The Opponent Q&A is back! We sat down with MaconDawg over at Dawg Sports, who was gracious enough to let us pick his brain and share some insider perspectives about the big game tomorrow.
Is a repeat playoff appearance and another SEC championship the expectation for the Dawgs this season? Will anything less be a disappointment?
I think the expectations are just slightly lower than that. Bulldog fans are pretty uniformly worried about both the losses on defense (8 of 11 2017 starters gone) and offense (leading rushers Nick Chubb and Sony Michel as well as leading receiver Javon Wims). I’d say most UGA fans feel winning the East is the expectation.
What then happens in Atlanta is anyone’s guess. Alabama and Auburn both look strong, and the feeling is that this UGA team may be massing back up to make a run at the title in 2019. I will say this: if Georgia does get back to the playoff in 2018 they may not miss it again for some time. Georgia played 17 freshmen and 16 redshirt freshmen or sophomores against Austin Peay, so this young team should be grown up in a year’s time.
How are you (and more generally, the Georgia fanbase) feeling about this game?
We treat all trips to Columbia as a chance for something anomalous to occur. That being said, we’ve very rarely seen Kirby Smart’s teams come out and lay an egg the way Mark Richt’s did from time to time. The thought is that if the Red and Black come out and play smart, aggressive football they should be fine.
What’s the biggest area or position of concern for Georgia right now?
Kirby Smart has called out his defensive front seven, and in particular his defensive line, this spring and to a lesser extent in fall camp. There’s no doubt that losing senior stalwart John Atkins and junior NFL early entrant Trenton Thompson took a chunk out of the middle of the Bulldog defensive front.
While there’s still a lot of depth in that DL group, especially among the defensive ends, a lot of it remains unproven. And the idea of Jake Bentley getting an extra second and a half to find Deebo Samuel because we can’t get a push up the middle concerns me greatly.
What do you consider Georgia’s biggest strength in this matchup?
South Carolina’s defensive front has a lot of talent. But this Georgia offensive line is quite possibly the most talented group in recent school memory. It returns four starters from the unit that paved the way for 3876 rushing yards in 2017, and has several backups from that group returning who appear ready to contribute. Georgia actually played 11 offensive linemen against Austin Peay and will likely do the same this Saturday in an effort to wear down the Gamecock defense headed into the fourth quarter.
I expect there will be some tackles for a loss early, and that the South Carolina front will win some battles. But this Georgia front that averages 327 pounds through the two deep is designed to beat opponents into submission.
Which player do you think USC fans should watch out for? Anyone under the radar that maybe we haven’t heard much about?
Cal transfer Demetrius Robertson had only one carry against Austin Peay. On the bright side, that one touch was a 72 yard touchdown. Look for Jim Chaney to find more ways to get him the ball as part of a package of outside playmakers that also includes Terry Godwin, Mecole Hardman, and Riley Ridley.
Here’s a loaded question: Speaking personally, how do you feel about the Gamecocks considering Georgia a rival?
Go for it. Everybody needs rivalries, they’re the best thing in college football. Just don’t expect us to reciprocate, at least not when we’re still playing Auburn, Florida, Clemson, Tennessee, and Georgia Tech on a regular basis. Our rivalry dance card is just full.
Last but not least, care to make any predictions?
I think South Carolina has the ability to move the ball on this inexperienced Bulldog defense. On the flip side, this Bulldog offense looks a lot more explosive than what Gamecock fans likely expect from the Kirby Smart School of Slow Ground-Based Bludgeoning (TM). Georgia makes a couple of more big plays to win this one 27-17.
Big thanks again to Macon Dawg for taking the time to chat with us, and look out for GABA’s responses over at Dawg Sports!