The Georgia Bulldogs are the defending national champions. They are No. 1 in the country. Looking at all the other big-name schools in the United States, it’s very hard to deny the claim that Georgia seems to be the best of the bunch.
By Matt Zemek
This might change – it’s only the middle of September – but it seems very difficult to contest the notion that UGA will be in the College Football Playoff once again. The 2022 season already feels like 2021 in the specific sense that Georgia isn’t likely to lose to a non-Alabama opponent. The Dawgs could go 12-0, as they did last year, and then lose to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game in Atlanta and still make the playoff with a 12-1 record. The only way Georgia misses the playoff in that scenario is if Ohio State and Oklahoma go unbeaten to join Alabama, and another unbeaten team emerges from an unexpected place with enough quality on its resume to win an argument with Georgia. (BYU is an intriguing possibility; the Cougars’ schedule is loaded.)
You can see the basic point: It’s easy to pencil in Georgia to the playoff right now. The Dawgs have to block out all that noise and focus on the task in front of them, the game they are about to play. It’s a road game against South Carolina, Georgia’s first true road game of the season. South Carolina has shocked Georgia before, so the Dawgs have no excuses. They shouldn’t be complacent. Let’s look at what UGA has to do in the Palmetto State:
1 – Pass first to set up the run
Georgia really stepped off the gas pedal last week against Samford, jogging to a 33-0 win. The Georgia offense wasn’t dynamic against Samford because it didn’t need to be. The aggressive passing game against Oregon didn’t emerge to the same extent versus Samford, and that’s fine … but now, against South Carolina, we need to see a complete game plan from offensive coordinator Todd Monken once again. Throwing down the field will spread out the South Carolina defense and force the Gamecocks to account for UGA’s weapons on the edges. This will empty out the tackle box and make it easier for Georgia to run.
2 – Trust the front four
Georgia’s defensive front and its base pass rush should be able to get home against South Carolina’s offensive line. Doing that enables UGA to sit back in coverage and take away easy options for Spencer Rattler, thereby confusing him and making it harder for him to identify soft, open areas in the Dawgs’ secondary. A strong pass rush and a lot of bodies in the secondary should make life difficult for Rattler. Only if he exposes a weakness in this personnel alignment should the Dawgs change their tactics. Not until then (if it ever happens).
3 – Championship attitude
Everyone’s waiting to see how Georgia carries itself as a defending national champion in the SEC schedule this year. An authoritative win would be a resounding statement which would create fear in other (non-Alabama) opponents. Georgia needs to realize that a massive beatdown of South Carolina now could create a fear factor for later games which will smooth the path to the playoff in 2022. There is value to be found beyond just one SEC win against the Gamecocks.