Georgia runs the pro-style offense that Mark Richt has remained loyal to since his days at Florida State. The 'Dawgs run with a tight end and full back in almost all of their sets. Although the Georgia averaged more than 30 ppg over the past two seasons, their first outing of 2009 was unsuccessful. The 'Dawgs scored 10 points and gained 257 total yards, with 162 coming in the air and 95 on the ground. They also had two turnovers; quarterback Joe Cox threw one interception and later lost a fumble on what would have been a sack.
The 'Dawgs decreased production against a questionable Oklahoma State likely owes to a number of issues Georgia should be able to overcome throughout the season, not least among them their quarterback being ill and first-game road jitters for a young group of skill-position players. However, some of them may not be so fixable, such as the fact that those skills players, especially Cox, likely just aren't as good as the guys they're replacing. Moreover, Georgia offensive coordinator Mike Bobo struggled to balance his attack, and while one would think he and Richt could fix that quickly, it's been a problem for them before, so it may be the rule rather than the exception. Finally, the offensive line was unable to to dominante what was likely a subpar Oklahoma State defensive front, and to make matters worse, Georgia will now be without their starting left tackle, Trinton Sturdivant, who tragically lost his second-straight season to another knee injury.
Despite these issues, Georgia does have some tools in place to right the ship. The 'Dawgs have the elements of their usually good running game, led last week by tailback Richard Samuel. Samuel looked like he was on his way to a big game early on against Oklahoma State, but the 'Dawgs inability to develop balance kept him from continuing to produce. Georgia also, of course, has a star receiver in A. J. Green, who was among the nation's best last year. Green was quiet last week, as Oklahoma State focused their pass defense on him and Georgia was unable to get him open or find a way to make OSU pay for double-teaming him. If the 'Dawgs can find a way to move it around enough to get teams to back off Green, he will be able to make plays for Georgia.
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That said, quarterback issues will continue to plague Georgia unless Cox or someone else steps in and plays better than what we saw last week, and if the 'Dawgs do continue to struggle under center, this offense will sputter overall, no matter how good Samuel and Green are. As is usually the case, Georgia will seek to open up the field with the run, hopefully setting up the dangerous play-action and short-field passing game that is the bread and butter of a pro-style offense. The 'Dawgs were very successful with this last year when Knowshon Moreno and Matthew Stafford were in the backfield, as Moreno consistently got yards on his feet and Stafford had the arm to make any pass he was asked to throw.
The problem, though, is that Joe Cox doesn't appear to be able some of the throws that Stafford was capable of. Oklahoma State recognized that quickly and played the run, daring Georgia to go to Cox's arm. Georgia did, with very pedestrian results. Cox was sick last week, so fatigue may have played a role. However, even if Cox is healthy, I doubt he'll exactly be a Stafford this weekend, and I think we can follow Oklahoma State's blueprint to keep the 'Dawgs behind the fence.
One key in addition to how game Cox is will be whether our secondary can stay with UGA's receivers if we commit to the run. That's a big if, as our secondary is young. However, results last week against N. C. State were promising, and I also think our secondary can match Oklahoma State's. Another key will be how much pressure we can put on Cox. Based on what I saw last week out of Eric Norwood, Cliff Matthews, and Devin Taylor, I think we might be able to put quite a bit on him, and that's where things could get interesting. If this turns out to be a defensive battle, the team that gets the key turnover might be the one that wins, and if we're able to force Cox into coughing the ball up in his own territory, it could change the game.
All in all, I like how the matchup between our defense and Georgia's offense is looking. We may see a better Georgia offense on Saturday, but we've got a good enough defense to run with the 'Dawgs.