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We all witnessed the beating that the Georgia defense took last Saturday against Alabama when QB Bryce Young broke multiple SEC Championship records on offense. The highly touted group was punched in the face and never seemed to recover from the knockout blows. But this team must put the past performance behind them as they prepare for the Playoff semifinals against Michigan.
There are a few areas which the Bulldogs can fix. If they don’t, then the opportunity of playing for a National Championship will be wasted again.
First off, the Georgia secondary better tighten its grip on the opposing receivers. We witnessed multiple Alabama players running free in the secondary. Jameson Williams looked to have found open pasture numerous times against the Bulldogs’ defense, leading to his 184 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Before John Metchie went down with a knee injury, he had already amassed 97 yards receiving and one touchdown. It’s simple, the Dawgs’ secondary looked lost across the middle and had way too many busted coverages.
The lack of communication was apparent from the start, and the defensive line’s inability to put enough pressure meant Bryce Young had abundant time in the pocket. Young had enough time to pass for 421 yards and rushed for another 40 yards, finishing the day with four touchdowns. Young also broke offensive yardage records for an SEC title game.
This wasn’t the same front-four that we’ve seen for most of the season, especially with how the Bulldogs typically pressure the quarterback. This Georgia defense has four different players with four sacks, so finding different ways to get after the quarterback is key against Michigan. Honestly, it’s not like they can’t do it. We’ve seen them terrorize offensive backfields all season. But this team looked different against the Tide.
Michigan has a big enough offensive line to cause the same type of problems that Alabama did, so doing the same thing won’t work. If Georgia is going to cause Cade McNamara problems, they’ll have to do so upfront, starting with Jordan Davis, who looked gassed against the Tide. The Wolverines have rushed for 508 yards in the past two games, 297 against Ohio State alone. So Michigan will not be scared to rush the ball against this Georgia defense. They will try to set up the play-action pass and use their offensive line to their advantage. Therefore, getting into the backfield is imperative for Kirby Smart’s defense.
As for the quarterback situation, well Stetson Bennett would love to have those two interceptions against Alabama back. He threw for 340 yards and three touchdowns, but the pick-six and the crucial interception in the third quarter were killers. Though JT Daniels was on the bench, Kirby Smart said he never thought about making the switch at quarterback. Now, this becomes more important over the next few weeks. They need to have Daniels prepared in case Bennett starts throwing interceptions again and the Bulldogs find themselves in a very uncomfortable spot. If it comes down to it, Kirby Smart must make the right decision when it comes the quarterback spot. In the past, we’ve seen Nick Saban do it multiple times and look at the results. Georgia has only one opportunity to play for a National Championship and they can’t afford to be loyal to anyone. Not now.
Now to the obvious point: Georgia must run the football if they are going to be successful. Kirby Smart admitted after the Alabama game that they didn’t focus much on the rushing attack in their preparations last week. Smart felt the game would turn into an air-attack from both teams, and he was somewhat right, but he still shouldn’t have completely abandoned one of the key areas that got his team to Atlanta. There, the Bulldogs had their worst performances of the season, rushing for only 109 yards on 30 carries. They didn’t rush for a single touchdown for the first time since the season opener against Clemson. Again, if they are going to play for a championship, OC Todd Monken must find a way to establish the ground game. If anything, it will keep much of the pressure off of Stetson Bennett.
We are three weeks away from the Bulldogs taking on Michigan in the Orange Bowl, so Kirby Smart has time to build the correct game plan. But not taking advantage of the few things that got them to this point would be a complete waste of time and opportunity.
If the Dawgs want a shot at a National Championship, it’s time to get to work and fix the mistakes that cost them an SEC Championship.