge sign of his potential. Well, consider Pickens a threat that defenses are already planning around. Special dude, great steal from Auburn
- Dominick Blaylock- no snaps in the Vandy game had me a little nervous but Blaylock has turned it on in the last two games. With Kearis Jackson and Demetris Robertson and Tyler Simmons down, Blaylock had a chance to shine. He is now cemented as a major part of this offense.
- Travon Walker- I mentioned a few volumes ago that Walker would be the best player in this freshman class. I’m not positive about that anymore. Not because of anything Walker has done but the emergence of some other ridiculously talented freshman. Still, Walker is a physical freak that will see more time as the season goes on.
- Nakobe Dean- ILB is the hardest position to be prepared for as a true freshman. Dean hasn’t flashed 5 star status as of yet but the fact that he is playing this much this early is very positive
The Kirby Effect
Kirby’s first positional priority was clearly his offensive line. That unit, thanks to Sam Pittman, has become the top unit in the country in my opinion. Now that we’ve moved away from 270 pounds lineman and have literally the largest offensive line in college or professional sports, Kirby’s next recruiting mission was to build an OLB room that could manufacture pressure. That young group is playing extremely well this year. This is probably the most talented single position room in the entire country even with the loss of Brenton Cox. The talent among Nolan Smith, Adam Anderson, Azeez Ojulari, Jermaine Johnson, Walter Grant, etc is second to none and Georgia has already produced half as many sacks (12) as it had all last year (24) in 3 games. Sack production and havoc will be a Georgia strength through 2019. Next up on the positional improvement list for Kirby: Inside Linebacker and the Secondary
How to Beat ND
Offensively- Get to the perimeter
I don’t expect this to be a game where Georgia passes early to open up running lanes. I expect Georgia to establish the run early with perimeter runs, misdirection and multiple backs. End around motion by James Cook has been really effective this year and I expect to see a ton of it this weekend. James Coley does an excellent job of sticking to the run games with formations and motions that keep the defense guessing. 50+ yards rushing for James Cook keeps this defense totally off balance and produces a 14+ point win.
Ian Book is a really smart player that is often most effective after a play has broken down. He’s got big receivers on the edge that can win in man coverage. I expect the Dawgs to force the issue with Book by bringing heavy pressure, especially on 3rd down. The way Tyler Clark, Devonte Wyatt and Jordan Davis are playing against the interior run game will leave Notre Dame and Book in a lot of 3rd down situations and Georgia needs it’s speed and power rushers to get home in those spots. Two sacks for Nolan Smith makes this a 14+ point win.
Dawgs 37 Irish 20
Bucky’s Easy Money of the Week
Last Week: 3-2
Overall: 100-86-3, 54% win percentage
2019: 10-5, 67% win percentage