It’s been a while since we’ve been in the position of waiting to see what a new head coach brings to the table. I’ve mentioned before the feeling I had, after Georgia lost its first conference game under Richt, of I’d seen the same show before under Donnan. Then, two weeks later, I watched the hobnail boot come crashing down in Knoxville and bought in to what Richt brought.
So, win, lose or draw tonight, I won’t be drawing any ultimate conclusions about the Smart era. (YMMV, of course.) That doesn’t mean I won’t be sweating the small stuff, though. There are enough question marks coming into tonight — Lambert, the offensive line, the defensive front seven, special teams, for starters — to allow us to make some determinations about the coaching abilities of the new staff when the game is over.
I won’t be coy. I predict a Georgia win; not a blowout, but a touchdown spread wouldn’t surprise me. The difference will be Nick Chubb versus the North Carolina run defense. It’s a great matchup in Georgia’s advantage. I do think Fedora’s offense will have its moments, as there’s too much talent there for the Dawgs defense to shut down all game, but if Smart has the opportunity to control the game with Chubb’s running, that’s exactly what he’ll do.
A few other random thoughts:
- Sure, Chubb is a big deal, but just as big will be the line play on both sides of the ball. If Pittman’s managed to fashion a functional offensive line, aside from making Chubb and the running backs look better, it’ll give Lambert a real chance to have a productive day.
- I don’t expect to walk out of the Dome hearing Lambert for Heisman talk. I’ll be happy to settle for people thinking, “hey, nothing wrong with being a game manager”.
- North Carolina’s secondary is good, but when Georgia is in single back formation, they can’t cover everybody. This year, I hope the “our offensive coordinator knows how to use the tight ends” talk is more than just wishful thinking.
- If that open practice I sat through is any indication, I expect to see Isaiah McKenzie in a variety of roles.
- Will Ridley and Chigbu be significant contributors? If so, Georgia will be okay at wideout.
- Counting on true freshmen in the defensive line rotation makes me nervous, I admit. If there’s one area where controlling the game with Chubb and his cohorts will help, it’s here.
- I’m looking forward to seeing if Roquan Smith is ready to step up. I also hope I’m able to control my shock if the defense has an ILB whose a positive in pass coverage.
- I have a feeling Mo Smith will show out as a big addition in the secondary, both from a skills standpoint and also from having great familiarity with what Tucker and Smart want.
- If there’s a real black hole in terms of my expectations, it’s special teams. New punter, new place kicker, new kickoff specialist, all being added to an area that’s been inconsistent for years is not a formula for confidence. We haven’t talked much about Shane Beamer, but I guess we’ll see if that changes after tonight.