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Gridiron Rewind: Maybe Samford Would Have Been A Better Title Game Opponent?

NCAA Football: Samford at Georgia Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

We continue use our game-by-game review of the Georgia Bulldogs’ 2022 national championship season with a game that was actually a good bit closer than the national championship. Because Samford head coach Chris Hatcher is a very nice man who will collect a large check to come to your town and expose your weaknesses for you. I guess everyone needs a hobby.

Coming off an impressive 49-3 opening victory over the Oregon Ducks the Bulldogs returned to the friendly confines of Sanford Stadium to take on the Baptist Bulldogs of greater Birmingham. The result was a 33-0 victory that somehow managed to showcase both the best and worst of what the eventual national champions were capable of.

What We Thought We Knew

“If it’s a challenge that Georgia’s secondary needs with a defense with new but talented newcomers to the starting lineup, it should come in the form of Samford’s pass-happy set-up that averaged 38 points a game last year.”

“Obviously, defense is a focal area for Samford as they gave up roughly 39 points a game last year, and that learning curve gets rather steep against Georgia’s offense.

It’ll happen under Boone’s leadership after his troops at East Mississippi Community College led all of JUCO in scoring defense last year. He also coached defensive ends and safeties at Southern Miss from 2018 to 2020, where in 2018 USM was third nationally in scoring defense.”

What We Thought We Learned:

“But on a day when #1 Alabama needed a late rally to down unranked Texas, and #6 Texas A&M fell to Appalachian State, the Red and Black’s home shutout stands out as a pretty fair performance. Defensively, the Classic City Canines demonstrated remarkable consistency. Chris Hatcher’s Samford squad was physically outmatched, but they tend to find at least a few completions against even good SEC defenses (ask Dan Mullen and Todd Grantham, they still have nightmares). But the ‘Dawgs smothered the Samford attack to the tune of 128 yards of total offense, and a 1 of 14 effort on 3rd and 4th down. The visitors’ drives consistently ended quickly and quietly. Eight quarters into the 2022 season Georgia has yet to allow a touchdown.”

“In the end, the Bulldogs won convincingly over an FCS opponent, avoided any serious injuries (Coach Smart confirmed postgame that AD Mitchell actually could have gone back in if necessary, which it most certainly was not). They now move on to a noon tilt in the armpit of the Earth, Columbia, South Carolina. It sets up as a solid test and a good chance for the Red and Black to get focused back in on the mission at hand.”

What We Really Learned:

In retrospect the Head Bulldog might have been giving us the ole rope-a-dope about that early injury to AD Mitchell. The putative #1 receiver in the Red and Black lineup wouldn’t catch another pass during the 2022 season until he snagged the go-ahead touchdown in the final minute of the 4th quarter of the Peach Bowl semi-final.

Also, the anemic second half Kirby Smart fretted about postgame was the first instance of what would become a frequent problem, the top-ranked Bulldogs “playing with their food” against lesser competition. It’s pretty hard to get upset at a 33-0 victory. But I can’t help but think that Bulldog fans would have gotten a little more out of joint if they’d realized this wouldn’t be the last time the Athenians would appear disinterested against an uninteresting opponent.

On a more positive note, we learned that the favorable preseason chatter surrounding freshman receiver Dillon Bell was well-founded. The Texan caught his first three passes of the season and his first touchdown in the home opener. He would go on to finish the season with an impressive 20 catches for 180 yards and 3 touchdowns, and now appears poised to step into an even larger role in 2023. He’s a natural slot receiver with his compact build and quick feet, but can Also play the Z receiver thanks to his speed and strength. I look for big things from him in a unit that needs to replace some key veteran contributors. Until later…

Go ‘Dawgs!!!