Hey, somebody mentioned there’s a game today! Seriously, the last game of the season is always a bittersweet affair and that this one comes a little earlier than we’re used to of late accentuates that. At least we get the mellow sounds of Ron Franklin to comfort us a bit.
Of course the interesting part will be to see how the team dynamics play out with the departure of the three defensive coaches, but I don’t expect much in the way of surprises in how Georgia schemes defensively. In fact, there probably won’t be much of a variation in the overall gameplan from what we saw against Georgia Tech – and A.J. Green’s return should make the running game even more successful, as it will give TAMU’s safeties less of an incentive to help support the run defense.
Turnover margin has been the key factor for Georgia all season, and it’s hard to see how that will change for today’s game. A&M is going to try to Malzahn Georgia by running a lot more plays on offense (the Aggies average eight more offensive plays per game than their opponents); going minus-2 or worse in turnover margin just plays into that.
If turnovers aren’t a factor today, the key on defense for Georgia looks pretty simple. Per cfn.com,
A&M needs its running game to work. The Aggies are 0-6 when running for 190 yards or fewer, and 6-0 when running for more. Part of that is Johnson scrambling, part of that is the balance the offense needs to give the passing game a break, and part of that is the offense working.
And on the other side, it’s hard to see how Joe Kines’ defense’s track record is going to stop Georgia from doing what worked so well against Georgia Tech.
… A&M has struggled against the run; nine opponents rushed for at least 160 yards and four rushed for at least 200 against the Aggies.
That’s music to Mark Richt’s ears.
Mike Hugenin adds this observation about the special teams matchup:
Georgia special teams vs. Texas A&M special teams: The Bulldogs’ kicker/punter duo of Blair Walsh and Drew Butler is the nation’s best. Walsh is 19-of-21 this season, including 10-of-11 from 40 yards and beyond; his streak of 11 consecutive makes ended with a missed 55-yarder against Georgia Tech in the regular-season finale. Butler, the son of former Georgia and NFL kicker Kevin Butler, leads the nation with a 48.8-yard average. The return units are good, but the coverage units are shaky; Georgia is egregiously bad on kickoff coverage, allowing 26.7 yards per return, with a touchdown. Outside of Gray’s abilities as a kick returner and the punt-coverage team, A&M’s special teams are pedestrian. K Randy Bullock is 12-of-18, including 4-for-7 from beyond 40. Freshman P Ryan Epperson took over in the second half of the season and averaged just 34.8 yards per kick. A&M allowed two kickoffs to be returned for touchdowns.
Other than potentially freaking out over Cyrus Gray, who returned a kick for a touchdown against Oklahoma, Georgia looks to have a decided advantage there. (And you have to hope that Fabris’ departure cuts down on the freaking out in the kickoff coverage department.)
Bottom line: most pundits are predicting a shoot-out, but I’m expecting more of a repeat of Georgia’s final regular season game. Mark Richt loves controlling the tempo and pace of a game. He’d be thrilled to see Ealey and King replay their roles against the Jackets this afternoon. TAMU isn’t any better on offense than Georgia Tech and the Aggies are worse on defense. Georgia gets both Green and Rambo back, to boot. If the Dawgs keep the turnovers under control, look for something like a 30-21 outcome.